Why it takes a really long flipping time to lose weight-- and how long it's going to take to lose it.
As it is a popular resolution addressing weight loss this time of year is necessary for every fitness professional. I read many blogs and articles from other fitness professionals and many times things stick out in my mind and resonate long after I've finished reading the article. One such edict was a demand for trainers to honestly tell their clients why exercise is not as important as what they were eating. The implication was that trainers are intentionally hiding the truth to sell clients on the idea that their exercise program had all the answers and if they just kept training with them they could still eat and drink whatever they wanted and lose weight they wanted. I suppose that could work. In the short term. But when people don't lose the weight they want because they think that since they worked out a hellish trainer led session they can consume whatever they want, eventually they will blame the trainer and the workouts not the calorie consumption. Seems counterproductive to me, you would then have to become the best salesperson in the world to keep selling a regimen that isn't working.
I would rather let people know in the beginning: you have a responsibility to budget your calorie consumption or your attempts at exercise for calorie burning will fail. I don't know if the 80/20 stat is true, diet = 80% of the battle, but I do know that you can out-consume your burn.
This post will tell you why. It is very detailed and numbers oriented, basically solved word problems to follow along with.
All the information in this article is based on the supposition the following formula is true.
Why are we using this formula and chart? Well do you want to start off counting calories so you know for sure it's right or do you want to get started on a weight loss track? Your call.
X=weight in pounds
For weight loss
X*12 or 13
For weight maintenance
X* 15 or 16
For weight gain
X*18 or 19
The following chart breaks it down to calories consumed each day.
￼ Weight Loss Maintenance Weight Gain Weekly cal Ma. Total
12 13 15 16 18 19
110 1320 1430 1650 1760 1980 2090 12320
120 1440 1560 1800 1920 2160 2280 13440
130 1560 1690 1950 2080 2340 2470 14560
140 1680 1820 2100 2240 2520 2660 15680
150 1800 1950 2250 2400 2700 2850 16800
175 2100 2275 2625 2800 3150 3325 19600
200 2400 2600 3000 3200 3600 3800 22400
225 2700 2925 3375 3600 4050 4275 25200
250 3000 3250 3750 4000 4500 4750 28000
Chart is best viewed on a desktop or on the desktop option on your mobile (or turning the phone sideways works).
There is one magic number: 3500
Say a 225lb person sets a goal of 150lbs a 75lb weight loss. If the person has weighed 225 for longer than 6 months they are likely consuming @ 3600cal/day and 25,200cal/week.
To get to 150 they will need to create a caloric deficit of 262,500. [1lb=3500calories 75*3500=262,500]
It is believed that the safest amount of weight to lose per week is only 2 pounds(2.5 if someone is very overweight) but when someone weighs more than a certain amount it may be possible to at first lose more than two pounds but by the time the goal weight is closer the weight loss is more like half a pound a week.
To get to 150 from something higher you want to consume about 1800 calories a day or 12,600 calories a week. That at first will burn more than 2 pounds a week even if you do not exercise. But most people will not be able to go from 3600 to 1800 a day and it is way outside the safe guidelines. To start it will be least shocking to the system to go from 3600 to 2600 a day and 18,200 a week. That is a 2 pound a week pace so a person should lose 75lbs in about 38 weeks.
In that 38 weeks if you do no extra exercise and burn no extra calories except what you deprive yourself of you will still weigh @ 163, a full 13lbs above goal weight, see formula above. That is because consuming 18,200 calories a week will result in a weight of 163. To get to 150 you must consume even less than 2600 a day, now it must go to 2100 a day if you want to burn 1 pound a week. That's still another 13 weeks on top of the 38 you've already put in. That's nearly a year, 51 weeks. Note: these numbers are higher than the "weight loss" numbers above yet could still be effective because there is a calorie reduction from previous consumption.
But my resolution!!!! I can do this it's a new year, new me!!!
Ok so you're going for the full calorie deprivation out the gate. This requires going from 3600 calories a day to 1800 calories a day. Remember a 150lb person consumes at most 2400 calories a day [still referring to the table and formula]. If you could stick to a burn of 1800 calories a day with diet and exercise you burn 12,600 a week. But you must burn off 262,500.
262,500 at a deficit of 12,600 calories a week will take 21 weeks. This is a best case scenario and will require a physical training program for supplementation of caloric burning. As soon as your weight starts to drop from that 225 pounds so will your metabolism, hence the need for physical activity and likely someone to be accountable to.
If you do have a trainer most likely the goal will be broken down to smaller goals. Instead of 75 pounds at one time it will be at most 50 but probably more like 25. This will much more gradually adjust the calorie deprivation and unless exercise is added to further burn calories diet will take a over half a year.
200 is first goal from 225. So go from 25,200 cal a week to 16,800. 2400 calories a day from 3600. That's 1200 calories a day not consuming things you used to consume. 87500cals=25lbs 8400/week deficit will take 10 weeks to get to goal of 200. Now the goal becomes 175, 25lbs another 87,500 calories burned. To get there staying at 2400 calories won't work. Your intake goal is now 2100 calories a day 14,700 calories a week.
25,200-14,700=10,500 with 87,500 to burn to 175, about another 8.5 weeks. Still 25 pounds and another 87,500 to go. Staying at that pace should reach goal of 150 in another 8.5 weeks, a total of 27 weeks.
Don't think about the weight in pounds think of it in calories that must be burned. 3500 calories cannot be burned as fast as it can be consumed.
How many calories did you burn during your workout? Hard to tell because many factors go into determining how efficiently your body works. I believe I read the most an elite athlete can burn in one hour was something like 1200 calories doing exercises of some really not fun stuff. Like running fast and jumping rope. For a non stop hour. Still, in my world 5mm makes a difference and exercising will still help the weight loss journey more than just calorie deprivation.
Chances are if you do not workout at all you will slip on your diet and have many setbacks. It will take you even longer than the time calculated above. If you do workout your setbacks could be minimized. It will most likely still take you the same time to lose the weight unless you stick with that calorie intake goal perfectly and who is perfect?
The formula and chart can be used to calculate how many calories and how long it will take to get from any weight to any weight. I picked 225 to 150 for absolutely no reason but once I picked those numbers I stuck with them throughout the article for clarity. This also works to explain why it takes a long time for the proverbial 90lb weakling to put on weight, too. The person looking to gain muscle hopefully is aware already that they must use a resistance training program to help their muscles grow.
Bottom line, the more you weigh the longer it takes to lose the weight (duh) but depending on your method there is a reason it seems to take longer to lose the last few pounds than it did to lose the bulk of the weight. It is this precise reason that while exercise plays a key role in weight loss and body composition plus overall wellness, you cannot "eat whatever you want because you worked out so hard." So as you have to workout anyway, find an activity you like and do it enough to make a difference. You can burn calories doing just about any activity just make sure you don't negate your burns by going outside your calorie budget.