A comprehensive recipe for weight loss: it's not just about exercise
When it comes to weight loss, the two commonly discussed factors include exercise and nutrition. But can someone lose weight by changing their exercise habits, but not their nutrition? Research says no: to lose weight, it is necessary to both increase physical activity and adopt a healthy, balanced diet.
October 6, 2023 | Ashley Jerry, MS
When it comes to weight loss, the two commonly discussed factors include exercise and nutrition. But can someone lose weight by changing their exercise habits, but not their nutrition? Many believe that to lose weight, it is necessary to both increase physical activity and adopt a healthy, balanced diet.
To fully identify the potential outcome of only adjusting exercise habits, one must first understand the relationship between exercise and weight loss. Exercise plays a pivotal role in burning calories and increasing metabolism. It also builds lean muscle mass, which contributes to a higher basal metabolic rate. Simply stated, the more muscle one has, the more calories they burn even at rest. Additionally, exercise helps improve cardiovascular health, boosts mood, and increases overall energy levels. Exercise is undeniably a fundamental component of any weight loss journey.
However, relying solely on exercise to lose weight poses several challenges. The first challenge includes the caloric deficit equation. An hour of moderate-intensity exercise may burn around 300-500 calories, depending on various factors such as body weight, duration, and intensity. Additionally, exercise can also stimulate hunger and increase appetite, making it more challenging to resist unhealthy food choices. Research has demonstrated that intense exercise can lead to an increase in the hunger hormone, ghrelin, while simultaneously reducing the level of the hormone responsible for suppressing appetite, leptin. This hormonal response can create a vicious cycle, making it difficult to adhere to a calorie deficit solely through exercise, without controlling nutrition habits.
Some people believe that if one were to increase the intensity and duration of their workouts, they will burn enough calories to create a calorie deficit, resulting in weight loss. While this may be true to some extent, it is important to note that relying solely on exercise to achieve weight loss goals can be a challenging and unsustainable approach. Additionally, the body is highly efficient at adapting to increased physical activity. Over time, the body becomes more efficient at performing the exercise routine, which means fewer calories are burned for the same effort. This is known as exercise adaptation, which can further impede weight loss efforts if nutrition is not addressed.
Studies have consistently shown that diet plays a more significant role in weight loss than exercise alone. In fact, numerous studies strongly support the view that changing dietary habits is fundamental for long term successful and sustainable weight loss. This is because it is much easier to consume calories than it is to burn them through physical activity.
Incorporating a balanced diet consisting of lean proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats (macronutrients) and one that is limited in calories will create a caloric deficit, ultimately leading to weight loss. Individuals can support their overall exercise performance and recovery by consuming nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and lean proteins which promotes satiety and prevents overeating.
Another important factor to consider is the importance of post-exercise nutrition. After a workout, the body requires proper nourishment to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscles, and support recovery. Consuming a balanced meal or snack that includes adequate protein and carbohydrates can enhance the benefits of exercise and maximize weight loss. Protein consumption is particularly crucial, as it promotes muscle synthesis and boosts metabolism, helping to sustain weight loss efforts in the long run.
While it is possible for some individuals to lose weight solely by changing their exercise habits. It is often more efficient to address both exercise and nutrition simultaneously to achieve sustainable weight loss and optimize overall well-being.
It is essential to recognize that no one-size-fits-all approach exists and it is best to consult with a qualified nutritionist or healthcare provider who can provide personalized guidance for sustainable weight loss.
Ashley Jerry, MS, is a nutritionist who specializes in a variety of fields, including food sensitivities, medical conditions, and sports nutrition. Her expertise includes gut health issues, weight loss, self-image and an overall understanding of nutrition, as well as treating a diverse range of medical conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, obesity, pregnancy, gastrointestinal function, anxiety, depression, and overall health.