20 pounds lost in a month (250 -> 230), too fast?

Is it possible to drop 20lbs of fat a month or would it be too fast and include muscles?

From 248-252lbs to 228-230lbs

Well, here is my experience with rapid and aggressive weight loss.

For the record, for my last photoshoot I lost 31lbs in 6 weeks (similar rate to what you asked about).

I had to do it because I only had 6 weeks to get ready.

Here are some bulletpoints:

  1. It is possible, but I had to resort to extreme measures (almost no carbs, low-fat high protein), doing 1+ hour of cardio a day on top of my lifting. I also walked more than 10 000 steps per day (on top of the cardio).

  2. The first two weeks actually felt decent, even good. This is probably because of the high adrenaline from the chronic increase in cortisol.

  3. At around week 3 I started to feel like crap. I had no physical or mental energy. I lost a lot of productivity and was always in a bad mood. Even with my kids and dogs. By week 4 I had a lot of trouble sleeping.

  4. The last two weeks I was essentially a zombie and had to rely on ephedrine to get my cardio and workouts in. Which negatively impacted my sleep even more. Besides my workout and cardio, I essentially never left the couch. I was a human larva.

  5. I got in pretty darn good photoshoot shape. BUT even when I resumed eating “normally” it took me 2-3 more weeks to feel normal.

  6. I did not lose any upper body size. But that’s because when I do a photoshoot I stop training legs to make it easier to hold on or even increase upper body mass. PLUS for the 8 weeks prior to the photoshoot prep I did not really train my upper body (I was pretty much exclusively squatting to get my squat over 500 at 45 years old) so my upper body was more responsive which made it easier to avoid muscle loss. I did lose leg size and overall strength though.

Now, one thing you need to consider is that I not only lost 31lbs in 6 weeks, I got very lean. The rapid fat loss (or more precisely the things I did to lose the fat) took its toll on the body and led to metabolic adaptations and behavioral changes. But being super low in body fat compounded the problem. I’m not sure that losing at the same rate, but without being super lean would have as many negative drawbacks.

Also, and this is important, the faster you lose the fat, the more likely you are to gain it back once you lose it.

So is it doable? Sure, if you are willing to use extreme measures that will be very time-consuming and will negatively affect all aspects of your life. But is the loss sustainable? Possibly, but from my experience, even if you are smart about it, you end up regaining around 50% of the fat you lost during an extreme fat-loss effort.

EDIT: One last thing. I was fairly lean when I started that extreme fat loss phase (I was 231lbs but still had some abs). I don’t know what your level of body fat is, but the more fat you carry, the easier it is to lose it. So if you are not as lean as I was, you probably won’t have to be as extreme as I was to have that rate of fat loss. But it will be hard nonetheless.

As far as muscle loss is concerned. If you keep training hard and keep your protein high, I would not worry about it. You won’t lose much, if any, in 4 weeks.

You will FEEL like you are losing muscle. You will feel like your muscles are deflated, it will be harder to get a pump and your strength will go down on some exercises. But this is all due to losing water and intramuscular glycogen, not actually muscle tissue.


What a coincidence - my personal weight is right around 250 pounds, but at 5’10 and over 30% body fat. Which means overweight and unhealthy obesity. However, if a person is much taller, it is obvious that at this personal weight, he will not have such a percentage of fat. Personally, I’ve noticed that I can lose about 10 pounds in two weeks if I cut out desserts, bread and pasta, and alcohol (because I abuse all of that) without having to starve myself appreciably. Also, the question (not the thread title) specifies the loss of 20 pounds of fat, not 20 pounds of total body weight, meaning that if we factor in the water that will be shed during fat loss, the total personal weight that can be lost at losing 20 pounds of fat can be over 30 pounds. But as already pointed out, with discipline and knowing how to do it, it is clearly achievable.

Currently in a fairly high speed fat loss phase (near the v-diet but I don’t have access to biotest unfortunately), so this piques my interest, what’s the science behind this, is it simply that you haven’t developed the correct eating habits and disciplines to really keep fat down, or is there something more biomechanically disadvantageous that causes this and if so what can we do to counteract it? (Outside of the most obvious - lose it slower).

I was wondering because I did lose that specific amount of weight in 1 month, I am not talking about something I plan to do in the future

I did it by eating at the restaurant once a day and fasting the rest of the time. Protein intake at 60-80gr if Im lucky

I did lose quite a bit of strength
I was wondering if I had necessarily lost muscles along the fat and water

The main reason is metabolic adaptations and behavioral changes. I posted a study about this in one of my recent articles ( 1. Redman LM, Heilbronn LK, Martin CK, de Jonge L, Williamson DA, et al. (2009) Metabolic and Behavioral Compensations in Response to Caloric Restriction: Implications for the Maintenance of Weight Loss. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4377. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004377).

Basically, the more severe the caloric restriction is, the greater the decrease in metabolic rate is (I think that a 25% reduction in caloric intake eventually decreased daily energy expenditure by 400-500kcal and the group with an even higher food reduction had a decrease in energy expenditure of over 600kcals/day).

On the other hand, the group that reduced caloric intake by 12.5% did not have significant metabolic adaptations or behavioral changes.

When you go back to a “normal” diet after a high caloric restriction, your metabolism (and behavior) do not go back to normal immediately; it takes several weeks, sometimes months.

You end your diet with a “slowed down” metabolic rate. So, for example if “normally” 3000kcals for you was a small surplus it then becomes a much larger surplus for several weeks.

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In that case, yes, you probably did. Both the fasting period and the low protein would make it a lot more likely that you lost muscle.

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Might go to the doctor though

I have a small lingering feeling of dizziness and I cant barely eat more than a meal at this point

Might have caught a cheeky ecuadorian solitary worm, who knows

Thanks for that, checked in on that study, from my reading this was over a 3 month & 6 months period? Wonder how quick the adaptations take place?

I wonder if there’s a point at which you break (don’t know how long that would need to be1-7 days? 1-2 weeks?) Eat at your old maintenance and maintain your metabolism enabling you to then return to losing for another period?

@Christian_Thibaudeau How many G of protein / day and what was your daily total caloric intake?

Yes, although the group with the most severe food reduction wasn’t for 3 or 6 months, but until they lost a certain amount of weight and they had the biggest metabolic adaptations of all.

I would be interested in seeing how fast these adaptations take place. I think it would vary on the starting level of body fat of the person. From my own experience, I would assume 3-4 weeks.

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Theoretically yes.

That’s what I was thinking/hoping, I guess I’ll find out my personal threshold when I stop doing my cut.

Probably goes back to individual circumstances, how much you’ve lost, how many times you’ve done this kind of cycle, but in my mind 1 week of “regular/maintenance level” eating for every 3-4 weeks would probably minimise the metabolic slowdown?

The question is whether that’s even worth doing Vs just the 12.5% drop and just going steady with much less risk of metabolic slowing.