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Diet or Exercise: What's More Important For Losing Weight?

Jan 13, 2014

Diet versus exercise is like the chicken or the egg debate in the fitness world. While eating right and exercising are both important components of hatching a fit and active lifestyle, of the two a proper diet is the king of the coop when the ultimate goal is to lose weight. In fact, Billy Beyer, personal trainer and studio owner at Fitness Together Basking Ridge, says that when you break it down numerically diet is responsible for 80 percent of accomplishing your weight loss goals while exercise comprises only 20 percent.

“Exercise will increase your energy, give you an overall feeling of well-being and help you get stronger and fitter, but without adding proper nutrition and diet, you won’t visibly see any difference in how you look,” says Beyer. “When you add in proper eating, that’s when you’ll start seeing changes in the mirror and how your clothes fit.”

Changing Your Attitude About Food

One of the biggest challenges to losing weight is managing the emotions and attitudes attached to the foods you eat. Whether you turn to food when you’re stressed out or you use your favorite treat as a reward to accomplishing a goal, what you put in your mouth can weigh you down both mentally and physically.

“I feel like most people know how to eat healthy, but they use food as a way to make themselves feel better,” reflects Beyer. “Whether you face depression, anxiety or are overworking yourself, many people turn to food. I also see a lot of people working out so they can eat whatever they want. Sure, you’ll get stronger and you’ll feel better. But you won’t visibly see a difference.”

Beyer and the other personal trainers at his FT studio help their clients approach food in a healthier way by changing their outlook and approach toward connecting their emotions with what they eat. Instead of opening the refrigerator door when you’re stressed out, open the gym door so you can redirect your emotions into working out when you aren’t feeling well.

Getting a Grasp on Counting Calories

When you set out on the journey of losing weight, figuring out the proper number and type of calories to consume daily is paramount. To keep the calorie equation simple, Beyer suggests calculating proper calorie guidelines based on your activity level, the number of calories you burn at rest and your ultimate weight loss goals.

The key is to keep your calorie intake below the amount of calories you burn on a daily basis during rest and exercise. But, it’s also important to make sure you are consuming enough good calories – high in protein, low in fat, sugar and sodium – to fuel your daily activities and workouts. Everyone’s calorie range is different, so it’s important to consult a fitness and nutritional professional before starting your weight loss plan so you can hit the ground running shedding pounds and increasing your fitness level.

“If your objective is weight loss, you should expect to lose two to five pounds per week by staying within a certain calorie range and eating a diet based around good calories,” advises Beyer. “The best approach is to slowly take it off so it stays off.”

Integrating Fitness to Fit Your Goals

The final part of the weight loss equation includes setting up a fitness routine that will help you accomplish your goals. When your sole goal is to lose weight, Beyer suggests doing a moderation of everything – cardio, resistance training and eating properly. If your weight loss goals include losing 50 to 100 pounds, Beyer says that it’s important to start off doing a lot of cardio by using ropes, boxing, bicycling, etc. to start the process of burning the weight off. Once you lose a reasonable amount of weight, then he advises moving into a mix of resistance training with cardio to begin building lean muscle mass.

If you are looking to shed the 10-20 pounds you packed on over the holidays, Beyer advises mixing a full-body resistance program with an alternating interval-based cardio program.

“We focus on high intensity in a minimal amount of time for an average overweight person,” explains Beyer. “We do 20-25 minutes of alternating sprints with jogging two to three times per week and then add in resistance training on opposite days for 40-45 minutes two times per week. This helps to gradually take weight off and develop lean muscle.”

Where Do You Start?

If you are like many people this time of year who are coming off the holidays a few pounds heavier and are embarking on a weight loss journey to start off the New Year, you might not have time to focus on both proper diet and nutrition all at once. Beyer advises that you start with getting into an efficient and effective fitness routine first, and then adding in proper nutrition shortly after you establish a consistent fitness regimen. Because of the emotional ties often associated with food, it can be more difficult to start out with eating healthy first.

“At FT, we help you come up with strategies for how you can eat well because everyone is so different,” explains Beyer. “It takes getting to know each of our clients and discovering what their challenges and struggles are in terms of food. We then figure out ways to help combat those challenges. We try to ease our clients into it and try not to overwhelm them at first.”

At the end of the day, the best approach to increasing your fitness level and decreasing your waistline is by tag teaming your efforts with a healthy diet and exercise program. But, make sure to own your diet and be aware of the amount and types calories that you put into your body. You are what you eat and what you put into your mouth will make a big difference on the success of your weight loss efforts.


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