DIET Vs EXERCISE?
Which is more important – diet or exercise? It’s one of the most commonly asked questions for those setting out to lose weight. And the short answer is ‘both’.
If you hate exercise and want to lose weight just by changing your diet, you’re setting yourself up to fail, says Dr Chris Tzar, an exercise physiologist from the University of New South Wales. Choose this path, there’s a 90% chance you’ll regain any lost weight within three years, he says.
That’s because dieting without exercise increases the odds of losing muscle from your body along with any fat. Since muscle cells burn more energy than fat cells – even when you’re not actually doing anything – losing muscle makes it harder to lose weight and keep it off. That’s why so-called resistance training, which builds muscle strength, is recommended, along with more aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming or running.
While there’s debate about the extent of muscle loss from moderate cuts to your food intake, most dieters cut their kilojoules by 25 per cent or more, Tzar says. And at that level, he believes muscle loss is likely.
Besides, he points out, a healthy weight is only one component of good health, and many of the other benefits of exercise are invisible. “All the research clearly shows that exercise, even in the absence of weight loss, improves all your clinical markers like your blood sugar, your blood pressure, your cholesterol.” Regular exercise also helps keep your appetite more stable.
But what if, conversely, you love exercise but find it much harder to change what you eat? You only have to look at how much exercise it takes to burn off a single slice of apple pie (two hours walking) to realise that for most people, losing anything more than a few kilos through exercise alone will be challenging. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to work out enough to make up for any significant amounts of eating (let alone past amounts of eating). And like exercise, a good diet makes you healthier on the inside too.
Bottom line: For best results, you really have to tackle both your diet and your activity levels.