This is a hot topic that a lot of people will debate, or disagree with me about.
Fast versus slower rates of weight loss
It is very trendy these days to only promote slow and steady fat loss for everyone., and a lot of people should be using a slower more habit based approach to fat loss that addresses behavior change.
However there’s certain people and scenarios when more rapid fat loss phase actually sets them up to be more successful right now and in the future as well.
I know this goes directly against what you’ve been told and heard for years, but keep reading and at the end of this feel free to comment telling me you think I’m full of shit if you still think so.
There’s the general assumption that any kind of aggressive fat loss phases will cause:
Lower adherence to the diet
More muscle loss during dieting phase
More weight regain when they go off
Lack of focus on behavior changes
Let’s tackle each one of these points on their own to get a clear view on what is being said versus what is real and can be proven.
Also I’m not going to get overly geeky with the research and put a study for each and every point, if you’d like to refute a point or show me I’m wrong feel free to shoot me message.
Like the title of this blog says this is an argument for quicker fat loss, does this mean this is the best approach for everyone ? Absolutely not.
But I also don’t think we should view rapid fat loss phases for some people as the boogie man either. I’d also like to be clear I’m still advocating for eating a high quality diet that isn’t absurdly low and ridiculous like a juice cleanse or anything.
In some cases a faster rate of weight less will lead to greater levels of adherence during the diet phase, but up to a full year afterwards (Nackers et al. 2010)
People in this study showed greater adherence to the diet during the fat loss phase, and attended more of the counseling sessions and completed more overall food journals that the slow or moderate groups of weight loss (Nackers et al. 2010)
With regards to muscle loss there is a little greater chance that it can happen with a quicker rate of fat loss. However with adequate protein intake and strength training those risks are much lower.
In a 2016 study recreationally active males were put on a diet that created a 40% calorie deficit and were put on a resistance training program. There was a low and high protein group.
The low protein group preserved lean body mass and the higher protein group gained lean body mass… while in a 40% calorie deficit. (Longland et al 2016)
Another thing to keep in mind is if you are leaner to begin with (10-15%) body fat if you use a more aggressive approach you will have a greater chance of muscle loss.
Ahhh the slow metabolism… here we are again.
Now when you lose weight whether it is fast or slow you will undeniably burn fewer calories as a smaller body doesn’t require as many calories to function.
Where most people see a huge drop in their metabolism and calories burned when dieting is in their NEAT which stand for non exercise activity thermogenesis.
NEAT is really just a fancy term for your non exercise movement throughout the day, and as you diet for fat loss your motivation to move more decreases and can lead to a much lower calorie burn.
NEAT is also an amazing tool when it comes to preventing the weight regain too so as you bring calories back up out of a fat loss phase you increase NEAT and it helps prevent the weight regain.
Now if you consistently crash diet year after year you do run the risk of making fat loss more difficult not just physiologically but also mentally as well so that needs to be a consideration.
But what if I told you there was someone who lost 276lbs in a little over a year and when he returned to normal eating and kept almost all the weight off for five years.
There was a 27 year old man who fasted for 382 days while under the supervision of Scotland University. (Stewart & fleming 1973)
Mr. AB as they call him started this 382 day water only fast at 456lbs and finished the fast at 180lbs effectively losing 276lbs during the fast.
This is the longest fast on record, but almost more impressive is that five years later Mr. AB’s weight is only 196lbs.
This goes to show that even the world’s craziest crash diet doesn’t mean that we’re always going to put the weight back on like you’ve been told.
Another common argument for only using a slower rate of weight loss is that there’s not enough focus on habits and behavior change with rapid weight loss.
This is honestly where I do really agree with the people who only espouse a slower habit based approach to fat loss.
Aggressive fat loss phases do not a leave a lot of room for focusing on habits you’ll use for the rest of your life and behavior based changes.
Something to consider when using a more rapid fat loss phase is that the dieter gets to spend in a calorie deficit due to the aggressive nature of the diet and rapid results.
As a result of this you’ll spend less time in a deficit and more time being able to focus on the habits you need to learn to maintain your weight.
Showing you how to maintain your weight after years of yo yo dieting could be the most valuable weight management skill you’ve yet to develop.
Let’s say you have seventy five to a hundred pounds to lose and I tell you we’re going to need to diet for at one to two years to make that happen…
For a lot of you the thought dieting for a year or two to lose that weight immediately becomes very intimidating.
There’s also going to be people who get extremely unmotivated by the slower approach to weight loss especially knowing how much they’re looking to lose.
I’ve worked with clients where the slower approach was unmotivating, and actually made sticking to the habits less effective for them.
For these folks when we switched to a more aggressive phase of fat loss and got them some initial results that booster their spirits and their buy in.
I set the expectation that is a short term strategy to get some early progress and after 1-2 months we’d be switching to something more sustainable.
Phases of rapid weight loss is not going to be a great fit for everyone.
But neither is too slow a rate of weight loss either.
You have to know what you can manage or have a coach to guide you through it.
Periods of quicker fat loss are not a long term strategy. The goal is to lose weight quicker, then return to maintenance or a more manageable deficit.
If you’re going to use these periods of more aggressive dieting also include diet breaks where calorie are brought to maintenance for one to two weeks.
A lot of the common things we hear tossed around about faster fat loss may not always be true, we have to think critically about these things.
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