If your goal is to lose weight, exercise isn’t the answer. Well, let’s rephrase that: it’s not the only answer.
Some recent studies suggest that exercise only contributes to between 10-30% of your overall weight loss. The best weight loss plan for long-term success? Your diet.
Your mouth is your greatest weight loss tool, by far. What you put into your body determines whether or not you slim down. Your time on the treadmill? Not so much.
Don’t get the wrong message here. You shouldn’t stop exercising. Physical fitness is crucial to your overall health. Overal fitness increases your mood, protects your heart health, and decreases your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other ailments. Exercise is important.
But if your goal is to shed some pounds, look to the kitchen rather than the gym.
Why Food Matters in Weight Loss
The calories you burn at the gym only make up a fraction of your daily energy expenditure. Many studies, including this 2015 study, found that exercise alone doesn’t make much difference in a person’s weight.
What matters most, researchers found, is diet. A healthy diet - rich in nutrients, low in saturated fats and sugars, and balanced for micronutrients - is your best weight loss tool.
It’s time to do some math.
It takes roughly 3500 calories to burn one pound. Each person is different, and there are ways to calculate your exact energy expenditure each day. But for the sake of ease, let’s go with averages. Women burn about 1800 calories per day just by living (keeping bodily functions going while at rest, digesting and processing food, and expenditures during activity).
Still with me? Good.
The average woman burns about 700 calories per hour during exercise. So, exercise makes up only a small fraction of our daily energy expenditure.
But what makes up 100% of our caloric intake? You guessed it: food.
If you eliminated your morning sweetened coffee, you’re saving roughly 200 calories. Save yourself that mid-afternoon sweet snack, and that’s another 300. Skip the breakfast bagel and opt for non-fat Greek yogurt instead, and you’ll save 200 calories.
Just in food choices alone, you’ve now equaled the number of calories you would have burned at the gym. Now, when you add that workout to the mix, you’re making real headway towards the 3500 calories needed to burn a pound.
The bottom line? You can’t outrun your fork.
The way you eat is more important than how long you move. The best weight loss plan is the way you plan to eat.
If you’re tired of working out and not seeing results, it’s time to look at what you’re putting into your body. Cut back on processed foods, added sugars, saturated fats, and high-carb diets. Instead, add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, stick with whole grains, and prepare your meals at home.
For more healthy food substitutions you can incorporate into your diet, click here.
Until next time, take care of yourself and one another.