I’ve been working out and paying attention to how much (and what) I eat since I was a teenager, so it gets my knickers in a bunch when one of my out-of-shape and over-weight co-workers tells me how lucky I am to have “good genetics.” When I hear this, I’m unable to control myself and always reply with “It’s not good genetics, it’s watching what I eat and working out.”
Then I take a deep breath (already knowing the answer I’m going to get) and offer, “If you’d like some tips, I’d be glad to help you out.”
To which the offender inevitably replies, “I just don’t have the time,” before waddling off to the snack machine for a soda and a Snickers.
Sorry, but it doesn’t take time to lose weight. Maybe the popular perception that you can’t lose weight without exercise comes from shows like Biggest Loser, but it seems as though diet and exercise and inexorability linked in people’s minds in a relationship so interdependent that you can’t do one without the other.
But you can.
Although they work together in harmony, and doing both will increase the effectiveness of each, the truth of the matter is you can do one and not the other. You can exercise without being all that concerned about what or how much you eat — just ask any super heavy weight power lifter or bulking bodybuilder. And you can diet without exercise.
Cardiovascular exercise as an activity has the purpose of of improving and maintaining the fitness and efficiency of the body’s heart, lungs, and muscles. That the MAIN purpose of cardio.
If you are relying on exercise and exercise alone to lose weight, you are in all likelihood going to be disappointed with your progress. Let’s take a look at some numbers (pulled from this handy calories burned calculator) to understand why.
I determined my Total Daily Energy Expenditure to be 2,032 (I selected sedentary from the drop down to get my base level). A quick word about TDEE calculators — there are a bunch of them and you’ll get varied results. Use the number as a starting point to build off as you determine how your caloric intake affects you and adjust as you make progress.
Another useful number to know is 3,500. That’s the number of calories in a pound of fat. So to lose 1 pound of fat, you have to either
a. burn 3,500 calories more than you take in
b. eat 3,500 calories less than you burn
What one do you think is easier? Obviously, a combination of diet and exercise will work best, but the purpose of this article is to emphasize the importance of diet over exercise when it comes to losing weight, so that’s what we’ll stick with.
Let’s say you want to lose 1 pound a week. That’s a 3,500 caloric deficit over 7 days, or 500 calories a day. I used the calories burned calculator linked above with my stats:
- 50 years old
- 6 feet tall
- 185 pounds
It tells me that 20 minutes of jogging burns 196 calories. So in order to lose 1 pound a week without changing my caloric intake, I’d have to jog for 51 minutes EVERY DAY.
Are you starting to see why exercise alone isn’t the best way to lose weight?
So here’s the big reveal: if you want to lose weight, the easiest way to do it (whether you exercise or not) is limit the number of calories you consume. One more time:
if you want to lose weight, the easiest way to do it (whether you exercise or not) is limit the number of calories you consume
Let’s take a look as some of the common things I see my co-workers wandering around with:
- 12 ounce can of coke: 140 calories
- Fun size bag of Doritos: 140 calories
- Coffee with 2 creams: 74 calories
- 2 slices of bread: 160 calories
- 1 Snickers bar: 215 calories
- Jelly doughnut: 289 calories
- 1 slice of pepperoni pizza, regular crust: 298 calories
- 1 Oreo cookie: 53 calories
There’s a guy in my office who goes through 3 cans of coke a day. That’s 420 calories. If he stopped drinking coke, the immediate effect would be a loss of almost 1 pound a week. Just by stopping that one thing. Now I’m not going to get into types of food and glycemic index or macronutrients, I’m simply talking about straight up calories consumed.
Is it sinking in yet?
According to the calculator, I burn 9.8 calories per minute of jogging. For me to burn off 12 ounces of Coke, I’m looking at almost 15 minutes of jogging. For one Oreo cookie I need 6 minutes of jogging. How many Oreos come in one of those snack packs? Six? Do you enjoy a beer or two after a hard day in the office? The average beer has 146 calories. Welcome to 15 minutes per beer to jog it off.
So stop making the excuse that you can’t lose weight because you don’t have time to exercise. If you want to lose weight, start with your diet, because eating less take no time at all.Share!