how long does it take to lose 20 pounds

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds: Weight Loss Expert Weighs In

How long does it take to lose 20 pounds?

Losing any amount of weight is not easy, regardless of the number you’re looking to lose. In your case, it’s 20 pounds!

To lose 20 pounds as fast as possible is going to take a bit of time, but definitely doable in 2 months or so.

But it does require some changes to your lifestyle that involve exercise and eating healthier foods.

Despite what you may have heard losing that amount takes time and required a bit of patience on your part.

There are no crash diets or magic pills to fasten the process.

Losing 20 pounds is a significant weight loss goal, no crash diet can get you there and keep you there. 

What can get you there is a lifestyle modification toward a healthy weight that is right for you. 

Take into consideration several factors that may slow down your weight loss goals.

  1. Your starting weight will determine how fast you lose weight. If you have a higher body weight any form of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, will have you losing weight faster. But if you are at a lower weight, you may struggle to lose weight. 
  2. If you’re activity level is consistent and have a generally healthy diet, you may have to get creative with your workouts and how you eat to meet your new goals. 
  3. If you have medical conditions that affect the thyroid, for example, it may affect your metabolic rate and the rate of weight loss.

In this article, I will discuss simple, but proven strategies that’ll not only help you lose 20 pounds fast.

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The Calculation of 1 Pound of Fat = 3500 Calories

So how long will it take to lose 20 pounds of weight?

It’s good to know that 1 pound of fat equals 3500 calories of food intake.

Guess what? To lose that pound you must lose those 3500 calories. For sustainable weight loss, it is recommended to lose 1-2 pounds per week.

On average a person consumes 2000 calories a day, to lose one pound in a week you need fewer calories. 

A good start is with a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day by reducing your food intake, down to 1500 calories.

If you multiply 500 calories by 7 days it equals 3500 calories. There is your 1 pound a week fat loss or 4 pounds in a month.

This is where it gets interesting, it is generally not recommended to have a calorie deficit of less than 1200 calories per day. 

Why? You may ask, well your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum number of calories your body needs for basic functioning. 

If you have a calorie deficit of less than 1200 calories you risk not having the number of calories for your body to make cells, move, think and repair itself. 

Fewer calories do not always mean weight loss, it can also mean a lack of nutrients. 

See How Many Calories You Need to Eat to Lose Weight

How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight By Working Out?

how long does it take to lose weight

This is the moment exercise comes in, by exercising you increase fat burning in your body, therefore increasing your weight loss. 

On any given day exercising can improve your metabolic rate and some exercises can have you burning calories 2 hours after working out. 

Here is where that second pound per week loss comes in.

But you just want to know how long will it take, well if we grab our calculator and calculate the maximum amount of 2 pounds per week, you can lose up to 8 pounds per month. 

So, 20 pounds to lose divided by 8 pounds lost per month gives you 2.5 months.

Yes, it can take you 2.5 months to lose 20 pounds, the recommendation is to have a sustainable weight loss. 

Meaning once you lose the extra weight with a healthy diet and exercise you have an increased chance of not gaining the weight back.

How Fast Can I Lose 20 Pounds?

What if you want to lose 20 pounds faster? Is it possible?

Yes, it’s possible

Can you lose those 20 pounds in under a month? Yes, but you will have a hard time keeping it off in the long run.

There is a lot to do for such a significant weight loss in a month. It is a complex process that needs utmost discipline. 

Believe it or not, your calorie intake needs to increase. You will need to exercise more to burn calories and lose body fat, but in order to move more, you do need energy. 

The best exercise for this instance would be HIIT for greater weight loss. 

You will also need a high-protein diet to help repair the muscles you are working out and allow your body to recovery.

Adding intermittent fasting into your weight loss plan can make the weight loss go even faster, but expect that this too can affect your energy levels when exercising.

Many have tried the different varieties of intermittent fasting, but each person can have a different result based on their metabolism. 

Remember, that a 20-pound loss in a month is possible but not healthy or sustainable.

This can cause havoc in your body, it can slow down your metabolism, muscle loss, increase cravings, increase cortisol levels.

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds Healthily?

Going back to losing these 20 pounds in 2.5 months, is the healthier way and you will have greater feelings of satisfaction to have done it, not just for your looks but for your health. 

It will surpass the negative effects of rapid weight loss.

If you decide to lose a lower number of pounds every week instead. 

Let’s say 1 pound, it will take you about 5 months to achieve your goals using this healthy and sustainable way.

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds If You Work Out Daily?

Simply put, it depends on you and how your body reacts.

You may work out with a friend, eat the same amount of food, but lose weight differently. 

This is due to your individual body composition, daily calorie needs, and how your metabolism reacts to the food intake and exercise routine. 

Also, your life may be different, and how you react to stressors in your life make the difference.

The way your body burns fat is also a factor to consider, abdominal fat is usually the target location for most people but not everyone’s body burns fat here first. 

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds By Walking?

It is a bit hard to determine how long it takes to lose 20 pounds by walking only. 

Several factors can determine weight loss, your speed of walking, walking on a hill, walking on a windy day, walking on difficult terrain. 

These differences can have you burning calories in different ways. 

The number of calories you eat can also make a difference, if you eat extra calories walking may not make a difference.

Yet it is possible to get a rough estimate, by walking every day for 7 days.

Weigh yourself on the first and seventh day, the amount of weight you lost is a rough estimate of what you can lose per week. 

Divide the 20 pounds by the number of pounds lost in a week and it will give you the number of weeks it will take for you to lose those 20 pounds. 

For example, you lose 1.5 pounds in that week, 20 divided by 1.5 equals about 13.5 weeks.

How Long To Lose 20 Pounds for a Man?

The average weight loss for men tends to be faster than for women.

Bummer for women, awesome for men.

You see it a lot with couples that work together to lose weight, the man always melts that fat away.

The more muscle mass a person has, the easier it is to lose weight. And men, have an increased amount of lean muscle mass.

Men will tend to have a faster weight loss journey with the same amount of calories consumed and the same exercise.

The Most Effective Way to Lose 20 pounds

Now that you know how long it takes to lose 20 pounds, what are the most effective ways to get there? 

You need to change your diet, exercise more, and lead an overall healthier lifestyle.

1. Commit to Your Weight Loss Journey

A weight-loss journey with long-term success requires a lot from you.

You need to be ready to give your time, energy, patience, and willingness to pivot when you plateau.

Weight loss takes your time and effort for a very long time.

The following things in your life need to be aligned:

  • You are ready for the long-term commitment, you are done with crash diets.
  • You have a realistic goal weight you want to ultimately achieve.
  • You’re able to have a good night’s sleep consistently throughout the week.
  • Your stress levels are controlled.
  • You can dedicate a workout routine to your weeks consistently.
  • You are open to working with a nutritionist and/or personal trainer.

2. Set a Realistic Goal 

Setting a goal is easy, but is it a realistic goal?

A goal that will lead you to an ideal weight that is also sustainable, is the direction to go.

Usually, when a person is in the obesity category according to their BMI (Body Mass Index), the recommendation is for that person to lose 5% of their total body weight (1).

Research has shown that losing 5% of total body weight can significantly improve the health of a person (1). 

Cholesterol levels can improve, High blood pressure is reduced, the levels that monitor diabetes called HgbA1C also improve (1).

So if you weigh 250 pounds a 5% weight loss will result in 12.5 pounds less, down to 237.5 pounds.

Let’s say you want more than just the 5% weight loss, you want a complete transformation. You need to look at your current weight, create a target weight that you can achieve in the long term.

For example, you weigh 250 pounds but you would be happy at 190 pounds. 

Create new goals that are smaller and can be achieved in smaller amounts of time.

3. Drink A Lot Of Water

Water intake is the most important thing you can do for your body.

Your body is made up of about 70% water to cover the needs of cells, blood, tissues, and all kinds of fluids.

A study found that having a low-calorie diet and water intake before eating resulted in 44% more weight loss in a 12-week period.

Also, water is known to have no calories, thus helping you from dehydration and avoiding liquid calories commonly found in juices or other beverages.

You may not think about it, but beverages other than water or unsweetened coffee can pack on some serious calories. 

These beverages are a fuel source, but not the type you want since it tends to increase blood sugar levels. 

A 12-ounce latte, for example, can be 200 calories, which is the equivalent of a snack. 

But this latte contributes little nutrients and a lot of sugar. 

A good idea is to drink water before, during, and after mealtime to ensure you are properly hydrated. 

Try at your next meal to have a glass of water and see how you fill up faster. 

Aim for a daily water intake of at least 2 liters (3).

4. Reduce Carbohydrates

Carbs are very important for your body, but dieters have been drilled that they are bad.

You can find them in a variety of grains but you really want to watch out for refined carbs.

The refined carbs you want to avoid are those that the fiber has been removed, and only the starchy portion remains.

You want to avoid white rice, white bread, sugary snacks, desserts, and processed snacks. 

They get easily absorbed into the bloodstream and converted to fat if not used by the body.

Large amounts of refined carbs in the bloodstream can cause the body to have spikes of sugar that can over a long period of time cause insulin resistance.

A small study has also found that a diet rich in unrefined carbs led to decreased body weight and inflammatory markers (5).

The best type of carbohydrates you can choose is whole grain. 

These can be whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, legumes, quinoa, brown rice, barley, and starchy veggies.

To optimize your carbohydrate intake, you can make a Quinoa salad, Pasta salad, Barley salad. 

By making a salad, you decrease the overall calorie intake by increasing veggies and naturally eating less carbohydrates.

5. Increase Proteins

As part of your weight loss journey, protein intake is essential to help you have satiety, control hunger, and repair muscle mass after a workout.

Another small study found that having breakfast rich in proteins reduces ghrelin levels, known as the hunger hormone when you compared it to a high-carb breakfast (2).

Having protein-rich foods or high protein diets can be quite beneficial to your fat loss. 

You can get your proteins from plant or animal sources such as legumes, almonds, peanuts, seeds, or lean proteins found in fish, poultry, or lean meats. 

Animal products like eggs, cheese and whole milk, cheese and yogurt. 

Read More: Homemade Protein Shake For Weight Shake Recipes for Weight Loss

6. Consume More Fiber

Fiber can be found in almost all foods, it is a carbohydrate that is indigestible and used to move food through your gastrointestinal tract.

It is part of a healthy diet in the sense that, it slows down how quickly your stomach empties out, so you feel full longer. It slows down the rate of sugar absorption, preventing those sugar spikes.

Foods rich in fiber are veggies, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. 

Veggies tend to have varying levels of fiber, some more and some less. 

Having a variety of veggies and fruit in the diet can also bring vitamins and minerals that are essential to the body. 

Whole grains and legumes also provide all of the above-mentioned plus proteins. 

7. Increase Whole Foods and Healthy Fats

To lose weight in a sustainable way, whole foods are essential to help trim inches off your waistline.

Whole foods are those that are not processed like veggies, salads, legumes, whole grains, and lean meats. 

These ensure that a variety of all macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are in balance. 

Healthy fats like olive oil, fat in avocado, or the omega-3 found in fish are equally important for basic body functions. 

8. Add Strength Training, Cardio, and HIIT

Getting past that plateau of weight loss or increasing the influence of weight loss requires this extra effort.

At this point, it’s human nature to fall into despair and give up. Including an exercise routine or leveling up your routine can get you past that plateau.

Creating endurance while exercising is important to keep you motivated, it takes time and patience.

Especially when looking to lose body fat faster through exercising.

Strength training increases fat loss, helps bones become stronger, leads to a higher metabolism, and decreases the risk of chronic conditions. 

Tools used for strength training can be your own weight, free weights, and weight machines.

Bodyweight exercises can include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, crunches, burpees to name a few. 

With free weight exercises, you can use dumbbells or barbells. 

Some exercises can be dumbbell squats, dumbbell lunges, barbell squats, barbell lunges. 

In addition, kettlebells can be just as diverse with a variety of possibilities that include kettlebell swings, squats, lunges, and within those additional variations.

Cardio, also known as aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and provides overall health.

The type of exercises can vary from easy walking or hips circles to being high-intensity cardio like an aerobics class.

HIIT (High-intensity interval training) is a form of high-intensity cardio with a slower recovery period. 

This type of exercise requires explosive body movements and can be in combination with weights or a person’s body weight. 

9. Sleep Well

Sleep deprivation can make a big impact on fat loss, research indicates that inadequate sleep can lead to hormones in the body that affect appetite, satiety hormones, and how the body manages fat storage.

It has even been studied that a single night of sleep deprivation can increase the hormone ghrelin, which causes you to be hungry. 

Imagine, one single night can increase your appetite so much that you can fall off the wagon from your new goal and start to slowly gain that weight back.

An effective way to improve your chances at weight loss is to get enough sleep, take a good night’s sleep as a part of your weight loss journey. 

You need a bedtime routine that allows for a minimum of 8 hours a night. To allow your body to rest, reset and have less stress.

Final Thought on How Long It Takes to Lose 20 Pounds

For best results, losing 20 pounds in 2.5 months is a reasonable and sustainable weight loss goal. 

The best way to do it is to stick to 1-2 pounds per week

It doesn’t sound like a lot of weight but fighting the cravings, adding healthy foods, switching from a sedentary lifestyle to an active lifestyle, can be easier said than done. 

Fewer calories to start and increased activity level can help with much weight reduction if done for a long time.

That is why for better results you need to be ready for this commitment.

Important to take into account that a lifestyle change can help you reduce visceral fat in the abdomen and help with disease control, you want to decrease your chances of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, and heart disease.

It takes much time and effort to lose weight, that is the truth. But the simple way to get there besides being ready is to seek professional advice from a registered dietitian. 

Usually, a dietitian’s key role is to assess your current caloric intake, activity level, the number of calories your body needs, how to create the calorie deficit, and balancing the macronutrients. 

The other professional is a personal trainer. 

This person’s key role is to assess your body composition, teach you how to exercise with good form, how to strength train, resistance training, and techniques for HIIT training. 

They help you with achieving the goals of lean muscle 

Last thing to note, the longer you take to lose body fat the higher the likelihood you will keep the weight off. 

This gives you time to learn good eating and exercise habits that you can keep for a long time. 

Read Next: How To Lose 100 Pounds as Fast as Possible


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. 

It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make any kind of decision. 

Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility. 

Please consult with your medical provider before starting an exercise or diet plan.

Works Cited

  1. “Benefits of 5-10 PERCENT WEIGHT-LOSS.” Obesity Action Coalition,
  2. Blom, Wendy AM, et al. “Effect of a High-Protein Breakfast on the Postprandial Ghrelin Response.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 83, no. 2, 2006, pp. 211–220., doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.2.211.
  3. Dennis, Elizabeth A., et al. “Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss during a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-Aged and Older Adults.” Obesity, vol. 18, no. 2, 2010, pp. 300–307., doi:10.1038/oby.2009.235.
  4. “Losing Weight.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 Aug. 2020,
  5. Roager, Henrik Munch, et al. “Whole Grain-Rich Diet Reduces Body Weight and Systemic Low-Grade Inflammation without Inducing Major Changes of the Gut Microbiome: A Randomised Cross-over Trial.” Gut, vol. 68, no. 1, 2017, pp. 83–93., doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314786.
  6. 6.SCHMID, SEBASTIAN M., et al. “A Single Night of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels and Feelings of Hunger In Normal-Weight Healthy Men.” Journal of Sleep Research, vol. 17, no. 3, 2008, pp. 331–334., doi:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00662.x.

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