If a Martian walked through the door right now wanting to know about life on Earth, I’d struggle explaining two things:
I’m a bit shaky on how Noah managed to create the refrigeration system to keep polar bears cold and the lions hot in his ark (any chance it’s all bullshit?). Also, I’d need at least two hours to explain why U.S. customary system is so fucking stupid (admit it)—there are different arbitrary units for everything.
But I’d explain what’s better for fat loss—diet alone or diet + exercise—with ease. Here’s how I’d explain it to a Martian:
You can create this deficit via diet alone, exercise alone, or a combination of both:
Now, a calorie deficit via exercise versus a calorie deficit through diet yields the same weight loss (given equal net energy balance). This has been demonstrated in research1. So a 3500-calorie deficit via exercise or diet will result in the same weight loss.
But here’s the deal: The goal of every sound weight loss phase shouldn’t be merely losing weight. It should be:
And that’s where losing weight with diet alone starts to fall behind diet + exercise (resistance training more specifically).
Hunter et al. conducted a study in which they put 94 women in three groups:
At the end of the study, all three groups lost weight but only the diet + resistance training group preserved and even built muscle:
Lastly, my Martian friend, James E Clark conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis in which he looked at weight loss effectiveness in three groups:
He concluded that:
This shouldn’t cause you a traumatic shock though—resistance training “tells” your body that you need your muscle, preventing it from being broken down and used for energy (this can happen when you’re in a calorie deficit).
Further Reading: How To Build Muscle: A Practical Checklist
Alrighty, drawing all these cute-ass infographics gave me a mild myocardial infarction so let’s wrap it up. Here’s how you can take all of this and put it to use:
- If fat loss is your only goal (hopefully, it’s not), then losing weight with diet alone may do the work.
- I said “may” because eating less for sedentary folks may be hard due to their metabolism often being relatively slow because of low levels of muscle mass and physical activity. Also, as you lose weight your metabolic rate will decrease due to metabolic adaptations. Meaning, you’ll have to eat even less if you don’t exercise.
- If, in addition to fat loss, your goal is to preserve/increase muscle mass, then you’ll need to implement a sensible resistance training program.
- Loss of muscle mass when dieting is a major reason why your metabolic rate may drop after losing a significant amount of weight.
- Finally, this is kind of the “well, duh” statement but.. people who lift weights look better once they lean out than those who diet without exercise.
And if you’re about to say something like: “But Egis, I don’t like exercise. It feels like being dragged across Greenland behind a horse. What should I do?”
Imagine your kid (let’s call him Charlie) wakes up for school and says to you “Mom, I don’t wanna go to school today.”
What are you going to say? “Okay, you can go kill some brain cells playing video games”? No, you’re going to say “Tough shit, Charlie. Dress up and go to the friggn’ school. There’s a lot I don’t want to do but I’m an adult and so still do it.”
Same with you—if you don’t exercise because you don’t like it, go exercise. Most gym dudes whose armpit aroma prevents them from getting laid didn’t like exercise at the start either. But it changes over time. Don’t use the “I don’t like it” as a justification for not doing something.
And if you need help getting that crap started, hire me to coach you. Bye.