Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise?

| Diet & Nutrition

If you've ever Googled, "Is diet or exercise more important for weight loss?" you've probably come across this seemingly arbitrary formula for dropping pounds: It's 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise. But where did that 80/20 ratio come from? And what does it really mean? To solve that mystery, Women's Health asked experts for their takes on the idea and what it means for your weight loss plan:

Why your meals are so important: The key to weight loss is achieving a negative energy balance, or taking in less calories than you burn, says Albert Matheny, R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and PROMIX Nutrition. To shed a single pound, you need to achieve a 3,500 calorie deficit. So if you're following the 80/20 ratio, you'd want to burn approximately 750 calories through exercise and cut an additional 3,000 calories through dieting, says Matheny. That’s a total deficit of 3,750 calories for the week.

Here's what that might look like:

losing weight with 80 diet and 20 exercise
(Photo: Image via Women's Health)

The reason dieting is so much more effective than exercise is because it takes a ton of activity to create a 500 to 700 calorie deficit through working out. Essentially, you’d need to run seven to 10 miles a day to lose one pound a week, says Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and director of the weight management program at New York University's Langone Medical Center. The average person can’t keep this up, especially without increasing their caloric intake.

To read the rest of the article, including why fitness is still crucial to losing weight, click here!

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