Studies show moderate diet and exercise sustains weight loss
It’s official: Moderate diet and exercise can, in fact, enable you to sustain weight loss. This is particularly
good news for people who struggle with exercise motivation or making a commitment to a fitness or weight loss program. The news comes from the renowned National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (or NIDDK), a division of NIH, funded and conducted a study that analyzed individual results of eating a restricted diet and performing strenuous exercise on a daily basis. Their subjects were 11 contestants from the reality TV program The Biggest Loser. These results can benefit anyone, regardless of whether you’re trying to lose a large amount of weight or simply trying to find the balance between eating and exercising to maintain your weight.
If you’re not familiar with The Biggest Loser, the program tracks the journey of participants over the course of several months as they compete to lose the most weight. All participants begin the program at what is considered an obese weight, in relation to their height and body type.
Researchers studied participants at three points in the weight loss program:
- Day 1 - Beginning
- Week 6
- Week 30 – At least 17 weeks after the program had ended and all participants were back to living, eating and exercising at home.
Each time, they measured three factors:
- Body fat
- Total energy expenditure
- Resting metabolic rate (the amount of energy burned when you are not active.)
Exactly what did they learn?
On average, each program participant lost 128 total pounds by the end of their weight loss journey. Body fat accounted for about 82 percent of that loss, while the remainder came from lean tissue – for instance, muscle. They learned it is important to preserve lean tissue as you’re losing weight, even if you’re losing a lot of weight in a short period of time, because lean tissue is what helps keep you strong and agile. Preserving muscle also lowers your risk of injury from exercise.
It’s all about moderation
To understand more about how diet and exercise each affected the program participants’ weight loss, senior investigator Kevin Hall, PhD, constructed a mathematical computer model of the human metabolism. He used the model to analyze the statistics at the program’s end.
Hall’s model calculated that diet alone would account for more weight loss than exercise – 65 percent from body fat and 35 percent from lean muscle or other tissue. The model calculated that exercise alone would cause participants to lose fat but no muscle. Despite overall weight loss, the exercise-only simulation actually projected a small increase in lean mass.
Metabolic modeling also projected program participants should be able to maintain weight loss, instead of gaining weight back, without having to maintain the kind of strenuous exercise and heavily restricted diet required during the weeks of the TV program. Instead, diet and exercise in moderation, such as 20 minutes of vigorous exercise each day and a 20 percent calorie restriction is sufficient.
It’s a clear lesson for all of us, diet and exercise contribute to weight loss. Both a moderately healthy diet and moderate exercise can help us sustain weight loss and lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s doable. Instead of competing on The Biggest Loser, we can all become big winners.
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