If you ask the internet or your local fad diet ‘guru’ this question, they will tell you that you can lose 5 – 6 lbs every single week (as long as you continue buying these completely pointless supplements). I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but these results are likely to be unrealistic for most.
It will be different for everyone
As we are all unique little unicorns the answer to the question will be very different for every single person. For me to give you a number would be irresponsible and demoralising for most. Let me give you an example.
Person 1: A 30 year old female weighing 10 stone, 5ft 2 with an office job.
Person 2: A 30 year old male weighing 16 stone, 6ft 1, and has a physically demanding job.
If I was to calculate this persons total daily energy expenditure (the amount of calories they burn throughout the day) it would be roughly 1,952 calories per day for person 1 and 3146 calories person 2. I’m sure it is not a surprise to you that these numbers are wildly different. The bigger, more physical person required more energy to move around and maintain weight.
To lose body fat we need to be in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than we are eating), and we can do that through a combination of eating less and exercising more. 1 lb of body fat equates roughly to 3500 calories. So for each of these individuals to lose 1 lb per week they will need to remove 500 calories per day from their diets or a burn more through exercise.
Person 1 would be down to 1452 calories per day, which is going to be difficult to maintain in social situations, controlling hunger and during periods of intense exercise.
Person 2 would be down to 2646 calories per day which is achievable for most people if they were making sensible food choices and would not cause cravings or hunger issues.
It becomes apparent very quickly that losing 1 pound per week for these people will mean very different things.
Weight might not be fat
When we step on the scales in the morning we are measuring our relationship with gravity at that given moment, not the amount of body fat we have (even with the fancy scales with the extra bells and whistles). For me to lose weight does not mean I am losing fat, but it could be an indication over a longer period of time.
There are a few things that could affect the number on the scales:
Hydration: The more water we drink the heavier we will be. The same applies if we have not had enough water.
Salt: If we have had a salty meal the night before a weigh in this is likely to increase our weight. Salt causes us to hold water and will impact the number on the scales.
Time of the month: This one applies to the ladies only. Throughout your cycle your body will be fluctuating hormones and this will have an effect your water retention, hunger levels and stress. All of which could impact the number on the scales.
Muscle: The more muscle I have the more I am going to weigh. Don’t get tricked into thinking that you are going to piling on the muscle during a calorie deficit though, as this situation is not going to be ideal for building muscle.
Poop: Whether you have had a shit or not in the morning will change you weight.
Food: If you have had a big meal the night before a weigh in this could still be in the ‘pipeline’ for the exit hole. An increase in fibre could also slow digestion down causing an increase in weight.
A combination of these six reasons could be a reason you either increase or decrease in weight. This makes it even more difficult to calculate the amount of weight you are going to lose each week.
Is slow and steady the best approach?
Everyone talks about losing weight as slow as possible, as you are much more likely to keep it off. That statement isn’t always true. There is no right or wrong way to lose weight, unless you do Herbalife/skinny tea/juice plus or some other shit like that. That is definitely the wrong way to do it.
There are a few pros and cons to taking the slightly more aggressive approach.
- It’s very motivating to see progress quickly and drives you to keep going.
- You are only dieting for a shorter period of time compared with the slower approach.
- From a health perspective it is exactly the same (science says so here)
- Battling hunger and cravings can become increasingly more difficult
- If you have no systems or habits in place to fall back on, you are probably going to put all the weight back on.
- You need to ensure you are getting enough nutrition (vitamins, minerals, electrolytes).
If you are new to dieting or struggle with certain aspects I would always recommend the slower approach. Aim for 0.5-1% bodyweight loss per week. But if you have dieted successfully in the past and have a good basis of nutrition, the faster more aggressive approach can also work. I did an experiment to try it out before, check out the results here.
There is no right or wrong answer to how fast you should lose weight. For people that are trying to understand the basics of nutrition, getting enough fruit and veg, hitting their protein targets, it may be worth going slow. If you are confident on what you are doing then you can opt for a slightly faster, more aggressive approach. These approaches will mean different things for each person and there is no one size fits all. Losing 0.5 pounds per week is still incredible progress. If you repeated that process over the year you would lose 26lbs!
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.