Whether you’re on a weight loss journey because you want to build muscle or lead a healthier lifestyle in general, you probably want to have some kind of benchmark to monitor your progress. Besides taking before-and-after photos, the scale is another popular tool that probably comes to mind. While you shouldn’t place too much value on the number you get (because your health and well-being are so much more than that!), it’s reasonable to ask yourself: How much weight can you realistically lose in a week?
How many pounds you ultimately lose depends on your basal metabolic rate, your starting weight, sleep and more. What is important is understanding that what you are can lose and what you should losing are two different things. “If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you want to do it in the range from one to two pounds per weeksays Lauren Slayton, RD. Keeping it within this range will make your goals and results more sustainable.
“The more you ignore hunger signals, the more you lose your ability to recognize them, which can eventually lead to binge eating disorder,” says Betty Guerrero, RD. Someone who loses weight in an unsafe manner may also experience mood swings, decreased sleep, loss of muscle mass, low energy, hormonal disruptions and drops in glucose levels, she adds.
If you’re curious to know how to safely maximize weight loss in a week, read on for expert insight with everything you need to know.
Meet the experts: Lauren Slayton is a New York-based registered dietitian, the founder of Foodtrainers, and the author of Dun’s little book. Betty Guerrero is a registered dietitian from Wisconsin, founder of Eat with Betty, and a certified personal trainer. Alexandra Sowa is an internist specializing in preventive health, nutrition and obesity medicine. Dina Khader is a New York-based Registered Dietitian.
There are seven major factors that play a role in weight loss.
1. Water weight
“If you’re losing weight too quickly, it’s probably not because of fat,” notes Alexandra Sowa, MD, a New York-based internal medicine physician. It’s probably just water weight. She likes to remind her patients, “water can be shed very quickly, but it comes back on just as quickly.”
So if you’re trying to lose weight, remember that just because the number on the scale goes up or down quickly doesn’t mean you’re getting the results you’re aiming for. “Slower can often be better and a sign that your body is actually losing fat rather than other crucial elements like muscle or water,” says Sowa.
2. Calorie deficit
If you’re serious about losing some weight, you’ll want to focus on a calorie deficit. Dina Khader, RD, recommends having your doctor perform a bioimpedance analysis (BIA) to figure out what your deficiency should be. This test takes into account your muscle mass and the amount of calories you burn at rest (also known as your basal metabolic rate). It then calculates how many calories you need to consume per day to lose one to two pounds per week. That number, plus how much you lose during a workout, minus 500, determines your overall deficit.
“Usually you want to eat 500 fewer calories than what you normally burn in a day to lose about one to two pounds per week,” says Khader. So, let’s say you burn 1,300 calories at rest and 350 calories during exercise, that’s a total of 1,650 calories. So you’d shoot for an eating plan of about 1,150 to 1,250 calories a day to lose one to two pounds a week, Khader says. In general, you don’t want to go below 1200 calories per day without the supervision of a doctor or nutritionist.
3. Muscle mass
If you lose pounds too quickly, similar to water, you may be losing muscle instead of fat. That’s why it’s so important to do strength training while trying to lose weight.
Weights help you build more muscle and burn more calories, says Khader. How? Because muscles burn calories, but body fat does not. People think, I don’t want to build muscle mass because I don’t want to get fat, but that is not true. “Lifting weights helps you burn more fat more efficiently,” says Khader.
Night owls, beware. Your sleep habits can get in the way of your goals. “Seven hours of sleep is crucial for weight loss,” says Dr. Sowa. She often finds that many of her patients who struggle with weight loss are actually suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea. This sleep disorder in particular involves your body not getting the proper oxygen supply it needs at night, leading to terrible sleep quality and fatigue. “And when you’re tired, your body craves carbs for energy,” says Dr. Sowa, which messes up your weight loss plan.
“During stressful times, it can be hard to lose weight,” says Dr. Sowa. “Your body knows it’s in a stressed position. It’s not going to make you lose weight like you would if it was a deliberate restriction.” Try to reduce the stress in your life when following a new weight loss plan. It’s * okay* to prioritize yourself.
6. Thyroid problems
Ladies, if you suffer from thyroid issues and are trying to lose weight, know that these things don’t always go hand in hand. “If your thyroid is underactive, it slows everything down,” says Khader. This includes the rate at which you burn calories and your metabolism, both of which can hinder your ability to drop the number on the scale.
So you may want to consult your doc if you’ve been consistent with diet and exercise but still aren’t getting the results you want. It could be your thyroid.
7. Power supply
This may be obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Your diet before, during and after your weight loss is incredibly crucial in how easily or quickly you will be able to lose or lose weight. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that the average adult get at least 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over seven grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.
If you want to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, you want to increase your protein intake. “If you don’t get enough protein while you’re lifting heavy weights, you won’t recover enough from your workouts to perform well, which means you won’t build as much muscle or burn fat,” Phil Catadul, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist, previously said. told WH. He suggests that about 30 percent of your calories should come from protein.
Everyone has a different lifestyle, which means the way you plan your weight loss journey may not look the same as the next person’s. “Weight loss looks different for a mother of three than for a college student because we have to look at how much time there is to spend on physical activity, preparing meals or buying food,” Guerrero explains. Financial aspects can also play a role. The goal is to lose weight in a healthy way that also fits well with your lifestyle.
There are a few tips that can help you maximize your weight loss in a week.
Do not eat late at night: Food is metabolized more slowly the later it gets, says Khader. You don’t have to follow the full 16:8 method, but try not to eat right before bedtime. Plus, paying attention to your overall calorie intake is just as important, Guerrero notes.
Eat more protein: The experts cannot stress this enough. Khader recommends plant-based protein (think pea or sprouted rice protein) for people with kidney disease. But if you’re a meat and fish type, she suggests lean meats like chicken and turkey. Other great sources of protein include wild fish, salmon, and beans. And if you want to enjoy red meat like beef, do so occasionally to reduce your fat intake.
Grab some weights: Remember, strength training is key to preserving the muscle you need to fuel your workouts and burn calories. Catudul recommends incorporating 45-minute strength and weight exercises (machine workouts, free weights, etc.) three to four days a week with 60-second rests between exercises.
Work in some HIIT workouts: Lifting weights alone is not always enough. HIIT is, according to experts, the most efficient way to burn fat. A 15 to 20 minute sesh burns as many calories as an hour of jogging.
Hydrate often: “Our body is two-thirds water,” says Dr. Sowa. We need it to survive. Counting calories, lifting weights, and high-protein meals mean nothing if you’re not hydrated. In fact, dehydration can skew your results, causing you to lose more weight than fat. And remember, this kind of weight is only going to come back on.
Keep an eye on your calorie deficit: These weight loss apps can help users stay on track by counting the calories for you and pointing out other ways you can progress with your weight loss plan, such as reminding you to drink more water, snacking late evening or monitor your sleep.
Consult an expert: If you find that nothing is working, even after making the necessary adjustments to your diet and exercise regimen, Khader recommends seeing a nutritionist or doctor. They can help you develop a plan that is more specific and tailored to your body’s needs.
Track your progress. Take photos and record weight measurements, says Guerrero. The scale shouldn’t be the only thing you use to track your progress, and tracking in other ways will keep you focused on other factors that influence weight loss. Note: This is especially useful since muscle weighs more than fat.
Make sustainable goals. Thinking about your weight loss goals in the long run will help you achieve long-term success. These goals should take some time and patience, but they should also be sustainable rather than focusing on quick fixes or tight deadlines, Guerrero notes.
In the end, you should keep in mind that losing weight is a completely individual process.
Your weight loss journey won’t be like anyone else’s. Try not to focus on your boyfriend or the girl you follow on Instagram. “People get so frustrated that if they come off a new way of eating on day five, they haven’t lost five pounds,” says Sowa. “But that’s not to be expected.” Weight loss takes time and consistency, and sometimes you also have a bit of no control over the rate at which you lose weight.
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