Every weight loss journey is different, and with so many fad diets making headlines, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Establishing a new diet and a new workout routine can seem daunting, especially for people who are just getting started on their health and fitness journey. Numerous gimmicks have flooded the market, muddying the waters even further.
Keto, paleo, low-carb, Whole30, intermittent fasting, and the Mediterranean diet are just a few of the diet trends drawing attention from the health and fitness community. As for exercise, high intensity interval training (HIIT), hot yoga, and subscription streaming at-home workouts plans remain popular. However, many people are looking for the silver bullet to their weight loss woes and want to know which is best—diet or exercise.
Balancing Dietary and Fitness Needs
Benefits of Exercise for Weight Loss
As the adage goes, when it comes to diet and exercise, you can’t have one without the other and expect rapid results. While it is possible to lose weight through diet alone, it’s often difficult to target fat loss. When an individual restricts calories without supporting it through exercise, he or she will lose weight from muscle mass and bone density as well. This isn’t a desirable outcome as muscle takes up less space than fat.
Exercise also boasts a number of health benefits including:
- Reducing blood sugar
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving heart health
- Reducing stress
- Increasing muscle mass
- Enhancing metabolic function
Benefits of Diet for Weight Loss
With all that being said, there is no way to exercise away a bad diet. Individuals could run a half marathon daily and still pack on the pounds if their diets include excessive fast food, fried foods, sodium-heavy foods, and other unhealthy choices. Snacking can also creep up on people as a bag of chips here and a candy bar there add up over the day. Without even realizing it, people can bust their calorie budget.
Individuals noticing the scale creep up every year without understanding why are usually guilty of occasional indulgences. Without paying attention to this snacking habit, the pounds can add up much like spending a few dollars a day on coffee can tally up to almost $100 by the end of the month.
Another common problem with diet is choosing the wrong portions. Many people fail to realize their plates should be half fruits and vegetables, one-fourth protein, and one-fourth whole grains. Many pile on the carbs while ignoring fruits and vegetables altogether. Of those that do include fruits and vegetables, many are choosing the starchy or high-sugar options that aren’t helping their waistlines such as potatoes or apple juice.
Finally, for individuals who are dieting and exercising without seeing results, the problem often lies with their food choices. Not all calories weigh in the same and simply aiming for a certain calorie goal is going to fall short of weight loss expectations. Individuals whose diets are high in carbohydrates and unhealthy fats will struggle to lose weight at the same rate as those whose diets take a balanced approach to nutrition.
Are Fad Diets Worth the Craze?
Many popular diets of late focus on restricting carbohydrates to the extreme and many people are raving about their results. The problem with these diets is they are not sustainable. This leads to a yoyo effect on the scale, which can crush self-esteem. The word diet itself implies something short-term. What many people need is a lifestyle change to make sure the results stick.
This information is nothing new even if would-be dieters wish it wasn’t so. A study started by The National Weight Control Registry back in 1994 followed more than 10,000 people through their weight loss journey. Of those individuals that kept the weight off for years, the study found that only 1% managed to keep the weight off through exercise alone, 10% through diet alone, and 89% through a combination of both.
The Solution for Sustained Weight Loss
Experts have said time and again that diet and exercise combined is the best approach. Individuals will experience the greatest success by focusing 80% on their diet and 20% on their exercise regimen. As for what people should put on their plates, experts recommend a balanced diet that focuses on fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains. In regards to exercise, individuals should consult their physicians to determine their fitness level before starting a new workout routine.
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