Regardless of whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds before swimsuit season or you have a more serious weight-loss goal, you might be wondering if it’s possible to lose 20 pounds in 30 days.
The truth is, that is a lot to lose in a short amount of time. While some people may be able to reach this type of weight-loss result within the time frame, it isn’t a safe or sustainable rate of weight loss.
A lot of factors come into play when you’re trying to lose weight, including your starting weight, your diet and exercise habits, your metabolism, and other health factors. Considering this, while it might be possible to lose 20 pounds in 30 days, it won’t be possible for everyone, and if you do manage it, you aren’t likely to keep it off.
That being said, there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chance of sustainable weight loss success. Here are a few tips to help you lose a safe amount of weight in 30 days:
1. Keep Track Of Your Calorie Intake
Counting calories may seem tedious, but it’s an important step in weight loss. Knowing how many calories you’re consuming each day can help you make better choices when it comes to the foods you eat and help you stay on track with your goal to lose meaningful weight in 30 days.
How many calories should you eat in a day? Again, it depends:
- How active are you? Active people tend to burn more calories and shouldn’t eat too few calories, otherwise they risk becoming fatigued.
- What’s your starting weight? Someone who is overweight will likely lose weight faster than someone who is at a healthy weight by creating a smaller calorie deficit.
- How quickly do you want to lose weight? A more gradual weight loss may be easier to sustain over time than a rapid weight loss.
A general rule of thumb is that active adults should consume around 2,000-2,400 calories per day if they’re trying to maintain their weight. If you want to lose weight you’ll need to create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you’re burning each day.
A safe rate of weight loss is around 1-2 pounds per week, which means you’ll need to create a daily calorie deficit of 500-1,000 calories (10). 1-2 pounds per week is about 4-8 pounds in 4 weeks (28 days).
How should you keep track of your calorie intake? There are a few different ways:
- Use an online calorie calculator: Enter your weight, height, age, and activity level, and it will give you an estimate of how many calories you should be eating each day.
- Keep a food journal: Write down everything you eat and drink throughout the day, along with the corresponding calorie count.
- Use a fitness tracker: Many fitness apps or gadgets track your steps, activity level, and calories burned throughout the day. This can give you a good idea of how many calories you’re burning and help you make sure you’re creating a calorie deficit.
2. Work On Your Plate
The saying “abs are made in the kitchen” is at least partly true when it comes to weight loss. You can exercise all you want, but if you’re not eating healthy, calorie-controlled meals, you won’t see the results you want.
You can aim to lose up to 8 pounds in 30 days by controlling two aspects of your meals: quantity and quality. We’ve addressed the quantity part with calorie counting, but what about quality?
These foods will help fill you up without providing a lot of calories, and they’ll give you the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
More specifically, your plate should have more of:
Protein is crucial for weight loss. Research has shown that protein can help with weight loss by reducing cravings and increasing feelings of fullness. Plus, if you’re planning on hitting the gym (more on this later) protein will help you build muscle (15).
Some good sources of lean protein include:
- Chicken breast
- Turkey breast
- Greek yogurt
Not to mention the gut-protecting benefits of fiber, which can help keep your digestive system healthy and prevent constipation (6).
Some good sources of fiber include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
Carbs are the bane of many people’s existence when they’re trying to lose weight, but it’s important to remember that not all carbs are created equal.
Refined carbs (think: white bread, pastries, and candy) can cause your blood sugar to more quickly spike and then crash, leaving you feeling tired and hungry. On the other hand, complex carbs (like whole grains) take longer to digest, and they can help you feel full and energized longer (12).
Some good sources of whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat
Even when you eat whole grains, it’s important to be mindful of your portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your plate has only a fistful of grains, or about ¼ of the volume of food on the plate.
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3. Get Moving, Or Lifting
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for obesity, so it’s important to get moving if you’re trying to lose weight. And while any type of movement is good for you, research has shown that both aerobic exercise and strength training can help with weight loss (3).
Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, is any type of physical activity that increases your heart rate and helps you burn calories. This can include activities like walking, running, biking, swimming, or stair climbing.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week, which equates to about 30 minutes per day, five days a week (1). But if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to aim for more than that.
Strength training is a type of exercise that uses resistance to build or maintain muscle and bone mass. This can be done with free weights, like dumbbells and barbells, or with bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats.
In addition to helping you build muscle and bone mass, strength training can also help you burn calories and promote weight loss (4).
There are many resources available to help you get started with strength training, including books, classes, and online videos. The BetterMe app also has a variety of strength-training workouts that you can do at home with minimal equipment.
4. Make Sleep A Priority
Sleep is important for many reasons, including weight loss. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body may produce more of the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin signals your body to eat more, and it also promotes fat storage (11).
Additionally, when you don’t get enough sleep, your body may produce less of the hormone leptin. Leptin signals your body to eat less and can help you feel satiated after meals (11).
In addition to affecting hormones that control hunger, sleep can also affect the hormones that control stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body may produce more of the stress hormone cortisol (8). Excess cortisol has been linked to weight gain, particularly abdominal fat (13).
To promote weight loss, aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.
5. Drink Plenty Of Water
Staying hydrated is essential for many reasons and can also help with weight loss (16).
Water helps to fill you up, so you’re less likely to overeat. It might also help to boost metabolism and may promote fat burning (7).
In one study, participants who drank 500ml of water before meals lost more weight than those who didn’t drink any water. Both groups were on a low-calorie diet (17).
To make sure you’re drinking enough water, aim for eight to ten cups per day. You can also try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water for some extra flavor.
Other hydrating beverages, like herbal tea and unsweetened green tea, can also help promote weight loss. Avoid sugary drinks, like soda and fruit juice, as these can contribute to weight gain.
6. Stay Consistent
The hardest part about weight loss is often staying on track. There will be times when you slip up, and that’s OK. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible and not let one mistake derail your entire diet.
To stay consistent, make sure to:
- Set realistic goals
- Find a diet that works for you
- Find an exercise routine that you enjoy
- Make healthy lifestyle changes that you can stick to
- Get support from family and friends
Weight loss is a journey, and there will be ups and downs along the way. But if you’re committed to losing weight, you will eventually reach your goals.
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7. Get Help From A Professional
If you’re having trouble losing weight on your own, you may want to consult with a healthcare professional.
A doctor or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) can help you create a weight loss plan that’s right for you. They can also provide guidance and support to help you stick to your plan.
In some cases, a doctor may also prescribe medication to help with weight loss. This is usually only recommended for people who are obese or have other health conditions that make weight loss difficult (9).
The Bottom Line
Can you lose 20 pounds in 30 days? Probably not. If you’re committed to making lifestyle changes and following a healthy diet and exercise plan, you can expect to lose up to 8 pounds in that amount of time. More rapid weight loss is not safe for everyone and should only be attempted under medical supervision.
If you’re trying to lose weight, remember to focus on making gradual, sustainable changes. These changes will help you lose weight safely and keep it off in the long term.
What’s more, making small changes to your diet and lifestyle can have big benefits for your health. So even if you don’t reach your ideal weight, you can still reap the rewards of a healthier lifestyle.
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 decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids (2018, heart.org)
- Defining the Optimal Dietary Approach for Safe, Effective and Sustainable Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults (2018, mdpi.com)
- Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults (2012, journals.physiology.org)
- Evidence for Resistance Training as a Treatment Therapy in Obesity (2011, hindawi.com)
- Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study (2019, academic.oup.com)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss (2016, frontiersin.org)
- Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Prescription Medications to Treat Overweight & Obesity (2021, niddk.nih.gov)
- Rate of weight loss can be predicted by patient characteristics and intervention strategies (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index (2004, journals.plos.org)
- Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrate Dietary Patterns and the Global Overweight and Obesity Pandemic (2017, mdpi.com)
- Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? (2018, link.springer.com)
- The effects of exercise session timing on weight loss and components of energy balance: midwest exercise trial 2 (2019, nature.com )
- The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance (2015, academic.oup.com)
- Water, hydration, and health (2010, academic.oup.com)
- Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle‐aged and Older Adults (2012, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)