Diet vs. Exercise: The Showdown

By Anthoney J. Andersen –

When it comes to weight loss, you’ve probably heard the various speculations surrounding diet versus exercise.

Which one benefits you more? And do you have to combine the two in order to achieve the results you desire?

You can sleep soundly tonight knowing that the mystery regarding this age-old question will finally be answered once and for all.


In a country where more than one-third of American adults are classified as obese, it’s apparent that proper diet is not being taken as serious as it should.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008. The medical costs were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Obesity-related health conditions include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The only way to lose weight – and keep it off – is to control your caloric intake. You can workout everyday for two hours, but as long as you continue to consume fast food, or other processed foods high in saturated fats, exercising won’t do you much good.

“A pound of fat is 3,500 calories,” says Wayne Andersen, co-founder and medical director of the weight-loss program ‘Take Shape for Life’.

“Running a marathon burns 2,600 calories,” Andersen continues, “That’s how ineffective exercise is for losing weight.”

dietvex2Now, nobody’s steering away from the fact that exercise is indeed an important commodity to incorporate into one’s lifestyle, but it’s clear that the scale tips in the direction of diet when it comes to weight loss.

“It’s so easy to consume large doses of calories when something like a burger and fries can have more than 1,200 calories,” says Angela Fitch, director of Medical Weight Loss at the University of Cincinnati Health Weight Loss Center.

“The only way you’re going to lose weight is to be more mindful of your calories, because as Americans, we are notoriously poor at estimating how many calories we consume,” says Fitch.

According to WebMD, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.

An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies concluded that people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds. However, the individuals that focused solely on exercise and little on diet, lost only six pounds in just over 21 weeks.

“It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off,” says Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, nutritionist biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic.

“For instance, if you eat a fast food quesadilla, which can contain upwards of 500–plus calories, you would then need to run more than four miles to ‘undo’ the damage.”


In conjunction with proper diet and nutrition, regular exercise can help manage your weight, while helping you tone and increase muscle mass.

When a person engages in physical activity, their body burns calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories the body will burn.

Unfortunately for most people, going to the gym is often an excuse for them to eat junk food that is high in calories and fat.

“When you go to the gym and burn off 400 calories and then go and eat a 1,000 calorie dinner, you simply wasted your time,” says Andersen.

One vice that a lot of people can admit to engaging in – especially after a long workweek – is alcohol consumption. Fitch advises people to eliminate beer from their diet.

“A craft beer can have upwards of 500 calories,” she says. “It’s easy to drink that in 10 minutes, but it’s not easy to burn off. A person would have to walk for two to three hours, or spend more than an hour on the bike in order to work those calories off.”

Another way of looking at the health spectrum when it pertains to diet and exercise, is to see how those ‘empty’ calories compare to the calories in healthy food.

“For example, 500 calories is a lot apples,” says Fitch. “ You’d be extremely full after eating that much fruit, but you wouldn’t feel full if you drank those calories in a beer.”


When it comes down to it, losing weight can be a very daunting and challenging endeavor to embark on. Every little thing you do in the name of diet and exercise is a small victory for your body.

The experts proclaim that focusing more on your diet has the greater effect on weight loss. However, when combined with regular exercise (three to four days a week recommended) can leave you feeling good and giving your body the energy it needs to propel forward toward a long and fruitful life.

Sky’s the limit.