There are many reasons one might want to lose weight quickly, including (but not limited to): upcoming surgery, doctor’s recommendation, or even for an upcoming event or vacation. As a personal trainer, I’ve been asked some variation of the following questions: “What can I do to boost my weight loss?” or “It seems like it’s taking forever to lose weight. What can I do to speed it up?”.
Losing weight often feels slow, and that can be frustrating! Is there anything that you can do to speed it up without sacrificing your health? Yes! Thankfully, there are healthy ways to help you boost weight loss without crash-dieting.
10 Best Ways to Lose Weight Fast
- Intermittent fasting
- Getting rid of water weight
- Tracking what you eat
- Eating plenty of protein
- Increasing water intake
- Practicing mindful eating
- Reducing sugar and carb intake
- Getting enough sleep
#1 Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting creates a calorie deficit without having to count calories. Here are a few of the most popular types of intermittent fasting:
Alternate Day Fasting. As the name suggests, you’ll refrain from eating (or keep calories to <500 calories/day) every other day. On non-fasting days, you can eat whatever you’d like.
5:2 Diet. You’ll fast 2 days per week and eat 5 days per week. On fasting days, you may consume up to 500 calories for women and up to 500 calories for men.
Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF). Each day, you’ll have a specified “eating window”. For example, you will be able to eat normally during 8 hours of the day, and the other 16 hours you will not consume any calories.
Important note: Eating excessively on feeding days can cancel out any calorie deficit that was created during fasting days.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy that you expend during the day while you do non-exercise activities.
Intentionally add movement to your day by increasing the amount of time you spend standing, walking, and fidgeting to add up to 2,000 kcals of expenditure per day (Villablanca, et. al. 2015).
See NEAT for Weight Loss for more info!
#3 Getting Rid of Water Weight
Losing excess water weight can help you shed up to 3-5 pounds in just a few days. Check out this article for strategies.
#4 Track What You Eat
Food tracking does two things initially:
1. Builds awareness so you can instantly see where you can adjust your nutrition to see results.
2. Increases mindfulness. When you must write down everything you eat, you might think twice before grabbing that additional snack or treat!
You can track calories, body fat percentage, and BMI with NASM's free tools. Find them below:
If you’re not currently exercising, just beginning an exercise routine will help you increase the number of calories that you burn per day to help you lose weight. If you already exercise, you can adjust the intensity of your exercise or the number of days that you exercise/week (while still giving yourself at least one rest day). Here are the exercise recommendations for adults (USDHHS 2021):
• At least 150 minutes/week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combo of both).
• Resistance training at least 2 days per week.
#6 Eating Plenty of Protein
Protein is satiating, helps you maintain lean muscle mass, and can help you maintain a healthy calorie intake. Adults should aim to consume 0.54 to 0.7 grams/pound of body weight for the average person, or 0.7 to 1.0 grams/pound for athletes or individuals looking to build muscle mass.
See How Much Protein for Weight Loss to learn more.
#7 Increase water intake
Increasing your water intake can help you shed water weight (sounds counter-intuitive, but it works), reduce hunger pangs (dehydration can mask hunger), increase your energy mid-afternoon, and decrease your overall calorie intake (if you swap out caloric beverages and replace them with water).
Recommended daily water intake for women is 11.5 cups/day and for men 15.5 cups (IOM 2005).
Read more: Hydration: Through the Lens of Fitness
#8 Practice mindful eating
Turn off distractions (like TV shows or social media), eat slowly, chew each bite thoroughly, and set the fork down between bites to give your brain enough time to recognize full signals during meals.
#9 Reduce sugar and refined carb intake
Packaged foods that don’t contain whole ingredients often contain excessive amounts of calories, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars. By sticking to whole-food items, you’ll reduce your overall calorie intake and boost your nutrient intake to aid weight loss.
#10 Get sufficient sleep
Adults should get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Insufficient sleep can lead to decreased energy, increased cravings for sweet/salty foods, elevated hunger, and decreased motivation for exercise. Get more ZZZs to set yourself up for weight loss success!
Should You Lose Weight Fast? Is it Healthy?
Healthy weight loss typically occurs at 1-2 pounds per week (maximum). Adults with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or higher, or whose body fat percentage is in the obese category, are encouraged to begin a weight loss program by losing 5-10% of their initial body weight over a 3 to the 6-month period (ACSM 2014). In this case, it might be appropriate to lose weight at a faster rate since the individual will have more weight to lose.
Someone who does not fall into the obese category would likely have to use extreme, and potentially unhealthy, measures to lose more than 2 pounds per week. One example of unhealthy weight loss is if someone wants to lose weight for an upcoming event by not eating for a few days to meet their weight loss goal. This can lead to weight re-gain (likely with some additional pounds) once the person resumes their normal eating patterns.
Are There Foods to Help with Weight Loss?
While there isn’t one magical food item that will spark your weight loss, there are specific nutritional strategies that one can employ to aid weight loss. Here are some simple strategies:
Low-calorie foods that add volume. Non-starchy vegetables can add volume to your plate without adding excess calories.
Consume plenty of protein and moderate amounts of healthy fats (like avocado, olives, nuts/seeds, olive oil, etc.) to help you feel fuller for longer.
Eat whole foods and minimize processed/fast food. Don’t like to cook? No problem! Nowadays you can even find pre-packaged meals that are made from whole-food items like lean protein, vegetables, whole-grain carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
See also: Foods for Weight Loss
Which Form of Exercise is The Best for Losing Weight Quickly?
While there are certain types of exercise that burn more calories per minute than others, the absolute best type of exercise that you can do to lose weight is…the type of exercise that you’ll do consistently! Here are some simple strategies to ramp up activities that you already enjoy:
Try intervals: Whether you enjoy walking or using cardio equipment, try changing up your speed every now and again to increase your heart rate and increase your calorie burn. Example: Walk fast for one minute, then return to your normal pace for 2 minutes.
Group Exercise: If you’ve been doing the same class for years, try switching to a different class (maybe even a more challenging one if you’re ready), or ask your instructor how you can challenge yourself more during your current class!
Lifting Weights: Try circuit training. Pick 5-6 multi-joint exercises to do consecutively, with little to no rest between exercises. This can help you increase your calorie burn.
Why Crash Diets Are a Bad Idea
Crash dieting often involves dramatically cutting calories for an extended period, eliminating whole food groups, and/or not eating a wide enough variety of nutrients to fuel the body all in the favor of dropping a few pounds quickly.
Research has shown time and time again that using crash dieting puts individuals at risk of diminished health and gaining back more weight than they lost. Just say no to crash dieting!
A Word on Cleanses
Some people choose to do a cleanse to “detoxify” their bodies in hopes of jump-starting weight loss. The term cleanse is used broadly, and there isn’t much research on the effectiveness of doing a cleanse for this purpose. Eating a nutrient-dense diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to allow the body to detox and reach a healthy weight.
We’ve listed some methods for boosting your weight loss journey, but it’s important to emphasize that weight loss is often more of a marathon than a sprint. When trying to lose weight, find strategies that work for you, that you enjoy, and that you can see yourself maintaining long-term for best results.
It’s OK to employ some additional weight-loss strategies to boost results along the way, but it’s the long-term changes that will yield long-term results.
American College of Sports Medicine (2014). ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (9th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Institute of Medicine (2005). Dietary reference intakes for water, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfate. Washington DC: The National Academies Press. https://doiorg/10.17226/10925.
US Department of Health and Human Services (2021). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from: https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/physical-activity-guidelines
Villablanca, P.A. et al. (2015). Nonexercise activity thermogenesis in obesity management. https://doi.org/10/1016/j.mayocp.2015.02.001