What is the best strategy for successful weight loss? Is nutrition as equal as exercise in weight loss?
Weight loss is a numbers game. It’s all about creating a calorie deficit.
Therefore, the best strategy for successful weight loss involves generating a calorie deficit using the path of least resistance.
With this in mind, focusing on nutrition instead of exercise will be the best strategy for most people.
You don’t burn that many calories from exercise unless you exercise A LOT.
Unless you are an Olympic swimmer, you will burn fewer incremental calories from exercise than the calories you can save by managing your nutrition.
What are incremental calories?
Let’s say you’d burn 500 calories running for an hour. But you’d also burn 80 calories doing nothing. So, your incremental calorie burn is more like 420 calories. This is the true number of calories “earned” from exercise, not the 500.
Exercising enough to burn a significant number of calories isn’t easy to do every day.
You may be thinking, “420 calories is still pretty good right?”
Sure, it’s not bad. Certainly better than nothing.
But let me ask you this: are you planning to go run for an hour every single day?
Most people, especially busy adults, aren’t going to exercise every day. And can you blame them? Unlike eating, exercise isn’t a necessary component of your day.
If you’re starting from zero, then you’ll have to train yourself to exercise every day in order to achieve a daily calorie burn from exercise.
Adding a brand new behavior is always more difficult to do than modifying an existing behavior.
You already eat every day, so you just need to make some changes to what you eat or how much you eat in order to realize the calorie savings from this behavior modification.
Exercise increases your appetite which is counterproductive to weight loss.
In terms of a calorie deficit, you only realize the benefit of your exercise calories if you keep your food intake constant, which is harder to do when you are running for an hour every day.
Contrast that with making some simple dietary changes.
You can easily save the same 420 calories per day with much less effort. It’s possible to swap out certain foods for others, eat way fewer calories and feel MORE satisfied.
In fact, with a more aggressive dietary protocol like intermittent fasting, you can save many more calories than this, potentially thousands of calories per day.
These are the reasons why your primary focus should be on nutrition when it comes to weight loss.
Specifically, how many calories you consume. This is more important than how often you eat or when you eat. It’s even more important than what you eat, although eating mostly whole foods will help you to feel full on fewer calories.
This doesn’t mean you should ignore exercise. You just shouldn’t rely on it as your primary weight loss vehicle.
Ultimately, the best strategy for successful weight loss will be to design a calorie deficit plan that works for your unique situation.
I wrote more about how to create a successful weight loss plan in another post.
If you want an easy way to plan out your target calories on a calendar and make sure you are tracking towards your weight goal, I created a free spreadsheet you can use.
First published on Quora.