When people want to start losing weight, they are understandably impatient.
They want to lose it now, fast, and be done with it!
And I get that, I really do…
However, the reality is that if you’re looking to lose a considerable amount of weight, you are not going to lose it all overnight.
Sorry, but that’s the truth.
On the upside, you can absolutely lose weight consistently each week, utilizing the right combination of diet and exercise (mostly diet).
So, for the purpose of goal setting, many people find it helpful to think about weight loss in weekly terms.
That is, how much weight they have to lose each week to reach their goals.
This makes larger weight loss goals seem much more attainable. After all, it can seem pretty discouraging to think about having to lose 50 pounds – but much less discouraging if your break that down into 2 pounds per week for 25 weeks.
Which, of course, begs a further question: how much weight can you realistically lose per week, so that you can accomplish your total weight loss goal as fast as possible?
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And since this is a very good question – and one that I get a lot – I’ve decided to dedicate an entire article to it!
A Quick Primer On Weight Loss
Now, before I begin, this article will NOT be discussing specific methods that you should be using to lose weight.
I have discussed this in other articles, and will undoubtedly discuss it more in future articles, so for now the focus will purely be on the question at hand.
Basically, when it comes down to it, weight loss is entirely driven by caloric intake vs caloric expenditure.
That is, if you take in fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
How much weight you’ll lose will depend primarily on how much of a caloric deficit is created each day.
This, in turn, is dependent on many factors, including but not limited to food consumption, metabolic rate, activity level, thermic effect of food, and NEAT variation.
But at the end of the day, all of these factors come together to create a specific caloric deficit – the number of calories below your maintenance level of calories (also known as TDEE) that your body now has to work with.
As a general rule of thumb, if you are getting 500 calories per day less than your maintenance level, you will lose 1 pound per week.
By the same logic, if you have a maintaince level of 2000 calories per day, but are only eating 1500 calories per day – and burning an additional 500 calories through exercise – then you will lose roughly 2 pounds per week.
This is how both diet and exercise come together to create the calorie deficit, which results in weight loss.
Now, in terms of how much weight you can lose in a week, the short answer is a whole lot, at least initially…
Yup, if you are fairly overweight – say a 6 foot male who weighs 230 pounds at a 35% body fat – and do very little exercise, then you would have a maintenance calorie level of around 3200 calories per day.
If you suddenly dropped your calories down to 2000 per day, and started burning an additional 500 calories with daily cardio, then you could stand to lose 3-4 pounds a week.
Even more if you limited your salt intake, since you would also begin to shed water weight at the same time.
This is often what has happened when you hear these crazy stories of so and so losing 10 pounds in a week.
Yes, some of them are made up crap, but others are actually true. You can lose that amount of weight in a week, based on manipulating the factors that I outlined above.
But that doesn’t mean it is sustainable, week after week. Nor does it mean that it’s a good idea, or that you won’t suffer all sorts of unpleasant consequences as a result.
So, really, the more appropriate question is how much weight should you be losing per week? And that is exactly what we are going to address next…
How Much Weight Should You Lose Per Week?
Now this is a better question!
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it…
Most of the guys I work with don’t just want to lose weight as their ultimate goal; they want to look better.
And that means having a better overall body composition: less fat and more muscle.
However, when you lose too much weight too quickly, you’ll pretty much always end up losing a lot of muscle mass as well.
This is why I generally discourage drastic bulking and cutting cycles, since it is very easy to lose most of the muscle that you worked hard to put on, if you insist on losing weight so quickly.
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t aim to lose more than 2 pounds of weight per week, if you are at all concerned with retaining muscle mass and maintaining strength.
If you have more body fat, and are less concerned with your current muscle mass, then you may want to operate on the higher side of this number for a little while – losing between 2-3 pounds per week.
This may be the case if you’ve never built up any muscle before, and really only care about seeing the number come down on the scale.
To do this, you would need to eat 1000-1500 calories less than you are burning each day. This can be achieved through whatever combination of diet or exercise that you want, but realistically the majority of it will be diet, since there are only so many calories that you are going to burn in a day from exercise.
If you are on the leaner end – say 15% body fat or less – and are more concerned with maintaining muscle mass, then I would aim to lose no more than 1.5 pounds per week.
This can be accomplished with a 750 calorie deficit per day or less, which is fairly manageable for most guys.
I should also mention that it is important to keep your protein consumption high while losing weight – even higher, in fact, than if you are looking to put on weight! There are several reasons for this.
For one, protein requires more energy to metabolize than carbs or fats, meaning that you’ll burn more, calorie for calorie, from eating it.
Secondly, protein will help you feel more full and satisfied, which will make it easier to stomach eating fewer calories than you’re used to.
Finally, having a high protein consumption will mitigate the amount of muscle/strength that you’ll lose when losing weight.
I would recommend getting at least 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day when trying to lose weight.
As you can probably tell, I am not a big fan of crash diets…
Losing a huge number of pounds in a short period of time can make for compelling headlines, but it is hardly sustainable or healthy, and will likely make you miserable.
In the long run, this will lead to decreased dietary compliance, and yo-yo dieting. Not the way to go.
Instead, stick to the guidelines that I’ve outlined above, and then figure out from that how long it will take you to lose the required amount of weight.
What you’ll typically find is that even if your are looking to lose a lot of weight, it won’t take that long if you’re consistent.
This is why transformations like Chris Pratt losing 60 pounds in 6 months are possible.
If you break it down, that is 2.3 pounds per week for 26 weeks – a hefty yet achievable goal, especially if you are willing to suffer some muscle/strength loss.
However, don’t go crazy and try losing 50 pounds in a month!
Trust me, the process would leave you feeling so terrible and tired, that it would be almost impossible to sustain.
What do you think about these weight loss guidelines? Are they realistic? Let me know in the comments below.