Different people have different ‘methods’ for losing weight: some focus on clean eating, some become cardio bunnies while others combine both cardio and dietary changes to achieve their goals. But according to research, what is the best method?
A 2012 randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of research) lasting a year looked at whether diet, exercise, or both combined was most effective. The researchers found that the average weight loss was highest in the diet and exercise group (10.8% of body weight), compared to diet (8.5%) and exercise (2.4%).
A systematic review of intervention studies using exercise for weight loss found that exercise energy expenditure did not correlate with weight loss.
A study conducted in Tanzania sought to understand the relationship between energy expenditure and intake by studying the Hadza, a hunter-gatherer tribe. Researchers were surprised to discover the tribe burnt a similar number of calories per day to the average American but had no prevalence of obesity or disease. Why? The only possible explanation was their diet.
Numerous studies conclude that exercise has, at best, a modest impact on weight loss, but it’s less than most people believe. Energy balance (i.e., weight gain or weight loss) isn’t as simple as calories in vs. calories out; there are multiple biochemical processes that regulate body weight, so ensuring you’re eating healthily and not in excess is the most effective way for your body to regulate its weight.
According to science, the best way to lose weight is by combining a healthy, reduced dietary intake with some exercise. This is summarized in a 2015 meta-analysis of over 200 studies that found that diet brings about the most change to body weight, but when combined with exercise (particularly resistance training) the body is healthier, and weight loss is maximized over the long term.
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