Very Good Article on Exercise Vs. Diet


Diet, exercise take off equal pounds, study finds

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science EditorFri Jan 26, 10:13 AM ET

Eating less and exercising more are equally good at helping take off the pounds, U.S. researchers said on Friday in a study that challenges many of the popular tenets of the multibillion dollar diet and fitness industry.

Tests on overweight people show that a calorie is just a calorie, whether lost by dieting or by running, they said.

They found there is no way to selectively lose belly fat, for instance, or trim thighs. And their carefully controlled study added to evidence that adding muscle mass does not somehow boost metabolism and help dieters take off even more weight.

"It's all about the calories," said Dr. Eric Ravussin of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

"So long as the energy deficit is the same, body weight, fat weight, and abdominal fat will all decrease in the same way."

Ravussin said the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, is one of the few done under controlled conditions that can actually demonstrate what happens to a human body while dieting and exercising.

Ravussin's team has been testing volunteers for another reason -- to see if taking in fewer calories helps people live longer. Strict diets have been shown to help animals from worms to dogs live longer, but it takes longer to study monkeys and humans.

They tested 24 people, 12 who ate a calorie-restricted diet, and 12 who dieted and also exercised five times a week for six months.

The dieters ate 25 percent less than normal, while the exercisers reduced their calorie intake by 12.5 percent and increased their physical activity to lose an extra 12.5 percent in calories.

Another 10 volunteers acted as controls. All food was provided by the university in carefully measured portions for most of the study.

The volunteers in both groups lost about 10 percent of their body weight, 24 percent of their fat mass, and 27 percent of their abdominal visceral fat. Visceral fat is packed in between the internal organs and is considered the most dangerous type of fat, linked with heart disease and diabetes.

The distribution of the fat on the body was not altered by either approach -- helping prove that there is no such thing as "spot reducing," Ravussin said in a telephone interview.

This suggests that "individuals are genetically programmed for fat storage in a particular pattern and that this programming cannot easily be overcome," he added.

Ravussin has published other studies that also dispute the idea that exercise builds muscle that helps people lose weight.

"If anything, highly trained people are highly efficient, so they burn fewer calories at rest," Ravussin said.

Dieting alone also did not appear to cause the volunteers to lose muscle mass along with fat, Ravussin's team found.

"There is a concept that if you exercise, you are going to lose less of your muscle," he said. But his team found no evidence this is true.

Ravussin believes exercise is crucial to health, however.

"For overall health, an appropriate program of diet and exercise is still the best," he said.

His team found some small suggestion that cutting 25 percent of calories by either diet or diet and exercise might extend life.

"We found that 2 of the biomarkers of aging were improved -- core temperature was 0.4 to 0.5 degrees C less," he said. "Insulin, which has been shown to be a biomarker of aging, was reduced," Ravussin said. That finding was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last April.


Thanks for sharing... I know from personal experience that its true in terms of weight loss however I also know that my 128 weight is far different in actual size & proportion when diet is clean. When its just weight at 128 w/ no exercise I am in an 8-10 - vs when I am working out & 128 its sizes 4-6. Thats my proof exercise counts for alot.


I like the way this article debunks a lot of myths:

1) There is no such thing as spot reducing or "toning" certain areas of the body. I think everyone pretty much knows that by now. If you want to "tone", you have to lose fat. The reason Cathe et al. are "defined" and "cut" isn't because they have huge muscles, it's because they have very low levels of body fat.

2) I've never believed the myth that reducing calories will somehow cause you to "lose muscle". You see and hear this one a lot. Where's the research?? If you don't strength train, your muscles will become smaller, but you won't "lose" them. I've never bought the myth on our bodies entering "starvation" mode either. Where's the reasearch??

3) People have bought in to the idea that building muscle will somehow boost your metabolism. When I've asked people how many more calories they burn a day due to "increased muscle", no one gives me an answer. Again, another myth that's bounced around that no one seems to question. Why do we accept all these myths without asking why or how?? This article suggests that as you become fitter, your metabolism may even slow down because your body is more efficient. Maybe that's why it's hard to lose "the last five pounds"?? Strength train with the goal of increasing your strength, but don't think you're going to get huge metabolism gains.

4) So much of what we can or cannot do depends on our genetics. So if you're wondering why you train hard but can't have a body like Cathe or your favorite celeb, maybe you should feel some relief and stop fighting a losing battle. Accept your body for what it is. Remember, the fitness industry wants you to think you can fight your genes all the way, but at some point you just can't.

5) So pick your poison for losing fat. If you'd rather restrict calories, do that. You're in no danger of entering "starvation" mode or losing muscle. Obviously you'll forgo some of the pleasures of eating. If you'd rather eat, be prepared to spend more time exercising. It's more time consuming, but you'll get to enjoy eating. Obviously exercising has other health benefits and that's the reason why I wouldn't choose diet alone to lose fat.


The article didn't specifically mention strength training. It said something about "running" at the outset, but didn't say whether the subjects strength trained as part of their overall exercise routine.

I'm losing weight at pretty much the same rate now that I added strength training and decreased the cardio, as I did when I did cardio exclusively. I have no idea what that means, but if it works for me, I'm going to continue in the same way. Besides, I just plain look better with a little extra muscle.

The article also didn't give any specifics about the types of food eaten by the study subjects. IMO, what people eat matters as much as how much. I would think that 100 calories derived from whole grains would be used differently by the body than a 100 calorie snack pack. But that's just me and my uneducated opinion.


We believe the myths because "they" said it was true. Who or what is "they". I don't know but they seem to have a lot of power. Thanks for all the good info from all. I'm finding I don't need books anymore. Calories; do the math. Expend more than you take in. Exercise or eat less. It is very simple and could be put on one page but unfortuately would not make the publishers very much $$.



That's interesting because I find that with myself I can exercise like crazy and it doesn't do a thing for me as far as losing weight. I have to reduce my calorie intake and be very strict with my diet to lose weight. It's always been very discouraging to me because I love to workout and hate to diet, but when I do both I don't seem to lose any more weight at all than dieting alone which is what I did before I found Cathe and exercise and I lost 50 lbs. Since I added exercise I only lost another 10 lbs which I've gained back and am trying to lose again. Very frustrating.x(


>My post wasn't meant to bash the OP and I'd like to thank her
>for posting the article. :) :) :)


There was absolutely nothing offensive in your original post!!



I'm the opposite - I cannot lose weight unless I exercise. It could be because my diets don't last very long :D, or it could be that I just eat better when I exericise because I don't want to sabotage my hard work.

When I FIRST started resistence training (Classic FIRMs 20 years ago) I actually ate MORE and still lost weight.

IIRC, exercise physiologists still can't explain why we lose a higher % of fat with HIIT since if you just count calories, HIIT doesn't burn as many calories as steady-state cardio (I had the link on my old computer).

Here's a link from the Los Angeles Times which supports the fact that not all exercises are created equal:,1,597040.column?coll=la-health-fitness-news


Thank you for posting the information...very interesting!

It would be nice to see the breakdown of men to women, ages and body types, weight and body fat % of all participants, calorie intake and amount of time of exercise and type of exercise involved. What kinds of food the people in the study were consuming. It would be interesting to see if the people in the study exercised and dieted on a regular basis prior to the study.


It may be that the HIIT worked for the person in the article because she had never done them before. Once the body acclimates to a mode of exercise, the gains from that exercise will slow or diminish. I suspect that if all a person did was HIIT, and then tried steady state cardio, they would get new results as well.

As for the original study, I agree with another poster (Greeneyedlefty), that what you eat does matter A LOT. One could technically be on a low calorie diet and just eat a cup of ice cream and a candy bar everyday. They would be deficient in nutrients but they would be on a low calorie diet. Every calorie is not nutritionally equal and that should have been examined in the study as well.

I think Flyweight brought up an EXCELLENT point about genetics. I am bothered to NO END when people take exercise advice from someone based on how they look. Genetics play a TREMENDOUS role in determining how a person will respond to exercise (and diet) and one person will NOT get the same results as another doing the same exercise regiment. As an example, I have flat abs (not to brag...I have other areas that aren't so great). I used to have clients ask me how I got them so they could do the same thing. Many of them could not understand why, if they did the exact same exercises as I, they wouldn't look the same as me. To be honest, my abs were flat when I was 20 pounds heavier and not exercising and eating all the crap I wanted. Also, I really hate ab work and avoid it if at all possible. It's just how I'm made. This really ties in to spot reducing/training. It just can't be done. Great points Flyweight!



For those that are interested Tom Venuto has responded to this article on his blog, just click on the title "New Study Says “Exercise Doesn’t Matter For Weight Loss”… So Now What?"

If nothing else, we've all known for a long time that diet is really key to results. Oh well, it was nice to dream;-)


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