The Coca-Cola Company announced earlier this week their plans to fund a new research organisation peddling the message that maintaining a healthy weight comes down mainly to getting more exercise, not cutting calories.
But the science doesn’t support that.
Other studies have shown that if you want to keep those pounds off, you need to eat right and work out regularly.
We recently asked Philip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, about this.
He told us that in the short-term, diet is far more important for shedding pounds. But over the long-term, regular workouts are critical to keeping that weight off and staying fit.
But that’s not what Coke is saying.
According to the New York Times, Coke’s new research group has said “there is ‘strong evidence’ that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake ‘but maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.’ And the studies they cite as support for these claims were supported financially by The Coca-Cola Company, the Times notes.
In other words, Coke’s new efforts to put the emphasis on exercise rather than diet ignore half the problem.
Here’s Stanforth (emphasis is our own):
Studies tend to show that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a much bigger role than exercise. But when you look at people who’ve lost weight and are also managing to keep it off, exercise is important.
There was a recent study on this in a large group of people who’d lost weight. And when you looked at the people who were able to keep it off, something like over 90% of those people exercised regularly.
There have been other studies where they have matched calorie deficit with exercise expenditure — [meaning you have one group of people cutting 500 calories from their daily diet, for example, and another group of people burning 500 calories at the gym every day] — you see pretty much the same type of changes.
But thinking practically, keep in mind you’d have to walk 35 miles to burn 3,500 calories. That’s a lot of walking. But if you look at eating, a Snickers bar might have, say, 500 calories. It’s going to be a lot easier to cut the Snickers bar than to do 5 miles of walking every day.
All of that comes with an important caveat, though, Stanforth says.
Lots of people have lost weight. Fewer people have kept it off. Again we’ve seen that 90% of people who keep it off exercise regularly. So it looks like it plays a bigger role there.
What all this research is showing, we think, is that there’s something about exercising that helps with weight loss and keeping it off.
In addition to helping with sustained weight loss, exercise may have several other positive effects on our lives, from helping to boost our mood and protect our bodies from the detrimental effects of ageing to helping us manage the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Plus, building and maintaining muscle can often mean your body will actually burn more calories throughout the day.
In other words, both of these components are critical for improving health and maintaining a healthy weight.
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