T Nation

How Much Fat Can You Lose in a Week


It is my understanding the baselike max is 2 lbs of actual fat. If you are over 30% BF then you can drop more?




I personally lost 20 pounds in 2 weeks when I first cut the grains and sugar out.

Sure it wasn't all fat, 7 weeks in and I was down 40. That's over 5.5lbs a week, which at 7 weeks shouldn't of been all water weight.


The question is: how much muscle can you stand to lose?

There's a religious nutcase who's posted a series of videos and follow-ups to her 3 consecutive 40 day water fasts. The were separated by about 8 days of eating. Water fast means: she was drinking water, and taking a multivitamin, but otherwise no sustenance. She dropped from 200# to 100#.

On a reduced-calorie diet (or straight starvation as in this case), about 20-25% of your weight loss is lean mass (muscle and organ tissue). This woman lost a maximum, then, of 80# of fat, over 19 weeks. That's 4.2# per week.

You can sort out what your own baseline metabolic expenditure is with a basal metabolic rate calculator. If you're big enough, that gets to be considerable. My current maintenance calories are around 4k/day. Pack on another 200# of bodyweight (450#) and that blows up to 4200 cal/day, using a standard estimate. At that rate, on a starvation diet, I could be burning through as much as a pound and a half of fat per day. At least by the numbers.

But I'd be catabolizing a lot of protein as well.

I figure 1-2# of bodyfat per week, or 1-2% of body weight in fat loss (for a 400# person, up to about 8# per week).

But for most of us, 1-2# makes for a really good planning basis. Back about 4 years ago when I dropped 50# in 9 months, the average rate was 1.3# per week, nearly in the middle of the predicted range. Managed to pack on some muscle while doing it too.

At the lower rate, you've still got enough energy left over to train and build muscle. If you cut carbs and fats but leave protein (a protein-sparing modified fast), you've got energy (from diet and stored fat reserves) to fuel catabolism, but your overall energy balance leads to fat loss. The strength training triggers anabolism (or at least holding on to muscle mass). Actual results depend a lot on where you're starting from (my results above were from a pretty de-trained state).


Thanks guys. I am 234 @ 32.5% BF, 158 lean, 76lbs fat. I figure the excess water and other crap the first 10 days or so should be about 7-10 lbs combined with the 2lbs fat.

I plan on running basically the metabolic diet as it gets me more than enough protein and fat to spare muscle, but cuts the carbs down to the point my body will use fat. It worked for me once before, but I wasn't ever in this bad of shape so lets hope. Will make sure I get a ton more water than I have been getting as well.

I will be using a 2 day routine in the 5-3-1 fashion for some strength. The other 4 days will be kettlebell swings, barbell complexes and long walks with the wife :slightly_smiling: for conditioning/ cardio. I think that is doing enough to get stronger and help cut the fat.



Another question is how much muscle does one actually have to start with? If in the beginner stages it is not uncommon at all to gain muscle while losing.


Rocky, I have been off nearly a year due to issues and I am willing to bet I throw on 5-8 of the 17lbs I have lost in muscle in no time. Muscle memory comes back pretty quickly from all I have read. From what I also understand if you reached a certain amount of muscle in recent history (5 years or so?) and didn't gain it form juice then you should be able to gain that muscle back.

Also as for as being a newbie, yeah in the first year of real, constant training you do gain muscle quickly. then the gains get slower as you go on, just nature doing its thing.


While that's true, as you move past the 1-2# per week guideline, odds increase that you're going to be losing muscle. It's difficult to cut much more than 1000 cal/day from your diet without 1) cutting protein and 2) getting carbs below what you need for an effective strength workout + minimal carbohydrate requirements.

Note that your brain and red blood cells prefer or require carbs. The brain can run on ketone bodies, red blood cells can't. Minimal needs are about 40-50g/day, which is the amount of protein catabolized during starvation, after ketosis kicks in (before that it's higher). Then there's the whole matter of energy requirements of anabolism. While it's possible to build muscle while cutting fat (I've done it, confirmed by hydrostatic testing), as you increase the caloric deficit it gets harder.

A moderate reduction rate is generally preferable.

Note too: you can probably gain back the muscle relatively quickly, as research is increasingly showing as well. But better not to lose it in the first place.


yeah you can drop more than 2lbs...

but there is a huge difference between trying to lose 3-4 lbs vs 8lbs...

just realize that


Good stuff Dingo. I know in the past the initial weight and fat loss was quicker the first 2-3 weeks then slowed down to 1.5-2 consistently. I am hoping for that 12-15 lbs or so of pure 'weight' loss in the first 10-14 days. I know a lot of it is excess water and stuff I don't need, but it will still make me feel better :slightly_smiling:


Initial loss usually has a lot to do with glycogen depletion. Your body carries about 400-500g of glycogen, with 4x that weight in water. That's 2.5kg (or 5.5#) right there. If your carbs are inflammatory or tend toward fluid retention, even more.

Add in a few pounds of fat loss, and you can see 8-12# in the first couple of weeks. Half to a third of that is glycogen and "water weight".


post some pics :wink:


Sounds like a pretty reasonable plan. I'm a bit more of a fan of 5x5 for beginners rather than 5/3/1 (I figure you graduate to 5/3/1 after hitting 1.5x BW for squats).

Your starting BF% is about where I was 4.5 years ago. Dropped 50# of fat pretty steadily over 9 months doing a lifting "plan" which is embarrassing to admit to now (machine circuit after an hour or so of cardio, yeah, I was stupid). But God watches over bad girls and gym newbies -- lost 50# of fat, gained 12# of muscle. You're on a much better program, should see even better gains. After switching to 5x5 and now 5/3/1, I've continued mass/strength gains. Currently focusing on keeping up strength while shedding fat slowly.

The one thing I can say is that the training + reduced calories will kick your ass. Plan on sleeping a lot, and watch for signs of overtraining.

I saw about 20# of weight loss in the first 4-6 weeks, then it slowed, but was pretty consistent down through the end of the program.


Dingo, outstanding stuff. What you did is exactly what I want to do. In 04 I have a BF exam I have put up on my wall near my rack. I was 211 lbs at 17.4% BF carrying 175lbs of lean mass. I actually want to better that and be down around the 15-16% area. I don't know if I will go from 158lbs of lean mass to 175 again, I just need to gain some back (say up to 165) and get it stronger.

Also after re thinking things I decided to just go 5x5 and start at about 50-60% of 1rm and add 5lbs per week to the bar before I saw your post. Great minds think alike! :slightly_smiling: I think that is the best way to go for at least 3-4 months and really focus on fat loss and conditioning with the other workouts listed.


Oh and my goal is 50lbs of pure fat lost in the end. I really need to get that much off.


If you're interested in this sort of stuff, check out Rapid Fat Loss. Good book on the subject.


So long as you're taking advice: start light. Look up Jim Wendler on his 5/3/1 posts, spills, and Q&As. You're never going to hurt yourself starting light. It may take you a few more workouts to hit weight, but you'll be progressing before that, and you'll definitely run longer before you start failing (which requires testing and deloading). 50% is fair, but I'd shoot even lighter than that.

Say you're up for a 300# squat. 50% is 150#. 25% is 75#. You're progressing
at 5# per workout (not per week), or 15# per week, so you'll make up that 75#
difference in 5 weeks. That's a month to get into the groove of lifting, sort
out your bar position, get your stance right, work your chest and back cues,
etc. Don't be afraid to start light. Fuck yourself up by pushing too hard and
you're going to lose a lot more than 5 weeks of training time.

Which 5x5 are you doing? I've read both Starting Strength (Rippetoe) and the Stronglifts 5x5 (http://www.stronglifts.com) programs. Main difference is that SL5x5 does BB rows rather than power cleans. I've been doing cleans since last summer, they're fun :slight_smile:

With 5x5, you're getting in a whole-body workout, which is good for fat loss (total muscle mobilization).

My "fighting trim" in college was 205-215#, at about 185# lean mass. I'm now sporting 250# (trying to get to 235-240), but with 215# lean mass. Makes a huge difference. Never thought I'd be buying less than 40" jeans again 4 years ago, now I'm looking for 36" (if they fit my thighs).


I'd second that.

It will teach you the importance of protein aswell.

Lyle Mc Donald is the author.

It's a simple, straight forward to follow "diet"


Thanks to all who posted. Your impute has been appreciated.


What I've done over the past 2(ish) months has worked extremely well for me.

Diet wise I didn't go crazy. Mostly I cut out all fried food, and sugar. For breakfast I stick to Kashi cereal with skim milk. Lunch is was a small turkey sandwich. Between lunch and dinner I would have a bagel or banana. Dinner I eat anything healthy. When I get bored I like to snack, so I bought baby carrots to satisfy that craving while minimizing calories. Again I didn't go crazy, but the major thing was cutting out fried food, sugar and excess snacks.

Workout wise is where I made my money. During the week at lunch I would do a 45 minute to 1 hour weight lifting workout. After I got off work I would do a cardio workout. Some cardio workouts aside from running, rowing machine, elliptical, or biking were I would do fartlek runs on the treadmill stopping every 1/4 mile. Set the treadmill to 11% incline and walk at 3+ speed for 45minutes to an hour, or sometimes a Crossfit style metcon. Actually one of my favorite workouts because it involves both strength and endurance is what I call 50/50. 50 power cleans at 135, 50 deadlifts at 225 in as short a time as you can.

In my first two weeks I lost 2 inches on my waist. Although I have only lost 5 pounds overall, I have put on quite a bit of bulk.