Is Diet OR Exercise More Important for Fat Loss and Getting Lean?

So is diet or exercise more important when it comes to losing body fat?

I am the author of a fitness site, so obviously I am a big believer in exercise…but to be honest, you can get pretty dramatic results from diet alone. In fact, I would say that 90% of the people who are having a tough time losing weight are simply messing up when it comes to diet.

Diet Or Exercise
[The CEO of True Religion Jeans poses with sexy swimsuit models from his recent fashion show]

In a Perfect World You Should Combine Diet and Exercise

For best results, exercise with diet is your best route to a lean body. The problem is this…things don’t always go as planned and life gets busy. There are times when you simply can’t exercise, but you always have time to diet. No matter how busy life gets, simply follow your diet and you will make forward progress. Exercise whenever time allows, but no matter what…stick to your diet (whatever diet plan you end up following).

“You Can’t Out-Exercise a Big Mac”

I can’t remember which of the readers of this blog put that as a comment to one of my articles, but I really enjoy that phrase.

A Big Mac has 540 calories. Do you realize how much exercising it takes to burn those calories? Well about an hour on the elliptical trainer at a moderate pace would do the trick!

So after an hour of boring cardio, you are back to square one…you probably won’t lose weight at all especially if you added the fries and soft drink. Large fries would be an extra 570 calories and a large non-diet soft drink would be an extra 310 calories. So how much exercise would you have to do to burn 1,400+ calories? Let’s not even go there!

It is Easier to Create a Large Calorie Deficit Through Dieting

A simple approach to losing weight is to create a daily calorie deficit. Basically, the idea is for your body to use more calories each day than what you consume in food calories.

So, there are two ways to create this deficit…either consume less calories or burn more through exercising. Each pound of fat on your body is 3,500 calories.

So to lose 2 pounds per week, you need to create a weekly calorie deficit of 7,000…or a daily calorie deficit of 1,000.

In my opinion it is much easier to create this calorie deficit by not eating those calories in the first place. You would have to spend two hours at a moderate pace on a stationary bike EVERY day to accomplish this!

Fat Loss Isn’t Quite This Simple

The body is actually much more complex than simply responding precisely to a calorie deficit.

There are WAY more variables that come into play when it comes to fat loss…the type of food you eat, the timing of your meals, the metabolic effect of exercise, the muscle sparing effect of resistance training, etc…there are a lot of things that come into the fat loss picture that I’m not addressing here.

Diet is More Important Than Many People Realize

I would bet that over 80% of the articles in fitness magazines are about exercise.

It does make a lot of sense, because exercising is a much more interesting topic. The funny thing is that diet is equally, if not more important to an attractive physique.

Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE believer in regular exercise…I just think people are “spinning their wheels” when it comes to getting fit by not paying enough attention to diet. If your diet is bad, a lot of your effort in the gym goes to waste.

Diet is What Makes Your Cardio Much More Effective

If you are going to do a session of intense cardio or HIIT, you obviously want to get good results. If you are downing fast food and drinking soda on a regular basis, you are just getting back to square one with cardio…you will not lose body fat.

If you do that exact same cardio workout and follow a clean diet, you will get a huge fat loss boost from that cardio.

Bonus: A Self-Discipline Tip That Works Well

Self-discipline sometimes just depends upon how you view certain things. It really isn’t that a certain person is just naturally more disciplined than other people…often times they just think a bit differently about a certain task.

Here is the way I view cardio that almost forces me to follow a strict diet. I tell myself that if I do cardio while following a bad diet, that I am accomplishing nothing as far as getting lean is concerned. Since I do a pretty intense High Intensity Interval Training Routine, I would be mad if I didn’t see results!

I follow a clean diet, because I can’t stand the thought of working out that hard for nothing.

It works the other way as well…when I’m following a clean diet, I can’t stand the thought of not doing cardio because I know it will be that much more effective!


34 thoughts on “Is Diet OR Exercise More Important for Fat Loss and Getting Lean?”

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  3. Hahaha I’ve had weight problems since I was in high school. I’ve been overweight once at 123 lbs for 5’2 (which is overweight for my frame) … so I’ve fluctuated from 110 to 120 recently. I calorie count everyday and check my weight. My weight’s always the highest when I’m not working out … my appetite drops and I eat less. When I’m working out I’m constantly eating plus a few hundred extra cals and that’s when my weight is lowest and I look fittest. I dunno why though.

  4. Rusty, I keep hearing about this Eat Stop Eat concept. Did I miss that download in the Visual Impact Course I bought? Or is this something you discuss somewhere else?

  5. Yeha, I’m a fan of Macdonalds 🙂 Especially the chicken caesar wrap!!! Mmmmm I could so go for one now. Pity the closest Macdonalds is 500km away!

    People need to realise that the ultimate goal is calorie expendature… But sales men are succeeding in convincing them that it’s the lack of so and so supplement that’s causing them to not lose weight.

  6. I think both should be incorporated to get leaner! It should be your nutrition, resistance training, and your cardio. You can’t have one without the other.

  7. Stace,

    I have a lot of compassion for “moms”. My sister, who is a fitness freak, was driven crazy by the weight gain during pregnancy. It is apparent that I need to posts with full workouts. I can’t do it justice here in the comment section. Be on the “lookout” for it. A good starting point would be some of those cardio and HIIT workouts I have in the “Aerobic Exercise” section. I know you can drop that weight for sure.


  8. Hi Rusty
    I was a former “hot body” until I had 2 kids and made poor eating and exercise choices. My youngest is 2 now. This is my year to get my body back! I want to hit the beach with a body that turns heads. I am now 35 years old. I weigh a “OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I LET MYSELF GET THIS BIG,” 190 lbs at 5’6″.
    Because you have all the hot people on your website with the great bodies, I know you know what you talking about.

    I read your site at least 3-4x per week. What do you recommend I do to get a smokin’ body by summer? It is a long way back down but I am willing to do the work.

  9. hey rusty great site love the down to earth approch you give your custermers, rusty other than planks what else would you reccomend for a great six pack , maybe you could write a little routine for me thanx todd ,australia,

  10. Alan,

    Shame on me? Well…McDonald’s is at least attempting to offer healthy alternatives. I know that most of their menu isn’t healthy, but I like the direction they are heading.

    I have been know to eat the occasional fast food meal (a few times per year), so I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and slam all fast food places.


  11. Rusty,

    Let’s be honest here, McDonald’s sucks! A good value for the money? Empty calories? Rancid Oils? Genetically modified food? THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO VALUE!!!


  12. intresting info i would have never though this at all. Hes right i am planning my whole day around eating thats crazy. Who really wants to eat all the time. Are there any limitations that you can eat at night? this is awesome info and you seem to be giving it out for free

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