This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Everyone wants to lose the weight as fast as possible. But that’s not always the most healthy option. What is a healthy weight loss rate and what are the consequences if you go faster than that?
The healthiest rate to lose weight
For most people, losing 1-2 pounds (0.45-0.8 kg) of fat per week is considered a safe rate.
This means a calorie deficit of about 500-100 calories a day which results in 3500 – 7000 calories a week.
This is the close to zero risk rate. Going faster could potentially cause negative consequences like muscle loss, a slower metabolism and nutritional deficiencies.
At the start of your weight loss journey you might lose weight at a faster rate. This is not necessarily a big problem but if it continues for weeks you might want to talk to your primary care provider.
A lot of people try crash diets, extremely low calorie diets, or exercising a lot right from the start. This might be one of the reasons yo-yo dieting is so common.
For some people losing weight faster might be preferable but it’s wise to contact your primary care provider if you want to go this route.
Possible risks of losing weight too fast
Losing weight faster than the healthy weight loss rate can potentially cause some negative side effects. Some of these are reversible but they are often not worth the risk.
There is a difference in losing weight and losing fat. In general the goal is to lose fat, not muscle.
However by losing weight too fast you can lose muscle mass. Muscle is extremely helpful for weight loss. It helps you burn more calories 24/7. That’s why lifting weights is so helpful for fat loss.
One thing you can do to prevent this is to consume enough protein. If your body doesn’t get enough protein from your diet it breaks down muscle to get protein building blocks from there.
Resistance training can also help you preserve more muscle.
A lot of people who try to create a big calorie deficit also cut out foods that provide them with necessary nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body to be healthy in both the long term and the short term. Micronutrient deficiencies can lead to all kinds of negative consequences.
Too much of a calorie deficit can cause your body to slow down your metabolism, the amount of calories you burn each day.
Just like muscle your metabolism is very important for losing weight and keeping it off. Just being able to eat an extra 100 calories a day can make your diet a lot more satisfying and easy to stick to.
Strangely enough, fasting does not have the same effect on your metabolism as a big calorie deficit while still burning a big amount of calories. However, fasting is not the best thing to do for everyone.
Not being able to keep your new habits
Being able to keep off the weight you lose is about making permanent changes in your lifestyle.
If you managed to lose weight by exercising but stop when you reach your goal, you will slowly but surely regain the weight.
A routine that causes an enormous calorie deficit is likely not very pleasant so not something you would do for the rest of your life.
By doing that it’s easy to fall back into old eating habits and regain the weight.
Other side effects
Too much of a calorie deficit can also just make your weight loss journey a lot more uncomfortable.
Some side effects you might experience are hunger, irritability, fatigue,…
Should you be worried if you’re losing weight faster?
When you first start trying to lose weight you might notice faster results than the safe, healthy weight loss rate.
In most cases this is normal for the first few weeks.
You will probably consume less carbohydrates and salt. These substances make your body retain more water. When you consume less of them there will be less water present in your body. Not necessarily in a bad way.
Often people initially see a big drop in the number on the scale because of this.
So, going faster than the 1-2 pounds (0.45-0.8 kg) of weight loss per week could still be a healthy weight loss rate if you’re in the initial weeks of trying to lose weight.
If you’re still experiencing this fast of a weight loss rate after the initial weeks it might be smart to check in with your primary care provider just to make sure everything is fine.