Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire: Realistic Time-Line for Weight Loss Goals

by Ron Kennedy • February 07, 2017
Weight loss in fitness training is by far the most common target goal, most frequently asked about topic, and the primary focus of most of the personal training clients we work with. Before I go further, I would like to share that personally I don’t emphasize the numbers behind weight loss as I do the actual difference in measurements of the body, solidity of the muscles, and how our personal training clients look and feel. After all, what good is the number on a scale if you don’t feel confident with your appearance and how you feel? There is also the old-school way of thinking that states “Muscle weighs more than fat.” That statement does carry some validity (which we will cover later), but unless the basic laws of physics have been rewritten in the last few years without my knowledge, 10lbs is still 10lbs no matter what the matter! (poor attempt with a play on words). In truth, weight and more importantly fat loss is a primary driving force for most fitness training programs, so I would like to share what a reasonable and realistic time-line for healthy weight loss within a concentrated exercise regimen.

Fast weight loss, like trying to lose 10 or 20 pounds in one week, is not only unrealistic but also unhealthy. A realistic weight loss goal is to lose one to two pounds per week, so a goal of losing 5 to 10 percent of your start weight is achievable. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, a goal of nine to 18 pounds of weight loss is reasonable and achievable. Losing weight, the healthy, takes time, so don’t plan to drop 25 pounds in as little as two weeks. At one to two pounds per week, losing 25 pounds will take you a little more than 12 weeks, or three months. To lose weight in a healthy manner, you should cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day by eating less and exercising more.
So what of all the stories you hear of rapid weight loss? Sure, losing 20 pounds of weight fast will leave your friends and family amazed at your miraculous weight loss abilities. However, losing that much weight that fast can be dangerous if not done under medical guidance. According to Michael Dansinger, M.D., the doctor for NBC’s The Biggest Loser television show, you could theoretically drop up to 20 pounds in one week if you follow a very ambitious eating and exercise plan. Unfortunately, you would have to devote more than seven hours per week to rigorous exercise under a physician’s care. According to Dansinger, dieters who eat between 1,050 and 1,200 calories and exercise at least one hour per day can lose three to five pounds of weight the first week — two pounds from diet and one pound from exercise each week. Considering the typical diet of most Americans, this caloric intake in exceptionally low for the requirements of an active fitness lifestyle.

To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in. Since one pound equals 3,500 calories, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500—1000 calories per day to lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, a 5 percent weight loss equals 10 pounds, bringing your weight down to 190 pounds. While this weight may still be in the "overweight" or "obese" range, this modest weight loss can decrease your risk factors for chronic diseases related to obesity.

While it might be tempting to slash your calorie intake considerably in an effort to lose weight fast, you shouldn’t aim to shift more than 2lb a week – although you may lose slightly more than this when you first start slimming as your body gets rid of water as well as fat. In the long term, though, a weight loss of more than 2lb a week means you’ll have to cut calories excessively – and ultimately, this will make it even harder to shift those pounds. Effectively, very low calorie intakes simply push the body into ‘starvation mode’ so that it becomes super-efficient at making the most of the calories it actually gets from food and drink. It does this by protecting its fat stores and instead using lean tissue or muscle to provide it with some of the calories it needs to keep functioning. This leads to a loss of muscle, which in turn lowers metabolism so that the body needs fewer calories to keep ticking over and weight loss slows down – not ideal if you want to shift unwanted pounds!

In addition, while many of us might like to slim down to the weight we were on our 18th birthday, it’s important to be realistic about whether you can really achieve this. For most of us, it’s likely to be impractical. As teenagers, you might have played sports every single day, or pursued some fitness related activity. Instead, it’s better to focus on reaching a target weight that leaves you looking and feeling slim, fit and healthy – rather than just skinny and happy with the numbers on the scale.