By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, medical review by Dr. Bret Scher, MD
- What is “fast” weight loss?
- Five simple steps
- Low carb
- Higher protein
- Moderate fat
- Meal planning
- Additional tips
Do you want to lose weight as quickly as possible? When it comes to fast weight loss, it’s important to take a healthy approach — one that promotes loss of fat, retention of muscle, and increases your likelihood of keeping the weight off.
After reading our new guide, you’ll be on your way to losing weight quickly in five simple steps.
What is “fast” weight loss?
Health authorities typically recommend losing about 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 0.9 kilo) per week, and many people seem to lose weight at about this rate.
Therefore, losing any more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilo) per week is considered “fast” weight loss. Yet for many people, that may not sound quick.
While losing 10 pounds (4.5 kilos) in a week may technically be possible for some — especially those who carry a lot of excess weight — it isn’t realistic for most of us.
What about severe calorie restriction?
What if you eat only 500 or 600 calories a day? Although drastically cutting calories can cause rapid weight loss, consuming far less than your body needs can be counterproductive.
Severe calorie restriction can make you feel extremely hungry, deprived, and fatigued. What’s more, it often leads to loss of muscle, or lean mass.
Generally speaking, the more lean mass you have, the more calories your body burns at rest. Loss of muscle during very-low-calorie dieting can slow down metabolism, making future regain much more likely.
So fast weight loss via severe calorie restriction may not be a good idea for many people.
Fast, healthy, sustainable weight loss
Is it possible to lose weight both rapidly and permanently? Yes, indeed.
Recent research suggests that people who lose weight quickly are just as likely to keep pounds or kilos off as those who lose weight more gradually.Moreover, preserving lean mass seems to decrease a person’s risk for regain, regardless of how long it takes them to lose the weight.
Therefore, for fast weight loss that’s also healthy and sustainable, aim to lose fat without losing muscle.
In addition, several factors influence how quickly you can lose weight. Women typically lose weight more slowly than men. And because metabolic rate tends to decline with age, older women may lose at a slower pace than younger men and women — despite putting in just as much effort, if not more.
Are you ready to start losing fat in a healthy way while enjoying delicious, nourishing food that prevents you from feeling hungry or deprived?
Below, you’ll find the simple steps to take to start losing weight quickly.
Five simple steps to fast weight loss
1. Cut way back on carbs
Start by eliminating foods high in carbs: sweets, bread, pasta, fruit, and similar foods. Going low carb can significantly speed up weight loss, for several reasons.
First, according to high-quality research, very-low-carb diets — also known as keto diets — reduce hunger.This allows you to eat less and lose weight quickly without deliberately restricting calories and without feeling hungry or deprived.
Several studies have shown that low-carb eating is more effective than other diets for losing fat quickly.
This impressive fat loss may be partly due to the drop in insulin levels that occur during keto eating. When insulin levels are low, your body is primed to burn rather than store fat.
Finally, some research suggests that continuing to eat low carb to maintain your new weight may help keep your metabolic rate up, increasing the likelihood that you’ll keep the weight off.
How many carbs should you eat to lose weight quickly? Sticking to 20 or fewer grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) per day may produce the fastest results.
But instead of counting every carb, you can simply choose foods from our ketogenic diet foods list below and avoid any foods that aren’t on it.
Note: Be sure to read our tips to avoid or minimize symptoms of the keto flu before going low carb.
2. Eat plenty of protein
Protein is an essential nutrient your body needs to survive and thrive. In addition, boosting your protein intake may help speed up your weight loss.
For starters, protein can suppress your appetite by triggering your body to release hormones that help you feel full and satisfied.
In addition, protein has a higher “thermic effect” than fat and carbohydrates. This means your body burns slightly more calories digesting protein compared to the two other macronutrients.
Eating plenty of protein can also help you retain your all-important lean mass and prevent your metabolism from slowing down as you lose weight.
Indeed, several systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials have shown that higher-protein diets tend to promote weight loss while preserving muscle.
We recommend consuming 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of reference weight or ideal body weight per day. For example, a woman who currently weighs 170 pounds but whose ideal body weight (or reference weight) is 130 pounds (59 kilos) would aim to eat 69 to 118 grams of protein per day.
Check out our list of top 10 high protein foods — which includes vegetarian options — to see how much protein your favorite foods provide.
3. Keep fat intake moderate
When you’re trying to drop pounds or kilos quickly, eating less fat may seem to make sense.
However, it’s not a good idea to eat a diet that’s low in both carbs and fat. You’ll likely end up feeling deprived within a few days or weeks — and it certainly isn’t sustainable long term.There’s no need to fear fat.
That said, eating excessive amounts of fat isn’t a good strategy for quick weight loss either. Even on a very-low-carb diet, eating more fat than your body needs can slow down rather than speed up weight loss.
So don’t add large amounts of butter, heavy cream, or other fat to your food. Also, avoid or minimize your intake of fat bombs and similar treats that provide very little protein or other nutrients.
Instead, eat enough fat to add flavor and richness to your food but not so much that you feel stuffed. Let your body burn its stored fat rather than the fat you are eating.
4. Go for non-starchy vegetables
Leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables are excellent foods for fast weight loss. They’re very low in carbs and calories yet provide fiber that can help you feel full.
The Atkins diet, which has helped millions of people lose weight, recommends eating two cups of leafy green vegetables and one cup of other low-carb vegetables every day. This advice is designed to produce fast weight loss during the initial stage of the diet.
In the 2007 A to Z weight loss trial, people who followed the Atkins diet lost an average of 10 pounds within the first two months — far more than people who followed the other three diets being studied.Other studies have also reported rapid weight loss in participants who included several daily servings of low-carb vegetables.
While these studies don’t prove that the veggies caused the weight loss, they do show that low-carb, fiber-filled veggies can be part of a rapid weight loss diet.
How many low-carb vegetables should you eat? We recommend that you eat as many keto-friendly vegetables as you want while staying within your daily carbohydrate target. For many people, this will be about two servings per day, but a great deal of individual variation exists.
5. Get some exercise, but don’t overdo it
Will exercising for several hours every day help you lose weight faster? According to studies, physical activity by itself has a limited effect on weight loss. What you eat appears to play a much larger role.
However, getting regular exercise can provide benefits during weight loss.
Engaging in aerobic activity (e.g., walking briskly or bicycling) and resistance training (e.g., lifting weights) can boost your metabolic rate and help preserve muscle mass as you lose weight.
While it’s good to engage in physical activity, working out vigorously for several hours every day isn’t necessary or advisable for weight loss and good health. Plus, making dramatic changes to both your diet and exercise routine at the same time can be overwhelming.
So try to lift weights, do push-ups, or perform other resistance exercise for 15 to 30 minutes a few times a week. Walk, run, dance, ride a bike, or do similar aerobic activity for 30 to 60 minutes on most days, if possible.
In short, aim to move your body in some way every day without forcing yourself to do more than you can comfortably handle.
Read our complete exercise guide to learn more about the types of physical activity that may be best for you.
Meal planning ideas for quick weight loss
Putting together very-low-carb meals can be simple:
- Start with a generous serving of protein (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, or tofu)
- Add as many low-carb vegetables as you like
- Use fat as needed for cooking or in salad dressing
- Season with salt, pepper, and spices
- Drink water, coffee, or tea
What about calories? We don’t recommend counting calories when trying to lose weight. However, we suggest that you eat only when hungry and stop as soon as you begin to feel full.
Here are some delicious, filling low-carb meal ideas for getting started:
Other tips to speed up weight loss and stay on track
- Incorporate intermittent fasting: Recent research suggests that time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting can help some people lose weight. Learn more in our complete guide to intermittent fasting.
- Quaff some caffeine: According to studies, caffeine may help you lose weight by slightly boosting your metabolic rate. Most people can drink up to two to three cups of coffee or tea per day. However, limit your intake to one cup early in the day, or none at all, if too much caffeine makes you feel jittery, raises your blood pressure, or prevents you from getting high-quality sleep.
- Avoid or limit alcohol: Drinking alcoholic beverages can slow down weight loss because your body burns alcohol before it burns carbs, protein, and fat — including body fat.Alcohol also tends to increase appetite and decrease inhibitions, which may lead you to overeat without even realizing it.
- Eat slowly: To speed up weight loss, relax your eating pace. Research suggests that eating slowly may help you naturally take in less food and lose weight.
- Take a deep dive into weight loss: Our complete guide to losing weight covers additional ground, including the effects of medications, sweeteners, hormones, and more.
Yes, you can lose weight quickly. However, the rate at which you lose isn’t always within your control. Also, preventing loss of muscle may be key for long-term weight-loss success.
Following our five easy steps can help you lose weight in a healthy way without feeling hungry, at a pace that’s right for your body and sets you up to keep the weight off long term.
/ Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE