Diet vs. Exercise: What's More Important for Weight Loss?


Should you diet or exercise more often to lose weight? What's the best option? Even though diet alone can help you shed pounds, it's not enough to get leaner. Without exercise, you'll only be a smaller version of your chubby self. Let's compare the two so you can make a smart decision and reach your target weight:

Is exercise enough to lose weight?
Diet and exercise go hand in hand. However, not everyone has the time or resources to try both. Today's hectic lifestyle makes it hard to watch your diet 24/7 and hit the gym as often as you should.
At the first glance, eating clean seems easier than sticking to a workout. Additionally, research shows that calorie restriction is far more important than exercise.

Studies have found that physically active adults are less likely to gain weight compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle. However, exercise alone doesn't help too much with fat loss in the long run. What and how much you eat has the biggest impact on your weight.

Imagine the following scenario. You eat a big lunch and hit the gym later in the day, hoping to burn those extra calories. But once you return home, hunger strikes.

You go to the fridge and grab a quick snack or cook a hearty meal. After all, you're working out hard, so those calories will melt away. Or you tell yourself that an occasionaltreat won’t do any harm. The story repeats tomorrow and the day after. A few weeks later, you wonder why the scale doesn't drop.

Like it or not, exercise alone won't help you get leaner. You might lose a few pounds in the first month or so, but you'll gain them back or hit a plateau soon after. Over time, your body adapts to physical activity. Thus, it becomes more efficient at using energy and begins to use fewer calories.

On top of that, not even the best training plan can compensate for bad eating. Treadmill running, for instance, burns 229 to 299 calories in 20 minutes. A one-hour Pilates session can torch 120 to 336 calories. Strength training burns about 250 calories per hour plus a few more afterward due to the so-called afterburn effect.

One bag of potato chips has 350 to 600 calories depending on its size. Cocktails boast up to 900 calories per serving. Milk chocolate provides around 550-600 calories per bar. That's a lot more compared to what you burn during exercise! As you see, it's easy to offset the benefits of a tough workout simply by eating junk.

What if You eat clean but don't exercise?
What you eat accounts for over 80 percent of your weight loss results. Exercise makes up for the remaining 20 percent. Nutrition plays a key role in body composition, fat storage, hormone levels, energy metabolism, and overall health. Eat more than you need, and you'll gain weight. Stay in a calorie deficit, and the pounds will melt away. It's that simple.

However, dieting won’t tone your body, build lean mass, or give you ripped abs. Sure, you’ll lose weight, but this doesn’t mean you’ll actually look good – unless you like having flabby arms, love handles, and a flat bottom.

Not to mention that exercise revs up your metabolism and balances key fat-burning hormones. It also stimulates testosterone release, which helps improve body composition. Testosterone promotes lean muscle growth and helps your body torch fat more efficiently.
Nobody says that you have to eat and train like an athlete. Just try to strike a balance between good nutrition and exercise. Watch your diet, eat mindfully, and stay active as much as possible.


  • Diet accounts for over 80 percent of your weight loss results. 
  • Even though diet alone can help you slim down, it doesn’t build muscle tone or shape your body. 
  • Exercise alone is not enough to lose weight on long term. 
  • The key to a strong, lean body is to combine healthy eating and exercise.