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Amy from Woking asks:
'What’s more effective for weight loss: diet or exercise?'
Expert: Kathryn Stewart, sports dietitian
We know that you know that the key to healthy, sustainable weight loss lies in both the foods you choose to fuel your body with and the movement that makes up your workout week. But is one more significant than the other?
Before we get into it, it's important to say that while losing weight to reach a healthy weight range is a legitimate health goal, it isn't appropriate for everyone. If you're already at a healthy weight for your height and age – or there's another reason weight loss may not be a suitable goal for you – speak to your GP for more advice.
As for your question, despite what the slew of January gym discounts might suggest, working up a sweat isn’t actually the most efficient way to shed excess fat.
Why? Well, weight loss happens when your body requires more energy and calories than you’re putting in and so is forced to break down the molecules in your fat cells for fuel.
‘Start by writing down what you’re eating during a regular day,’ suggests sports dietitian Kathryn Stewart (@edible_evience), adding that you could try using a calorie counting app like My Fitness Pal if that works for you.
‘If that amount is keeping your weight stable, then reducing it by about 10% to 15% will help create a calorie deficit,’ adds Stewart. ‘That might be one fewer snack per day or just slightly smaller portions of your three daily meals.’
But it’s advice that comes with a caveat. Stewart notes that any diet that presents itself as a 'quick fix' or requires you to cut out whole food groups should be given a wide berth, for the sake of both your body and your mind.
As for exercise, it can help you reach this deficit, as well as delivering ample benefits beyond fat burn.
Stewart recommends incorporating strength training to build lean muscle which, in turn, will increase your basal metabolic rate. This will support you with your weight-loss endeavours without the need for excessive dietary restriction.
As well as your scheduled workout, Stewart advises boosting your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – essentially any movement that isn’t part of your structured training plan, such as walking to the shops, cleaning your house or running around after your dependants.
Still got questions about calories deficits, strength training or NEAT? For more on how to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way, see this guide.