Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise?


Despite the common misconception that exercise is just as important as dieting in a weight loss regimen, the truth is that the standard formula for weight loss for women is 80% diet and just 20% exercise.

To back up these claims, several scientists and nutritional experts have conducted numerous studies, proving that shedding pounds is much harder than not gaining them in the first place. In other words, it is harder to lose weight after having a hearty meal and exercising for hours, than it is by having a low-calorie meal and not exercising at all or exercising for just a few minutes.

The 80 – 20 Ratio

According to Albert Matheny (, world-renowned RD and CSCS, women need to burn 3,500 calories in order to lose one pound of fat. He recommends women to use the 80% – 20% ratio, which means losing 80% calories through dieting and 20% through exercise. That’s around 2800 calories through dieting and the rest of 700 through exercise.

For starters, your goal should be to lose one pound a week, and for that you need to burn around 350 calories a day through dieting and 100 calories a day through exercise. In simple terms, you should eat a burger a day less (that’s about 300 calories) and run for 6-8 minutes (depending on your speed, you normally burn 100 calories in that amount of time).

Why Dieting is Much More Important than Exercising?

The main reason why dieting is considered more important than exercising when losing weight is that it takes a lot of activity and effort to burn as many calories as you would otherwise burn by abstaining from food. Essentially, you would have to run for 1-2 hours a day in order to lose just one pound a week. Even if you would have enough time and energy to spare in order to run so much, you would probably eat much more after exercising, as you are trying to alleviate the hunger sensation in your belly.

Many women live with the misconception that they can go to a marathon or start going to frequent boot camps and still lose a lot of weight, without necessarily making radical changes in their diet. Things just don’t work like that. While you can lose weight without exercising, you will never be able to lose weight unless you change your diet.

You don’t need to be exact with the 80 – 20 ratio, but it is still imperative to focus primarily on diet if you want to enjoy the expected results.

Why Exercising is also Vital for Weight Loss?

Of course, you should not replace your regular 6 to 8 minute running session once a day or 30 minutes every three days with prepping meals. According to the specialists in nutrition, when you combine a healthy diet with a regular exercise regimen, losing weight becomes much easier. For example, you could burn 200 calories at the gym and then burn another 300 by skipping that bowl of ice cream, or burn 100 by running 2 miles and skip that big portion of chips for another 400 calories.

A unique combination of exercise and diet is important in any stage of the weight loss process, specialists say. When it comes to the types of exercises practiced, experts agree that you need a mix of cardiovascular and strength training. Both types of exercise burn calories and transform stored fat in energy.


During the weight loss process, your body tends to resist the change, especially if you eat less all of a sudden. This might lead to a plateau. Once you hit that point, losing weight stalls, and it seems that everything you do is useless. The good news is that you can get over a plateau by combining strength training with cardiovascular exercises.

Even though your metabolism might slow down during the weight loss process, you can speed it up and boost your weight losing by exercising regularly.

As a bottom line, we all agree that following the 80 – 20 ratio is great for weight loss. Diet comes first, but exercise should not be neglected. In the end, fitness is the one that will push you through the plateaus you will encounter and will help you achieve your fitness goals sooner than you’ve expected.

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