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What's Better for Weight Loss? Exercise of Diet Changes?

There has been an ongoing debate as to whether diet or exercise changes are best for weight and fat loss. While long term, sustained weight loss requires changes to both as well as other life changes, there is a general consensus that dietary changes account for the majority of weight lost during a weight loss program. However, exercise does have its benefits, especially when it comes to maintaining and even reducing appetite, which can be increased with calorie restriction. A recent study by researchers at Loughborough University in Leicestershire UK was able to show this appetite suppressing effect of exercise after studying the effects of modest energy deficits by either diet or exercise and its effects on appetite and gut peptide responses.

The researchers took 12 healthy men for three 8 hour trials with two of those trials eliciting a modest energy deficit of roughly 1469kJ (351 calories), either from 30 minutes of exercise or from calorie restriction. They then examined the men for subjective appetite ratings as well as objective measure of two ‘appetite’ hormones including Ghrelin and Peptide YY.

The study found that diet induced energy deficits (eating less) resulted in an increased appetite during the trial, whereas there was no significant change in appetites when the men created an energy deficit through exercise. These appetite changes were correlated with a gut peptide known as Peptide YY which is normally released after food consumption and reduces appetite.

Practical Applications

Appetite is a powerful physiological response which can really affect the success of a weight loss program. As most programs require some sort of calorie restriction by reducing what you eat; you may experience a natural increased desire to eat. To combat this desire and maintain compliance to a weight and fat loss program, it’s best to incorporate exercise into the equation. In addition, why not help fight cravings by going for a quick walk or jog.

Deighton K, Batterham RL, Stensel DJ. ‘Appetite and gut peptide responses to exercise and calorie restriction: the effect of modest energy deficits.’ Appetite. 2014 Jun 6. pii: S0195-6663(14)00243-8.

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