From the moment, we’re able to understand things like ‘fat’ and ‘weight loss’ – we’re told that the fastest way to lose weight is through diet and exercise. Those two words together create the basis for long-term weight loss efforts. Yet in this day and age of instant gratification, digital nomads, and lose-weight-quick schemes, the question is consistently asked: is it possible to lose weight through a diet without exercise?
The short answer is yes. The simplest math for weight loss is to burn more calories than you take in. As long as you consume fewer calories than what you burn naturally and at your most sedentary, you should lose weight on a diet without exercise.
The long answer? No. If you can lose weight through dieting alone, then naturally the fastest way to lose weight is to combine diet with exercise. It’s also the smartest. The negative effects of losing weight through calorie deprivation alone are considerable. Exercise tones the muscles and strengthens your bones – thus when you lose weight, you have more than just saggy skin because you’ve toned yourself and developed muscles.
In layman’s terms, burning calories by exercising overcomes those negative effects. Research has shown that exercise works the muscle so that it encourages better growth of bone. On the other hand, calorie restriction weakens the bone and they can become brittle over time.
Clearly, calories are good and go hand-in-hand with energy and exercise. Our body needs calories because that’s what our body uses for energy – it’s our personal fossil fuel. When we diet without exercising and deprive ourselves of food, our body burns calories like coal by shoveling them into the fire. So what happens when we don’t exercise?
Simple Answer: we burn muscle too. When we aren’t exercising, we aren’t building new muscle; instead, we store more fat. Dieting without exercise can ultimately have the opposite effect of weight-loss: stepping on the scales and discovering you’ve gained weight. Which brings us to another negative effect –
The scale is a rough outline, not a strong guide. The number you see on the scales is a combination of bone, muscle, fat, and every other molecule in your body. Muscle weighs more than fat but muscle also burns more fat. The more muscle you have the more fat you burn and therefore, your metabolism level increases. So why wouldn’t you want to have as much muscle as is suitable for your body type?
Because the scales have made us scared of gaining muscle. We know our weight increases when we exercise due to the muscle gained, but we would still prefer to avoid it.
At the end of the day, the fastest way to lose weight is to remember that the scale doesn’t differentiate between muscle and fat, that muscle increases our metabolism, and that a combination of diet with exercise is the healthiest and the most effective way to go.