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Fast VS Slow Weight Loss – Which is Better?

Have you heard of the fable of the tortoise and the hare?

The tortoise challenges the hare to a race as he is sick of the hare’s overconfident attitude.

They start and the hare sprints off to an early lead.

Thinking he has this in the bag, the hare takes a nap, but when he awakes he discovers he’s been beaten.

What does this have to do with weight loss you ask?

Well, absolutely nothing actually.

You see, a lot of people think that losing weight slowly is the way to go.

A lot of people will use this analogy to describe how ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and apply it to damn near everything.

But the thing is, in the research, rapid vs slow weight loss can be equally effective.

“But… but… starvation mode!” I hear you shout across the room.

There is no such thing my friend, you can calm down.

People get scared of metabolic damage, rebounding weight, muscle loss and more.

But all of these things are false!

“The biggest loser proves it though”.

Does it?

The biggest loser just shows us you can lose a shit ton of weight when you work out for 5 hours a day and have teams of personal trainers and nutritionists doing everything for you.

The participants regain weight slowly over time because they revert back to their old lifestyles.

It’s got fuck all to do with metabolic damage.

A fast rate of weight loss may be the best method

Here’s why:

Nackers et al in 2010 took 3 groups of overweight individuals through a 6-month weight loss and 1-year post-intervention care program.

They categorised them into 3 groups based on their results after 1 month: fast, moderate, or slow (fast being >0.68kg per week lost.

They concluded:

“Fast weight losers obtained greater weight reduction and long-term maintenance, and were not more susceptible to weight regain than gradual weight losers.”

1 year later the fast group had over 50% of people who had maintained the weight loss compared to 35% and 16% in the moderate and slow groups respectively.

They also found that the fast group attended more sessions and had better adherence overall.

What About Muscle Loss?

This doesn’t happen if you eat enough protein and lift weights properly.

What’s enough protein?

Longland et al in 2016 took 2 groups of men and put them on a 40% restriction for 4 weeks. One group at 1.2g/kg protein and the other ate 2.4g/kg.

The group eating 1.2g/kg preserved muscle, whereas the group eating 2.4g/kg gained muscle.

So who said you can’t gain muscle on a diet?

Idiots, that’s who.

What about the crashing of metabolisms?

In 1973 Stewart and Fleming conducted a medically supervised fast on a young man aged 27 weighing 207kg.

Patient A.B, as he’s known in the study, fasted for 382 days.

Yep, no food, just vitamins, for 382 days.

The results?

He lost a total of 125.2kg losing an average of 0.33kg/day.

5 years later, he was maintaining 85kg.

No damage, no crash, no massive rebound.

Just the ultimate act of photosynthesis on a human 😉

A fast rate of weight loss may bring you better results

Heilbronn et al in 2006 took 4 groups through a 6-month study:

  1. The control group (weight maintenance)
  2. Calorie restriction from diet alone (25%)
  3. Calorie restriction from diet and exercise (12.5% each so 25%)
  4. Very low-calorie diet (43% restriction – as low as 893 kcal/day for some)

What happened?

The fast rate of weight loss dieted for only 11 out of the 24 weeks and then maintained.

Overall they lost significantly more weight than the slow approaches.

So what’s the conclusion here?

Fast rates may suit you better and bring you better results

You are able to get in and then get out with regards to calorie restriction, giving you less time in a diet and more time at maintenance.

Yes, we have to teach you how to live, but that is a different thing to dieting.

Remember, if you keep protein high, you won’t suffer muscle loss.

This approach wouldn’t be the best in order to preserve performance, however, if you’re out of the diet sooner, you can return to maintenance quicker.

So it’s a trade-off really.

In summary, if you want to lose fat fast, go ahead

Here are my tips on how to do it:

  • Keep protein high (I recommend 2g/kg for fast weight loss)
  • Eat mostly vegetables as carbs (some legumes for fibre)
  • Potentially fast or use a protein shake for one meal per day
  • Keep fats minimal to essential fatty acids (unsaturated fats and fish)

And get shreds quickly.

Let me know what you think by sending me an email at jonny@nextstep-nutrition.com

If you want to have great content like this delivered straight to your inbox, make sure you download my free handbook – CrossFit’s Paleo Problem

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