Health & Wellness Nutrition

Rapid Weight Loss Vs Gradual Weight Loss

What is better? Rapid weight loss vs gradual weight loss? I hear you! We all instinctively want to lose weight fast, I get it. However when might this be needed and when might it actually cause you more harm than good? Let’s explore.

It’s widely known that being a healthy weight is very important in order to keep us fit and well, fight off disease and live longer. 

Weight gain is the result of regular overeating. It doesn’t happen overnight it takes time. Never before has it been so easy to gain weight. We have instant access to foods and drinks. Advertisements for highly caloric foods and drinks are everywhere and with the rise of disinformation it easy to misunderstand what a “healthy diet” actually is. 

With higher demands on us with work and life its easy to become fat.

Let’s be clear right off the bat, weight loss should be about health first and foremost. Not aesthetics! That said there’s nothing wrong in wanting to look lean and fit. When your drive to be lean jeopardises your health, you’re entering the wrong door. This article will help you understand weight loss and when to implement either a rapid or gradual strategy.

There are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of body fat

Lady who is measuring her waist

Weight Loss

For the purpose of accuracy weight loss is different to fat loss. Weight includes everything – Bone, skin, muscle, hair, tendons, ligaments, water etc. Whilst fat refers to adipose tissue stores (body fat). Fat loss is the aim. Excess fat storage is what can negatively impact our health, but we do need some fat stores in order to stay healthy. This is different for everybody and depends on characteristics like gender and age to name but a few.

To lose body fat you need to expend more calories than you consume. It’s that simple. However, to optimise fat loss you need to consider many other factors. For more on this check out other fact sheets we have. 

One way of reducing your caloric intake is by reducing calories consumed and another is by upping your movement. Less energy in and more energy out = weight loss. When you give your body less calories than it needs it uses your body fat stores to continue to fuel you. Think of body fat like petrol in a car. You have reserves stored and you’re drawing down on these. Overeat or “fill up the car” and your stores are replenished. 

With that in mind it’s useful for you to know that there are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of body fat. To loose 2 pounds of body fat per week you need to restrict 7,000 extra calories over the 7 days, per day this equates to a 500 kcal deficit. The best way to do this is by using a combination of both restricting calories and upping movement through exercise and general moving like walking, standing and other light daily tasks. 

Nutritional and fitness coaching can really help you understand and develop your lifestyles in order to stay lean and healthy. Find our contact details at the bottom to get in touch. Our coaching methods and programmes are highly personalised. 

Citrus tea with ginger and mint leaves in a glass teapot, dark food photography.

Rapid Weight Loss

Rapid weight loss would generally be characterised by loosing over 2lbs of weight per week over a couple of months at least. In order to achieve this level of weight loss you’ll need to be in a daily calorie deficit of at least 1,000 kcal per day, which is very extreme. Aggressively loosing weight like this comes with its problems. At this level most people will experience muscle loss. Now I understand not everyone wants to have big muscles, nor am I advocating that as such; but muscle is metabolic! This means it burns energy. If you can build and sustain muscle you become much more efficient and capable of loosing fat and keeping it off. Roughly speaking the more muscle you have the more you can eat and not gain fat. Sounds great to me. One way to reduce muscle loss is to stimulate it to stay. How do you do that? Resistance training. Yup male or female, young (16+) or old everyone should lift weights or resistance train. Which is why our programmes all involve some form of resistance training.  

However there are occasions when people may need or have to adopt this strategy. For instance people who are morbidly obese are at a much higher risk of experiencing significant, even fatal health complications. Diabetes (type 2), stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure and more become a real threat to that person. In this instance the necessity to lose weight fast is more of a priority to health.

If you’re someone who wants or needs to lose weight quickly I’d first recommend you do so with supervision by a trained professional ( Cue cringy self promotion; HWKFIT coaches can help😉 ). There is though are a number of strategies you can implement in order to best achieve this. Here are some of them below.

Strategies For Rapid Weight Loss

  1. Restricted caloric intake around 1000 calories per day combined with increased exercise and movement. This may look like 500 kcal deficit through restricted food consumption and 500 kcal expended through cardio activity such as walking, jogging, swimming etc.
  2. Intermittent fasting. Only consuming calories at set times in the day. For instance between 11am and 6pm, or perhaps 2pm until 8pm. The key is to compliment your eating in conjunction with your lifestyle and natural hunger cues. Another option is something like the 5:2 diet. This suggests you eat for 5 days at maintenance and 2 days where you only consume water or drastically reduced caloric intake. Such as 500 kcal per day.
  3. Detox diets. Often involves drinking smoothies or nutritious like liquids such a kale and lemon juice drinks only. You would do this for a set period of time. It is not a long term strategy at all. Up to 10 days maximum.

Advantages For Rapid Weight Loss

For people who are categorised as very unhealthy because of obesity. Loosing weight quickly can significantly improve conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular risks
  • Respiratory risks
  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolaemia (excess cholesterol in the blood stream) to name but a few.

For others loosing weight quickly may improve:

  • Diet adherence
  • Sustained motivation
  • Improved self esteem

However should you decide to consider this option we strongly advise that you speak with your GP and your coach before you embark on such a challenge. Doing so without professional advice and support could expose you to severe physical and mental health risks.

For some there is a genuine psychological benefit in loosing weight quickly. Gradual weight loss may be too slow and actually cause distress, anxiety, frustration and more. I’m not talking about becoming annoyed here, I’m referring more to people who have considerable mental health impacts caused by slow progress.

This is highly self regulating. I’d always advocate that a gradual approach is preferable, but where a genuine need to lose weight quickly presents then this strategy ca be used. Ultimately it’s about what the health priority is for that person and how to best mitigate any risks and off set these for the best outcome possible. 

Gradual Weight Loss

Gradual weight loss is characterised by loosing under 2lbs of weight per week over a couple of months at least. A widely accepted gradual approach to weight loss would be reducing your maintenance calories* by between 300 & 500 kcal per day. This would be considered a substantially accepted approach. Strategies that you may consider for this approach to weight loss may be similar to the above but much less severe. It may also include.

*Maintenance calories refer to the total daily energy (food) you consume that neither sees you lose or gain weight. 

Strategies For Gradual Weight Loss 

Often you can use similar strategies to rapid weight loss, you just do so much less aggressively. Working with a coach to start is the best way to ensure you use the right strategy and approach for you and your goals. Here are some of the basic fundamentals.

  1. Restricted caloric intake up to 500 calories per day. 1 option may be to; eat 250 calories less than you need per day & move an extra 250 kcal through LISS*, HIT* or purposeful exercise. Aim to loose around 1lb of body fat per week. This is far more substantial than it sounds. By focusing on loosing body fat and not weight, you maximise muscle retention, which helps to improve your metabolism. Which is essential for long term success and an optimal body composition.
  2. Eat foods high in protein and fibre. Drink plenty of water. Eat plenty of vegetables and leafy greens. Eat fruit but not huge quantities. Kiwis, berries, apples and bananas are just some options to consume daily. Check out this article to expand on this guidance.
  3. Lift weights or do resistance style training. Yup if you’re an adult weight lifting is for everyone. It helps sustain and build lean body tissue. Vitally important for your overall health, maintaining a lean body and delaying the ageing process. 
  4. 150 minutes of cardio per week. LISS or HIT are great options. For more on this check in with your coach or take a look at other resources we have.

*LISS – Low Intensity Steady State Cardio

*HIT – High Intensity Training

Advantages for Gradual Weight Loss

  • Better for sustaining lean body tissue (aka muscle). Muscle is metabolic. The more you have the greater ability you have at burning calories, even at rest.
  • Allows time needed to up skill, re educate and embed habits and behaviours that will bring about meaningful, long lasting change. 
  • Is less intense. Which means you’re less likely to encounter irritability, tiredness, fatigue, sleep disturbances, lowered immune system, digestive issues, binge eating cravings or behaviours and many more disruptive side effects.
  • Less likely to develop mental health issues. Dramatic dieting can inadvertently promote eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Aggressive weight loss is essentially starving your body. Your body and mind will fight back. This is known as the “self defence mechanism.” And is one of the protective systems we all have hard wired into us. And also part of the reason why people who lose weight quickly often regain it all again within two years, sometimes more!
  • More likely to keep the weight off! Some studies have demonstrated that people who keep weight off for life, lost weight slowly and adjusted their associated with food and optimised their lifestyles. This all takes time and support. Loosing weight and regaining weight is called “Weight Cycling” or “Yo-Yo dieting.”

the run down

The Run Down Orange Outfit Lady Running Down Stairs

Ultimately there are both for’s and against’s to either rapid or gradual weight loss. Finding the right approach for you will largely depend on your individual goals and current state of health.

Generally speaking gradual weight loss would be a preferred option. Loosing weight slowly decreases the risk of loosing lean muscle mass, enhances your ability to create positive habit and behavioural changes that will increase the likelihood you stay leaner and have less of an impact on your day to day wellbeing; such as energy, mood, sleep, appetite etc. That said should you be in the “obese” or “morbidly obese’ category, or if you are someone who needs to see results quickly in order to stay motivated then a rapid weight loss strategy may be benefit you. 

Rapid weight loss however should not be a strategy used for long periods of time. It’s important to schedule in edit breaks, to give your body the chance to recover from energy restriction. This will also help long term safer weight loss overall. As we said in the beginning of the article weight loss has to primarily be about health. 

Studies have shown that rapid weight loss in the obese categories can significantly lower the risk of  type 2 diabetes and blood pressure, amongst other health benefits. And in these instances may be recommended or even necessary. If though you are to at any immediate risk of severe health problem caused by being overweight. Ie you have normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood biomarkers look good; then loosing weight slowly is highly advantages for your health and wellbeing. 

For the vast majority of people staying lean and healthy is all about adjusting your lifestyle, increasing your knowledge about nutrition and exercise and creating daily habits and behaviours that serve the ultimate goal of good health. This is why nutritional and fitness coaching can be extremely effective long term. 

Working with professionals gives you the insight and understanding you need to gain autonomy over your health for the duration of your life. To be happy you need to be healthy. Book you’re coaching to explore how to become the healthiest version of yourself. Our experienced coaches are waiting to help you.