If you are trying to lose a significant amount of weight, Nutrition is probably 100% of your results because running marathons to eat pizzas isn’t a viable long term strategy and trying to exclusively exercise off weight generally doesn’t work too well in the real world 1.
Also, the amount of calories you burn seems to be constrained on the top end, meaning that once you pass a certain point, your muscles get more efficient, and you might not burn as many calories for the same amount of work 2,3.
So wait, you are telling me 4,872 flights of stairs doesn’t equal that volcano chocolate pie?
Yes and No. I know annoying. The calories in calories out equation and the first law of thermodynamics are valid! The problem is that it is an insanely complex and adaptable math equation, and humans do not like being math equations 4.
Weight loss comes from a caloric deficit 5. That’s the truth, and the fundamental way that likely needs to happen for most people is by lowering the amount of calories or energy they eat and then augmenting that with some form of FITNASS6.
Pretty much every named diet other than fasting does this by increasing food volume and food quality while decreasing calories. This helps you feel full and generally increases the nutrient density of what you are eating 7. Win. Win. Win.
Here’s the rub. People read this diatribe against exercise and weight loss and they get fatalistic…They think exercise is useless.
But, IMO trying to lose weight without exercise and increased daily movement is unethical. Exercise can likely augment your results and getting more daily movement can help regulate your appetite.
Exercise also seems to be crucial for maintaining results and without some form of exercise, the weight you lose could be 22-29% MUSCLE 8.
And this muscle loss number could spike to 60-80% if you are sleep deprived and psychologically stressed out of your mind 9,10.
These numbers are scary, especially if people lose weight again and again without physical activity because they can progressively lose more and more muscle 11. BUT, they aren’t that scary because of the minimal amount and type of exercise that can maintain muscle mass while eating less…calories.
Aerobic exercise can do it. Hiking, biking, trail running, even brisk walking, and vacuuming for 110 minutes a week are all good to go 12.
Two days of circuit training can do it. Just 1-2 sets of 8-10 exercises of resistance training 13. Money in the bank!
Body pump classes can do it 13.
Climbing can probably do it.
Strenuous Yoga can probably do it.
Even Exergaming can probably do it.
The only type of physical activity I can think of that might not do it is Swimming because you are not fighting gravity, but I very well could be wrong, and if you love Swimming, add in some vacuuming and you are in the clear!
So if you are trying to lose weight, get out there and do whatever something you like.
If you don’t know what you like, try different ways of moving, and see what gets you excited.
Let’s stop arguing about what is better and start figuring out what works for YOU!
Nutrition is your lynchpin for getting and keeping results. Weight loss is tough and keeping it is tougher14, but finding a way of eating and moving that you enjoy can make it more fun and a little less tough.
***So is Nutrition 80% of your results? Actually it might be, but it could also be 100%, 40%, or 0%.
This is because it is far more complicated than that.
For example, without a nutritional intervention weight loss will be minimal, subjects burning off 700-1760 of supervised calories per week only lost between 0.7 to 3.2 pounds over 6 months which was only 20 to 37% of the expected weight loss from this amount of calorie burn15. As we would expect given the regulation of the energy balance system without a nutrition arm they compensated by increasing food intake. However, diet plus exercise does look to be more effective than diet alone, and RESISTANCE training is likely the most effective of those tools for the reduction of fat mass and the preservation/augmentation of lean body mass16.
- Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;56(4):441-447.
- Pontzer H. Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and the Evolutionary Biology of Energy Balance. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2015;43(3):110-116.
- Pontzer H. Energy Constraint as a Novel Mechanism Linking Exercise and Health. Physiology (Bethesda). 2018;33(6):384-393.
- Hopkins M, Blundell JE. Energy balance, body composition, sedentariness and appetite regulation: pathways to obesity. Clin Sci (Lond). 2016;130(18):1615-1628.
- Hall KD, Guo J. Obesity Energetics: Body Weight Regulation and the Effects of Diet Composition. Gastroenterology. 2017;152(7):1718-1727 e1713.
- Miller T, Mull S, Aragon AA, Krieger J, Schoenfeld BJ. Resistance Training Combined With Diet Decreases Body Fat While Preserving Lean Mass Independent of Resting Metabolic Rate: A Randomized Trial. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018;28(1):46-54.
- Rolls BJ. Dietary energy density: Applying behavioural science to weight management. Nutr Bull. 2017;42(3):246-253.
- Heymsfield SB, Gonzalez MC, Shen W, Redman L, Thomas D. Weight loss composition is one-fourth fat-free mass: a critical review and critique of this widely cited rule. Obes Rev. 2014;15(4):310-321.
- Wang X, Sparks JR, Bowyer KP, Youngstedt SD. Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep. 2018;41(5).
- Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, Penev PD. Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Ann Intern Med. 2010;153(7):435-441.
- Dulloo AG, Miles-Chan JL, Schutz Y. Collateral fattening in body composition autoregulation: its determinants and significance for obesity predisposition. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018;72(5):657-664.
- Weiss EP, Albert SG, Reeds DN, et al. Effects of matched weight loss from calorie restriction, exercise, or both on cardiovascular disease risk factors: a randomized intervention trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104(3):576-586.
- Mero AA, Huovinen H, Matintupa O, et al. Moderate energy restriction with high protein diet results in healthier outcome in women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2010;7(1):4.
- Maclean PS, Bergouignan A, Cornier MA, Jackman MR. Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011;301(3):R581-600.
- Martin CK, Johnson WD, Myers CA, et al. Effect of different doses of supervised exercise on food intake, metabolism, and non-exercise physical activity: The E-MECHANIC randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;110(3):583-592.
- Clark JE. Diet, exercise or diet with exercise: comparing the effectiveness of treatment options for weight-loss and changes in fitness for adults (18-65 years old) who are overfat, or obese; systematic review and meta-analysis. J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015;14:31.