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So you’re ready to start on your journey to losing fat, improving your health, building some muscle and looking leaner. First up you need to plan or diet. Or do you start training first? Let’s find out.

Before you hand in your gym membership card, none of the above is designed to take away from the importance of exercise.

Sure, you CAN lose weight just from dieting, but you’ll look pretty terrible. 

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If you have no muscle mass or definition and think you look soft and flabby when carrying a few extra pounds, you’ll still look soft and flabby even when you've shed that excess fat.

Where weight loss is concerned, cardiovascular training is likely extremely over-rated, especially going by the earlier example of cycling for an hour only burning 600 calories. Weight training on the other hand, is not.

Weight training actually burns fewer calories per hour in general than most cardio exercises, but lifting weights has a profound effect on your body composition and metabolism.

After lifting weights, your body increases its uptake of oxygen in order to repair the muscle cells damaged while training and it doing so, creates a huge metabolic boost. This is a concept known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. This increased calorie burn can last for over 24 hours and will lead to much, much greater fat loss gains.

Secondly, weight training builds muscle. Whether you’re in pursuit of big, bulging muscles or not, muscle plays an incredibly important role. Not only does it make you stronger and less prone to injury, more muscle mass also increases your metabolism and calorie burn and will prevent you from looking soft and stringy when losing fat. You’ll look lean, defined and toned instead.

There’s also the aspect of performance to take into account too. If you’re in the least bit interested in playing sports, competing in athletics, or building muscle, you need to exercise.

Just as diet has many benefits in terms of improving your general health, exercise does too. Training improves your insulin sensitivity, meaning you process carbohydrates better, leading to fewer spikes in blood sugar levels and reducing your risk of diabetes. Your heart will be healthier, your bones and joints stronger, and your risks of developing issues with cholesterol, blood pressure and cognitive function greatly reduced.

The Wrap Up

If you absolutely had to choose just one – diet or exercise – you would be better off choosing exercise. However, it really doesn't have to come down to an either or scenario.

By far your best bet is to incorporate both.

A high energy intake and a high energy expenditure will lead to much better body composition than a low energy intake and a low energy expenditure, according to sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi. In essence, this means that

you’ll look better and perform better if you train hard and eat more than if you skip your workouts and eat less, even if the calorie balance is the same.

  • “G-Flux: Building the Ultimate Body” by Dr. John Berardi, Published February 1, 2006, Accessed on October 19th 2013, Retrieved from http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_nutrition/gflux_building_the_ultimate_body
  • Photo courtesy of Lindsey Turner by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/theogeo/2853305403/
  • Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/yourdon/4284213425/

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