The simple key to weight loss is by creating a caloric deficit, this can be done through a reduction in the number of calories you’re eating or the amount of energy you’re expending.
Out of the two potential options which would be the best?
Lets look at each individually based on trying to achieve a 500 calories deficit.
Extra Energy Expenditure –
If you were to add in some extra cardio (the classic method) and it takes you 30min to burn 250 calories for example then you will have to add in an extra 60min of cardio per day to achieve the required deficit. While this may seem quite reasonable that would be in addition to your normal weight training routine which can eventually lead to some serious fatigue.
The obvious flaw with this is that you have no real way of knowing exactly how many calories you’re really burning, not to mention you would be burning a specific amount of calories anyway just by living which people tend to forget. This means if you see that you have burned calories on a treadmill perhaps 150 of those you would have burned anyway just by being alive, meaning you’ve only actually burnt an additional 350 calories instead of 500 , which will lead to you needing to spend more time on the treadmill.
The main downside of this method is the time factor, the larger the deficit you need the more time you will need to put in to your CV.
Keep this in mind lets look at the second option.
Caloric Deficit Through Food.
Provided you’re tracking your calories you can easily create the required deficit of 500, a few simple tweaks in your macros (carbs & fat) and you’ll easily succeed. Obviously you will want to make sure you weight your foods for the most accuracy possible, however the downside of this can come from people psychologically feeling that they are hungry because they are not eating much , this is where changing some of the food choices from Energy Dense foods (high calorie-small volume) to Nutrient Dense foods (low caloric value-high volume). This will give the mental reprieve needed to stay away from the trap of binge eating.
It is true that eventually a persons metabolism will catch up to this new lowered calorie baseline, when this starts to happen and progress slows begins to slow down a re-feed tactic can be employed. This is where for one day calories are boosted back to said persons original set number (2800 back to 3300 for example). For beginners this can be done every 10-14days typically, sometimes more if they have a lot of excess body fat, some leaner individuals may have a re-feed as close as every 3-5 days.
It might seem from reading the above that just hitting a caloric deficit is the way to go, however the main downside and one thing that people forget is that this method alone can become very mentally taxing over the long haul.
So what is the best way then?
Looking at this from a realistic standpoint a person will ideally use both of these tools because they both work for different reasons. If you were to take and 80/20 approach (80% deficit from food and 20% from extra energy expenditure – cardio for example) you would quite easily find a nice happy medium. Why not start with a caloric deficit of 350 calories and try to hit the extra 150 from some added CV and see how you do from there.
It’s worth remembering that losing weight, leaning out, cutting fat or whatever you want to call it is incredibly individual. Some people like hammering the CV because they hate the idea of having to be diligent or smart with their food. Others hate cardio and have more than enough mental toughness to stay the course of a purely dietary caloric deficit, neither are wrong, both methods work however for the majority of people a mixture of the two provides the best overall balance.
Take the simple writing from above and start to plan out your joinery to your goal.