Exercise + Healthy Diet = Weight Loss

Here’s the equation for losing weight, in it’s most simple form: Exercise + Healthy Diet = Weight Loss. The reason I mention this equation, one which seems completely common sense, is that there has been a lot of conversation lately about how exercise may cause weight gain and work against your weight loss efforts. This misleading fact about losing weight was recently promoted in a Time Magazine article “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” and has been at the center of some fiery debate.

When trying to lose weight it is not only important to exercise, but also follow a calorie-restricted and healthy diet.

When trying to lose weight it is not only important to exercise, but also to follow a calorie-restricted and healthy diet.

At the center of this debate is a rather poorly executed study that found that people who exercise regularly, both men and women, eat more food. Because the people in this study did not have food restrictions and were permitted to eat whatever they wanted, following exercise many would overeat or make poor food choices. It should be of no surprise that the group that was exercising and following up their calorie-burning efforts with a meal full of carbs and empty calories did not fair well when it came to weighing in. And so, from these results, the article came to the conclusion that exercising can make you hungry, cause you to overeat and make poor food choices and thwart your efforts to lose weight. For the hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been making the effort to get regular exercise as part of their program to lose weight, a big sigh of relief was heard when this article was published, but you may not want to throw out your running shoes and burn your gym membership quite yet.

If you are here visiting Weight Loss Center then chances are you are looking for information about losing weight. You will read in many of our articles that weight loss is only achieved by following a healthy, calorie-restricted diet and increasing your activity level. Again, the equation is: Exercise + Healthy Diet = Weight Loss. The Time Magazine article and study had many flaws, but the biggest one was overlooking the importance of “DIET” as part of the whole weight loss picture. Afterall, how can you expect to lose weight if you don’t restrict your calorie consumption and make healthier food choices. Unless you are exercising as hard as an Olympic althlete in training, then the only way to lose weight is to combine exercise with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet.

Then I ask… what about the hundreds of thousands of people who exercise regularly and push themselves physically not because they are overweight, but because they want to be healthier. Exercise isn’t just for the overweight or obese, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t see much mention of the health benefits of being active in the Time Magazine article, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know there are many. Just a few of the most important health benefits of exercising regularly are: lowered risk of heart disease, lowered risk of diabetes, lowered risk of high blood pressure, lowered risk of certain types of cancer, helps to build and maintain healthy bones, joints and muscles, and improved emotional and mental well-being.

For those of us who exercise to lose weight, there is one major benefit that can be easily overlooked – exercise helps prevent the loss of lean tissue (i.e. muscle). When daily calorie intake is lowered your body will start to look elsewhere for energy. Although you may have lots of energy stored as body fat, your muscles are much easier to use as a fuel source. For people who reduce their calorie intake, but don’t bother with exercise, they will lose some of their valuable lean tissue. For people who reduce their calorie intake and exercise regularly, the body will be forced to use mostly fat instead of muscle to stay energized. This is what you want – to burn body fat and not muscle. Since the amount of muscle your body has directly correlates to how fast your metabolism is, it makes sense that you should be doing everything in your power to tone and build muscle with regular exercise (Check out this great forum discussion about this here “Preventing Muscle Loss while Dieting“).

From my own personal experience with weight loss I can tell you with the utmost confidence that without exercise I would not have been able to lose much weight at all. Yes, it’s true that exercising can make you hungry, but that hunger is a result of your body trying to restore and repair following activity. This is a normal phenomena that happens. Instead of shying away from exercise because you think it will make you hungry and make bad food choices, embrace exercise and make smart food choices. Having something to eat after exercise is an important part of being healthy and I discuss this in my blog post “Eating After Exercise” as well as provide some healthy snack options.

Some people will argue that changing your diet and adding regular exercise to your life at the same time may be too much and cause people to fail at their diets. I think that if you want to lose weight then you need to change the way you eat right away by lowering your calorie consumption and limiting the amount of refined and processed foods you eat. For some people, just doing this will be a challenge and if this is the case then focus on that first before worrying too much about exercise. This is not to say, however, that you can’t make small changes  in your life to get more active, such as taking the stairs or walking to the next bus stop or going for a 10 minute walk during your lunch break. Once you feel confident about dieting then adding exercise should be your next step, and is an important one. No matter what a magazine, book or person tells you, exercise is a necessary part of any weight loss endeavor and is essential for overall good health.

Other Related Posts and Articles You May Find Interesting: “Top Reasons Why You Cannot Lose Weight“, “Gaining Weight When Dieting” and “Diet and Exercise“.

4 comments to Exercise + Healthy Diet = Weight Loss

  • Strength and Fitness Blog

    That study was flawed indeed. Exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally–I agree with you 100%.

    Unfortunately some may use that study as an excuse to sit on the couch and do nothing.

  • Maggie

    I’ve tried to lose weight numerous times, and never actually lost weight AND kept it off until I started exercising regularly. The great part about making exercise a part of my diet was that I felt better physically than I ever have and it really boosted my metabolism after awhile. Once I lost all the weight I wanted to, I was able to indulge my “bad” cravings once in awhile and still keep the weight off as long as I kept up the exercise. I actually work with Chef’s Diet and they offer a great meal plan for people who are really into fitness and an atheltic lifestyle, but don’t have to time to shop for or prepare healthy meals. Have you heard about the optimum diet bringing you a balance of carbs/protein/and fat (40:30:30)? The Chefs Diet™ combines scientific principles, with fresh, delicious food to bring you healthy, nutritious meals right to your door. Give them a call at 1-800-577-7010, or register at myChefsDiet.com and you can have a chance to win these yummy meals free for a month!

  • terryturen

    I believe that exercise + healthy diet + time = weight loss
    if you only do exercise and have healthy diet for a short time, you can see nothing change about your weight.

  • The one thing I’ve seen as a holistic nutritionist and personal trainer is that knowing what to do i.e. exercise + healthy diet= weight loss isn’t the problem. People know what to do. The problem is that they can’t get themselves to do it. The put themselves last, they put work and family priorities ahead of themselves until that switch is flipped. I spent years doing the long, slow work of trying to help people change their lifestyles in order to lose weight and be healthier through repetition and willpower, but now I use techniques that help them change their thinking FIRST and re-program their mind so they can easily do what they know they need to do. Willpower is useless in the face of a subconscious driver that tells someone to eat donuts for comfort. Get my drift?

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