The 2 Pounds Per Week Rule and How to Burn Fat Faster
Why do you
always hear that 2 pounds per week is the maximum amount of fat you
should safely lose? If you train really hard while watching calories
closely shouldn't you be able to lose more fat without losing
muscle or damaging your health? What if you want to lose fat faster?
How do you explain the fast weight losses on The Biggest Loser?
These are all good questions that I have been asked many times. With
the diet marketplace being flooded every day with rapid weight loss
claims, these questions desperately need and deserve some honest
answers. Want to know where that 2 pounds per week rule comes from and
what it really takes to burn more than 2 pounds of fat per week?
Why Only 2 Pounds Per Week?
The truth is, two pounds is not the maximum amount you can safely lose in a week. This is only a general recommendation and a good benchmark for setting weekly goals. It's also sensible and realistic because it is based on average, or typical, results.
The actual amount of fat you can lose depends on many factors.
For example, weight losses tend to be relative to body size. The more body fat you carry,
the more likely you will be able to safely lose more than two
pounds per week. Therefore, we could individualize our weekly guideline
a bit by recommending a goal of 1-2 lbs of fat loss per week or up to
1% of your total weight. If you weighed 300 lbs, that would be 3 lbs
Body Weight Vs Body Composition
Weight loss is
somewhat meaningless unless you also talk about body composition; the
fat to muscle ratio, as well as water weight. Ask any wrestler about
fast weight loss and he'll tell you things like, "I
cut 10 lbs overnight to make a weight class. It was easy - I just
sweated it off."
You've also probably seen people that went on some extreme induction program
or a lemon juice and water fast for the first week and dropped an
enormous amount of weight. But once again, you can bet that a lot of
that weight was water and lean tissue and in both cases, you can bet
that those people put the weight right back on.
potential advantage of any type of induction period for rapid weight
loss in the first week is that a large drop on the scale is a
motivational boost for many people (even if it is mostly water weight).
Why do you hear so many diet and fitness professionals insist on 2 lbs a week max?
Where does that number come from?
Well, aside from the fact that it's a recommendation in government health guidelines and in
position statements of most nutrition and exercise organizations,
it’s just math. The math is based on what’s
practical given the number of calories an average person burns in a day
and how much food someone can reasonably cut in a day.
How Do You Lose More Than 2 Pounds Per Week?
Can you lose more than 2 lbs of pure fat in a week? Yes, although it's
easier in the beginning. It gets harder as your diet progresses. How do
you do it? My rule is, extraordinary results require
extraordinary efforts. An extraordinary effort means a
particularly strict diet, as well as burning more calories through
training because you can only cut your calories so far from food before
you're starving and suffering from severe hunger.
THE CALORIE DEFICIT
Simply put, you need a bigger calorie deficit.
If you have a 2500 calorie daily maintenance level, and you want to drop 3 lbs of fat
per week withe diet alone, you would need a huge daily deficit of
1500 calories, which would equate to eating 1000 calories per day. You
would lose weight rapidly for as long as you could maintain that
deficit (although it would slow down over time). Most people
aren’t going to last long on so little food and they often
end with a period of binge eating. It’s not practical (or
fun) to cut calories so much and in some cases it could be unhealthy.
alternative is to train for hours and hours a day, literally. People
ask me all the time, "Tom, how is it possible for the Biggest
Loser contestants to lose so much weight?"
Well, first of all they are NOT measuring body fat, ONLY body weight.
Then you have the high starting body weights and the large water weight loss in
the beginning. After that, just do the math - they're training hours a day so they're creating a huge calorie deficit.
that team of trainers, dieticians, teammates, a national audience and
all that prize money, do you think they'd be motivated and
accountable enough to do anywhere near that amount and intensity of
exercise in the real world?
Would it even be possible if they had a job and family?
Not likely, is it?
It's not practical to do that
much exercise, and it's not practical to cut your calories
below a 1000 a day and remain compliant. If you manage to achieve the
latter, it’s very difficult not to rebound and regain the
weight afterwards for a variety of physiological and psychological reasons.
For Fast Fat Loss: Less Food Or Harder Training?
becoming more inventive these days in coming up with high intensity
workouts that burn a large amount of calories and really give the
metabolism a boost. This can help speed up the fat loss within a given
amount of time. But as you begin to utilize higher intensity workouts,
you have to start being on guard for overtraining or overuse
injuries.That’s why strict nutrition with an aggressive
calorie deficit is going to have to be a major part of any fast fat
loss strategy. Unfortunately, very low calorie dieting has its own
risks in the way of lean tissue loss, slower metabolism, extreme
hunger, and greater chance of weight re-gain.
My approach to
long term weight control is to lose weight slowly and patiently and
follow a nutrition plan that is well balanced between lean protein,
healthy fats and natural carbs and doesn’t demonize any
entire food group. To lose fat, you simply create a caloric deficit by
burning more and eating less (keeping the nutrient density of those
calories as high as possible, of course).
But to achieve
the extraordinary goals such as photo-shoot-ready, super-low body fat
or simply faster than average fat loss, while minimizing the risks, I
often turn to a stricter cyclical low carb diet for brief
“peaking” programs. I explain this method in
chapter 12 of my e-book Burn
The Fat, Feed The Muscle (it’s my
“phase III” or “competition”
aspect of the diet means that after three to six days of an aggressive
calorie deficit and strict diet, you take a high calorie / high carb
day to re-feed the body and re-stimulate the metabolism. Essentially,
this helps reduce the starvation signals your body is receiving.
It’s also a psychological break from the deprivation which
helps improve compliance and prevent relapse.
protein intake can help prevent lean tissue loss and curb the hunger. A
high protein diet also
helps by ramping up dietary thermogenesis. A high intake of greens,
fibrous vegetables and low calorie fruits can help tip the energy
balance equation in your favor as fibrous veggies are very low in
calorie density and some of the calories in the fiber are not
metabolizable. Healthy fats are added in adequate quantities, while the
calorie-dense simple sugars and starchy carbs are kept to a minimum
except on refeed days and after (or around) intense workouts.
No Magic, Just Math
experience, a high protein, reduced carb approach in conjunction with
weights and cardio can help maximize fat loss – both in terms
of increasing speed of fat loss and particularly for getting rid of the
last of the stubborn fat. It helps with appetite control too. But
always bear in mind that the faster fat loss occurs primarily as a
result of the larger calorie deficit (which is easily achieved with
sugars and starches minimized), not some type of “low carb
magic.” If your diet were high in natural carbs but you were
able to diligently maintain the same large calorie deficit, the results
would be similar.
seeing more and more advertisements that not only promise rapid weight
loss, but go so far as saying that you’re doing it wrong if
you’re losing “only” two pounds per week.
“Why settle” for slow weight loss, they insist.
Well, it’s certainly possible to lose more than two pounds
per week, but it’s critically important to understand that
there’s a world of difference between rapid weight loss and
permanent fat loss.
also vital to know that there’s no magic in faster fat loss,
just math. All the new-fangled dietary manipulations and high intensity
training programs that really do help increase the speed of fat loss
all come full circle to the calorie balance equation in the end, even
if they claim their method works for other reasons and they
don’t mention calories burned or consumed at all.
of The Quick Fix
fat loss IS possible. My
question is, are you willing to tolerate the hunger, low calories and
high intensity exercise for that kind of deficit? Do you have the work
ethic? Do you have the supreme level of dietary restraint necessary to
stop yourself from bingeing and putting the weight right back on when
that aggressive diet is over? Or would you rather do it in a more
moderate way where you’re not killing yourself, but instead
are making slow and steady lifestyle changes and taking off 1-2 lbs of
pure fat per week, while keeping all your hard-earned muscle?
pounds per week is 50-100 pounds in a year. Is that really so slow or
is that an astounding transformation? You don’t gain 50-100
pounds over night, so why should anyone expect to take it off
overnight? Personally, I think short-term thinking and the pursuit of
quick fixes are the worst diseases of our generation.
If you want to
be one of those “results not typical” fat loss
transformations, it can be done and it may be a perfectly appropriate
short-term goal for the savvy and sophisticated fitness enthusiast.
It’s your call. But when you set your goals, it might be wise
to remember that old fable of the tortoise and the hare, and buyer
beware if you go shopping for a fast weight loss program in
today’s shady marketplace.
Train hard and
Fat Loss Coach
While I do not normally recommend diets themselves, healthy eating is important to any health, fitness, or weight loss program. Click Here to learn more about Wonderslim.
P. S. If you want to learn more about why Diets Don't Work,
please click here.
If you want to learn how to burn fat, a great book to read is Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle by Tom
Ways to Burn Fat Faster
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