HomeNewsGuidesReadsPodcastsTRANSFIN. EOD
  1. Guides
  2. Advice

What is Nutrition: Weight Loss Exercise Doesn't Work Without a Healthy Diet

Director Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Hospital
May 20, 2018 4:29 AM 3 min read

Having discussed the basic aspects of nutrition, metabolism and weight loss, we move on to the second part of a healthy lifestyle – exercise. It is commonly believed that exercising regularly, through walking, yoga, gym and running the treadmill are crucial for fitness and weight loss. The bitter truth however is that whilst being essential to maintain good health and fitness, they contribute little to long-term weight loss, even fat loss. Body’s natural response to exercise is to increase metabolism and burn a few more calories, but also to increase the appetite.

We've all seen the psychological boost that comes with exercising, easily identifiable as the notion that after working-out, one 'deserves' an extra snack.

The uncomfortable truth is that we cannot exercise our way out of obesity (or overeating) if it is not accompanied by a sensible diet.

What is Nutrition: Weight Loss Exercise Doesn't Work Without a Healthy Diet

Why Is This So?


Consider this. The number of calories in a samosa, kachori, gulab jamun etc. range between 200-500 per piece. Walking briskly for 45 minutes succeeds in burning barely 150 calories. Most adults would struggle to burn even 100 calories on a cross-trainer. Yoga, while being good for respiration, flexibility and some strength, is not great for weight loss. Strength training (resistance exercise) is useful to build muscle, but alone cannot promise weight loss. Running / jogging is perhaps an exception, but the number of people able to run regularly for over a year is minuscule. Furthermore, slow jogging is associated with muscle loss as well as fat loss, so any weight loss as a result is not entirely fat.


[Listen in to understand some broad thumbrules around good Nutrition and Fitness from Dr Chopra.]


A US study that followed 13,000 habitual runners found that those who ran longer were in general leaner, but runners who did not increase their distance year on year did re-gain fat. This was true even for those who ran 40 or more miles per week which in itself is a mind-boggling distance. Swimming is perhaps the best exercise for fat loss (even more so in cool water), if supplemented by a healthy diet plan.

What is Nutrition: Weight Loss Exercise Doesn't Work Without a Healthy Diet

Having said this, one needs to remember that we are discussing the average adult. Professional athletes and sportsmen can burn over a 1000 calories in an exercise session and thus their dietary requirements are huge. A good example is the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, said to consume over 6,500 calories a day. He obviously has the 'advantages' of age, height, a punishing exercise schedule and good genetics. Most of us are not so lucky – we have to go the hard way.


Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand to maintain a good health; the former takes care of muscles, bones and joints, while the latter provides energy and helps one to get rid of excess fat. One can for sure lose significant weight even without exercising, but that is not a holistic approach towards fitness.


Exercise should be an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. It has important advantages – elevation of mood, a feeling of wellbeing, improved stamina, an athletic body configuration, flexibility and strength. Without a healthy diet, it rarely results in a significant fat loss. Nevertheless, it does contribute to fat loss and overall wellbeing when combined with a balanced diet.


This is a recurring column published every Sunday under the title: What is Nutrition. Next week I will do a deep-dive on “Why We Crave Carbohydrates & Fail to Lose Weight”. Stay tuned.


(We are now on your favourite messaging app – WhatsApp. We highly recommend you SUBSCRIBE to start receiving your Fresh, Homegrown and Handpicked News Feed.)