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How to Lose Weight Fast: 10 Tips Backed by Science

There are a number of ways to cut calories and drop pounds fast, but not all methods for quick weight loss are safe, sustainable, or even painless. A lot of “crash diets” come with side effects including ravenous hunger and short-lived results. But don’t lose hope just yet. It is possible to speed up your fat loss efforts without having to sacrifice your wellbeing in the process. Here are ten ways to help you cut calories and achieve better, and longer-lasting results.

How Fast Can You Lose Weight?

Weight management boils down to calorie control, and the lower you cut your calories, the more pounds you can lose quickly. So understanding how many calories you need to eat a day to lose weight is the first step. In fact, without a calorie deficit, you won’t get very far since it is the only known, proven method for fat loss. No matter what the latest fad diet is claiming!

There is also a difference between weight loss and fat loss, especially when you are looking at a short window of time. Weight loss includes anything that causes the number on the scale to go down and can include muscle loss and more commonly, water loss. Fat loss, on the other hand, takes a little bit more time and consistency.

How fast fat loss occurs can vary from one person to the next, depending on your individual metabolism, muscle mass, fitness level, starting weight, and genetics.

Calories Needed to Lose Weight Quickly

Start by figuring out how many calories you burn a day. This is you daily needs to maintain your current weight. You can find this using a nutrition app or online calculator.

You can then calculate your weight loss calorie needs using a percentage cut – aiming to eat 20 to 30% less calories than you need to maintain.

For example, if you need to eat 2,000 calories a day to maintain your weight, a 20% cut would put you at 1600 calories a day (2,000 x 80%) and a 30% cut would have you around 1,400 daily calories (2,000 x 70%).

A 20% cut would promote quick weight loss, and a 30% cut represents a more aggressive approach. It isn’t really recommended to go below a 30% cut.

How Long Does it Take to Lose 20 Pounds?

Once you have an idea of how many calories you need to eat to lose weight, you can figure out how much weight you should be losing each week. In order to lose one pound of fat you need to cut about 3,500 calories from your diet.

Since cutting 3,500 calories in a day or two is not realistic or even possible for most people, it is best to spread out your calorie deficit throughout the week. You can cut 3,500 calories by decreasing your calorie intake each day or increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity.

In other words, in order to lose one pound per week, you will need to cut 500 calories per day from either food, exercise or both combined. And for two pounds lost per week, you would need to cut 1,000 calories a day.

Depending on your current weight and calorie needs, a loss of 0.5 to 2 pounds per week represents a healthy rate of reduction in weight for most people. But some people can lose weight faster.

If you lose 2-pounds a week, this means you can aim to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks or in two and a half months.

What Happens When You Crash Diet?

Often times, quick weight loss goes hand in hand with crash dieting, but this isn’t always the best solution. “Crash diets” are typically extremely low-calorie diets that require drastic measures – like eliminating multiple food groups, drinking only juice or soup for weeks, or fasting for multiple days to cut out as many calories as possible.

Very low calorie diets (VLCDs) are also used as treatment against obesity in some medical centers, but these programs are supervised by trained physicians, and not necessarily the right approach for everyone (48).

But starving yourself only works for a little while. And even if you are successful in sticking to an extreme diet, you may end up gaining it all back once you go off it. This is mainly because short-term diets can promote a lot of water loss (not just fat loss). In addition, depending on how long these diets persist, they can do a number on your hunger-regulating hormones, mental state, and potentially your metabolism. Crash diets can also be dangerous for certain individuals.

Some of the main issues associated with eating too few calories include:

You Get Really Hangry

Losing weight, in general, can affect your hunger, fullness hormones causing you to feel more hungry, even after you’ve stopped dieting. While going a little hungry can be helpful for weight reduction, being extremely hungry can be downright painful. If you can get past the constant hunger pains, you may also find that crash dieting is making you obsessed with food. Your body is so hungry that food becomes all you think about (1).

Being hungry all the time is bad enough, but very-low-calorie diets can cause you to be in a terrible mood as well. Calories, especially carbs, play a major role in regulating your emotions, and being so hungry that you are angry is a real thing. Carbohydrates are linked to your self-control – which is why we cannot control our temper when we have low blood sugar, and we get hangry.

You Get Skinny Fat

If you aren’t getting enough protein, and not strength training regularly, extremely restrictive diets may cause you to start burning more lean muscle for energy instead of fat (2). Why does this matter? You are losing precious muscle mass – which is key for keeping your metabolism intact and improves your overall quality of life. In addition, reduced lean muscle mass increases your overall body fat percentage, even though the number on the scale is decreasing.

Muscle is denser than fat, which can make you look leaner overall. Once you reach your desired weight, you may not feel as fit and toned as you would if you lost more fat and maintained your lean mass throughout the process. In order to decrease your body fat and get toned, you would have to gain muscle mass, essentially gain the weight back, and try to lean out by burning fat. It is pretty counter-intuitive to drop pounds from losing muscle weight just to try and gain back more muscle weight in the end.

Your Workouts Suck

Without the proper fuel, you might find that exercising is extremely difficult or darn near impossible. This matters because physical activity is one way to help increase your calorie burn. In addition, strength training is key to maintaining your precious lean mass while cutting. Not to mention, trying to train on low energy can lead to light-hotheadedness and possible injury if you aren’t careful.

Your Nutrition Suffers

The thing is, your body isn’t a calculator. And while it needs a daily dose of energy to keep surviving, it also needs proper nutrition to function properly. It is nearly impossible to get all the nutrients your body needs on a very low-calorie diet, even if you’re eating only healthy food.

Minor deficiencies can create serious complications. Very low-calorie diets have been linked to heart problems, dehydration, mental confusion, and decreased immune function (3). And starving yourself over longer periods of time can lead to heart attacks, impaired liver and kidney function, seizures and death (4,5,6).

It Slows Down Your Metabolism

Restrictive diets have been thought to negatively impact your metabolism temporarily by slowing down your natural calorie burn and messing with your ability to resume a normal maintenance diet once you stop dieting (7,8,9,10). Even though this phenomenon is typically short-lived, it becomes more of a concern if you are constantly jumping from one diet to the next.

10 Fast Weight Loss Tips that Actually Work

Cutting calories will help you lose body fat, but there are some additional steps you can take to make the process feel a little more bearable and improve your chances for success. Knowing where to focus your efforts and being consistent with your goals is the key to a speedy transformation, and if you pick up a few good habits along the way the results might just stick around!

To help you fine-tune your goals, here are 10 simple steps to help you master calorie control and get quicker and less painful results:

1. Track Your Food Intake

Controlling your calorie intake is the quickest and most proven method for weight management. Not to mention, it is pretty difficult to know how many calories you are eating each day if you aren’t tracking your food intake. It is the easiest way to hold yourself accountable and give yourself a daily confirmation that you are sticking to your diet. Plus, studies suggest those that track their intake may lose up to twice as much weight as those that don’t (11).

Download a calorie tracking app on your phone and get familiar with portion sizes. Be as accurate as possible when logging every bite and sip of food – including cheat days, alcohol, and slips ups!

2. Eat More Protein

Add more lean meats, low fat dairy, and plant based proteins to your meals!

While the total amount of food you eat is the most important consideration for fat loss, when it comes to the type of food, protein may have an edge over other macros.

High protein diets are thought to help protect your muscle mass, even in a calorie deficit (12). Protein may also help curb your appetite and unhealthy food cravings (13,14). Moreover, your body burns more calories metabolizing protein compared to fat and carbs, it is the least likely of all the macros to be stored as body fat.

It’s no wonder high protein diets continue to be positively associated with increased fat loss and better body composition (15,16,17,18).

While cutting calories, aim to get roughly one gram of protein per pound of body weight to grab the full benefits of this super macro.

Pssst… want to conquer step 1 and 2 with one simple method? Opt for a macro-friendly tracking app that automatically counts calories and protein at the same time – helping you simplify your goals and achieve results even faster.

3. Strength Train

Lifting weights or incorporating some type of strength training will not only help increase your calorie burn but can also help you maintain more precious lean muscle mass while you are losing fat, helping you feel leaner and more fit in the long run (18,19,20).

Having more muscle slightly increases your energy expenditure, tipping the energy balance equation in the favor of losing weight. Additionally, because a higher lean mass typically means a higher daily calorie needs (aka you can eat more food and still lose weight), more muscle mass might make it easier for you to maintain your results (21).

Some research even implies that with adequate resistance training and protein intake, you may be able to gain muscle mass while losing body fat at the same time, improving overall body composition, even while on a diet (22,23).

Find a strength training program you enjoy and incorporate body weight or weighted exercises at least twice a week while dieting.

4. Drink More Water

Replace beverages loaded with added sugar and alcohol with water as an easy way to cut extra calories and support weight management. Water is calorie-free and supports metabolism, nutrient absorption and digestion.

In addition drinking water may help fill your stomach and reduce appetite. Some research suggests that drinking a glass of water before meals can help you naturally eat less food (24,25). And in one study those who drank 2 cups (~16 ounces) of water before eating, lost 44% more weight in three months, compared to those who didn’t drink any water (26).

5. Eat More Vegetables

Veggies, especially low-carb, non-starchy vegetables (basically all vegetables except peas, corn, and potatoes), tend to be super low in calories and high in nutrition, making them a perfect food for dieters 27,28,29).

Because of their high water content, loading up on this food group can help keep you satisfied and cut calories without having to sacrifice portion sizes. Two cups of veggies has roughly ~50 to 60 calories compared to two cups of pasta or rice that have nearly eight times that amount (400 to 500 calories total).

Veggies also tend to be a source of quality fiber in the diet that may help draw water into your gut and increase feelings of satiety (29,30,31).

In addition, some studies suggest eating more nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables could help calm your appetite and food cravings, making sticking to a calorie controlled diet even easier (32).

To cut calories without having to cut back on portion size, aim to make half of your meals non-starchy veggies.

6. Practice Mindful Eating

Anyone who has successfully gone through a change in their life knows that mindset is everything. Have the right mindset can help to increase your motivation, keep willpower strong, and make the entire process much more enjoyable.

When it comes to dieting, practicing mindfulness is one way to focus your mind on a more positive relationship with food. Research suggest that eating more mindfully may help you naturally cut calories by establishing more fine-tunes hunger-fullness cues, calming your food cravings, and helping you enjoy your food more (33,34,35).

Mindful eating is really just the practice of slowing down and eating with more intention – taking your time to taste your food and enjoy it. Which is why its no wonder eating more slowly is associated with improved weight loss (36,37).

Slowing down will not only help you pay more attention to what you are putting in your mouth, but will give you the opportunity to get to know when you are satisfied and can stop eating. In one study, those who took longer to eat – 30 minutes vs. 5 minutes – had reduced feelings of hunger and increased feelings of fullness, regardless of their calorie intake and hormonal responses to the food (38).

Try not to inhale your food. Take your time to enjoy meals by slowing down between each bite and concentrating on the flavors.

7. Get Plenty of Sleep

Lack of sleep does not directly cause weight gain, but studies suggest that those who have poor sleep habits tend to weight more and struggle with losing body fat (39,40). This is because sleep is important for regulating your mood, appetite, and energy levels, all of which influence the food decisions you make each day. In addition, sleep’s impact on certain hormones and nutrient use, may cause you to store more body fat (41).

Make your rest a priority and dedicate time each night to getting some rest. Remove distractions, like your TV, phone, or pets, and find a dark, quiet place to lie down. Use ear plugs or sleep masks if needed. This will help ensure you are at your best and have the energy and willpower to stick to your diet and workout regimen.

Aim to get at least seven hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep each night.

8. Establish Routines

The more systematized you can make dieting, the less room there is for error. Not to mention, making your cut feel more routine can alleviate a lot of the stress that comes along with trying to figure out healthy meals that fit your calorie goals.

The easiest way to do this is through weekly meal prep or aiming to eat similar foods each day, around the same times. Studies suggest that making your eating routine more mundane and including less variety, may cause you to eat fewer calories overall (42). While this method may not be ideal for long-term nutrition, it could be the habit you need to stick to your diet until you reach your health goals.

Learn to meal prep and get more strategic with your weekly intake by eating similar meals around the same time each day.

9. Increase Your Workout Intensity

Any type of exercise or movement in general can increase your daily calorie burn, but a recent analysis of multiple studies suggests that high intensity interval training may strengthen your ability to burn body fat – as much as 28% more than moderate intensity training (43). This is mainly due to the after burn effects from increased metabolism that continues well after high intensity training.

Additionally, interval training tends to mean short, more efficient workouts – meaning more results with less time in the gym. Plus these workouts are typically scalable to your own pace and fitness level, making them accessible to almost everyone.

Consider ramping up your sweat routine with HIIT training a few times a week.

10. Manage Stress

Similar to lack of sleep, chronic stress levels can do a number on your willpower and ability to stick to a diet. Considering your mindset is a major component of any successful change, it’s no surprise that many studies associate poorly managed stress with poor weight management (44,45,46). Stress not only messes with your mental wellbeing, but also affects certain hormone levels involved in appetite control and nutrient storage and utilization. This is why stress can lead to increased hunger, cravings, and body fat storage. (Learn how to stop stress eating)

However, the presence of stress alone does not automatically mean negative things for your body weight. Stress is highly dependent on the person and how you as an individual respond to stressful situations. Meaning, you can control things more than you think. By working on how you handle change and stress, you might actually be able to produce more positive effects from this psychological response – making you feel more determined and empowered and less overwhelmed and run down (47).

If stress is holding you back, try some of the following ideas to channel it in a more positive way:

  • Try Yoga
  • Learn to meditate
  • Exercise
  • Talk to someone
  • Keep a stress journal
  • Get more sleep
  • Get more organized
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine

Bonus Tip: Turn to the Experts

To get even better at controlling your calories and improve your nutrition intake, consider turning to the experts. At Trifecta, our science-backed weight loss meal plans are designed to help you hit your goals without having to spend hours meal prepping. It’s like having your own registered dietitian plan, prep and ship your food right to your door! So you can focus on everything else.

Should you lose weight fast?


Healthy weight

When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s tempting to want results as fast as possible.

But losing weight fast is unlikely to help you keep the weight off – and it also comes with health risks.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably keen to see, and feel, a difference quickly.

It can be tempting to put your trust in one of the countless plans that promise rapid, easy weight loss.

Unfortunately, even if these diets do help you lose weight, you’re unlikely to maintain a healthy weight in the months and years afterwards.

The most effective way to lose weight and keep it off is to lose it gradually.

This can involve following a weight loss plan, but it also should involve making changes to your diet and activity levels that you can stick to over the long term.

Weight loss tends to level off after a while, and you may need to make further changes.

If you are struggling to achieve a healthy weight after trying a healthy eating plan speak to your GP or practice nurse for advice.

You should also check with your GP if you have a long-term health condition before starting a diet.

Google search the question ‘how to lose weight fast’ and the advice you’re likely to receive ranges from strange – ‘breathe deeply constantly to work your abs’ is a genuine suggestion we stumbled across – to downright damaging, like the suggestion that diet pills are ever a good idea.

Sure, you know that those suggestions won’t work, but in the age of information, how do you go about sorting weight loss fact from weight loss fiction? The answer, as ever, is science. Reliable, proven, credible science.

For instance, did you know that by chewing gum you’ll consume 36 fewer calories every time you reach for a snack because your’ve already satisfied your appetite? Or where you aware that getting in an early morning bodyweight session can burn 20 per cent more fat than if you were to do the same thing after lunch?

We thought not, so we’ve collected 23 of our best tips on how to lose weight quickly and safely, backed by peer-reviewed studies, so you can be sure of their efficacy. These are the shortcuts to slim you’re going to enjoy; follow them and you’ll never need to do another Google search.

What to Eat to Lose Weight Fast

What you choose to eat can be just as important as the quantity. Snack smarter with these 10 suggestions. But don’t just blindly follow our advice, find out why you should be eating these foods below.

10 Foods That’ll Help You Lose Weight Faster

  1. Chillies
  2. Green tea
  3. Milk
  4. Apples
  5. Gum
  6. Water
  7. Protein
  8. Bacon
  9. Spinach
  10. Complex Carbs

1. Chillies

This hot food staple is one of the fastest foods to burn off your blubber. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that when compared to a placebo, capsaicin – the active ingredient in cayenne pepper – increases fat burning. Curry night, anyone?

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2. Green tea

Swap your regular cuppa for a green brew won’t just change your tea break, but your body fat score too. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found the catechins in green tea boost metabolism and increase your calorie burn by up to 4 per cent.

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3. Milk

Looks like the white stuff is also the right stuff. According to research published in Cell Metabolism, milk contains a compound called nicotinamide riboside, which increases the rate at which your body burns flab.

And that’s not all: because of its high protein content, chugging down a glass of semi-skimmed after your workout will grow your muscles up to 40 per cent (yes, 40!) more than if you didn’t, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

4. Apples

One a day keeps the fat away, according to scientists at Pennsylvania State University. Due to its high fibre content, snacking on an apple 15 minutes before a meal consume 200 fewer calories. And no, downing a Bulmer’s before dinner is not the same thing.

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5. Gum

Don’t worry, this habit won’t leave you with Alex Ferguson’s physique. University of Rhode Island researchers have found that chewing by itself reduces the amount you eat and speeds up your metabolism.

Need another reason? A study published in the journal Appetite found that working gum around your mouth will make you consume 36 fewer calories each time you snack because your appetite had been sated. Now that’s something to chew over.

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6. Water

That’s right, downing two glasses of plain old H20 before your dinner is enough to burn 15 pounds over 12 weeks. How? According to scientists at Virginia Tech University, water can make you partially full, meaning you’ll eat less grub during your meal.

Plus, downing a cold pint of the clear stuff (water, not vodka) after every meal is enough to raise your metabolism by 30 per cent for 40 minutes, according to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. That’s a great way to lose weight fast for little effort on your part. Score.

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7. Protein

Yes whey: the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high-protein shakes are a vital part of a weight loss plan, so don’t hold back – especially at breakfast. According to research from the University of Bath, eat 700 calories before 11am and you’ll have better blood sugar levels than those who skipped the most important meal of the day. It’s the best excuse you’ll have of sticking with a morning fry-up and avoiding a costly Starbucks lunch.

8. Bacon

And they say you can’t eat like a pig and slim down. Scientists at Kyoto University found bacon is a great source of the hormone coenzyme Q1, which spikes up your metabolism when combined with a brisk walk. And here’s the best bit: the study showed eating six rashers of bacon an hour before your stroll to the office will double the fat burn. There’s no need to ration your rashers.

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9. Spinach

It might not build you like Popeye overnight, but add a bit of the green stuff on the side of your plate if you want to lose weight fast. It’s thanks to spinach’s ecdysteroids, natural compounds found in the veg, that increase the levels of protein adiponectin, which makes fat cells more sensitive to insulin, and breaks down fat. It’s really that easy.

10. Complex carbs

Compared to their complex cousins, refined carbs cause your blood sugar to spike rapidly, leading to hunger, cravings and increased food intake a few hours later, according to researchers in Boston. Switch the white bread for whole wheat to ward off the 3pm slump.

How to Lose Weight Fast with Exercise

So you’ve stocked your cupboards with green tea and are prepping for meals by eating an apple. Now what? Time to tailor your workouts for the best results.

8 Ways to Lose Weight Fast with Exercise

  1. Listen to music while exercising
  2. Walk or cycle to work
  3. Workout at home
  4. Exercise earlier in the day
  5. Try HIIT workouts
  6. Stretch more
  7. Lift heavy weights
  8. Vary your rest periods

11. Listen to music

Want to instantly burn more blubber in your workout? Research conducted at Brunel University found listening to your favourite tracks will increase your endurance by a massive 15 per cent. And if you really want to turn your weight loss up to 11, Social Psychological and Personality Science found that heavy bass increases your sense of personal power to help you get the most out of the gym.

12. Walk or cycle to work

Avoiding the gym at all costs doesn’t mean you can’t shed the pounds. Simply swap your normal boring commute for a short cycle and you’ll keep the calories burning long after you step into the office, according to researchers at Loughborough University.

Don’t want to fork out for a new set of wheels? Just avoid the car and you’ll still speed away to your blubber. Why? Research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that you can still lose weight fast by opting for public transport over your morning drive.

13. Workout at home

Gym memberships are expensive. Home workouts are free. You do the math(s). Need more persuading? Bodyweight workouts are the perfect way to burn the calories as you’re always setting the correct weight: yourself.

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14. Exercise earlier in the day

Can’t be bothered training five days a week? Exercise early in the morning and you can cut out one of your sessions, says a study published British Journal of Nutrition. The reason? A bodyweight circuit before breakfast blasts away 20 per cent more fat than a session at lunch. That leaves you the rest of the day to gloat about your results.

15. Try HIIT instead of cardio

Want to blow away your belly without logging months of mind-numbing hours on the treadmill? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will kickstart your metabolism like no other workout, burning more than twice the calories as a lighter and longer session, according to a study from Southern Illinois University. And the total amount of time you need to dedicate to HIIT: 20 minutes. It really is the least time exercising for the biggest results.

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16. Stretch

Tempting as that post-workout shower may be, making time to hold a static stretch at the end of your workout can increase your muscle mass by as much as 13 per cent, according to US research. How? It has much the same effect on your muscles as resistance training, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found. Both cause micro tears that prompt the manufacture of muscle fibres. Stretch yourself swole.

17. Lift heavy

Testing your limits brings about than just bragging rights. Lifting a heavier weight for fewer reps burns nearly twice as many calories during the two hours after your workout than lifting a lighter weight for more reps, according to research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Feel smug in the knowledge you’re still torching calories in that 10am meeting.

18. Rest wisely

If muscling up is key to shedding timber, you might as well do so efficiently. Rehash your recovery period by introducing short rest intervals within your sets. Switching your 120-second rest between sets to a 60-second intra-set break brings greater strength gains and increased power output, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Habits That Will Help You Lose Weight Fast

Exercise and diet are taken care of, but there are still a few weightloss hacks we need to let you in on.

5 Weightloss Hacks You Need to Know

  1. Having a lie in will double your chances of losing weight
  2. Fidgeting will help you burn calories
  3. Play video games to occupy your mind
  4. Sleep in a blacked-out room to speed up your metabolism
  5. Stand up for an hour a day to fight off obesity

19. Sleep

Supposed to make that early gym class, but suffered a sleepless night? Give yourself a lie in. As research published in the International Journal of Obesity shows, getting eight hours shuteye will reduce your stress levels and double your chances of slimming down. It really is your dream weight loss method.

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20. Fidget

Colleagues annoyed by your constant posture changing and leg waggling? Just tell them you’re burning the calories. A study from the University of Leeds showed that those who fidgeted more often weighed less than those who didn’t. Bottom line: reposition your chair all you want.

21. Occupy your mind

Want to instantly crush your cravings by 24 per cent? Load up FIFA instead of Netflix, says research published by the Plymouth University. Spending time bossing virtual 40-yard free kicks is enough to distract your mind food, meaning you’ll eat less. Game on.

22. Turn the lights off

Get slim at the flick of a switch. No, really. Research in the Journal of Biological Rhythms found sleeping in a blacked-out room can speed up your metabolism while also ensuring you catch better Zs. You don’t even need to be awake to drop the pounds.

23. Escape your work chair

Hate being chained to your chair eight hours a day? Bug HR to get a stand-up desk – not only will you be able to casually see what your colleagues are up to, standing for a total of just an hour a day could help to fight off obesity, according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Break up your day and lose weight fast: it’s a win-win.

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Thomas Ling Thomas Ling is Assistant Digital Editor at Men’s Health.

How Safe Is Quick Weight Loss?

Tempted by the fad diet that promises 15 or even 30 pounds of weight loss in the first month? While it would be lovely if excess weight could safely melt away (ideally before bikini season), quick weight loss is unlikely, and prolonged extreme weight loss is not safe.

Weight Loss: Understanding That First Drop

“We usually recommend about a half a pound to two pounds a week, which is a lot less than what these fad diets promise,” says Emily Banes, RD, clinical dietitian at the Houston Northwest Medical Center.

Banes acknowledges that some people may experience quick weight loss in the early stages of a new diet, but says it is important to be realistic about what to expect over the long haul. “If you have a lot to lose and you start on a diet and lose more than two pounds a week, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but know it’s going to slow down,” warns Banes, adding that some of the initial weight loss probably is water weight.

Even Banes’ patients who have had lap-band or gastric bypass surgery and lose weight dramatically at first will eventually slow down to what feels like a crawl, but is actually a healthy rate of weight loss. Banes says she would worry about a person’s rate of weight loss if they continued to lose five to 10 pounds (or more) a week.

Weight Loss: Safe Strategies, Best Strategies

While not everyone, including Banes, focuses on counting calories, doing the math can help guide you to a safer weight loss. Generally, experts recommend trimming 500 to 1,000 calories from your daily intake by eating less and exercising more.

A pound is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, so if you can cut 500 calories each day for a week, you should lose one pound. Researchers who analyzed data from 1,801 Minnesota dieters over a two-year period found that the more strategies dieters used, the more likely they were to be successful in losing weight at this pace. Strategies that lead to success include:

  • Counting calories
  • Increasing daily exercise (aim for 150 minutes a week or more)
  • Cutting out sweets and snacks
  • Reducing fat intake to less than 30 percent
  • Increasing fruit and vegetables
  • Decreasing portion sizes

The researchers noted that one crucial piece of information lacking from many diet strategies: persistence. Their conclusions support the fact that even though it will take a long time at the pound-per-week pace — longer than many people would like — with a slower approach you are more likely to develop the long-term healthy habits that will help keep the lost weight off.

Weight Loss: When the Rate Becomes Dangerous

If extreme weight loss means you are not getting enough nutrients — the fats, carbohydrates, and proteins needed for your body to function properly — you have entered the territory of unsafe weight loss. You may also be developing an eating disorder focused on your obsession with weight. Some of the warning signs that you may be losing too much weight are:

  • Thinning hair
  • Frequently becoming sick
  • Feeling cold more often than usual
  • Having fewer or no menstrual cycles

Disappointing though it may be, the reality is that slow and steady wins the weight-loss race. Take it easy and be patient — you will achieve your goal and, more importantly, maintain it.

How to begin intermittent fasting

Share on PinterestTypically, a person should stick with one fasting method for a month or longer before trying another.

There are four potential methods that a person may try when fasting for health reasons. A person should pick the plan that suits their preferences and which they think they can stick with.

These include:

  • Eat Stop Eat
  • Warrior Diet
  • Leangains
  • Alternate Day Fasting

Typically, a person should stick with one fasting method for a month or longer to see if it works for them before trying a different method. Anyone who has a medical condition should talk to their healthcare provider before beginning any fasting method.

When deciding on a method, a person should remember that they do not need to eat a certain amount or type of food or avoid foods altogether. A person can eat what they want. However, to reach health and weight loss goals, it is a good idea to follow a healthful, high-fiber, vegetable-rich diet during the eating periods.

Binging on unhealthful foods on eating days can hinder health progress. It is also extremely important to drink lots of water or other no-calorie beverages throughout the fast days.

Eat Stop Eat

Brad Pilon developed Eat Stop Eat, which is a fasting method that involves eating nothing for 24 hours twice a week. It does not matter what days a person fasts or even when they begin. The only restriction is fasting must last for 24 hours and on non-consecutive days.

People who do not eat for 24 hours will likely become very hungry. Eat Stop Eat may not be the best method for people who are unfamiliar with fasting to start with.

Warrior Diet

Ori Hofmekler is the creator of the Warrior Diet, which entails eating very little for 20 hours each day. A person fasting in this way consumes all their typical food intake in the remaining 4 hours.

Eating a whole day’s worth of food in such a short time can make a person’s stomach quite uncomfortable. This is the most extreme fasting method, and similarly to Eat Stop Eat, a person new to fasting may not want to start with this method.

Leangains

Martin Berkhan created Leangains for weightlifters, but it has gained popularity among other people who are interested in fasting. Unlike Eat Stop Eat and the Warrior Diet, fasting for Leangains involves much shorter periods.

For example, males who choose the Leangains method will fast for 16 hours and then eat what they want for the remaining 8 hours of the day. Females fast for 14 hours and eat what they want for the remaining 10 hours of the day.

During the fast, a person must avoid eating any food but can drink as many no-calorie beverages as they like.

Alternate Day Fasting, 5:2 method

Some people fast on alternate days to improve blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight loss. A person on the 5:2 method eats 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week.

Some alternate-day fasting regimens add in a third day of fasting each week. For the rest of the week, a person eats only the number of calories they burn during the day. Over time, this creates a calorie deficit that allows the person to lose weight.

Resources on the Eat Stop Eat, Warrior, and Leangains fasting methods are available to purchase online.

Photo: Twenty20

What if we told you that the answer to losing weight, improving body composition, and feeling better isn’t about dieting, but instead skipping meals every once in a while? For some, intermittent fasting, or going a longer period of time — usually between 14 and 36 hours — with few to no calories, can be a lot easier than you may think. And the benefits might be worth it. If you think about it, all of us “fast” every single day — we just call it sleeping. Intermittent fasting just means extending that fasting period, and being a bit more conscious of your eating schedule overall. But is it right for you? And which method is best?

RELATED: Intermittent Fasting: Should You Exercise on Empty?

The Science of Fasting

As far back as the 1930s, scientists have been exploring the benefits of reducing calories by skipping meals. During that time, one American scientist found that significantly reducing calories helped mice live longer, healthier lives. More recently, researches have found the same in fruit flies, roundworms and monkeys. Studies have also shown that decreasing calorie consumption by 30 to 40 percent (regardless of how it’s done) can extend life span by a third or more. Plus, there’s data to suggest that limiting food intake may reduce the risk of many common diseases. Some believe fasting may also increase the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar and helps control hunger.

RELATED: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting (Without Deprivation)

The five most common methods of intermittent fasting try to take advantage of each of these benefits. But different methods will yield better results for different people. “If you’re going to force yourself to follow a certain method, it’s not going to work,” says trainer and fitness expert Nia Shanks. “Choose a method that makes your life easier,” she says. Otherwise, it’s not sustainable and the benefits of your fasting may be short-lived.

So what’s the first step in getting started? Each method has its own guidelines for how long to fast and what to eat during the “feeding” phase. Below, you’ll find the five most popular methods and the basics of how they work. Keep in mind, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Those with health conditions of any kind should check with their doctor before changing up their usual routine. Note that personal goals and lifestyle are key factors to consider when choosing a fasting method.

RELATED: Why This Trainer Swears by Intermittent Fasting

Photo: Dan Gold

Intermittent Fasting: 5 Methods

Started by: Martain Berkhan
Best for: Dedicated gym-goers who want to lose body fat and build muscle.

How It Works: Fast for 14 (women) to 16 (men) hours each day, and then “feed” for the remaining eight to 10 hours. During the fasting period, you consume no calories. However, black coffee, calorie-free sweeteners, diet soda and sugar-free gum are permitted. (A splash of milk in your coffee won’t hurt, either.) Most practitioners will find it easiest to fast through the night and into the morning. They usually break the fast roughly six hours after waking up. This schedule is adaptable to any person’s lifestyle, but maintaining a consistent feeding window time is important. Otherwise, hormones in the body can get thrown out of whack and make sticking to the program harder, Berkhan says.

What and when you eat during the feeding window also depends on when you work out. On days you exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake should be higher. Protein consumption should be fairly high every day, though it will vary based on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. Regardless of your specific program, whole, unprocessed foods should make up the majority of your calorie intake. However, when there isn’t time for a meal, a protein shake or meal replacement bar is acceptable (in moderation).

RELATED: The Pros and Cons of 6 Popular Weight Loss Diets

Pros: For many, the highlight of this program is that on most days, meal frequency is irrelevant. You can really eat whenever you want to within the eight-hour “feeding” period. That said, most people find breaking it up into three meals easier to stick to (since we’re typically already programmed to eat this way).

Cons: Even though there is flexibility in when you eat, Leangains has pretty specific guidelines for what to eat, especially in relation to when you’re working out. The strict nutrition plan and scheduling meals perfectly around workouts can make the program a bit tougher to adhere to. (You can learn more about the specifics — as well as when to time these meals — directly from Leangains here and here.)

Photo: Pond5

2. Eat Stop Eat

Started by: Brad Pilon
Best for: Healthy eaters looking for an extra boost.

It’s all about moderation: You can still eat whatever you want, but maybe not as much of it. A slice of birthday cake is OK, but the whole cake isn’t.

How It Works: Fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. During the 24 hour fast, which creator Brad Pilon prefers to call a “24 break from eating,” no food is consumed, but you can drink calorie-free beverages. After the fast is over, you then go back to eating normally. “Act like you didn’t fast,” Pilon says. “Some people need to finish the fast at a normal mealtime with a big meal, while others are OK ending the fast with an afternoon snack. Time it however works best for you, and adjust your timing as your schedule changes,” he says.

The main rationale? Eating this way will reduce overall calorie intake without really limiting what you’re able to eat — just how often, according to Eat Stop Eat. It’s important to note that incorporating regular workouts, particularly resistance training, is key to succeeding on this plan if weight loss or improved body composition are goals.

Pros: While 24 hours may seem like a long time to go without food, the good news is that this program is flexible. You don’t have to go all-or-nothing at the beginning. Go as long as you can without food the first day and gradually increase fasting phase over time to help your body adjust. Pilon suggests starting the fast when you are busy, and on a day where you have no eating obligations (like a work lunch or happy hour).

Another perk? There are no “forbidden foods,” and no counting calories, weighing food or restricting your diet, which makes it a bit easier to follow. That said, this isn’t a free-for-all. “You still have to eat like a grown-up,” Pilon says. It’s all about moderation: You can still eat whatever you want, but maybe not as much of it. (A slice of birthday cake is OK, he says, but the whole cake isn’t.)

Cons: Going 24 hours without any calories may be too difficult for some — especially at first. Many people struggle with going extended periods of time with no food, citing annoying symptoms including headaches, fatigue, or feeling cranky or anxious (though these side effects can dimish over time). The long fasting period can also make it more tempting to binge after a fast. This can be easily fixed… but it takes a lot of self-control, which some people lack.

RELATED: Does Fasted Cardio Really Burn More Fat?

Photo: Pond5

3. The Warrior Diet

Started by: Ori Hofmekler
Best for: People who like following rules. The devoted.

How It Works: Warriors-in-training can expect to fast for about 20 hours every day and eat one large meal every night. What you eat and when you eat it within that large meal is also key to this method. The philosophy here is based on feeding the body the nutrients it needs in sync with circadian rhythms and that our species are “nocturnal eaters, inherently programmed for night eating.”

The fasting phase of The Warrior Diet is really more about “undereating.” During the 20-hour fast, you can eat a few servings of raw fruit or veggies, fresh juice, and a few servings of protein, if desired. This is supposed to maximize the Sympathetic Nervous System’s “fight or flight” response, which is intended to promote alertness, boost energy, and stimulate fat burning.

The four-hour eating window — which Hofmekler refers to as the “overeating” phase — is at night in order to maximize the Parasympathetic Nervous System’s ability to help the body recuperate, promoting calm, relaxation and digestion, while also allowing the body to use the nutrients consumed for repair and growth. Eating at night may also help the body produce hormones and burn fat during the day, according to Hofmekler. During these four hours, the order in which you eat specific food groups matters, too. Hofmelker says to start with veggies, protein and fat. After finishing those groups, only if you are still hungry should you tack on some carbohydrates.

Pros: Many have gravitated toward this diet because the “fasting” period still allows you to eat a few small snacks, which can make it easier to get through. As the methodology explains (and the “success stories” section of The Warrior Diet website supports), many practitioners also report increased energy levels and fat loss.

Cons: Even though it’s nice to eat a few snacks rather than go without any food for 20-plus hours, the guidelines for what you need to eat (and when) can be hard to follow long-term. The strict schedule and meal plan may also interfere with social gatherings. Additionally, eating one main meal at night — while following strict guidelines of what to eat, and in what order — can be tough. It’s especially hard for those who prefer not to eat large meals late in the day.

RELATED: Want to Try a Fasting Diet? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself

Photo: Twenty20

4. Fat Loss Forever

Started by: John Romaniello and Dan Go
Best for: Gym rats who love cheat days.

How It Works: Not completely satisfied with the IF diets listed above? This method takes the best parts of Eat Stop Eat, The Warrior Diet and Leangains, and combines it all into one plan. You also get one cheat day each week (yay!) — followed by a 36-hour fast (which may be not-so-yay for some). After that, the remainder of the seven-day cycle is split up between the different fasting protocols.

Romaniello and Go suggest saving the longest fasts for your busiest days, allowing you to focus on being productive. The plan also includes training programs (using bodyweight and free weights) to help participants reach maximum fat loss in the simplest way possible.

Pros: According to the founders, while everyone is technically fasting every day — during the hours when we’re not eating — most of us do so haphazardly, which makes it harder to reap the rewards. Fat Loss Forever offers a seven-day schedule for fasting so that the body can get used to this structured timetable and reap the most benefit from the fasting periods. (Plus, you get a full cheat day. And who doesn’t love that?)

Cons: On the flip side, if you have a hard time handling cheat days the healthy way, this method might not be for you. Additionally, because the plan is pretty specific and the fasting/feeding schedule varies from day to day, this method can be a bit confusing to follow. (However, the plan does come with a calendar, noting how to fast and exercise each day, which may make it easier.)

RELATED: Want to Try a Fasting Diet? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself

Photo: Cecilia Par

5. UpDayDownDay ™ Diet (aka The Alternate-Day Diet or Alternate-Day Fasting)

Started by: James Johnson, M.D.
Best for: Disciplined dieters with a specific goal weight.

How It Works: This one’s easy: Eat very little one day, and eat like normal the next. On the low-calorie days, that means one fifth of your normal calorie intake. Using 2,000 or 2,500 calories (for women and men, respectively) as a guide, “fasting” (or “down”) day should be 400 to 500 calories. Followers can use this tool to figure out how many calories to consume on “low-calorie” days.

To make “down” days easier to stick to, Johnson recommends opting for meal replacement shakes. They’re fortified with essential nutrients and you can sip them throughout the day rather than split into small meals. However, meal replacement shakes should only be used during the first two weeks of the diet — after that, you should start eating real food on “down” days. The next day, eat like normal. Rinse and repeat! (Note: If working out is part of your routine, you may find it harder to hit the gym on the lower calorie days. It may be smart to keep any workouts on these days on the tamer side, or save sweat sessions for your normal calorie days.)

Pros: This method is all about weight loss, so if that’s your main goal, this is one to take a closer look at. On average, those who cut calories by 20 to 35 percent see a loss of about two and a half pounds per week, according to the Johnson UpDayDownDay Diet website.

Cons: While the method is pretty easy to follow, it can be easy to binge on the “normal” day. The best way to stay on track is planning your meals ahead of time as often as possible. Then you’re not caught at the drive-through or all-you-can-eat buffet with a grumbling belly.

RELATED: Should I Eat After Every Workout? Experts Weigh In

Food for Thought

It takes our bodies time to adjust, and some require more than others. “Be cautious at first, and start slowly ,” Shanks recommends.

While these five methods are the most well-known in terms of integrating periods of fasting into your eating schedule, there are many other similar philosophies based on meal timing. For those who prefer a more fluid, less rigid method, there’s also the concept of eating intuitively. Primal Diet proponent Mark Sisson is a supporter of the Eat WHEN (When Hunger Ensues Naturally) method, where dieters simply eat whenever their bodies ask them to. However, some believe this can also lead to overeating or overconsumption of calories, since our bodies’ hunger-induced choices may be more caloric than otherwise.

Of course, fasting — regardless of the method — isn’t for everyone. If you have any medical conditions or special dietary requirements, it’s smart to consult a doctor before giving intermittent fasting a shot. Anyone who tries it should also plan to be highly self-aware while fasting. If it’s not agreeing with you, or if you need to eat a little something to hold you over, that’s just fine. It takes our bodies time to adjust, and some require more than others. Keep in mind that hormones can make it harder for women to follow a fasting plan than for men. “Be cautious at first, and start slowly ,” Shanks recommends. If it doesn’t make you feel better, try something different, or accept the fact that maybe fasting isn’t for you.

RELATED: The Raw Food Diet: Here’s What You Need to Know

5 Tips for Starting Your First Fast

If you do give fasting a try, keep these general tips in mind:

  • Drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated will make the fasting periods much easier to get through, Pilon says.
  • Fast overnight. Throw yourself a bone and aim to fast through the night. That way, you’re (hopefully) sleeping during at least eight of those hours.
  • Rewire your thought process. “Think of fasting as taking a break from eating,” Pilon says, not as a period of deprivation. It can be a way to break up the monotony of worrying about what you need to eat next and when. This is the mindset that will allow you do follow a fasting plan long-term, he says.
  • Overcommit. It may seem counterintuitive, but the best plan is often to start when you’re busy — not on a day when you’ll be sitting on the couch wanting to snack.
  • Hit the gym. Pairing intermittent fasting with consistent exercise will help you get better results. “It doesn’t have to be hardcore or crazy. It can be something as simple as a full-body strength training routine two or three times per week,” Shanks says.

Originally published May 2014. Updated June 2017.

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