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Dec 20

How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Week? – Men’s Health

THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of dramatic (and sometimes, totally legit) weight loss transformations on the webfrom the guy who lost seven pounds in his first week of dieting to the guy who lost 265 pounds in a little more than a year.

So if they can do it, you can too, right? Not necessarily.

Sure, some people might be able to lose five pounds in the first few weeks or months of dieting, but for many people, losing that amount of weight can be not just unhealthy, but downright impossible.

A lot of it comes down to a persons starting weightspecifically, the more pounds you have on your frame, the more of it youll be able to lose, especially in the beginning, says David Creel, Ph.D., R.D., a psychologist and registered dietitian in the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

Some of this is simple math, but the bigger factor at play is that your body is fiercely protective over the weight you already haveso the longer you stay on a diet, the harder it can be to see the number move on the scale.

Heres why: As we shed pounds, our metabolismi.e., our bodys internal fat-burning furnacealso starts to slow down, causing us to burn fewer calories than we used to. Its kind of like taking a backpack off, says Dr. Creel. Breathing requires less calories, walking down the street requires less calories, everything requires less energy.

So the less you weigh, the harder your body will cling to the weight you do have, making it even harder for you to lose.

Unfortunately, our brain doesn't have a scale saying, when you get to a healthy weight, we'll stop all this compensation, he says. It doesn't work that way.

So even though everyone wants to know the amount of weight they can lose in a weekand everyone wants that to be a big numberthe answer isnt always straightforward. Heres a breakdown of whats possible, and whats practical when it comes to weekly weight loss.

First off, theres a difference between how much weight you can lose in a week versus how much weight you should lose in a weekand trying to figure out the former can be dangerous.


Wrestlers, boxers, people who have to make weight for a sport will often dehydrate themselves, says Dr. Creel. You can see people who maybe lose 20 pounds in a week intentionallybut its very risky.

Here's the thing about extreme diets, thoughas much as you might want to lose 10 pounds in the short-term, youre not doing yourself any favors over the long-term. Very low-calorie diets can cause you to become dehydrated, so any weight youre losing is probably primarily water weight, says Dr. Creel (and lets face it, that doesnt exactly count).

Plus, extreme diets can also cause you to lose muscle, which can further hinder your metabolism. Thats because our muscles play an important role in helping our bodies burn calories throughout the daythe more muscle mass we have, the higher our metabolic rate.

If someone goes on a pretty restrictive diet, they might lose 20 percent to 25 percent of their weight as muscle, says Dr. Creel.

Extreme examples aside, Konstantinos Spaniolas, M.D., associate director of Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center at Stony Brook University, says that losing one percent of your body weight per week is considered rapid, but within reason.

Say you start at 300 poundsa goal of one percent fat loss per week means youll shed three pounds a week. That can be reasonable. But if youre just looking to drop three pounds a week from a relatively lean 160-pound frame, youll probably have a harder time losing itor at least, without losing some muscle mass.

The general rule of thumb is about 1 to 2 pounds per week, says Dr. Creel. Even then, those numbers arent always consistent from week to weekit can be more of an average.

One Columbia University study showed just how much it matters for preserving muscle mass. For this research, scientists had people cut calories and then either do strength training or cardio workouts three times a week. After eight weeks, everyone lost more than 9 percent of their body weight. But in the aerobic group, 20 percent of that came from lean tissue (mostly muscle), while the resistance group limited lean-tissue loss to 8 percent, while still trimming down overall.vegan meals


A lot of people lose weight kind of like stair steps, not a straight line says Dr. Creel. They might drop four pounds in a week, and then their weight doesn't change for two weeks, and then they drop two or three pounds. If you want to lose fat without losing muscle (or even lose fat while gaining muscle), youll want to start doing strength training.

To preserve muscle, youll also want to make sure youre eating enough protein, which provides essential amino acids that your body uses to make muscle. Dr. Spaniolas recommends eating about .8 to 1 gram or protein for every pound you weigh in order to retain muscle. There are plenty of ways to get that protein, including from these hearty with more protein than a burger.

Besides your starting weight, there are other factors that can make it easier or harder for you to lose weight. One of these factors is your dieting history. Not only will you burn less calories if youre smaller, says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., author of Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, but complex hormonal and metabolic shifts are also at work, making it harder to burn fat the longer youre losing.

Men's Health The Lose Your Gut Guide

Men's Health The Lose Your Gut Guide

Scientists are still working to understand the mechanisms, but research has shown that people who have lost weight burn fewer calories than people who never dieted. That doesnt mean youre doomed. It just means you tend to lose weight faster at first.

Not getting enough shut-eye also throws hunger and metabolism hormones like leptin and ghrelin out of whack. In a small study published in Annals of Internal Medicine, volunteers on a reduced-calorie diet slept either 5.5 or 8.5 hours a night. In two weeks, they both lost a little more than 6.5 poundsbut those who slept more lost twice as much of that from fat. Sleep is so critical to everything that Mens Health even put together the best sleep strategies and products to help you do it better.

Of course, your diet will also play a major role in how much weight you lose. Dr. Spaniolas says correctly estimating how many calories your body needs is complicated, but recommends using a chart or calculator from the National Institute of Health. From there, you can omit about 500 calories per day to lose weight, but shouldnt go much lower to begin with. And even then, he says it may not be easy to sustain this reduction in calories if youre already lean and need fewer calories to begin with.

Watch what you drink, too: Alcohol can easily increase your daily calories intake if you dont monitor those calories. Men consume an extra 433 calories on days they consume alcohol when they have a moderate amount of drinks, according to one study. You need to factor in calories from alcohol in any weight loss plan.

If youre looking to lose a lot of weight or make bigger changes to your body, you might want to buy a body composition scale, which can measure fat, muscle mass, and more. (A tape measure and a mirror can also work.)

Just rememberits not all about the numbers. Sure, you might want to drop as much weight as possible one week, but a better question is, but what kind of changes to my lifestyle can I make that will improve my health over the long-term, says Dr. Creel.

There are other things to focus other than one-week weight loss, he says.

Contributing Writer

Cindy is a freelance health and fitness writer, author, and podcaster whos contributed regularly to Runners World since 2013. Shes the coauthor of both Breakthrough Womens Running: Dream Big and Train Smart and Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries, a book about the psychology of sports injury from Bloomsbury Sport. Cindy specializes in covering injury prevention and recovery, everyday athletes accomplishing extraordinary things, and the active community in her beloved Chicago, where winter forges deep bonds between those brave enough to train through it.

Health Writer

Melissa Matthews is the Health Writer at Men's Health, covering the latest in food, nutrition, and health.

Maria Masters is a contributing editor and writer for Everyday Health and What to Expect, and has held positions at Men's Health and Family Circle.

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How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Week? - Men's Health

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