Rapid fat loss diets claiming you can lose a pound of fat per day are back again. In the past year, I noticed at least four best-sellers that claimed you could lose 7 pounds in 7 days, 10 pounds in 10 days, 14 pounds in 14 days, or even 30 pounds in 30 days. I’m sure there were many more that I missed. The fact that all of these books or programs were best sellers shows that people are buying into it. But can you really lose a pound of fat a day? (FAT, that is, not WEIGHT)…
Obviously, if we were talking about body weight and not body fat, we could all agree that you could actually lose MORE than a pound in a day – with ease.
I’ve cut 8 pounds overnight to make a weight class in the past (in already ripped condition no less), and I have wrestler friends who have cut twice that or more in less than 24 hours.
But that’s not fat loss, that’s dehydration. It’s also transient – like I said, “overnight” (and “overnight” describes how fast it comes back on too!)
Based on my experience alone, I have no doubt you can lose 7 pounds in 7 days or 10 pounds in 10 days – it doesn’t even have to take that long. BUT….
Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. So let’s get clear, in this post, we are talking about FAT LOSS.
So… CAN you really lose a pound of fat per day?
How about I start right out with the answer to the question:
Yes. It IS possible… But.…
- Not for everyone (depends on your starting point)
- Not for long (rate of fat loss will slow with time)
- Not easily (takes butt-busting hard work and discipline)
- Even harder for women (unfair, but true)
- And, frankly, it’s just not likely to happen (for all the above reasons)
Now let me explain my answer.
If you look at the science, you’ll usually hear that the maximum rate of fat loss that CAN realistically be achieved, for most people, is around 2.5, 3.0, maybe 3.5 lbs of fat per week. Even that will be a stretch for petite women or anyone who is short and / or small-framed, and in any case, this is an above average rate of fat loss (everyone repeat after me: “results not typical”).
People who are already at a lean or even average body fat levels CANNOT lose fat that quickly because they do not have a high enough basal metabolic rate or total daily energy expenditure. They simply can’t create a large enough deficit without hours and hours of exercise a day, if it’s possible at all. If they try to force it, they will lose lean body mass and likely suffer the effects of overtraining. (Overweight people can sustain a larger calorie deficit without any negative effects or fear of muscle loss).
This promise/pitch, “lose a pound of fat a day” has resurged in the past year, but it’s an old one. How long have you been seeing those ads that say, “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” and so on? For ages, right? And those nutjobs who still promote HCG for weight loss – even they use the claim “lose a pound a day” to sell their bogus garbage.
Of course, in many of these cases, the distinction is not made between body fat and body weight.
A pound a day in body weight is not that difficult, but it’s also not that desirable if it includes mostly water weight and other fat-free mass.
But there is no science to support claims that extremely fast fat loss – on par with a pound of fat per day – is possible for anyone but overweight and obese people.
Of course if someone is fairly lean to start with, they might not have all that many pounds of extraneous fat to lose to begin with, so thinking about “30 pounds in 30 days” may be a moot point anyway (but it’s these people who want to cut the last 7, 10 or 14 pounds in 7, 10 or 14 days who are the most at risk – at risk of getting ripped off by scams and at most risk of doing themselves more harm than good, even if that harm is just the frustration of seeing the pounds pile back on later).
Programs that make these types of rapid fat loss claims usually have some new hook based on manipulating hormones, a “magic pill,” or some super-duper workout program….
But manipulation of hormones can only take you so far. Your body’s endocrine systems are very tightly regulated.
Most “fat burner” supplements are a complete waste of money…
Training can only take you so far too because there are only so many hours in the day and fat loss is also a math equation involving calories in versus calories out.
The bottom line answer to the question, “how do you lose a pound of fat a day?” is:
Achieve a 3500 calorie per day deficit….
However, the math doesn’t work for anyone but very overweight or obese people. So, outside of a “Biggest Loser” ranch / obese person type of situation – it will not be practical to achieve this.
Beyond lack of practicality, it may very well be biologically not possible to exceed a certain rate of fat loss per pound of fat mass on your body.
Research from the University of New Mexico has suggested that there is in fact a limit on the amount of fat a person can transfer from adipose tissue into energy on a daily basis during a calorie deficit. This first place I heard about this research several years ago was from Lyle McDonald, who was writing a book about a scientific approach to rapid fat loss.
The speed of energy transfer is, not surprisingly, based on how much body fat a person has to begin with. The research paper, titled, “a limit on the energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia,” gave a specific number on the maximum rate of fat oxidation and energy transfer:
“A limit on the maximum energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia is deduced from experimental data of underfed subjects maintaining moderate activity levels and is found to have a value of (290+/-25) kJ/kgd. A dietary restriction which exceeds the limited capability of the fat store to compensate for the energy deficiency results in an immediate decrease in the fat free mass (FFM).”
This says that the limit is 290+/- 25 KJ/kg/d, which is a maximum energy transfer rate of 31 kcal/lb of fat per day.
So, if you’re a 180 pound male and you’re fairly lean at 10% body fat, you have 18 lbs of fat. 31 kcal X 18 = 558 kcal deficit. That pans out to only 1.1 lbs of fat loss per week. Beyond that you’re likely to lose fat free mass.
Now take the guy who is 280 lbs and 37% body fat, which is 103 lbs of fat. 31kcal X 103 lbs of fat = 3193 kcal per day, which is close to a pound of fat a day which could be safely lost – 6.4 lbs per week to be precise… and there you have it! How to lose a pound of fat per day: A) be obese (or at least a pretty BIG person), B) create a massive 3500 calorie per day deficit.
This was published in a theoretical biology journal, so I suppose you could argue that these numbers are speculative or just estimations. However, these findings are consistent with other research (2) which has clearly shown that obese individuals can lose fat faster than lean people (and nutrition programs and goals therefore, have to be adjusted by body type, including your starting body fat percentage)
It’s why pre-contest bodybuilders usually aim for a weight loss of only about a pound a week – intentionally very slow fat loss. And it’s why contestants on the Biggest Loser could lose 6 pounds a week of pure fat or more (add water weight loss on top of that for really dramatic double-digit weekly weight loss).
Could an obese person lose 30 pounds of fat (not just weight) in 30 days?
Probably yes, although it wouldn’t be easy. Some very overweight people might not even be able to do the amount of exercise to achieve the necessary daily calorie expenditure, so even if they can biologically lose the fat, they may not be able to pull it off in the real world.
Most of the time, for most people, I recommend the slow and steady approach.
Admittedly however, there are times when you’re up against a deadline and you feel that you must achieve fat loss at the maximum possible rate. That may not be impatience per se, it’s sometimes a necessity – like when you have a photo shoot, contest, filming, or even personal reasons like vacation where you have an appearance slated for the beach or the Vegas pool scene… and time is running out.
I’ve met plenty of folks who are willing to “suffer” a bit (“work hard,” if you prefer), for several weeks to get maximum fat loss despite the discomfort and discipline it requires. So…
Here’s my advice if you must lose fat quickly:
1. 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss is typical and it’s still good general advice. But it is possible for an active person with an average or larger frame and fairly size able fat reserve to realistically and practically lose 2.5 to 3.0 pounds of fat per week. Maybe 3.5 lbs. This is what I would call a rapid fat loss program, meaning that it’s faster than typical. Be ready to bust your ass and exert monk-like discipline (most likely with a high protein, restricted carb diet and some serious training).
2. The more fat you have, the faster you can lose it; the leaner you are, the slower you must lose it in order to preserve lean tissue. Therefore, the claim that anyone and everyone can safely lose fat rapidly at a rate at or near a pound a day, regardless of their starting bodyfat, is false. If you’re very overweight, faster fat loss is possible. Remember, fat loss depends on a caloric deficit and big people can more easily create a large deficit than small people.
3. Rapid fat loss is not for everyone. Regardless of your starting body size and body fat level, if you have ANY history of binge eating or yo-yo dieting (aka weight cycling), definitely take the slow and steady road and focus on lifestyle habits and behavior changes. Forget about “diets” let alone rapid weight loss diets.
If you want more information on achieving maximum fat loss without doing anything extreme, check out my book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle and look up the “Advanced Fat Loss Strategies” in the last chapter.
Train hard and expect success,
Tom Venuto, author of
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, The Bible of Fat Loss
Get Burn the Fat:
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilding and fat loss coach. He is also a recipe creator specializing in fat-burning, muscle-building cooking. Tom is a former competitive bodybuilder and is today a full-time fitness writer, blogger, and author. His book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle is an international bestseller, first as an ebook and now as a hardcover and audiobook. Tom’s book about emotional eating and long-term weight maintenance, The Body Fat Solution, was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community with over 51,000 members worldwide since 2006. Click here for membership details
1. Alpert SS, A limit on the energy transfer rate from the human fat store in hypophagia, Journal of Theoretical Biology. 7: 233(1) 1-13. 2004. University of New Mexico. [pubmed]
2. Hall, KD., What is the required energy deficit per unit of weight loss? Int J Obesity. 32(3): 573-576. 2008 Laboratory of Biological Modeling, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892 [pubmed]
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Is it ever safe to cut calories more to burn fat faster?
I think the slow and steady route is definitely more practicable and sustainable for the average person.
I have lost track of the number of times that I have attempted to accelerate the fat loss process only to throw in the towel by the end of the first week. For me this meant doing 1-2 hours of high intensity cardio a day and cutting calories to near starvation levels. I was only able to tolerate doing this for a very short time before hunger pangs and cravings got the best of me. I decided it wasn’t worth the perpetual soreness, fatigue and hunger pangs in order to lose a few extra pounds and inches in record time.
Once I adjusted my expectations and allowed myself a longer period of time to accomplish my goals I was able to lose fat steadily without undermining the quality of my life. I know it’s cliche, but “Fat loss is a marathon and NOT a sprint.” Once people approach it in this manner as opposed to undertaking drastic measures they will not only be more successful long term, but they will be more apt to enjoy the process. Fat loss doesn’t have to be a “miserable” experience if you go about it the right way.
Tom, what about if you were to eat enough protein to sustain your lean body mass plus 10% and then go for the 3500 calorie deficit that should burn the fat and leave the muscle alone shouldn’t it? I am in the 260 lbs with a lean body mass plus 10% being 198 lbs.
People carrying a high amount of weight/ body fat are less likely to lose lean mass in a deficit and high protein diets help protect against lean mass loss even in leaner people. But i think the whole point of my article was to point out that while its POSSIBLE for some (large highly active) people to burn a larger amount of fat than what is typically recommended, we should perhaps question the wisdom of that decision and focus on more healthy, safe, sustainable realistic rates of weekly fat loss.
Tom, I play squash quite periodically…I mean I’m a fanatic…and I’m also guessing that you might be aware of the calorie loss there is about 517 per 30 minutes…meaning in 3 hours u can lose up to 3500 calories… nevertheless, I cannot lose my body fat…I have cut down on oils and fatty foods although I don’t hold back on eating well…considerably less than the normal amounts I eat….I’m a 242-250 pounder measuring 6’4 and I used to weigh around the 198 lbs before when I played pro-squash…any tips? I do put in the effort and I’m ready to torture myself in sports :P
Athletes can burn an enormous amount of calories…. but you can out-eat almost any amount of activity… and hungry athletes often do. Focus on ensuring a caloric deficit, not just a high caloric burn; that takes nutritional discipline and good math.
Yeah I agree….I can eat so much after practice although I don’t. I am more of a thirsty kind…I don’t drink alcoholic beverages but I can’t sustain the need to drink all beverages excluding gaseous drinks…
Would the beverages be the reason for the unapparent weight loss?
liquid calorie-containing beverages are notorious culprits. I know MANY people who changed ONE THING in their diet.. in their entire lifestyle for that matter … they cut out a heavy soda habit (or liquid calories habit) and that alone did the trick. … They cleaned up the rest of their diet even more later and results got even better
Tom, You never mention the hCG diet, which allows you to burn fat very rapidly WITHOUT BEING HUNGRY on 500 calories a day because you are metabolizing fat stores in your liver which are supplying 1500 calories or more to add to your 500 calories of food. (Living on the fat of the land, so to speak.) The fat is being metabolized due to the addition of certain amino acids (homeopathically). I just got off a 2-week hCG diet and I can tell you that I was truly never hungry. The food, of course, was very restricted, and I just got tired of it and went off the diet after losing a total of 12 lbs. I plan to stay off for 3-4 weeks and then plan to go back for another shot at losing 5-10 lbs. Also plan to keep what I lost. Not that difficult because there is a new set-point.
a) I DID mention the HCG diet (cough)
b) I’m thinking you must be new around here since we’ve debunked HCG more than once here at Burn the Fat Blog, based on what peer-reviewed research says
c) the fact that you mentioned homeopathic HCG completely discredits any argument you have even further
d) please educate yourself – the HCG research is listed at the bottom of this article: https://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2013/03/the-hcg-diet-weight-loss-scam.php
e) good luck
I’m not a body builder…or very athletic anymore for that matter…used to be though…but I recently decided I needed to put in the effort to start living a more healthy lifestyle. I had let things get a bit out of hand for various reasons…anyway…I’m 35 years old and close to 6’3″ and 10 days ago I weighed in at 212 lbs (wearing cargo shorts, t shirt and flip flops) I weigh myself every morning wearing those same articles of clothing…I have lost 5 lbs in the last 10 days. I’m no expert but I’m assuming that some(if not half) of that is water weight…still the loss has me really motivated. I’ve been able to lose 0.5 lb a day by doing 1 hour of cardio a day, combined with a restricted calorie diet…I’m averaging 800-900 calories a day after the cardio is factored in….I have eaten nothing but turkey, grilled chicken, tuna, salmon, fruits, vegetables and salad, yogurt, cheerios(I have to have them!..lol), skim milk, eggs, salsa, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and yellow mustard. That’s it…nothing else has gone into my body. I have only had water and green tea to drink…no coffe, no soft drinks, no juice…needless to say it is a very bland and boring diet…I miss my cheeseburgers, chips and queso and beer…haha…but I’m sticking with it…my goal is to get back to 190 lbs. I don’t expect that the 0.5 lbs a day is going to continue but it’s been nice seeing that kinda progress so far…keeps me focussed on the diet.
One very legit benefit of a “quick start” that produces a large first initial weight loss: It’s motivating! congrats on your first week. The real test is what happens a month, three months, six months, a year from now. If you haven’t already, make sure you start hitting the weights… very low calorie diet + cardio is not friendly to lean body mass. Add in the weights, and you may find you can eat more carbs and calories on the training days and your body composition improves – more important than just the scale going down. Cheers!
I have always understood that fat was too slow of an energy source to keep up with energy deficits that were too extreme. The science behind that is more clear to me now that you cited the energy transfer rate study. I’ve tried several of the gimmicks over the years but I have found none that work like good, clean eating and hard work.
Your advice about taking the slow and steady approach to fat loss and focusing on making lifestyle and behavior changes is advice that I wish more people would follow. I’m amazed at how many people still fall for the “lose 30 pounds in 30 days” hype.
i’m lost around 22 pounds in over 3 months by just adjusting my diet…balanced diet…nothing to do with starvation.
But now, when i need to lose last 10 kgs…i’ve hit the plateu…what do you recommend…start exercising alongwith continue my balanced diet?
P.S.: my long term goal is to be aesthetically muscular…like you!
jas – nice job! Heck yeah – start training – BOTH: weights + cardio – weights top priority and watch the last 10kgs go away for good!
Great….Thanks a lot Tom! :)
Although it is possible, it is just not realistic as everyone will read; even for someone like me who’s had the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine. For the average Joe, it takes time to put on all the excess fat through poor diet and lack of sufficeint movement and will take even more time, dedication and will to get it off THE RIGHT and PERMANENT way. (shrink I should say)
Further, not very many folks are going to resort to being mathematical about their caloric in’s and outs- As busy as everyone is, just aint gonna happen. Counting cals is boring and just too much work althoug it can give you good baseline data.
But hey, fun headline and it got me interested none the less!
Right….. What a coincidence – just a few minutes ago I read about the Xtreme Fat Loss program on how to lose 25lb in 25 days…..Supposedly by combining the cheat day with the fast day and excercising during the fast one can achieve the results. I do have hard time to believe it, but there is this leptin theory at play there. No wonder we all are so confused about all this overload of conflicting information. And I wonder what is going to happen after 25 days…..How fast that fat comes back if one does not continue the regimen that is impossible to follow for life.
Tom, can you please advise on the best brainwave entrainment?
One word: Hype. Just another example of too much confusing information. Again, this extreme stuff is just meant to sell some units. Not realistic or healthy for that matter for anyone, not even professionals. Marion seems to know some stuff, he’s rather young and won Body For Life with Bill Phillips at 20 yrs old or close to it. Now he looks like he does’nt care to follow his own extreme fat loss advice.
I am 200 5’7, been there a while. About two years ago i was 265. Ilost the weight by changing my eating habits and going to the gym 5 days a week. I cant seem to lose anymore weight. I would like to get to 165 but have not lost anymore weight in about four months. Can your program help me start losing again?
Burn the fat, feed the muscle is superb for helping break plateaus because of the feedback loop system that’s built into it. Thats chapter 5 when you read the book. Also this article will help as well: https://www.burnthefatblog.com/archives/2011/01/unexplainable-fat-loss-plateaus-explained.php
it helps a LOT to get very very clear on why plateaus occur. Much easier to troubleshoot physically when you “get it” intellectually first.
When I saw this, I was like ”TOM IS AT IT AGAIN”, but it was all well said. SLOW AND STEADY , but with dedication and determination. And it does take a lot of zeal.
okay tom ,, i will buy your Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle book tomorrow to help me at age 57 to lose fat lbs. i am now down some 34 lbs ,, and want to lose another 40 lbs before
8-6-11 .a lot of egg whites ,, i am back in the gym lifting but am banking on your insite to help me get back my life . 6 ft and 220lbs
another 40lbs would be great plus a knowledge of foods to eat to keep
at the place of health and weight for the rest5 of my life .if i am asking to much , pls. answer me . i am a huge fan of jack La lane and have lifted all my life . yet never reach the goal of fat free lines .
thanks for your websites that offer a life line for us to ask questions ?look fwd to be at my goal !!! mahalo tom ,, aloha nick
My thoughts are that anyone buying into that level of fat loss are in for a huge workload and ultimately disappointment.
I have lost more that a couple of lbs in a week but I cant envision cutting my calories to that extent, a 24500 calorie deficit in a week!! yeh right. I know I could do it but I also know my lean mass would be going and lean mass is so hard to come by.
Think I will stick to my couple of Lb a week target ;)
Hi Tom, love your work. I got Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle years ago. In the last 2 years I have gone from 89kg and 22% body fat to 76kg and 14% body fat, so I can vouch for your methods as well as other research and trial and error as well. I have a couple of questions, though. Going by the above equation I can only have a deficit of .14 x76 x 290Kj/d = 3085kj /4.184 = 737cal/day. Is that deficit spread out over the day, ie 737/24 = 30 cal/hour. If that’s true, then it makes sense that you should have multiple small meals spread through the day. However, if I run for an hour and burn off 600 cal does that mean the other 570 comes from fat free mass. I assume that this can’t be right and that the 737 is the maximum dietary restriction (hypophagia) and that bonus deficits can be produced by exercise. It doesn’t make sense to me that your body would go “you’ve exercised off all the fat you can burn for the day, everything else has to come from muscle”. So therefore, could you have a 737 calorie deficit from diet, burn more calories from exercise and still retain muscle mass? If so, what’s the maximum you could burn through exercise?
the deficit is a total daily deficit. As best as I can figure the max energy transfer/ max deficit numbers are theoretical. I wouldnt look to be thinking that they are absolutes. I would take it this way: go above that and dont think that you WILL lose lean mass, think that the risk of losing lean mass increases. and, the general principle underlying what this formula demonstrates is very true: larger and more overweight individuals can lose fat faster, while leaner individuals must lose fat more slowly. Even if not exact, even if just a generalization, this is useful information for setting realistic goals
There sure is a lot of deception out there in the fitness industry, which only makes me more grateful for the sound, honest, and practical advice that you share with us Tom.
I agree, there certainly are times when you want to cut some fat in a very short period of time, whether you have a beach vacation, a wedding, a reunion, a photo shoot, or a show. But that’s just a small blip on the map when it comes to your overall lifestyle, which is why you need a lifestyle plan such as BFFM to ensure permanent results.
One of the things that I always found fascinating with Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM) is that you can use it to get ripped and adjust your numbers to maintain your permanent results… or take it a step further and use the formulas within the book to gain muscle without the fat. Same structure with minor changes can produce results that meet the goals of many different people.
What I do not like about these rapid fat loss approaches is that it focuses only on one end goal. Drop the last 20 pounds rapidly… and you’ve got to do it in a way that makes you feel exhausted, weak, and irritable. It attaches feelings of ‘Dread’ with exercise, nutrition, and fat loss.
Body sculpting is a work of art. When you take the slow and steady approach you get to enjoy the process. You get to discover so much more about yourself. There isn’t just one goal that you will achieve… it’s a continuous journey that you embrace.
Imagine if Michelangelo rushed through the process of sculpting the statue of David? Get’er done in 30 days. I don’t hear instructors in art classes telling their students, “Here’s the secret to creating your masterpiece as fast as humanly possible… forget about chisels, we’re going to use a sand blaster. Forget about paint brushes, we’re going to use a fire hose to put on that paint.”
Your body is a work of art. Do not rush the process. Discover the joy in the journey.
I LOVE THE FACT THAT YOU CAN SEE THE “ARTISTIC”BEAUTY OF “BODY BUILDING’!I AM SO GLAD YOU POSTED THIS.(:BEST WISHES FROM MY “HEART”…TO YOURS..AMENO
I wanted to say think you for adding the part about “if you have ANY history of binge eating or yo-yo dieting (aka weight cycling)” to this. Recently, my in box has been inundated with e-mails promoting a “lose 25 lbs in 25 days” program. Having actually read the plan, it just seems so eating disorder inducing to me.
Hi Tom, thanks for the HCG article which was really interesting.
With your comments regarding hcg diet I would like to know why you refer to them as ‘nut jobs’?
I did the homeopathic version of the hcg program (oral drops) and lost 24 lbs of fat in 21 days. That was two months ago, I’ve gone back to eating normally and I haven’t put a pound back on. I have now started another round of the diet , currently on day 10 and I have already lost 11 pounds. I would like to point out that I am female and weigh 160 lbs.
What information to you know about the diet?
I refer to them as nut jobs because so many HCG consumers and sellers fall into the category of “true believers” who become blinded to the facts due to their own belief systems or blinded by greed/profit, respectively. HCG has been thoroughly researched and debunked – it’s no more effective than placebo. But homeopathic HCG is so far “out there”, one might as well wear a tin foil hat with that plan. Congratulations on dropping 24 pounds so quickly, but the logical cause of that loss is that you went on a 500 calorie per day starvation diet that came along with the HCG.
By the way Tom, I read your article on hcg and can say that I didn’t suffer from any hunger of have lack of energy etc. The hcg allows the body to turn inessential fat into energy. Anyway, it worked for me but I appreciate that you dont agree with it.
I dont see how someone can read a review of almost a dozen peer-reviewed studies (science) leaving no doubt that HCG – an injectable fertility drug that comes from pregnant women’s urine – is, by itself, ineffective for weight loss and then come back still defending it with only a personal anecdote. On top of the research on the injectable/ prescribed HCG drug, the homeopathic HCG is so bogus that the people who peddle it should be sent to prison.
1) If you knew anything about Tom’s program, you’d know that it is anything but a “one way road” program and in fact the entire basis of the program is that you must eat and exercise for your specific body type and needs/goals.
2)Tom always includes alternate perspectives in articles with scientific evidence related to the claims, and this article is no different. Notice the sources section of this paper, as well as the link to the article on HCG he has provided for Sarah’s convenience.
3)I would like to see Tom as a professor challenged by a bunch of 18 year olds too. Assuming the topic was related to nutrition and fitness (which seems most likely), he would probably lay a smack down on their sorry behinds backed up by several nutritional encyclopeias worth of info and experience filling his mind after years of competitive bodybuilding and personal trainer certification working with thousands of clients and renowned colleagues.
4) I have no idea what corporate America has to do with anything currently being discussed here, but if you wish to insinuate Tom is working on behalf of business and not everyday consumers, obviously you have neglected to read the sections of this article where he slams the supplement industry for overhyped claims that only serve to make money and result in frustrated consumers. I also suggest you see the story where he was offered $1,000 to write an article to peddle a supplement and he turned it down. However, if you’re saying he could never justify himself with his arguments in the corporate world, you only demostrate your own incompetence in formal logic, as he seems to be doing a fine job of backing up each of his points from what I can see here.
Good luck to you in all of your fitness pursuits, and may you lead a long and helthful life!
I call it humor, not insult… and frankly, don’t know how else deal with true believers who refuse to answer the questions, address the issues or present an evidence based argument – other than to poke fun at them (because Im not going to ignore them on my own blog). Life is just too short to take blog and forum arguments seriously from anonymous zealots who refuse to engage in intelligent debate. We all wait with bated breath to see your evidence based argument for HCG for weight loss and as it pertains to this post, how it results in above average fat losses that cannot be explained merely by the 500 kcal per day diet the “HCG diet” puts you on.
Hi Tom, I’ve followed your BFFM with great success, even though I knew a lot about fat loss I still managed to learn many new things and i managed to loose a LOT of weight. With above mentioned steady approach I lost pure fat while maintaining muscle, god some loose skin though lol. Just for argument sake I wanted to know your opinion on theories that state that if you take more fat trough your meals (while cutting carbs) your body will learn how to deal with it better, and start using it as an energy source. I tried to avoid naming it, but here it goes, I’m talking about “anabolic diet” and I am sure you know what am I talking about because you do mention it in BFFM manual but only slightly however. I am not saying that it is better than a balanced diet that BFFM suggest, but I am interested in your opinion in science behind it. Thanks.
If we’re thinking about the same thing, the “anabolic diet” was just a variation on a ketogenic diet. Keto is a valid method of weight loss that does work for some people. its not my diet of choice – i find the rather extreme restrictions make whats left on the eating plan distasteful personally. I also dont like the idea of complete removal of all the starches and concentrated carbs even fruit, especially if that’s represented as the definitive “best way” for everyone. Theres a danger of developing unhealthy (psychologically too) carbophobia and dogma has developed as a result. I do however know overweight/obese individuals who succeeded on keto and I even know some bodybuilders who have used it and bb contest prep gurus who teach it. Its just not my favorite choice. I do advocate carb restriction but with higher protein, not so much higher fat (keto diets are high in fat). There may be some advantages with lower carb approaches, but it Still does come down to a caloric deficit in the end. No magic and nothing really “anabolic” about it, beyond the fact that if fats get too low, it suppresses anabolic hormones, and on topic with this blog post, I dont think keto is any kind of magic bullet for faster fat loss
I’m in pretty good shape at the moment, but I find it very hard to lose the last little bit of fat to have the nice 6 pack. I’m only 5’2, weigh about 150, but pretty stocky. Bench around 335, Squat 405 and dead lift 405. 22 years old male by the way… Any tips on shredding the last little bit of fat??
In the article you stated that shorter people would be harder to lose weight (or fat) so what is the best method? I play basketball 4 times a week for about hour and a half as well and eat pretty well maybe a cheat meal or two every week
Thanks for the article Tom. I indeed went through a fast fat loss program that promoted the manipulation of hormones and although I lost a good 20 lbs in about 12 weeks, my bodyfat readings indicated that I lost a good 8 lbs of muscle, despite the intense metabolic workouts I was doing. Your article explains why and I am grateful for the information!
Do what martin luther king suggested:
“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step. – Martin Lurther King, Jr.
Or what Iacocca said:
“So what do we do? Anything – something. So long as we just don’t sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we’ve satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late.”
Lee Iacocca, Former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation
This is interesting. The 31 kcal/lb/day seems pretty reasonable based on my recent experience. I pushed to 3500kcal of deficit spread over 3 days for 3 and 4 cycles a couple of months ago. I was at about 35# of body fat. I was successful in stripping fat and the water weight came right back after I returned to maintenance/surplus. When I went to 4 cycles like this, the 4th cycle was much less successful. Probably only 1/3 of a pound of fat cut on that cycle. I plan to cut at a much less severe rate over the summer.
I read your book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM) and i thought it was magnificent and inspirational, thanks to that i was able to drop to 10.9% BF all the way from 24%, my question is now i noticed a really slower rate of fat loose, or maybe non-existent it is kinda making me feel like i should give it a rest or something, i’m only 20yrs old. So my question is as follows, Consuming 1500-1900 Calories a day (High protein,low fat,carbs only from Veggies and 2slices of brown bread for breakfast) with a proper Weight training program, would i still be able to lose 1-2lbs fat per week, i’m 155lbs already. Because i’m not seeing any better results and i’m losing hope… my partner is witnessing the same problem. You think we can give this article a try ?
I started at 250 lbs. with 30-something body fat and have worked my weight down to 208 lbs 1.5 years later. I did it with increasing my level of activity, making better choices at mealtimes, and keeping track of my weight on a weekly basis. Slow and steady made sense because I didn’t pack on the pounds overnight so I wasn’t going to lose it overnight. it’s taken a year and a half to get from a size 40 waist to a size 34, with room to take off more. But I also know that I’ll never be 250 lbs again.
When I weighed 280 lbs I had a goal to get to 200 (doctor wanted 180). I changed from a junk food diet to a sensible one following the ADA guidelines. I also started commuting by bike to work. I got to 210 in 3 months. I didn’t add much other exercise until after that. For me 10% of a reasonable weight loss goal per week was realistic. I am now 200 (holding for past few years) and the current goal is to loose 5% more body fat. In a couple of weeks I start a metabolism study at a local hospital in Denver. I am excited to have a DXA scan and see what the doubly labeled water is all about.
A pound of fat a day? Certainly if you have more than 80 pounds to lose.
I can attest to the truth of this. I am one of the fatties right now and am losing like crazy. It’s funny how my thinner friend are kinda jealous. :) I know it will slow the closer I get to my goal and im ok with that. I will keep moving forward. I just want you to know how much your wisdom has helped me thus far. Im looking forward to my bikini body. I think one of the biggest hurdles for me was more than fat loss but changing my thinking and loving myself enough to make the change. No one can do it for me but me. Thanks so much for all the great info and look forward to more. oxoxox
I think you hit the nail right on the head. It’s really all relative, because someone who weighs 400 pounds is burning/taking in a LOT more calories than the person who weighs 200.
It’s a lot easier to make a deficit of 3500 calories a day if you’re normally eating 5000!
You got that right! If you’re already eating less than 3500 calories a day, what are you gonna do to get your 3500 calorie deficit…go to the store and buy one of those magic bottles filled with negative calories? (It’s like magic-just drink it and it immediately subtracts calories from your body! Order now to get in on this new scientific breakthrough before the whole world buys our entire supply and the only person on the planet without a bikini body is you! It’s even better than the earth shattering breakthrough we had last year right when everyone was making new years resolutions!!!!!…or the breakthrough after that when everyone was getting ready to hit the beach!!! Trust me, this one is one million times better and doesn’t require any effort!!!)
Tom, thank you for another great blog.
If I wake up with the extreme motivation to burn an additional 1000 calories per day. If I do so, based on this blog, I should not expect to see a loss in lean body mass.
My stats are:
Current Weight: 239.4
Current Body Fat % 33%
Maximum Fat Transfer Rate: 31
Current Fat Weight 79.24
Allowable Calorie Deficit: 2456 cal (current goal is 1250)
Fat Loss Max Per Day 0.70 lbs
Fat Loss Max Per Week 4.91 lbs
I will step it up a notch….
It’s on baby!!!!
Since this post I can report that I am losing lean body mass with less thanthe 2456 deficit I calcualted as stated above.
There is the posibility that the Omron Hand Device I am using has a high margin of error. One thing for certain is that I am losing inches so I may not be losing too much LBM.
Tom, I just read the comment I wrote and see a few mistakes which I would like to clarify. What is was trying to say it that I have “NOT” done any weight lifting and that in fact I have been eating much less and much better quality of food in that last month without a single pound of weight loss. Two pound weight gain. (It could even be extra water that my body has decided to add on to … don’t know…. body does talk…. but unfortunately not in English. Am in the process of learning body language. I hope I was able to make my above writing a little bit more clear.
If you’re eating significantly less than you were before and the food is healthier yet you still aren’t loosing weight, you may be cutting your calories too rapidly with too aggressive a deficit. It depends upon what body type you are, how your body responds to macronutrient ratios, your activity level compared to yor calorie intake, and the type of exercise you do.
I recommend starting a weight routine, as it will burn an insane amounts of calories and maintain your lean body mass so you don’t loose muscle instead of fat. If your body has put on 3 pounds and you normally didn’t exercise, you may very well have added 3 pounds of muscle to your legs from all of that new walking you’re doing! You must start measuring bodyfat percentage to be able to see if you are gaining fat or muscle. I have gained 3lbs of muscle since I started BFFM two months ago, but I’m young and have less fat to loose and am more accustomed to physical activity compaired to you most likely.
Have you purchased Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle yet? It explains all of this very well and in much greater detail than any of us can post here. Following its strategies, I went from 18.9% bodyfat to 10.5% bodyfat over a two month period, and I intend to continue until I am 6% bodyfat and have seen 8 pack abs (yes, 8) on my body at least one in my life.
Dear Pchadbo, I have written a response to your comment but unfortunately, I think that it is going to be a little further down. Thanks for taking the time to respond to me.
Thanks for the realistic view on female weight loss. I’m petite, over 45, and don’t have a lot of fat weight to lose. I can finally stop beating myself up because I’m not losing fate (or weight in gerneral, for that matter) at the rate I “should”.
If you’re 300 pounds, then obviously u can lose 1 pound a day coz that’s less than 1%. If you’re 100 pounds its gonna be much harder.
Hi. I just read this article and is quite interesting so I will read the others. I appreciate that you have taken a scientific approach to the question of fat-losing.
Interesting title to catch attention. I purchased your book recently and can’t wait to delve into it =)
As soon as I read the title of this posting, the thought that immediately popped into my head was, “weigh 400 lbs”. I have never been obese and am usually around 200lbs with 15-16% body fat. I have tried to hit it hard for a month to quickly drop 15 or 20lbs of excess fat and it just doesn’t happen. I was eventually able to reach my goal body fat percentage of 9%, but it took me about 4 months.
Thanks for shedding some light on the limitations of burning off unwanted fat. Like anything else worth attaining in life, the key to getting lean and ripped is hard work, patience and discipline.
Well, where do I start? I have been obese for several years now. I’m 5ft 11 and am 332 pounds. When I married 19 years ago I was 170 pounds and very active in sports like baseball, hockey and track. I was diagnosed with severe arthritis when I was 19 and was bed ridden for a year because the arthritis hit me like a ton of bricks in my ankle and was unable to walk and therefore almost doubled my weight. After a year I was 305 pounds. Over several years I lost 30 then gained 40……gained 20 lost 30. Its been so up and downhill it is sickening. My wife and I have pretty much eliminated all of the bad stuff out of my diet. From no more pop, chips, chocolate, candy to bad carbs. I eat alot of protein from raw nuts to heavy greens and fruit. It has been even tougher over the last 6 months as I fractured a few ribs at work and was unable to move and thats where I went from 309 to 332 pounds. But over the time I weas out of work, I was diagnosed with sleep apnia, which I found out can stop one from losing weight, my arthritis has gotten worse and has spread to both feet, knees and ankles. BUT I also have gout and am now on a medication to keep my blood pressure down as well as My blood pressure was spiking at 170+ over 125. I do have a big frame and was recently advised by a surgeon to lose at least 100 pounds or more due to the risk of heart attack and the stress on my joints.aside from starvation my wife and I have tried everything. Weve revamped my diet several times to try different things. Going from a 34 inch waist to a 48 inch waist is hell. Especially since you try to do what you can to avoid it AND fix it.At least I think we have. I do know that I need more cardio. Last time I did cardio I lost 26 pounds in 6 weeks but gained it all back plus more so I had thought it was water weight I lost. Do you maybe recommend a thorough detox and cleansing to start or what can I do as it is getting harder and harder to push on like this.
Good to hear some research backed information is this market. Keep up the good work.
Hello, I’m a 25yr old female who weighs 145.2 lbs, 40.3% of that body fat!!!! (omg! I know! Lol) I have tried almost every diet out there! Of course nothing makes me lose the fat that has been chillin around my belly…I go to the gym 1 hr a day, 3 days a week at the least, and try not to eat any “bad” carbs…I sometimes just give up and think that the only possible way to lose all this fat is by surgery! Then I came across your book and started looking at the before and after pictures of everyone…is it really possible?? If I put my heart into it can I really be able to put on a 2 piece bikini and make heads turn, not in disgust, lol?? I don’t want a body builder body but I just want to be really toned and feel good about myself..especially for my husband, my uncomfortableness has really affected our intimate relationship over the last couple years….and I’m honestly ready to stop with the quick fixes and dig a little deeper into getting lasting results..thank you for your time :)
I save all of your emails and had a question on this one from June that I just read. Is there a place to go to find data on how many calories a person with a certain body type, size and activity level will normally burn in a day, exclusive of exercise?
I purchased your e-book a while back. I’m a numbers guy and I think for me, the fun of watching the calorie deficit every day combined with the discipline of following a well defined program, would help me be successful in my weight loss efforts. Having good numbers on calorie burn would fill in the unknown that I don’t currently have.
By the way, your articles are well written and believable. Thanks for your help.
Hello Tom! I’m from Brazil and would like to know if there is a version of his book translated into Portuguese. I love your work. Thank you.
I count on the help of good friend, Google Translator :)
I was always heavy as a child. Kids would tease me all the time. One friend told me to join a sports team (like volleyball, basketball, etc..) So, I did, and when we’d run and exercise, I’d get made fun of, cuz I was so slow, and I’d also get made fun of because I was red in the face, and was acting if I was out of air. A couple months later, the bulling went to the max. So, I quit school, cuz I was too embraced. Today, I’m 27 years old, and still heavy. I wanted to learn how to lose weight. So, I got on your site, and I saw this post. I was like, “Thank God!!” Because I had a Wedding to go to in a week, and I don’t want to come looking as if I don’t care. So, I decided to take this weight-loss program. I saw you had to pay, and I’m not all that rich. So, I’m reading this little mini corse! So far, I like it! :)
Do you count beans / other legumes as “carbs”? I’m wondering because I eat lots of protein from them and I’m having a hard time losing fat (currently about 14-15%)
beans and legumes are typically placed in the carbs category (starchy aka complex carbs), though they do contain plant based protein. If you are having a hard time losing fat, you are not consistently in a calorie deficit. Your choice of high quality nutrient dense food matters on many levels, but if youre stuck at a fat loss plateau, go back to calories and establish or re-establish your calorie deficit.
You are absolutely right, of course. However things are slightly different for extremely obese individuals who are consuming enormous amounts of food. These people can consume in excess of 10,000 Kcals a day! On a diet of just 1,500Kcals or less a day they have a deficit of over 8,000Kcals and that means they are able to lose a great deal more fat than someone reducing their intake by only 500 or 1,00 Kcals a day.
Jon Brower Minnoch, an American who stood at 6’1”,achieved the biggest weight loss ever recorded. He used to weigh about 1,400 pounds. He was then placed on a diet of 1,200 calories per day. After 16 months, he had lost 924 pounds! That is getting on for 2lbs a day!
Mike, thanks – Interesting case study. TWO lbs a day – Now THAT is “RAPID” fat/weight loss!
Love your newsletter!! You help me every time I read them! Just to let u know, you are making a difference in my life!!
Thank you for these informative articles – I’m trying to become more educated on the facts involving rapid weight loss. Last year I lost 45 pounds in five months by practicing clean eating (and in turn, greatly decreased caloric intake) but experienced the side effect of hair loss. I’m once again changing my eating habits to clean eating again, but would like to know what I can do to prevent hair loss while losing weight quickly? I take biotin supplements, but am not convinced of how effective they are when going through rapid weight loss.
Thanks in advance!
Kristy, I dont have a definitive answer to that question, but my first intuition is dont restrict calories so much that you create the potential for nutrient deficiencies that might create hair loss… or cause any other health problem of side effect. This is a good point to bring up – because a lot of discussion about the negatives of rapid weight loss doesn’t focus on the nutritional content thats in a very low calorie diet. For sure take a multi vitamin/mineral – perhaps an EFA supplement, but when calories are so low as to produce a large deficit, the potential for deficieny increase. Another argument for slower weight loss, smaller deficit and more food. For those who insist on large deficit, low food intake and faster fat loss, the lower the calories go, the more important the quality of the food becomes.
So true. Do it slow and steady just once….and keep it off for life. You’ll be ingrained with all the daily habits of lean people, when doing it slow. I’m five years into my fat loss and I still burn fat all day long(I ride a Mountain Bike 3x/week, climbing steep hills). I say in 3 years….I will be at my target bodymass ratio. Be patient!
I’ve always had questions with the 3500 calorie deficit to lose a pound of fat. It seems to methodical and I am sure the body does not work that way. How does the body decide where to pull that loss from (muscle vs fat)? I’ve always heard that you should eat the calories for the weight you want to way. Not sure if you are in agreeance with this. For example, I am 5’10 and 235 lbs and about 32% bodyfat. I ideally would like to be 185 with about 10-15% bodyfat. The BMR for both body weight is about the same (roughly 2200 calories). So why would eating 2200 calories a day not lead me to lose fat to around 185? Why would I be required to cut calories to 1700 calories to lose a pound, which is 500 calories below maintenance of the 185 lb me? Why would eating 2200 calories not simply and eventually get me to 185 lbs? Just curious in the science behind it!
Ravi, you are correct. 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat would be accurate assuming the weight you lost was 100% fat. however, most people lose some lean tissue with the weight loss, thus throwing a wrench in this rule of thumb figure. This article explains in more detail, including a little bit of the research behind it and also the practical applications in terms of the calorie deficit you choose (it’s another argument to keep calorie deficits conservative and go with the slow and steady approach rather than the rapid approach): https://www.burnthefatblog.com/3500-calories-to-lose-a-pound-is-this-formula-all-wrong.php
Tom, I honestly think that the BFFM material is the best I’ve followed but I was feeling a bit too far gone last year approaching 40. I ended up following a physician monitored Ketogenic diet after seeing a friend’s pretty extreme results. I was very concerned about losing the wrong type of weight and that I would regain everything afterwards. I dropped from 300.5 down to 235 in 9 weeks (which seemed to exceed even optimistic expectations). I didn’t feel that I had lost much in the way of muscle but it was difficult to tell as I had not conducted any fat percentage tests throughout the 9 weeks. I started back at the gym (now following the BFFM teachings) and very quickly reached new personal bests for both power and muscle building exercises while maintaining my weight. These were just my personal bests (nothing that would impress anyone) but I doubt that I would have been able to get my strength up so quickly if my weight loss has been made up of a high percentage of muscle.
There are many many warnings out there about programs like the one I followed but for me, the results were/are quite positive. I was required to take a lot of vitamins (B6 and B12 injections along with oral vitamin supplements) and after 3 days, I was in Ketosis and stayed in Ketosis for the remainder of the 9 weeks. I felt a bit listless at times and exercise was kept to short cardio sessions (20 min) or a good walk but for the most part, I was going about my days at work and with my family just fine.
Looking back, I was skeptical about such a drastic approach but I’m glad I saw it through. There’s no beating hard work in the gym and clean eating but this approach was the right one at the right time for me. I’m back loving my workouts in the gym again.
Thanks for sharing all the great advice from your experiences.
I went on a restricted carb diet of 50 Carbs (max) a day for 2-months and was able to really burn some fat. I had started at 235 lbs and after 2months, I was down to 212 lbs (feeling and looking great!). However, even with my protein intake of 1.5 grams per lb, I lost muscle size (but was ripped good in what I maintained ;-)). I have since modified this by cycling my carbs every other day (not exceeding 100 carbs) and that has made quite the difference!
Thank you for the information you posted.
What about intermittent fasting for rapid fat loss? I’m 250, 35% body fat, trying to get down to 180, 12% body fat.
Makes me hungry just thinking about it!
Right. But you don’t have 70 pounds of fat to lose. Would you still recommend tons of cardio for fat loss?