When you have the goal of losing weight in mind, one of the greatest debates is deciding whether you need to focus more on eating healthier or exercising more. The easy answer is that you need to do both, but that’s not always what people want to hear.

Of course, in order to lose weight and be healthy, you have to eat foods that are good for you and exercise frequently. However, there is one component that may be more important than the other that would help your weight loss efforts.

Which is more important: Healthy Diet or Frequent Exercise?

Exercising, But Not Eating Healthy

Many people think that they will lose weight just by exercising alone. As a result, they do some exercises, but still eat their unhealthy diet that is full of fatty foods. The reality is that you aren’t doing your body any good by eating those foods without exercising. 

The science behind losing weight is that you have to burn more calories by exercising than you consume. So it doesn’t matter if you burn 2,000 calories in a workout if you eat 2,500 calories in a day. You will never lose weight that way.

Eating Healthy, But Not Exercising

You will be more on the right track if you decide that you don’t want to exercise, but are willing to eat healthier instead. This doesn’t mean that you have to starve yourself, but rather, just eat foods that won’t pack on the additional calories. Eat a salad with some chicken instead of a chicken sandwich. Just by making that switch you could be saving several hundred calories.

Healthy diet

Depending on a variety of factors, including your age, weight and what you do during the day, you might burn up to 1,000 calories just by being awake every day. That means if you don’t do any kind of exercises, you will have to consume 1,000 calories or less each day if you want to lose weight. That can be tough, but people sometimes find it easier to change their diet rather than get into a regular exercising routine.

Related: 10 Tasty Foods to Help You Lose and Maintain Weight

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Benefits

Short-term Weight Loss Goal

Sometimes there are events that come up where you want to lose a few pounds. If you are just looking to lose weight over the span of a few weeks or a month, and don’t want to do both exercises and eat healthier, then your better option would be to eat healthier

Even reducing as few as 500 calories per day could help you lose up to one pound per week, but that depends on your overall weight.

But just imagine if you reduced 500 calories in your diet and then did a 500-calorie workout every day as well. That combination would keep out 1,000 calories per day!

Which is more important: Healthy Diet or Frequent Exercise?

Long-term Weight Loss Goal

If you aren’t concerned about losing weight quickly but would like to drop some pounds over the course of several months or years, then it’s more important to incorporate a solid exercise regimen. Exercise not only burns calories during each workout, but it will also build up your metabolism.  The key to maintaining a healthy weight is having a good metabolism that will help you burn calories even when you aren’t exercising.

You won’t have to change a lot about your diet if you are strict with your workout schedule, but it would be best for your overall health if you reduced the amount of fats and carbs in your diet as well. However, you will start to notice some weight loss over time that could eventually make you want to start eating healthier so you won’t have to work out as hard to lose the weight.

See also: 6 Fun Ways to Get Workout Motivation

Can You Have Cheat Days?

No matter if you decide that you want to be on a healthy diet or if you want to exercise frequently, it’s important for you to have a cheat day once per week, especially when you are starting out. Your body is probably used to getting a certain amount of calories and not working out as much, so it will be in shock when you start a new routine.

As a result, you could suffer some side effects, like sore muscles, headaches and other symptoms, which is just your body telling you that it’s getting neglected of something that it normally gets.

When you sneak in a cheat day where you can either eat more or not exercise, it gives your body a sense of normalcy that will help you continue on your program. In some ways, the cheat day can help you because your body may stop burning calories at a rapid rate if you only eat healthy every day.

This is especially true if you didn’t necessarily have a healthy diet before. Your body will literally store up some fats in reserve since it doesn’t know when it will get its next big meal. When that happens, it sometimes won’t matter how healthy you eat because you are fighting your body, and it will win in more ways than one.

Conclusion

So the bottom line is that a combination of both a healthy diet and frequent exercise is the best way to stay healthy. You don’t have to overdo it to the point where you burn yourself out, but just remember that a few hundred calories per day will go a long way in helping you develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.