Should I Exercise More or Eat Less to Lose & Maintain Weight?

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Every year 45 million Americans go on a diet. Do you know how many succeed in losing weight? Roughly 5%. Here’s another fact: 97% of people who lose a lot of weight regain it within three years. 

I know these facts are depressing. However, this makes one wonder why only such a small percentage of people can lose weight successfully when there are just two secrets to weight loss: diet and exercise.

Of course, there are other factors that influence weight loss, like genetics, but for the sake of this article, we are going to focus on factors that we can influence!

On one side, personal trainers are stressing the importance of exercise in weight loss, whereas another side is filled with dieticians advocating the importance of diet.

And even then, most people aren’t able to lose weight and the majority of those who do gain it back again within six months.

So, what should a person do to lose & maintain weight? In this article, we are going to find out exactly whether you should eat less or train more, or do both to lose and maintain weight:

woman exercising

The Problem With EATING Less!

For most people, it’s easier to stick to a calorie deficit diet than a workout plan. And in the case of weight loss, diet is also a much better alternative, Since weight loss is highly dependent on diet rather than on exercise.

An examination of 700+ weight loss studies suggests that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart.

Weight loss = 75% Diet + 25% Exercise

However, if you lose weight through diet alone, without exercise, you will also lose muscle mass and bone density, making it harder for you to maintain your weight. Since muscles burn more calories than fat, reduced muscle mass will slow down your metabolism.

Moreover, When it comes to dieting, you can’t underfeed yourself, skip meals, or consume empty calories.

If you underfeed yourself, your body will go into ‘starvation mode.’ This means that your metabolism will slow down, and no matter how much food you consume, your body will hold onto it. For instance, crash dieting and reducing your calorie intake to 800 to 1000 calories/day; you’re more likely to regain weight quickly, often within six months after you stop dieting due to reduced metabolism.

If you skip meals, your metabolism will again slow down. Research published in the journal Metabolism found that when people skip meals, it results in an elevated level of blood sugar and delayed insulin response, also known as ‘starvation mode.’

If you reduce your calorie intake without meeting your nutritional needs, you will lose muscle mass and bone density. You will also find yourself with nutritional deficiencies and new health problems.

So, To lose weight swiftly, influencing your diet is enough. But to maintain weight, you need to exercise consistently.

The Problem With EXERCISING More!

When you lose weight through exercise alone, you will be losing mostly fat.

However, It is estimated that one pound of body fat is equal to 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat in a week, you need to burn 500 calories daily. Therefore, Losing weight just through exercise will take a lot of effort & time and will not produce impressive results.

woman holding skipping rope

Best Way to Lose and Maintain Weight?

You can lose weight through exercise alone, but it will take a lot of time and commitment. You can lose weight with diet alone, but it will be very difficult to maintain your weight.

Moreover, you can’t maintain your weight just by exercising more or eating less.

The only way to lose weight is by creating a sustainable calorie deficit and following a workout plan and the best way to maintain your weight is by making smart diet choices while exercising consistently.

According to recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine, 50 minutes of physical activity (Brisk walking counts), five times a week is enough to lose and maintain weight.

To create a sustainable calorie deficit, make sure you are consuming enough calories to fuel your workouts and your nutrient requirements. Instead of just counting calories, you should focus on getting enough carbs, protein, and fat. This way, you will stay fuller, more energetic, and avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Yes, you can also try different diet plans like keto, paleo, 16:8 diet, etc. However, you have to make sure that your diet plan is customized according to your weight loss goal and nutrient requirements. 

Here’s an Ideal weight calculator to determine your ideal weight. Use your ideal weight to determine how much weight you need to lose.

Then use this calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to consume daily to lose & maintain weight. You can also use the Cronometer app to track your calories intake, micronutrients, exercises, biometrics; to ensure that you meet your daily nutritional requirements. 


You will lose more weight by restricting your diet. However, to maintain weight, you need 250 minutes of weekly exercise. So, if you want to lose & maintain weight, a proper combination of diet and exercise is the only way to go.

Your best bet is to maintain a balance between diet and exercise, and you should avoid overdoing diet or exercise just to get quick results. Focusing more on keeping your body healthy while following a sustainable diet and exercise routine is the best way to go.

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Hi, I am Rudra, a computer engineer, and a certified procrastinator. I started FitnessGained in 2018 to help me stay fit despite all my desk time. Now I run this blog as a hobby. Here at FitnessGained, I will share what I do to stay fit & more. Our motto is "Reaching True Potential with Effort."

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