How Much Fat Can You Lose In One Month?
(In case you don’t want to watch the video)
Now I love this question because it may not be a month for you, it may be three months for you. But regardless, this kind of sets the stage for what kind of timeline you’re looking at for fat loss.
What we tend to do here at Fitness Revolution is operate by a little bit of a guideline. The human body can safely lose half of a percent to one percent of its body weight each week. So, that kind of gives you some numbers to play around with.
If you are two hundred-fifty pounds or up, you can lose anywhere from about a pound and a half or three pounds a week. You’re around two hundred pounds, about one or two pounds a week.
If you’re a hundred and fifty pounds, you’re looking at about three-quarters of a pound to a pound and a quarter a week, and if you’re less than that, you’re looking at about half a pound to maybe one pound a week. This kind of sets a timeline up.
Now first off, for people who are wanting to drop fat, does this mean you are guaranteed to lose a half percent or one percent each week? No. It does not. What we also have to remember is fat loss is not linear. Meaning that you will not lose the exact same amount of fat each week.
There will be some weeks you may drop two pounds, one week you may only drop half a pound, and even some weeks that you may not lose any pounds at all. It does happen. It’s not a bad thing.
We came up with this formula because this is the trend we have seen when we have helped people lose body fat over the course of three to four month period. This is what they tend to average on a good safe timeline– about a half of a percent to one percent a week.
Can you lose it faster safely?
The reason I put in ‘safely’ is to remove the context of the crash diets of losing twenty pounds in twenty days and thirty pounds in thirty days. There are realistically about two kinds of people that I can see losing a little faster than that, safely.
First one is people that are really significantly overweight or have a very high level of body fat. Men tend to be twenty-five percent and up, women that are carrying a little bit of over thirty percent body fat, they can lose a little faster because they have a little bit more to lose.
The other type of individual is an ex-athlete. Someone who spends, let’s say ten years of their life being active, they got injured, set on the sideline, have been inactive for the past maybe one or two years, and they’re getting back into the scheme of things. You will see those individuals lose a little quicker too.
Now, for those that are on the other end of the spectrum, the people that are actually a little leaner (let’s say, men, eight percent and below, and women that are below fourteen percent). In these cases, it’s going to be a little slower at that point in time because you don’t have that much fat to lose, and if you’re trying to get any leaner, you’re going to have to use a little bit more science and manipulation.
But again guys, this is the timeline we operate. So, realistically and safely the human body can lose anywhere from a half percent to one percent of its weight each week.
How Long Should a Diet Be?
(In case you don’t want to watch the video)
Now, this question I love, just because it’s really all over the place. It really has many different answers, but I’m going to tell you how we can figure out your answer.
When it comes down to a diet, it can really mean just a way of eating, so trying to gain weight is a diet. Trying to maintain weight is a diet. Being a vegetarian is a diet. But we’re going to be talking about diet in the context of a caloric deficit or if you’re really trying to restrict calories.
Here at Fitness Revolution, we tend to only put people in a caloric restriction anywhere from about 12 to 16 weeks or 3 to 4 months. Let me explain why. After about 3 to 4 months, what you’re going to notice is that the body is going to start compensating a little bit.
What to Expect
You’re going to start really feeling the diet. You’re going to start getting tired. You’re going to become lethargic. You’re going to notice your performance in the gym is going to decrease. You’re going to notice that life just isn’t fun. You’re feeling deprived constantly.
What ends up happening is when we see people that start dieting anything longer than four months, we’ll notice, not always the case, but we’ve noticed that they tend to pretty much hit a point where they burn out. They don’t want to do it anymore.
They tend to almost develop some minor eating disorders where all of a sudden you had a cheat meal which turned into a cheat day that turned into a cheat weekend and then a cheat week. You could see how all of a sudden four months later, you’ve still been cheating.
Recommended Time Frame
Realistically, about three to four months is the ideal amount of time that we recommend someone to be in a caloric deficit. Now, I know you may be asking yourself, “Well, I read your previous blog…” which if you didn’t, look in the link below. We talked about how the human body can realistically only safely lose about half a percent to one percent of the body weight each week.
If you have a large amount of weight that you want to lose, say 50, 60, 70 pounds, it’s probably safe to say you’re not going to lose all that weight in that first round of dieting.
Then what do you do? Well, what we recommend is after about three to four months of being in a caloric restriction, we’re going to recommend that you actually go into a maintenance mode. Now the maintenance mode serves pretty much three purposes.
- It gives your body a break from restriction. It allows it to breathe a little bit.
- It gives your mind a break. It gives your psychology a break. You don’t always feel deprived.
- (This is the most important thing) It allows you to take those routines and make them habits.
Forming new habits is the key thing here. When those routines are a habit, that maintenance phase is actually incredibly important because it instills those habits. When those habits are installed, they are in your regimen.
They are your day-to-day practice. You don’t have to think about it anymore. Then it was successful. That’s a successful plan.
Now how long should your maintenance plan be? Well, we base it along about four to six weeks. That’s what we usually recommend, but there are some individuals that will do maintenance phases even longer than that pretty much for the sole purpose of it possibly taking them a little bit longer for those routines to become habits.
Forming Healthy Habits
When we see that it becomes a habit and they no longer have to think about it anymore, that it’s just as ingrained to them as brushing their teeth, then we’ll go through another three to four months of a caloric restriction. What we’ll do is we’ll keep repeating the process until they are where they want to be at.
Say they wanted to lose 60 pounds, they lost 20 pounds their first round of dieting. They did asix-weekk maintenance phase. Now they’re ready to go again. They lost maybe another 15 pounds the second round of dieting.
You’re never really going to lose as much your second round as you are your first round because you don’t have as much to lose. Then we put them on another maintenance phase and then we’ll repeat the process again until they are where they want to be at.
Now, some of you may go, “Well, I still want to diet longer. I want to keep going until I hit my 60 pound marker.” You definitely can but you are going to run a risk of rebound.
And at the same time, what we also run the risk of is you’re going to feel tired. You’re going to really feel it. You’ve run the risk of having many cheat meals and cheat weekends and really just bingeing. Which in that case, it really extends the diet a lot longer than it should be. It doesn’t make life fun.
Then what ends up happening is those habits no longer are habits. What we want to do is take a break about every three to four months from being in a restriction. Maybe eat a little bit more calories.
The scale should not go up by more than a couple pounds just from a little bit of the excess food. Make those rituals that you developed habits and routines. When that happens, keep repeating the process to where you want to be at.
I’m Dieting and Losing Inches But The Scale Is Not Moving, What Do I Do?
(In case you don’t want to watch the video)
This is actually a very common question that, as trainers and health professionals, we hate. We hate this question because it’s very hard to explain why, and I’m going to do my best to explain why, what has happened, and really what you need to do.
What ends up happening is at the very beginning of anyone’s health and fitness journey, they’ll tend to use the scale as their unit of success (especially people that are looking to lose anything over thirty pounds).
If the scale goes down, it tends to be that you’re probably losing some body fat. Now, that’s fine in the beginning, or fine if you have a significant amount of weight to lose.
Time to ditch the scale
There will come a time in your fitness career that the scale is not the best unit of measurement for how successful you are and eventually you’ve got to get rid of the scale. You’ve got to move onto something else, because the scale doesn’t just measure body fat. The scale measures everything.
It measures bones, organs, tissues, muscle. It measures body fat. It measures how much food you’ve eaten. It measures glycogen levels. It measures water. It even measures how much crap you have in your system. It measures everything.
So at some point in time, it’s not going to budge that much because a lot of other variables start coming into play.
How to measure your progress
What I like to do is when people start hitting that point in time that they’re losing inches, but the scale isn’t budging, we take them off the scale and move them to three things:
Number one, skin calipers, because a skin caliper has one job and one job only, and that is to measure body fat. It’s to measure how thick skin is at certain key parts of your body. It doesn’t measure muscle. It measures your body fat, which is pretty much what you’re concerned with.
Number two is going to be how your clothes are fitting. If for guys, they’re getting a little tighter in the right places and loose in the right places, we’re happy. For women, if you’re noticing your pants are getting looser, you’re having to buy new pants, well that’s a good sign.
The third way and my favorite way, and pretty much the best way I recommend to everyone pictures. Take pictures every week.
The pictures won’t lie. Take them in the exact same lighting the same time of day. Make it part of your weekly routine. Every Friday afternoon or Friday morning when you wake up, take a couple of pictures in your bathroom mirror.
You’ll see pretty quickly when you put week one through week six side by side, you’ll know real fast that even though that scale didn’t budge, all of a sudden you’re seeing abs, so it doesn’t matter.
For those of you that reach the point where the scale is not budging anymore, you need to ditch it. The scale is like a bad ex. Right, when you think you’re doing good, it’s there to bring you back down, and no, you’re beyond that.
You need to move on to something different because remember, the scale doesn’t just measure body fat. It measures everything.
And of course, as I like to say, scales don’t measure sexy.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other cool letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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