Have you ever pushed yourself to spend an extra 30 minutes at the gym in order to “make up” for eating a few extra cookies the night before, or so you could indulge in a few more drinks at happy hour later on?
On the surface, this line of thought seems like it should make sense, but the unfortunate truth is that weight loss doesn’t really work this way, at least not in the long-term anyway. “A combination of diet and exercise is the most powerful for managing our weight and achieving our fitness goals,” explains Alexandra Miller, RDN, LDN, corporate dietitian at Medifast, Inc. “When it comes to weight loss, our diet has a much stronger effect than exercise; that's because to lose weight, you need to consume less calories than you burn.”
When I asked Miller what she thinks is the number one mistake people make when it comes to losing weight, she said its relying on either exercise or diet alone.
“It takes 60 minutes on the stair master to burn about 500 calories and ten minutes to slurp down a milkshake that’s over 600 calories,” she said. “Even if you are committed to making healthier choices, an hour on the elliptical can easily be undone with a few peanut butter crackers. Exercise alone is simply not as effective for weight loss as is our diet.”
However, when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, Miller says that exercise actually plays a stronger role than diet.
“Sixty minutes of exercise most days of the week is recommended to prevent weight regain,” she explained. “Exercise also offers a whole slew of benefits aside from weight management. So in order to live a healthy and happy life, you really need a combination of both.”