The final post in my little diet project, (If you have not followed they are, The 3,500 Theory, Low Carb Diets, and The Paleo Diet) is focused on the 80/20 rule. Following in the ever-present societal trend of constantly discussing weight loss, this post will focus on a topic that I was uneducated on until very recently: Is diet or exercise more important for weight loss? This post is a big one for me when it comes to educating myself about health, fitness and living a balanced life. It also ties back very neatly to The 3,500 Rule.
So what is the 80/20 Rule?
Expert dietitians, nutritionists and fitness professionals have derived this approximate number from the 3,500 rule. It is also known as the 75%/25% rule, 70/30, 60/40…as usual no one can agree. Generally speaking, however, the higher number is the percent of energy expenditure and weight loss gains derived from diet alone. The smaller percentage represents any results achieved through exercise.
So to answer the question raised above; Is diet or exercise more important for weight loss? Trusting the professionals, it would appear that diet is more relevant in reaching weight loss goals. In the short-term.
- The 75%
Each mile you run is equal to about 100 calories burned. This is equal to a medium apple, a small handful of crackers, a couple of table spoons of humus. In my experience it is far easier to not eat an apple than it is to run a mile, that’s just me. However the body calculates these things the same way, energy expenditure is energy expenditure and a deficit is a deficit by what ever means.
The numbers for the rule are derived from the percentage of calories in a pound that are burned through diet vs. exercise in any given week. In order to follow along we must accept that these numbers are accurate to a degree. For example if we create a deficit through just exercise of 125 kcal per day, (lets factor in that we are skipping a day or two as most people burn more than this in a workout session and do not work out for 7 straight days) we create a deficit this 875 calories burned for the week through exercise. This is only 25% of the 3,500 calories in a pound. However, in the same week if we cut out 375 calories per day from our diets, this equals the remaining 75% of calories left in the pound at the end of a week. I know that sounds like a lot, but many people who are starting out on the weight loss journey are not aware of the caloric content of the foods they are eating. 375 calories might just be cutting out a bag of chips and a soda every day.
2. The 25%
So can weight loss be achieved by only limiting our diets? Yes absolutely, I think that goes without saying. You will definitely drop a few pounds. What will also happen is that after a month or two your metabolism will adjust to the new amount of energy it is receiving and you will plateau (the inevitable stage one reaches after a certain amount of time maintaining a calorie deficit), and your weight loss will come to a halt. What will also happen is that you will most likely become sad and dejected because you are no longer dropping pounds at the rate you started with and will slightly give up, eating a cupcake here and there. Because the body is in semi-starvation mode after being deprived for however long, it will hold on to this new influx of calories for dear life and you will gain back what you lost and more.
So what do we do to move past this dreaded plateau? This is where fitness comes in to play, and why fitness and not diet alone is a huge factor in any diet/weight loss regimen. Exercise builds muscle (and burns calories), and this is what we must focus on for any weight loss plan. Calories burned through cardio are an added bonus, as trivial and they are (unless you happen to be a marathon runner). Muscle development is the key because muscles burn more calories than fat. Once you hit a plateau you can maintain the same amount of calories you have been eating if the next step is increasing muscle. This way, the energy the body needs for maintenance will increase because of the added muscle requirements for more calories.
Exercise is always important.
I found myself going off on a tangent about types of exercise to increase weight loss and beat a plateau, so we’re going to save that segment for tomorrow.
But tell me, what has your experience been with this rule? Did you always think that you were burning more calories through exercise? Did you think you could just eat whatever and burn it off later, like me?