How quickly should you be losing weight?

How quickly should you be losing weight?

How quickly should you be losing weight?

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Most people think the faster they can shed unwanted fat the better. But why then do nutritionists and other scientists recommend a more gradual weight loss? Here we ask the experts for the truth about how quickly you should be losing weight.

Supporters of crash diets boast about the speed at which you can drop weight and look fabulous. The surprising truth is that these diets actually work. The problem? The weight loss is not sustainable, Newcastle University food researcher Dr Vincent Candrawinata said.

“Research shows that fast weight loss is not true weight loss. It’s mainly attributable to water loss and is unsustainable after three months,” he claimed.

What’s more, this rapid water loss can often dehydrate the body.

“Adverse health risks include fatigue, nausea and an upset digestive system. Very low-calorie diets can also damage your kidneys,” Candrawinata said.

The truth about crash diets

Crash diets may drop the weight off quickly, but they also switch on genes that slow down our metabolism, Candrawinata explained further.

“These genes were an evolutionary advantage when food was scarce, but when these genes are activated on very low-calorie diets with no healthy fats, it slows our metabolism down and we burn fat slower.”

This explains why people often experience a substantial weight loss in the first few weeks of dieting, then plateau and put weight back on in the months afterwards.

So, at what rate should you be losing weight?

Weight loss can be seen as a mathematical problem in that one gram of fat equals about 11 to 12 calories.

“To lose weight you have to make sure you are burning more calories in a day than you are eating. If you reduce your calorie intake and increase your physical activity but still eat the right balance of macronutrients, you should lose approximately 500g to 1.5kg a week (no more than 5 to 6kg in the first month),” Candrawinata said.   

The key is to start with changing your diet to reduce your intake of foods high in saturated fats and refined sugars, Candrawinata advised.

“Eighty per cent is diet and 20 per cent is exercise. Where exercise helps is that it increases your metabolic rate and confuses your body into continuing to burn calories quickly, not allowing your body to slow down your metabolism,” he said.

The case for rapid weight loss

Founder of Ultimate You Change Centre, Andy Anderson, also supports a gradual weight loss for his clients championing long-term lifestyle changes, but he acknowledged some instances where rapid weight loss could be beneficial.

“I deal with a lot of clients who are either obese or overweight and the side effects that come with that – whether they be on that person’s joints, or back or the minds of those people and their families – can be very debilitating,” he said.

Anderson outlined a sample 3-month plan as a guide to what weight loss should look like. Monitor your weight loss rate and aim to lose no more than 6kg a month, as any more could be risky. If you are losing too much or too little weight according to the below plan, review your caloric intake and/or increase your workout intensity or frequency.

Month One (Expect 500g to 1.5 kg weight loss per week)

  •    Eat a calorie-restricted diet (7 days per week). No saturated fats and refined sugars.
  •    Eat 50 per cent protein, 30 per cent healthy fats and 20 per cent carbohydrates.
  •    Exercise – 2 days of resistance training and 2 days of cardio training (a week).

Month Two (Plateau month, expect 300g to 1kg weight loss per week)

  •    Eat a calorie-restricted diet (5 days per week).
  •    Eat 50 per cent protein, 30 per cent healthy fats and 20 per cent carbohydrates.
  •    Exercise – 2 days of resistance training and 2 days of cardio training (a week).

Month Three (Expect 500g to 1.5 kg weight loss per week)

  •    Eat a calorie-restricted diet (3 days per week).
  •    Eat 50 per cent protein, 30 per cent healthy fats, and 20 per cent carbohydrates.
  •    Exercise – 3 days of resistance training and 2 days of cardio training (a week)