Diet or Exercise: The Best Way to Lose Weight Fast

April 22, 2013

Diet or ExerciseDiet and exercise: They go together like ketchup and mustard, peanut butter and jelly, Bert and Ernie. Each contributes to overall health, each has its strengths.

Our lives are jam-packed. It???s part of American culture. In an ideal world we would have enough time to go to work, go to the gym, and cook homemade, nutritionally-balanced meals every day. The reality: We don???t and probably never will live in an ideal world. So, what gives? Do you cut your exercise session short or skip it altogether to cook a meal? Or, do you put the time in at the gym and pick something up from a fast-food joint on the way home?

A recent study found preparing meals means less time for exercise. One healthy behavior can take time away from another healthy habit. Researchers analyzed data from more than 112,000 American adults and found that a 10-minute increase in meal preparation was associated with a lower likelihood of exercising for 10 more minutes.

Here’s my take:

It’s not a black and white answer, but when it comes to weight loss, diet has an edge. It’s not that exercise doesn’t help you lose weight, but it’s likely we overestimate how many calories we burn and how hard we work during a single sweat session. If you reward yourself with a 300-calorie bagel each time you go to the gym, you won’t make progress toward your weight loss goal. In fact, you’ll probably gain weight.

Say you swap your carb-loaded bagel for a two-egg omelet with your favorite vegetables. First, this breakfast clocks in at fewer calories than a bagel and schmear. Second, it’s higher in protein, so you’ll feel fuller and likely eat less throughout the day. So, even if you didn’t exercise at all, you would likely lose weight just by making this swap.

The Bottom Line:

Nothing is more important than your health, and you need to make it a priority to make time for healthy behaviors. My patients who are most successful at maintaining weight loss combine exercise with a well-balanced meal plan.

I get it. Life gets busy, and maybe you don’t have time for vigorous exercise sessions six days a week. That’s OK. Focus on what you can do. You can get your dose of physical activity in five-minute bursts throughout the day.

1. Find a lousy parking spot, then power walk to your destination.
2. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
3. If you live in a city, walk instead of taking the train.
4. Prepare food on your days off. Freeze multiple meals and easily reheat them throughout the week.

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