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Wednesday January 28, 2015

What is the Optimal Rate of Weight Loss?

What is the optimal rate of fat loss?Often the health and fitness community creates dogma and recommendations that don’t get the scrutiny they deserve. The purpose of this post is to explore the common misconception – that there is an “optimal” rate of weight loss, and that it is in the range of 1-2lbs per week. This particular recommendation crops up everywhere in the health and fitness community, but is it true?

Why You Should Aim for a 1-2lb per week Weight Loss

First off we should take a quick look at the reasons why we should aim for a 1-2lb per week rate of weight loss. If we break it down into calories, this is somewhere between 3,500 and 7,000 calories per week that we have to remove from either a.) our diet, or b.) our bodies through additional exercise. Quickly you can see why the fitness community has chosen 2lbs as a maximum rate of weight loss – namely, that any more is usually too difficult to achieve without “starving” yourself, or running yourself into the ground with exercise.

Lose 2lbs of weight per week through Diet

If we take a 150lb woman as an example, she would normally need around 13-14 calories per lb of bodyweight to remain at that weight. This would mean eating between 1,950 and 2,100 calories per day, or between 13,650 and 14,700 calories per week. To reach the 2lb fat loss per week she would have to skip HALF of all her meals if she was doing this all through diet.

Lose 2lbs of weight per week through Exercise

To reach 2lbs weight loss with exercise she’d have to run for 276 minutes at 12mph. This is 4.6 hours of running at a high speed in one week. In this time would cover more than 2 marathons in distance. Even if she was an Olympic level athlete this would be a damn near impossible task (one of the reasons weight loss is best delivered through diet rather than exercise). If she tried lower intensity exercise, it would only take longer.

So clearly for someone who is relatively normal weight to lose 2lbs a week through diet and exercise requires a lot of strenuous effort and a serious restriction in calorie consumption. So is the dogma of losing up to 2lbs per week right?

Why (and when) You Should Aim for More than 2lbs Per Week Weight Loss

Anyone who has watched “The Biggest Loser” knows fine well that people can and do lose more than 2lbs per week. And that they can do it for extended periods of time. How do they do it? Obviously they are starting with a significantly higher bodyweight than my example above (meaning they burn more calories through exercise, and have a higher calorie requirement per day). And obviously they are also being pummelled with a combination of intense exercise AND serious calorie restriction. But just because these are special cases does not mean that rapid weight loss isn’t for everyone.

Why You Should Consider Rapid Weight Loss

If you’re also starting from a significantly high body weight, or if you just want to get the scales moving quickly then you should want rapid weight loss. Despite all you’ve heard about the drawbacks of losing weight quickly, many studies [1] actually show that people who make rapid progress toward their goals initially tend to keep weight off for longer, and tend to stick with their diets for longer.  Not everything is as you have been told.

If you pick the right sort of diet, you can also achieve rapid weight loss without “starving” yourself, and without feeling chronically hungry all the time. The method most commonly used by doctors to achieve this is called a Protein Sparing Modified Fast, and is the safest and easiest method to reduce body weight in the shortest time possible. The aim with this sort of diet is to eat only the protein your body needs, alongside a handful of fibrous vegetables (for fiber and fullness) and nothing else. By taking protein from lean meats you are able to remain full whilst consuming ultra low calorie levels (our 150lb woman would eat around 700 calories per day).

How Long Can This Go On?

The downside to rapid weight loss is that it shouldn’t be run for extended periods. Whilst the protein sparing modified fast is used by doctors to prepare obese patients for gastric bypass surgery, it isn’t used for extended periods. Rapid weight loss for extended periods of time can lead to gallstone development in obese people [2]. But for short term (2 week duration) “kick start” purposes, a period of rapid weight loss can be an excellent motivating factor when starting a diet, or even when a person’s weight loss is stalling.

Why not give it a go yourself, and see how quickly you can lose weight and reach the body of your dreams?

About the Author

Neil BurgeRapid Fat Loss: The American Indian Way is a 2 week Rapid Fat Loss diet based on American Indian dietary habits. Using the sophisticated Protein Sparing Modified Fast approach, yet based on natural, whole foods (as eaten by Hunter Gatherer American Indians), this diet will see you losing up to 10lbs of fat inside 2 weeks. Neil created this diet to help dispel the myths and encourage more people to reach their fat loss goals – check it out today!


[1] Nackers, Lisa M; Ross, Kathryn M and Perry, Michael G: The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race? INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF BEHAVIORAL MEDICINE Volume 17, Number 3, 161-167

[2] Weinsier RLWilson LJLee J.: Medically safe rate of weight loss for the treatment of obesity: a guideline based on risk of gallstone formation. Am J Med. 1995 Feb;98(2):115-7.

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