It’s becoming more and more well known that what you eat will help you further your weight loss goals more significantly than how often you work out. This is due to a number of reasons, including the fact that we burn far fewer calories than expected during a workout, and it’s incredibly easy to eat those calories (plus some!) right back after the gym. So does the adage, “80 percent diet, 20 percent exercise” really hold true?
Well, yes, in short. According to an article from Women’s Health Magazine, the key to successful weight loss is taking in fewer calories than you burn. To lose one pound, you need to achieve a 3,500-calorie deficit. If you’re following the 80/20 rule, this means you’d want to shoot for about 750 calories burned through exercise and the rest cut through dietary changes.
This helpful chart from the same article illustrates what that might look like – the point being that it takes a lot more work to burn 750 calories through exercise than it does to cut thousands from your everyday eating habits.
According to Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and director of the weight management program at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, you would need to run seven to 10 miles a day to lose a pound a week. The average person can’t keep up this pace without suffering injury and significantly increasing their caloric intake in order to fuel them through workouts.
While you shouldn’t ditch your workout classes by any means, it’s easier to see results when you combine moderate exercise with thoughtful eating. It all comes down to the fact that it’s much easier to cut out a few hundred calories from your diet than burn a few hundred calories through exercise.
Basically, eating mindfully will help you lose weight more quickly than working out a lot—but you’ll see better results and help you achieve bigger goals in the long run if you incorporate exercise as well.