Dieting vs. Exercise for Weight Loss – How does it All Work?

Many of us have been to the gym before and started what we thought would be a successful exercise program which would help us lose weight or gain muscle.

However, after only a couple months or even weeks, we find that we’re not actually losing weight/gaining muscle but actually the opposite! Sound familiar? The reason this happens is most probably because we don’t have a good nutritional plan in place to accompany our exercise routine. Which brings up the question – which is more important for weight loss/muscle gain, dieting or exercise?

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In order to answer this question we must look at the effects of a nutritional plan and the effects of an exercise routine, exercise vs diet in fat loss and how they are beneficial to us. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages so it’s important to know how to approach these in order to get the best results from all your hard work.

Caloric Intake & Total Energy Expenditure

First and foremost, the reason why we gain/lose weight is because of our caloric intake. We will gain weight if we eat more calories than we expend. Similarly, we will lose weight if we expend more calories than we eat. This might seem a bit confusing so we’ll break it down so you understand the science behind it.

We all have something called a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – this is the calculation of the amount of calories we would have to consume just to carry on living, if we were bed-ridden for example and didn’t do any activity. However as humans, we actually do a lot of movement every day and expend a lot of energy by doing that, so we also take into account other factors such as NEAT (Non-Exercise Associated Thermogenesis), EAT (Exercise Associated Thermogenesis) and TEF (Thermic Effect of Feeding). We won’t go into much detail about NEAT, EAT, and TEF; all you need to know is that these 3 factors will give you an idea of how many calories you expend through doing daily activity such as walking, eating, exercise etc. and adding all of the above factors will provide you with the Total Energy Expenditure The good thing is, we don’t need to calculate the 3 above factors as this can usually be done by following ‘activity multiplier’ guidelines.

In short, BMR + ‘activity multiplier’ = Total Energy Expenditure (TEE).

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If you refer back to the first paragraph of this sub-section, you’ll see that in order to lose weight all you have to do is eat less than your TEE, simple! This proves that our nutritional plan can play a huge role in our ability to lose weight or gain muscle and so it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Exercise & Performance outside of the Gym

We all assume that a lean, muscular physique is the manifestation of putting hours and hours in at the gym every week but this isn’t necessarily true. It’s not very important if you’re looking to lose weight but it is important if you’re trying to gain muscle as the muscle needs to be put under tension in order to grow. It would behave of you to go to the gym regularly and following a  suitable exercise routine, but what’s more important is what you do the rest of the day!

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For example, if you’re going to the gym in hopes that you will lose weight but come home at the end of the day only to eat a huge amount of fast food and other unhealthy foods, then you’re not going to reach your goals as you will most probably be exceeding your TEE. So what you do in the gym is important, but it can be completely negated by your performance outside the gym.

To conclude, diet and exercise must both be taken into account in order for you to achieve your goals and get the physique you want. It is hard to say if one can be beneficial without the other – for weight loss you may be able to get away with just a clean diet, but this definitely wouldn’t be the case if you’re looking to pack on pounds of muscle (for that you do need a good exercise routine). Both have their respectable advantages and disadvantages and so for the best results you should combine the two.

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