Fast weight loss is often a starting place of the yo-yo dieting and eating disorders. Fad diets and fasting for weight loss are unsustainable and, in most cases, dangerous approaches that can put you into a vicious circle of losing and gaining weight.
Get your 100% personalized meal plan by completing our 3-min quiz
None of the known diets should be followed without considering your unique body needs, preferences, and goalsStart Quiz
As people always want to get results immediately, marketers gladly produce magic pills for weight loss, clinics offer gastric bypass surgery, and celebrity nutritionists create horrible fad diets on baby food, cabbage soup, or cigarettes.
Fast weight loss is unsustainable and can easily harm your physical and mental health. However, methods to lose weight fast surely exist. You can see how they work on celebrities, especially professional athletes like bodybuilders who need to be as lean as possible before the competition or fighters who need to get into their weight category before the specific date.
In the first part of this article, we will check out some math behind fast weight loss, and in the second part, you will find more adequate tips for quick but sustainable weight loss.
The choice is always yours: Become slim fast and ruin your metabolism and health, or give yourself some time and lose fat forever.
Information provided in this section is not a recommendation; it’s just math. Before trying any method of fast weight loss, consult your doctor.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one pound of fat equals(1) 3,500 calories. This means that to lose one pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 calories. In other words, you have to create a 3,500 calorie deficit.
A woman weighing 130 pounds with a sedentary lifestyle needs 1,500 calories a day. If she doesn’t eat for two weeks, she creates a 21,000 calorie deficit. Presumably, this allows her to lose six pounds of fat without exercise.
If she decides to add two hours of running with a 10 km/h speed, she can increase her total daily energy expenditure to 2,600 calories (two hours of running with this speed and with this bodyweight equal 1,100 calories burned).
A woman weighing 130 pounds who runs every day for two hours needs 2,600 calories a day. If she doesn’t eat during this time, she creates a 36,400 calories deficit. Presumably, this allows her to lose more than ten pounds of fat.
However, even with these restrictions and enormous cardio, if you stick to your extreme diet for an extended period, you won’t lose as much fat as the math says. This phenomenon is due to metabolic adaptation(2). Your body adapts to restrictions and harsh physical exercises and starts to burn less energy for exercise, daily activity, and even organs’ functioning.
Metabolic adaptation also makes you move less. Have you ever seen bodybuilders right before the stage? They walk slowly, they don’t fidget, they even blink less frequently! These changes happen because their bodies are so deprived of energy that they try to save every calorie just for survival.
Why is metabolic adaptation an excellent survival tool? Because your brain, lungs, heart, and other organs all need energy. When you’re in a severe calorie deficit, your body adapts and decides to lay down motionless and fuel your brain instead of going to the gym and dying because of some organ failure.
Summing up, even if you have all the motivation in the world, metabolic adaptation will make you lose less fat than you are supposed to according to the calories in-calories out math.
On the harsh fasting with everyday cardio, you will probably lose a lot of weight. Part of it will come from water. The thing is, as you don’t eat salt and you don’t eat carbs, there are fewer substances in your body that retain liquid(3). Water will flush away, and you will see how an arrow on scales shifts left.
You will also lose muscle. When you lose muscle mass, your body becomes less attractive: You start to notice sagging of breasts and buttocks, your arms become flabby, and of course, you become less productive at the gym. When you don’t like how you look, even when you lose weight, you might become emotionally unstable. You don’t have the motivation to move on. You can develop some diseases and mental conditions, namely, eating disorders.
Ievgeniia Dobrynina, Unimeal dietitian
Is this kind of fast weight loss effective? Probably yes.
Does it have something to do with safety or sustainability? Of course not.
And now, for something completely different.
Most of these strategies are focused on decreasing your calorie intake and reducing your hunger hormone levels. These are things you should consider if you want to lose fat faster:
If you have a lot of extra weight you need to drop, sprint dieting is not for you. Write down why you want to lose weight.
Reasons like “I want this person to like me” won’t work because someone’s likes or dislikes don’t necessarily correlate with your weight. Imagine you’ve lost 20 pounds, but your crash still doesn’t notice you. If a situation like that will ruin your motivation for further weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, drop it off. This reason won’t work.
Reasons like “I want to look great at a party, so I need to drop 10 pounds by the D-day” won’t work because you don’t think about what will follow. Imagine you’ve fit in into your perfect dress and looked fantastic at a party, but what will happen the next day? Will you still follow a healthy eating plan, or you’ll come back to your unhealthy munching patterns? If you opt for the second variant, you’ll gain the weight back very quickly and become a hostage of a yo-yo dieting culture.
What will work? Reasons like “I want to like myself.” “I want to be healthier.” “I want to have adequate relationships with food.” “I want my knees to stop hurting when I do sports I love.” “I want to be a good example for my kids.” Reasons like that will keep you going for longer and help you stay in your best shape as long as you want to.
Think only about yourself. Not about how society will accept you or how people fall in love with you just because of your shape.
There are three explanations for how high-glycemic carbs and insulin sabotage your weight loss.
First, when you eat carbs, your blood sugar spikes, and your pancreas releases insulin. Its role in your bloodstream is to transform carbs you’ve consumed into energy and put it in your cells so that your body can use it when it needs fuel.
If you consume high-glycemic carbs, your body produces a lot of insulin to transform the glucose you receive from food into energy. Insulin puts some glycose into your bloodstream and stores the rest of the blood glucose in your liver and muscles for later use. However, if the amount of fast carbs you’ve consumed is too large or your pancreas doesn’t function correctly, part of this blood glucose will be stored in fat cells.
Insulin is responsible for weight gain and growth, while another hormone, glucagon takes blood glucose from your liver and muscles when your body needs energy. If there are no large blood glucose stores in your organs, glucogen can go straight to your fat cells and take energy from there. The problem is, when your insulin is up, your glucagon is down, and it can’t take energy from your fat cells. In other words, insulin blocks your body from burning fat.
This is one of the explanations for why low-glycemic diets(6) work. You suppress insulin release and allow glucagon to use energy straight from your fat cells.
The second way insulin sabotages your weight loss is by blocking the leptin levels, the hormone of satiety that tells your brain that you’re full and don’t need to eat anymore.
The third reason you should avoid sugar and high-glycemic carbs is that these products are usually found in foods like ice cream, cakes, or pizzas: The tasty products that can induce a food addiction. The thing is, according to some researchers(7), the combination of fast carbs and fats can act like a drug on our brain, inducing addictive behavior. It’s much easier to overeat with a Red Velvet than with a bowl of buckwheat or steamed asparagus.
Even though you can have some alcohol in moderation when you’re maintaining your new weight, combining fat loss and spirits is quite difficult(8). First of all, alcohol contains liquid calories, with one gram of pure alcohol holding seven calories (this is more than in carbs or protein).
Alcohol has several mechanisms to sabotage your weight loss. For example, it eases off and sometimes paralyzes your control mechanisms and your willpower. People often find themselves in a KFC or another fast food restaurant after a hangover.
Another reason why you should avoid alcohol while trying to lose weight is because it metabolizes differently(9) in your body. When you drink high-calorie spirits, your body tries to use calories from alcohol first, and it stops burning your fat deposits for energy.
The most significant part of the weight you lose during the first days of a diet is water, not body fat. If your main goal is to reduce the number on the scales and not improve your body composition, decrease your salt intake(10). Controlling your salt consumption can also help if you have high blood pressure(11). There’s even a special diet for people with hypertension, and one of its main principles is decreasing salt intake.
Remember, though, that salt is necessary for a healthy life, and consult your doctor before refraining from it for an extended period.
Protein is a low-calorie macronutrient (only four calories per gram) that, according to some research, is more satiating(12) than fats or carbs. These two peculiarities make high-protein diets(13) highly efficient.
We recommend eating more protein only when you’re on an active phase of your fast weight loss. We do not recommend making protein your main source of energy for a long time. If you’re looking at high-protein diets as a lifestyle choice, consult your health advisor first, as these diets might initiate adverse effects(14), including kidney and liver problems.
First of all, fiber fills up your stomach and can keep you safe from overeating. Another reason is fiber slows down carbohydrates digestion and decreases the levels of insulin your body produces in response to carbs consumption.
That’s obvious, right? The more calories you burn, the more fat you lose. Apart from this, exercises, especially those that build your muscles, can increase your metabolism(15). A pound of muscle requires more energy from your body than a pound of fat, so, in the long run, by building more muscle, you can increase your calorie intake and stay in good shape.
According to one study(16), people who underwent partial sleep deprivation overeat by 385 calories on average the next day. Other research(17) states that insufficient sleep can increase food desire in the human brain. Your body tries to get the energy it lacks from food, namely, carbs.
Don’t let sleep problems ruin your weight loss!
If you tend to eat just from boredom and not because you’re physically hungry, a working strategy for you might be drinking more water. Your mouth is busy, your stomach is full, your digestion works well, profit!
Of course, what you eat matters. However, how much you eat matters too. According to science(18), losing weight is all about the calories-in-calories-out equation. If you don’t want to count calories, just follow a healthy plate rule. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, one-quarter of your plate – with whole grains or starchy vegetables, and one-quarter – with lean sources of protein. Don’t make a three-dimension mountain out of your meal and choose a smaller plate if you want to decrease the number of calories you consume.
Studies show that gut bacteria can tell whether a person is slim or overweight. What’s more, your microbiome can affect your food preferences. For example, in some cases, it is the microbiome that tells slim people to like vegetables and protein and overweight people to choose sweets and fatty products.
According to science(19), you can create the microbiome of a slim person even if you’re prone to excess weight. To do so, make your diet as diverse as possible. Add probiotics to your meals and minimize the consumption of processed foods and alcohol.
One of the best ways to find out more about food and reduce the calories you consume is by making home-cooked meals by yourself. If you want to lose weight fast, you should better avoid restaurants and takeaways. First of all, only part of cafes provides their client with complete information about calories and macronutrients contained in every dish.
Second, and more frustrating, many chefs add salt, sugar, butter, and starch to improve the taste of their dishes. These are precisely the substances you should avoid if you want to lose weight fast.
When you cook at home, you can control the quality of the products you use. You can add more or less dressing to your salad or oil to your steak. You can replace salt with herbs or sugar with stevia. You can choose a sweet potato instead of an average potato to lower the glycemic index of your dish. Healthy eating becomes much easier when you cook by yourself.
If you don’t know what you should eat, choose whole foods. Apples instead of an apple jam, rice porridge instead of rice cakes, homemade stew instead of canned vegetarian dinner. These small changes will allow you to control your macros and calories and avoid unnecessary additives.
When you’re at the beginning of your weight-loss journey, you might lack discipline. During the first weeks on a diet, you use your willpower to stay on track. Don’t make dieting even harder: Avoid places and situations which trigger your cravings.
Do you always get a particular high-calorie dessert after lunch in a cafe near your office? Try out another restaurant.
Do you always drink too much when seeing your pals? Skip one meeting to make sure you can follow your diet even when surrounded by your favorite cocktails.
Do you always overeat with your mom’s lasagna? Ask her to make a green salad and fill the largest part of your plate with vegetables before she puts a lavish portion of her signature dish onto your plate.
Plan what you will eat today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow or have someone do it for you. Otherwise, you might end up hungry, with a whole basket of junk food, with your bank card ready to make a transaction.
Making a plan will help you maintain the right macros’ balance and calorie deficit throughout the week. For example, if you’re planning a family dinner on Saturday, you can slightly decrease your calorie intake during the week to allow yourself 300-400 calories more on your Saturday night.
Eating less than 1,000 calories during your working days to have up to 4,000 calories on your weekend(20) is a frequent mistake many dieters make. Planning your week will protect you from this type of behavior and will speed up your weight loss.
Most of the weight loss’ fails happen because people give up in the middle of their path. We lose first pounds quite rapidly, and when the weight loss slows down, we don’t feel motivated to keep moving on. If the “plateau”(21) phase holds more than several weeks, you can readjust your workout routine or your eating plan, but forsaking your endeavors halfway won’t boost your weight loss for sure.
To stay motivated, remember why you’re doing this and try to like your new lifestyle. Your goal is not only losing weight. It’s also improving your cooking skills, developing healthier eating habits, becoming more physically active, and improving your health overall.
Losing weight fast is possible. If your goal is to lose four pounds in two weeks, you will easily do this by deducting 1,000 calories from your daily calorie intake. This approach is relatively safe.
However, if you’re about to drop a more significant number of pounds, fast methods should not be your choice. Severely restrictive diets are not sustainable and can have drastic consequences for your mental and physical health. Whatever your goal is – to get into the dress of your dream in two weeks or look stunning in a bikini, just keep in mind that a wrecked mental and physical health doesn’t worth it.
As a rule, dietitians state that losing one to two pounds a week is safe. However, if you have a significant amount of excess weight or some health conditions, only your health provider can tell how fast you should lose weight to stay safe.
You can still speed up your weight loss while on a balanced low-calorie diet by implementing some science-based tips, like restricting sugar and salt intake, sleeping well, and controlling your environment.
Unimeal reminds you that slow and steady wins the race. Fad diets and fast solutions don’t work. When a safe and healthy way to lose weight appears, we will be the first to write about it. It just doesn’t exist yet. Keep a moderate pace, stick to a balanced meal plan, and you will hit your goal!