How to Lose Weight Quickly: 3 Simple Steps That Work
Losing weight quickly and naturally involves implementing or overhauling major lifestyle choices and sticking to them consistently, every day.
There are numerous fast ways to lose weight, but many of them involve restrictive diets and other unsustainable measures that leave you feeling deprived, moody, and hungry.
How to lose weight faster in a healthful manner is discussed below.
How Can I Lose Weight Naturally?
Fast but sustaining weight loss involves making lifestyle changes. Although our culture typically leads us to believe that a low fat or low carb diet with extreme calorie restriction is the perfect solution for how to lose weight fast, this is skewed and leads to short term water weight loss.
To attain quick but long term weight loss, it is important to focus on nutrition, exercise, and sleep lifestyle strategies like eating less packaged and processed foods, engaging in effective workouts, and obtaining quality sleep. These methods may not be fancy or trendy, but they are simple and efficient ways to permanently decrease your waistline without completely starving yourself.
Nutrition is arguably the most important factor of losing weight.
Consuming different ratios of the three macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat, affect our metabolism differently. As more research emerges, they are finding that weight loss is more connected to the quality of the carbohydrates, protein, and fat you’re eating versus the perfect ratio of them within a weight loss plan.
Generally speaking, though, there are specific portion sizes of each macronutrient to keep in mind. Considering America loves to supersize portions, this information is a great refresher for the collective.
Unfairly villainized, carbohydrates need not be the ultimate enemy. However, the quality, or in other words, the nutrient density of the carbohydrates you’re consuming is very important to achieve fast weight loss.
Carbohydrates can be categorized into simple and complex.
Simple carbs are digested quickly, have a high glycemic index, and can cause blood sugar spikes due to an influx of insulin,- a hormone well known to contribute to the risk of obesity and diabetes. Examples of simple carbs include most processed and packaged food like cookies, crackers, chips, granola bars, candy, white bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals. Eat less or avoid these carbohydrates when trying to lose weight.
Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, have a low glycemic index and/or load, include health benefits like fiber, and help balance blood sugar. Although starches are made up of more energy and glucose molecules, they remain in our blood longer, which helps stabilize our blood glucose level and keep hunger at bay.
One serving of complex carbohydrate or starch is 1/2 a cup. Starches became the culprit of obesity and belly fat, not because they are inherently bad for us, but because people tend to eat upwards of 2 or more cups.
Finally, fruits and non-starchy vegetables are carbohydrates!
They are digested and absorbed differently because of their higher fiber, antioxidant, and phytonutrient content. They boast fewer calories but tons of nutrition, deeming them powerhouse foods when trying to lose weight. Filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies and eating 1-2 servings of fruit per day as part of an overall balanced meal is a wonderful blueprint of how to sustainably drop weight.
Here are the most nutritious carbohydrates to focus on including:
- Whole grains – Oats, Whole Wheat breads and pastas, Quinoa, Farro, Brown Rice (1-2 servings per day)
- Starchy veggies – Winter Squash, White and Sweet Potatoes, Corn, Peas, Green Beans (1-2 servings per day)
- Beans and legumes – Black beans, Navy Beans, Kidney Beans, Peanuts, Lentils (1-2 servings per day)
- Whole Fruits – Apples, Berries, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Grapes (1-2 servings per day)
- Non-Starchy veggies – Leafy Greens, Bell Peppers, Asparagus, Broccoli, Artichokes, Carrots (4-7 servings per day)
Protein is usually considered the most important macronutrient of focus when trying to lose weight (1).
This is because protein requires the most energy to burn and helps us feel full longer. Additionally, consuming lean sources of protein, meaning, they are low in saturated fat and have fewer calories, alongside a solid exercise routine, can contribute to building lean muscle that allows you to burn more calories at rest- the optimal metabolic state to lose weight.
Protein requirements are based on a person’s weight. The minimum recommendation is .6 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, for weight loss, a ratio of 1.0 gram per kilogram body weight is better and will contribute to more weight loss.
In general, try to include a whole serving (3-6 ounces) of lean protein at every main meal and then some source of protein at snacks. This would look like eating 1-2 eggs for breakfast, 4-5 ounces of fish at lunch, and 1/2 cup of 96% or higher ground beef at dinner. Higher protein snack options include Greek yogurt, low-carb protein shakes or bars, tuna, or edamame.
Make sure to consume the following protein sources for best weight loss results:
- Meat – Poultry, Bison, and other Red meat that is 93% or higher
- Seafood – Fish, Shrimp, Scallops
- Low or non-fat dairy – Greek yogurt, Skim milk
- Vegetarian – Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, Soybeans/products, nuts/nut butter
- Eggs – 1-2 Whole eggs with yolk, Egg whites
Fat used to be considered the criminal responsible for the beginning of the obesity epidemic before we started blaming carbs. But just like now, it wasn’t the fat itself that lead to obesity. Many people simply consumed too large of portions and highly processed and refined versions of this highly palatable macro (2).
Healthy fats satiate us for longer and contribute to optimal brain and heart health. When eaten in appropriate quantities, they positively support weight loss. In fact, a super low-fat diet is unnecessary and could actually hinder weight loss results.
Fats can be categorized in a variety of ways, but this article is focusing on saturated versus unsaturated sources.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Think, butter, margarine, coconut oil, and fatty cuts of meat. Conversely, unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Sources include unrefined olive oil and avocado oil. However, many solid foods contain healthful unsaturated fat such as nuts and seeds and avocado.
Finally, there is one category of fats that is best to avoid every day- trans fat. These are completely man-made, processed fats that provide zero nutrition and affect our cells poorly. A recipe for weight loss failure!
Behind diet, exercise is potentially the second most important factor to consider for quick weight loss (3).
And, similarly to food, the quality and type matter.
This aerobic type of exercise requires oxygen and burns more calories while being performed. It is also responsible for improved heart and mental health. However, it doesn’t contribute to building as much muscle as strength training and too much of it can be a stress to the body, creating a sub-optimal environment for losing weight.
There are different types of cardio including low-intensity steady state (LISS) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
LISS involves performing a repeated exercise like walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming at a low to moderate intensity for a longer period of time such as 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on goals. To enter a fat-burning state, you would need to engage in LISS for at least 45 minutes. To reap the cardiac and mental benefits and achieve healthy, safe weight loss, do this type of exercise at least once a week, up to two or three.
On the other hand, HIIT involves performing an exercise for 15 -20 seconds max, followed by a period of complete rest for 12-20 minutes total. If you are short on time, this is an excellent workout style because it greatly boosts the amount of oxygen you consume and calories burned for many hours after you finish the workout, unlike steady-state cardio. Plyometric exercises like box jumps and burpees and sprints (including cycling, elliptical, etc.) are the best exercises to include in HIIT workouts and an example would be sprinting for 15 seconds on an incline or high resistance followed by 45 seconds of rest, repeated 12-15 times.
It is imperative to include strength training in your workout routine at least 2-4 times per week. Strength or resistance training helps to build muscle, which is more metabolically active tissue, meaning you burn more calories throughout the day.
The most effective strength training regimen includes exercising the biggest muscle groups using compound exercises with or without weights.
There are many exercise splits or ways to organize your regimen. I recommend considering how many days you are able to strength train and deciding which method is best from there. For example, if you can strength train 4 or more days per week, then exercising a different muscle group is sufficient and effective. If you can only strength train 2-3 days per week, which is still enough to see weight loss results, then training full body or multiple muscle groups a day is most efficient and effective.
Here are some of the most powerful exercises for each major muscle group:
- Legs – Variations of squats, dead lifts, RDLs, lunges, and band exercises
- Chest – Variations of bench presses, push-ups, and Flies
- Back – Variations of pull-ups, rows, lat pull downs, and hinges for the lower back
- Shoulders – Military Press, bent-over reverse flies, front and lateral raises
- Abdominals – Leg lifts, planks, oblique see saws and reverse crunches
- Arms – Bicep curls, tricep pull down, and dips
Sleep may not seem as impactful as diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss, but it actually plays a huge role in energy metabolism. Our metabolism directly correlates with your circadian rhythm.
In one study, researchers discovered that insufficient sleep deprivation over a long period of time can result in weight gain related to affected hormones, disrupted circadian rhythms, reduced dietary restraint, and eating more energy later at night when it is not metabolized as well. Yet, when participants transitioned to an adequate sleep pattern, energy intake decreased (4).
If you want to prime your body to lose weight fast and effectively, try to obtain 7-9 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep a night. To get quality sleep, consider turning off all electronics 2 hours before bed, create a solid nighttime routine, wear blue blockers if you’re going to watch TV or be on your laptop, and get in bed 30-60 minutes before the time you need to go to bed to achieve that 7-9 hours.
10 Additional Tips to Lose Weight
Here are additional simple tips that can help you maximize your weight loss.
- Cut back on refined/processed sugar – Overconsumption of this carb source is associated with increased calorie intake, and thus, obesity. Refined sugars provide lots of energy (calories) and minimal nutrient value. It is best to limit your consumption to 1 serving a day or avoid them completely for best weight loss results.
- Try intermittent fasting: IF is associated with increased life longevity, provides the digestive system a rest, and is an easy way to reduce overall caloric intake. Many people also decrease carb intake along with this method. Men tend to have better results because it can affect female hormones negatively (5).
- Eat a high-fiber, high-protein diet – Fiber and protein are nutritious food choices that help us remain full for longer periods of time, which means you are less likely to mindlessly snack on non-nutritious foods.
- Drink water before meals – Sometimes you aren’t as hungry as you think and you are actually thirsty. Drinking water before meals helps regulate your hunger levels and fills you up so you’re less likely to overeat.
- Keep a food journal – Bringing awareness to your eating habits will help keep you more accountable for the behaviors and habits you are trying to ditch or create and is a great record to review if you’re not making the desired progress. Be sure to include details like portion size, so you can see where you can eat fewer calories if needed.
- Manage stress – Stress leads to the release of stress hormones that can interfere with our normal hunger and fullness levels and cause water retention, inflammation, and weight gain. It is important to take care of your self, ask for help when needed, and do activities you enjoy regularly.
- Focus on quality foods – The nutrients and other components of food like fillers, preservatives, and added sugars or sugar alcohols directly affect your cells, and cells and hormones directly affect how well and efficiently you can lose weight.
- Switch sugary drinks to zero-calorie drinks like tea and black coffee – Sugary drinks like fruit juice and sodas can add a lot of calories to your daily intake without realization. Switch to zero-calorie drinks to prevent consuming too many calories.
- Workout fasted – Exercising on an empty stomach has been correlated with fat loss because when the body doesn’t have enough glucose to use as fuel, it taps into your body’s fat stores. Sleeping is a natural food fast, and exercising shortly after waking may help you lose more weight.
- Explore your emotional connection to food – Often times, people are overeating because of something they feel emotionally or mentally. If this is the case, you can break these cycles and patterns by working through personal obstacles or seeking professional help from a dietitian and/or therapist.
The Bottom Line
You can lose weight fast without starving yourself on an unsustainable diet by making lifestyle changes.
Focus on including quality sources in appropriate portions of non-starchy vegetables, fruits, unrefined starches and sugar, unrefined fats, and lean protein.
Adding in effective strength training and cardio in the form of HIIT or LISS will complement your improved healthy lifestyle and help you drop lose weight faster.
Aim to obtain 7-9 hours of quality to sleep to help balance your hormones and keep your metabolism functioning optimally.
Finally, once you master the nutrition, exercise, and sleep lifestyle changes, consider leveling up your weight loss journey by implementing one to all of the additional 10 tips for the most effective, lasting results.
- Heather J Leidy, Peter M Clifton, Arne Astrup, Thomas P Wycherley, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Stephen C Woods, Richard D Mattes, The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 1320S–1329S, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.084038
- Geliebter, A, et al. “Effects of Strength or Aerobic Training on Body Composition, Resting Metabolic Rate, and Peak Oxygen Consumption in Obese Dieting Subjects.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 66, no. 3, 1997, pp. 557–563., doi:10.1093/ajcn/66.3.557.
- McManus, K., Antinoro, L. & Sacks, F. A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. Int J Obes 25, 1503–1511 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0801796
- Markwald, R. R., et al. “Impact of Insufficient Sleep on Total Daily Energy Expenditure, Food Intake, and Weight Gain.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 14, 2013, pp. 5695–5700., doi:10.1073/pnas.1216951110.
- Honjoh, S., Yamamoto, T., Uno, M. et al. Signalling through RHEB-1 mediates intermittent fasting-induced longevity in C. elegans. Nature 457, 726–730 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07583