Q:Dear Tom, I already know you preach losing no more than two pounds per week. But doesthis apply to everyone? I’m currently at a 32% body fat level. I wascurious to know if it’s ok to lose up to three pounds per weekuntil I get to a 25%-20% body fat level. Will my body fight againstsuch a loss? Thanks in advance for your time, knowledge, and responseto this matter.
A: It’s usually best to aim for one or two pounds per week of weightloss. This is the recommendation of most legitimate and respected dieticians,nutritionists, exercise physiologists and exercise organizations such as theAmerican College of Sports Medicine and I’m in 100% agreement with this guideline.
However, it’s definitely ok to lose three pounds per week when you have alot to lose. The more you have, the more you can safely lose per weekbecause fat loss is relative to total body weight. Makes sense, right?
Generally the rule is that it’s safe to lose up to 1% of your total bodyweight per week, so if you weigh 300 lbs to start, then 3 lbs a week is areasonable goal.
But there IS a catch.
What really matters is not how much weight is lost, but how much FAT is lost.Where did the weight come from? Are we talking about fat weight or lean body mass?
For example, let’s take a 260 pound man who has a lot of body fat to lose -let’s call it 32%. With 32% fat, a 260 pounder has 83.2 pounds of body fatand 176.8 pounds of lean mass. Using this example, let’s look at a few possiblescenarios with losses ranging from two to four pounds per week.
Weight Loss Scenario 1:
Suppose our 260 pound subject loses four full pounds instead of the recommendedone to two pounds per week. Is this bad? Well, let’s see:
If he loses a half a percent of body fat, here are his body composition results:
31.5% body fat
80.6 lbs fat
175.4 lbs lean body mass
Out of the four pounds lost, 2.8 pounds were fat and 1.2 were lean mass.Not a disaster, but not good either. Thirty percent of the weight lostwas lean tissue.
Weight Loss Scenario 2:
If he loses a half a percent of body fat and only three pounds, here arehis results:
31.5% body fat
80.9 lbs fat
176.1 lbs lean body mass
These results are better. Although he lost less body weight than scenario one,in this instance, 2.3 pounds of fat and only 0.7 lbs of lean mass were lost.
Weight Loss Scenario 3:
What if he only lost two pounds? Here are the results:
31.5% body fat
81.2 lbs fat
176.8 lbs lean body mass
These results are perfect. Even though our subject has only lost two pounds,which seems slow, 100% of the two pound weight loss came from fat.
Weight Loss Scenario 4:
Now let’s suppose he loses three pounds but he loses more body fat: .8%
31.2% body fat
80.2 lbs fat
176.8 lbs lean body mass
These are the best results of all. When the weekly fat loss is .8%, 100% ofthe three pounds lost is fat.
So the answer to the question is yes – it’s safe to lose more than two poundsper week… IF the weight is all fat or at least mostly fat with minimal leanmass losses.
One thing you should know is that water weight losses sometimes tend todistort these numbers, especially when you first begin a new nutrition andtraining program. It’s very common to lose 3 – 5 pounds in the first weekon nearly any diet and exercise program especially those that involvelow carbs. Just remember, its NOT all fat – It’s water!
The lean body mass number isn’t just muscle. Lean mass reflects all fatfree tissue, including water weight. That’s why you shouldn’t panic ifyou see small drops in lean body mass – some of it is water.
When you lose large amounts of lean mass and/or if your lean mass dropsconsistently week after week, that’s an indication that you’re definitelylosing muscle tissue.
The best advice I can give you is to focus on losing fat, not losing weight.If you lose three to five pounds per week, and you know it’s all fat, nomuscle – more power to you!
Of course the only way to know this is with body composition testing. For home self-testing, I recommendthe Accu measure as first choice. I suggest using theTanita bio-electric impedance analysis scale only as second choice behindcalipers for home self testing because this device gives some funky readingssometimes.
Even better, get a professional caliper test from an experienced tester ata health club, or even a water (hydrostatic) or air (bod pod) displacement test.
From literally hundreds of client case studies, I can confirm that it’srare to lose more than 1.5 – 2.0 lbs of weight per week without losing somemuscle along with it. If you lose muscle, you are damaging your metabolismand this will ultimately lead to a plateau and weight re-gain.
Lack of patience is one of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes tolosing weight. If you want your weight loss to be PERMANENT, you have to takeoff the pounds slowly.
This is one of the toughest lessons that overweight men and women have tolearn – and they can be very hard learners. They fight kicking and screaming,insisting that they CAN and they MUST lose it faster.
Then you have these TV shows that ENCOURAGE the masses that rapid, crash weight loss is okay.
This makes it even harder for those of us who are legitimate fitness andnutrition professionals because our clients say, “But Tom, look at so and so onTV – he lost 20 pounds in a week!”
Sure, but do you have any idea what the long term consequences are for so and so? Yes,that’s right – when you lose too much too fast, your lose lean tissue, you slow your metabolism, and your odds of gaining every ounceback – plus a few pounds extra for interest – are about 95% (not to mentionthe health and psychological consequences)
Short term thinking, folks… foolish. There are hundreds of ways to lose weight quickly, but only ONE WAY to lose fat and keep it off in the long term.
Do it the right way – the healthy and sensible way. Take off the pounds slowly with an intelligent nutrition and exercise program – and you will never have to take thepounds off again – they will be gone forever the first time. No more yo-yoing.
If this makes sense to you and you need help with the healthy, sensible way to take off the fat (while keeping all the muscle), then my Burn the Fat,Feed The Muscle program will teach you how. No gimmicks or false promises.Just the truth – you have to work at it and you have to be patient.Go to www.BurnTheFat.com to get started.
My very best to you,
Tom Venuto, NSCA-CPT, CSCS
Fat Loss Coach
BURN THE FAT SUCCESS STORY OF THE WEEK
Tom, I do not know if this will ever reach you personally as I know you area very busy man and good for you you should be. You have so much to offeranyone who is willing to listen, get off their butt and “burn the fat”.
For years I did exactly as you have said over and over, that being tryingfad diets, losing weight for sure (that was never really a problem for meas I was a former wrestler who “sucked” huge amounts of weight over shortperiods) but I never kept it off.
As I grew older the weight just kept piling up. I am 6 feet tall with thebuild of a natural athlete and topped off at an unhealthily 315 pounds.I would set early year goals only to have them fall apart by March.
There have been years when I would lose 30-40 lbs using my wrestler “suckthe weight” mentality, but as I said it would not stay off and when it cameback it would bring “friends”.
I am 52 and still very much involved in trying to be an athlete-my currentform of competition is golf – a sport which I can still co
mpete at at a veryhigh level.
To make a long story short, at the end of last year I realized with a shockthat I was losing body functionality. All these years, I rode the wave of mynatural physical ability.
However, here I was at 52 and at 310 lbs and would end a one day 36 hole golfmatch (I always walk–I hate carts) completely exhausted and hurting–I wouldstagger to my car or to the bar and instead of going to the gym I would do theeasier 12 ounces curls used to wash down a few dozen wings and of course somepizza pie.
I was, to say the least, disgusted with myself. So here I was, again, in lateDecember making more New Years resolutions when I hade the great good fortune tocome across your “burn the fat feed the muscle” e-book.
I bought it and without the least hesitation I can say it changed my life andprobably saved it as well. I know that sounds a little over the top, but all Ican say is if anyone doubts what I am saying-buy the book, live it even forthree to four months and then YOU make the call.
For sure the book contains tons of useful information but it is Tom’s ongoingsupport that keeps you going.
It is his refreshing attitude that hey–if you want to get thin it is NOT aneasy task it takes real work. I know that is not what most of us want to hear–we want to hear about a magic pill that we take and POOOFFF we are thin and inshape, however what Tom says is the TRUTH.
What I can tell you is that I have been back in the gym now for the first timein over 20 years and have changed my eating habits to reflect Tom’s suggestionsand as they say the proof is in the pudding, I am now at 260 lbs and on myway to 200–my ultimate goal.
I am in better physical shape then I have been in in over 20 years and feel fantastic,at least most of the time. Not all the time to be sure. There are days when I goto the gym and say what the hell am I doing here this is crazy, this hurts, I do notwant to do this.
However, instead of like the past when I would slowly quit this time with Tom’sunspoken encouragement I have worked through these tough times and the end result,while certainly NOT easy getting there, have been nothing short of incredible.Could I have done this without Tom’s help, yes, but the fact remains I did notfor over 20 years.
I am grateful. It is not only what Tom has to say that is important. It is theperson that Tom is that has even longer lasting value. For sure, I do not know himpersonally, but His words have lifted me out of a fat-creating life into a leanmuscle-building life with a realistic attitude of being in it for the long haulnot expecting immediate results and for that I will be forever grateful.
TOM’S COMMENT: Thank you so much Steve, for sharing, and congratulations! You are a lean burn-the-fat machine and well on your way to that long term goal. I have NO DOUBT you will reach that goal in style and please do update us on your continued success (take some pics for us!) Awesome and inspiring is all I can say.
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