Most people want their weight loss to be quick and drastic, which is totally understandable, but that strategy can seriously backfire and cause you to gain all the weight back afterward. If you’re just starting out on your journey, a goal you may be thinking of setting for yourself is to drop one to two pounds per week. It sounds doable, but you may be wondering whether it is really safe and how to lose two pounds per week.
The good news is those numbers fall right in the acceptable ballpark, according to Jonathan Valdez, RDN, the owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The safest weight to lose is one to two pounds per week,” he says. Not only that, people who lose weight gradually and steadily (about one to two pounds per week) are also more successful at keeping weight off in the long run, per the CDC.
Many factors could affect the actual number of pounds you lose week by week, though. Nutrition, for one, plays a huge role. “And specifically, calories in and out,” Valdez says. “Other factors include diseases related to metabolism, genetics, physical activity, stress, and amount of sleep you get every night.”
He points out that losing more than two pounds a week can cause electrolyte imbalances, menstruation irregularities, constipation, fatigue, muscle loss, hair loss, and gallstones.
What can I do to lose two pounds a week?
If you want to see a progress of two pounds a week, you’ll want to stay in a calorific deficit, which is the shortage of calories relative to the amount needed to maintain your current weight, explains Valdez.
“The best way to lose two pounds per week is by cutting back your caloric intake by 500 calories and by exercising to reduce 500 calories per day,” he says.
That doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want as long as you stay within those parameters, though. “Overall, the calories you do take in should come from healthier options, such as whole grains and lean protein. To cut back your calories, you can increase your fruit, vegetable, fiber, and lean protein intake,” says Valdez.
How many calories should I eat to lose two pounds a week?
Valdez advises against any diet that recommends you consume less than 1,200 calories. Figuring out an exact caloric intake for you can be complicated, especially if you are also exercising. “It would be best to seek a registered dietitian nutritionist for assistance,” he says.
If you still want to do it on your own, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is a great model to follow, according to Valdez. The guidelines recommend making sure you get these in your meals every day.
- Two cups of fruits per day
- Two to three cups of vegetables per day
- Six to eight cups of fluids per day or as long as your urine in the morning is a tint of yellow
- Twenty-five to 30 grams of lean protein three times per day
How much do I need to work out to lose two pounds a week?
“To lose two pounds a week, you are looking at about a 7,000 calorie weekly deficit, or 1,000 per day. This deficit should be created mostly through diet and supplemented with exercise,” says FitOn trainer Bree Mitchell, CPT. “Assuming you are cutting about 500 to 750 calories from your diet, you will want to create the remaining 250 to 500 calorie deficit through exercise and increased movement.”
ICYMI, physical activity ramps up NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which can make a significant impact on your how many calories you burn daily. Mitchell notes that besides hitting the gym, there are habits you can incorporate into your routine to maximize NEAT
- take the stairs
- Take calls while standing, pacing, or walking
- Park further away
- Get up from your desk and move around periodically
- Stretch in the morning, mid-day, and before bed
- Take your dog for a walk
- Play with your kids
- Do chores around the house
But if you’re looking for the perfect workout plan to help you lose two pounds per week, Mitchell suggests a combination of strength training and additional cardio to torch more calories in the short run.
Although strength training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio, it is still an extremely important part of a long-term, healthy, and well-balanced exercise routine to raise your lean body mass and power your metabolism.
“This plan is intended to be implemented for a set period of time with the goal of body fat reduction specifically, and the idea is to increase activity for an extra daily caloric deficit and then scale back periodically so the body doesn’t get over taxed ,” she notes.
How long do I need to work out to lose two pounds a week?
Mitchell says aim to move for 60 to 90 minutes each day by incorporating daily cardio of your choice for one hour per day and adding full body strength training two to three times per week.
“Variety is key and will keep this program fun. Plan out your cardio each week and try to incorporate new and fun ways to move and sweat,” says Mitchell. “Your body will also benefit from different types of movement—making it both fun and effective!”
She recommends the following for cardio.
- Stair climber or elliptical
- Kick boxing
- Any cardio-based group fitness class
Mitchell notes that “we are all individuals with unique metabolisms. This means that our bodies’ current caloric intake and burn rate are unique to us.” They have to do with what you have been doing consistently with both diet and exercise prior to making the decision to reduce body fat, as well as your overall lifestyle and which life stage you’re in. Mitchell adds that it is important to listen to your body and take days off when needed.
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