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Diet vs exercise for weight loss

Is diet or exercise better for weight loss? While there’s no magical solution to drop pounds and inches, there is a formula: burn more calories than you consume. But with so many diet and exercise programs on the market today, it can be tough to know where to focus: diet, exercise or both?

According to Colleen Alrutz, health and fitness manager at Piedmont Newnan, when it comes to shedding pounds, diet wins 70 percent of the time. To fast-track your weight-loss results, couple a healthy diet with regular physical activity.  When it comes to keeping the weight off, exercise wins. If you want to achieve long-lasting results? Combine both.

Diet for weight loss

While exercise is important for good overall health and can boost your weight loss results, “You can always out-eat your exercise,” says Alrutz.

To shed one pound of fat in a week, you must burn 3,500 calories, which is about 500 calories a day. Burning 500 calories with exercise alone is difficult – a 200-pound person burns 391 calories walking for an hour at 3.5 mph – so cutting calories in your diet is a manageable way to reduce your net calories.

For example, one 20-ounce bottle of soda is 240 calories and a 16-ounce iced latte is nearly 200 calories. Cut back on a few of these drinks alone and you’ll slash your caloric intake significantly. Consider using a calorie-counting app on your phone or a food journal to help you track how many calories you consume.

“The best kind of diet is one that counts calories, but doesn’t go overboard in restricting indulgences here and there,” she says. “Think quality rather than quantity. Also, fresh, colorful veggies and fruits should always be at the top of the list of foods you eat.”

Exercise for weight loss

While cutting calories in your diet is a good way to lose weight, don’t discount exercise just yet. Physical activity will enhance your weight loss results, help keep the weight off, boost your mood and energy, and prevent serious health conditions.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise (walking, swimming, biking, dancing, aerobics, hiking, etc.) a week – that’s just 30 minutes a day.

Have less time than that? No problem! The AHA also says 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week counts (just 15 minutes, five days a week).

And don’t forget to include moderate to high intensity strength training twice a week. Muscle mass helps your body burn more calories when it’s at rest.

“Diet and exercise really go hand in hand. You can go on a crash diet and be successful, but you are going to lose the wrong kind of weight — muscle mass — and it most likely will not stay off.”

She also explains dieting without exercise can slow your metabolism, which can wreak havoc on your weight loss goals.

The best way to lose weight and keep it off

To lose weight and keep it off, Alrutz recommends the following tips:

  • Be mindful of what you eat. Eat healthfully the majority of the time and when you splurge, pick something you truly enjoy, rather than scarfing a handful of stale cookies in the break room.
  • Liquid calories count. Sodas, sports and energy drinks, juices and alcoholic beverages are often loaded with calories.
  • Consider calories in vs calories out. You must engage in some sort of activity or exercise to burn the calories you consume.
  • Studies have shown people who exercise 150 minutes per week lose more weight or keep weight off, compared to those who do not exercise.

Alrutz says it is okay to take one step at a time in achieving weight loss. In fact, pacing yourself is the smarter, healthier way to achieve long-lasting results. But remember, it takes both diet and exercise to be successful.

For more helpful, healthful tips, click here.  

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