Take a look at this article by Vox, published in the beginning of 2019 – it explains the simple (but often forgotten) science behind how much more diet matters than exercise, when it comes to burning calories. Here’s also a much more in-depth piece (by the same author), based on more than 60 published scientific studies.
The conclusion is clear – physical exercise accounts for a relatively insignificant amount of the calories you burn daily. Or, as I’ve been saying for years – it would take you up to an hour of brisk walking to burn off the energy in a serving of ice-cream.
Here are the most important points from the article:
- You cannot outrun a bad diet
- after a certain amount of exercise, you don’t keep burning calories at the same rate: Total energy expenditure may eventually plateau
- Exercise is excellent for health, but it’s not important for weight loss. The two things should never be given equal weight in the obesity debate
- “Pretend you didn’t exercise at all,” – “You will most likely compensate anyway, so think of exercising just for health improvement but not for weight loss.”
Keep in mind – this only applies to the caloric model of weight-loss and doesn’t take hormones into account
Of course, there is much more to health and weight loss than calories. The caloric model clearly doesn’t explain why some people(particularly the young ones) can stay thin even when eating in a caloric excess. There are many other factors, like leptin sensitivity, insulin secretion, diurnal variation of cortisol, water weight storage due to ADH reductions and many, many more. If you like to read more on those topics, take a look at my other articles, concerning those topics.