Blog, Dieting For Fat Loss, Fat Loss

Diet Vs Exercise For Fat Loss …Which One Wins?

Let me be brutally honest with you.  Exercise is the easy part.

99% of the time when I first start training somebody they’re all for the hardcore exercise and workouts but when it comes to the diet part they start running for the hills.  For some reason giving up our favorite foods and bad diet habits make us squirm.

And I’ll tell every one of my clients that if they don’t start following healthy diet habits then all the exercise in the world isn’t going to make them get down to their desired weight.  But don’t get me wrong, they will lose some fat with just doing exercise but their results aren’t going to be near what they could be if they ate right.

It’s obvious that I would recommend doing both when it  comes to diet vs exercise but I want to dig deeper and see which one is more effective.  Is a fat loss diet going to be more successful than an exercise plan for fat loss?

Let’s look at a 12-week weight loss study that compared the amount of weight lost through diet only to the amount of weight lost through an exercise program.

At the end of the 6 weeks the group that only focused on fat loss through diet lost an average of 15 pounds but the group that only did exercise only lost an average of 1 pound…that’s right just 1 pound!

Also those who did the diet only program dropped their bodyfat percentage by an average of 6% while the exercise only group dropped their bodyfat percentage by only 2%.

Seeing these results is evidence enough that in the battle of diet vs exercise, nutrition comes out the clear winner.  Doing exercise will get you some results but diet is going to be king of the fat loss castle.

I’ve lately begun showing this research study to my clients who are still resistant to implementing a great diet plan because they just don’t want to give up the foods they love.  And I always tell them that they don’t have too.

If you’re able to eat healthy 90% of the time then you can use that last 10% to cheat on your diet plan and eat whatever you like.  So if you’re eating around 5 small meals a day (which you should be doing) then that leaves room for 4 cheat meals per week.

I encourage my clients to plan out their cheat meals just like they do for their regular diet foods.  Having some light at the end of the tunnel is going to be critical for when the nutrition plan gets tough.  Also a great way to fill in those meals that you miss while on your diet is to use some protein powder, see my Progade review for more.

And it’s a great thing to have those cheat meals because of the leptin hormone which cuts off fat loss when the body has had restricted calories for too long.  The hormone goes way back to the caveman days when food and nutrition was scarce.

When we couldn’t get enough food to fill our belly then leptin would tell our bodies to slow our metabolisms and stop burning fat because we’re going to need all that we can get.

It’s kinda like money, when you have a lot of it you’re willing to spend it more freely but when you’re broke you’ll hold onto every penny.

So having those strategically placed meals is going to be very important to losing weight.  But they’re not like rollover minutes, you can’t add them up and go on an all out binge eating special.

I’m hoping this review on the diet vs exercise debate has inspired you to keep strong with your nutrition and not to neglect exercise.  Exercise has been proven to make significant gains in the fat loss process, but you can never out train a bad diet.

Your coach,


P.S. – For a great diet plan (for the holidays too!) that lets you have you cheat meals while also having massive fat loss results… Click here to check it out

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  1. andreea

    November 29, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Trainer Josh,

    I could not agree with you more, and I’m really glad you put up this article.

    For the past year I have been working out religiously, trying anything from P90X, to Slim in 6 and now 30 Day Shred. While these workouts helped me finally decide to lose the weight and be active and healthy every day they did not do much to lower my body fat or weight for that matter. I know the scale doesn’t reflect accurate fat loss, and most of the time when I was weighing myself it was the muscle speaking on the scale display.

    The problem with me trying to be on a solid healthy diet was honestly my boyfriend who thinks he’s still 18 and eats lots of junk sometimes. With such a temptation around me for so long I was never able to truly commit to good eating habits.

    Now, after some debate and arguments we’re both trying very hard to eat right. We’ve incorporated more fruits and vegetables and thrown out all the bad junky foods.

    And surprise, with small meals, and the right kinds of healthy food I am already starting to see and most importantly feel a big difference, after only 2 weeks. I know now that all my hard training has not been in vain, and my body will have more possibilities of improvement over time.

    Thanks for the article and I am looking forward for more articles like this and better workouts 🙂

    Cheers, and Good luck to everyone fighting this battle


  2. Brynna

    February 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Thank for this Trainer Josh. Just watched one of your videos for the first time, and I’m hooked on you! So cute and interactive you really make me want to keep working out [which is important for me, because I have depression].

    I’m also really reluctant to change my diet. I like eating what I want, when I want. I never want to be those people going ‘well does it have x, y, z in it? I can’t have that. Can’t have that either. Nope. I can only eat a, b, c.

    Looks like I get to suck it up and make some changes though!

    Good luck to everybody 🙂


  3. Behrad Behrady

    August 2, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Hi trainer Josh, I have been following your blogs with great success and wanted to thank you. I have two specific question with regards to healthy eating and they are 1) Peanut butter and 2) avocados.
    Are these two healthy options? I have noticed that Peanut butter has a very high fat content but is this good fats or bad?
    Also, is having half an avocado as a snack or after gym a good idea or not?


    • Josh Schlottman

      August 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      Hey Behrad,

      I would switch the peanut butter for almond butter and avocados are healthy as well just make sure you don’t eat too many of them. These are definitely good fats and if you’re looking to lose fat then focus on eliminating white carbs as a priority.


  4. hannah

    February 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    hey josh
    i love reading your blogs it has made me change the way i eat. im grateful becuase i lost ten pounds by just eating properly. i started going to the gym and i do cardio usually 30 mins switching from treadmill, stairs or elliptical. i am a pear shaped female and for many years now ive been struggling toget slim thighs.i have saddlebag thighs, its terrible!i have a hard time targeting that area as well as my upper portion of my thighs. can you please give me some tips on how to reduce the fat in this area without having bulky thighs.


    • Josh Schlottman

      June 1, 2017 at 4:43 pm

      If you’re looking to slim down your thighs then I’d recommend focusing on your diet and cardio. For your diet be sure to cut your calorie intake while avoiding sugar, carbs and processed foods. For your cardio I’d recommend steady state traditional stuff like running, stairclimber, etc.


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