Losing weight: the difference between diet and sport

Seeing fewer pounds on the scale isn’t always a good sign. She explains why Dr. Chiara Vitobello, former Italian high jump champion, now a nutritionist biologist

Lose weight
Lose weight

Lose weight and lose weight: they seem to be two synonyms but they are not. They are not physical, aesthetic, and they are not healthy. “A person could lose weight even by eating snacks only, as long as his caloric intake is lower than his energy expenditure, so as to have a caloric deficit. But certainly, this is not the right way to obtain good results in terms of weight loss, therefore of reduction of fat mass, and of health “, said Dr. Chiara Vitobello, former Italian champion in the high jump, today coach and nutritionist biologist.


To understand if you are experiencing a simple weight loss or a real weight loss, you need to be able to understand what the weight loss is due to. “We should limit ourselves to talking about weight loss when we do not know the nature of this change, ie if it is related to a loss of lean mass, fat mass, or water. On the contrary, we can talk about weight loss when it is, specifically, the quantity of fat mass that is reduced “, clarifies the nutritionist. 

“The number on the scale is, therefore, a partial figure, able to testify only to weight loss. But to understand if a real weight loss is taking place, more precise tools are needed, which evaluate the body composition, such as the skinfold meter and bio-impedance meter. Only a weight loss confirmed through these tools is positive for health. The weight loss highlighted by the scales can instead hide a loss of muscle mass which, despite the initial enthusiasm dictated by the decrease recorded, does not actually represent a positive achievement either in terms of aesthetics or in terms of health “.


In recent times, diets that simply cut a macronutrient, mostly carbohydrates or fats, from the daily diet have become increasingly popular. “From the point of view of mere weight loss, the subdivision into macronutrients in the diet plays a secondary role”, says Dr. Vitobello. “On the other hand, the total amount of calories we introduce during the day plays a central role. If the latter turns out to be lower than the calories consumed over the 24 hours, here we are going to record a progressive weight loss.

Energy consumption, however, is not given only by sports activity, but is the sum of four factors: the basal metabolism, the TID(diet-induced thermogenesis, i.e. the calories our body consumes to digest what we eat), NEAT (nonexercise activity thermogenesis, i.e. all the calories we consume to carry out daily activities other than sports) and the energy consumed in the doing sports. Diets that credit the elimination of food, food class, or macronutrient for their results are deceiving. If we go, for example, to eliminate all carbohydrates from our diet, we will most likely end up introducing fewer calories than our needs. The weight loss, therefore, will not be due to the absence of carbohydrates as such, but, rather, to the indirect but consequent decrease in total caloric intake “.

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One of the questions that all those who want to lose weight ask themselves is whether diet or sport, physical activity, movement are more effective. In other words, whether it is more useful to cut your calorie intake or increase energy consumption to lose weight. “It is difficult to answer. In the beginning, results are obtained even by applying only in one of these two areas. But in my opinion the winning way is that which involves the implementation of an active lifestyle combined with a controlled diet. Also because this is the only way to avoid having to take one of these two practices to the extreme, ending up following extreme diets or too intense physical activity, which can be harmful to the body “.


Having clarified the distinction between weight loss and simple weight loss, and underlined the importance of both diet and physical activity (and not just sports) to lose weight, here are some practical tips to get back to normal after the excesses of the holidays: “My advice for this period is not to fall into the trap of drastic diets, which involve excessive calorie cuts or even fasting – underlines the nutritionist -. It has in fact been seen that depriving oneself totally of something then leads to the search for an excess of it. And passing from one excess to another can lead to an incorrect relationship with food and even to the onset of eating disorders. For this reason, I suggest returning to an active lifestyle. And before talking about training I would think about increasing the so-called NEAT that we have already mentioned, that is the set of all those daily activities at no cost that in the space of a day have a weight in terms of energy expenditure, such as walking, doing the stairs, doing housework, carrying shopping bags.

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