Losing weight comes with very many benefits and that is why many people want to drop at least a few pounds. The desire to lose weight usually intensifies during the months leading up to summer as everyone wants to have their summer body ready by that time. What most people fail to notice is that weight loss does not work like that – it needs time, it needs you to invest a lot of energy, it requires hard work and discipline. In this read, we shall look at the notion of losing 50 pounds in 3 months. Is it safe? Is it possible?
Understanding Weight Loss
The basic concept in weight loss is taking in less calories than you consume. That sounds easy, right? Well, it is not. There are two major ways of doing this. The first way is by eating fewer calories than your body needs. This prevents your body from having more than it needs and ending up storing the extra calories as fat. The second way of doing that is by burning up calories by exercising. This forces the body to use the stored fat to provide the body with energy and this leads to weight loss. It is usually recommended to apply both approaches as the results are better and can be sustained for a long period of time.
Is Losing 50 Pounds In 3 Months Safe?
The direct answer to that question is no. Let’s dive deeper into this. The American Academy of Family Physicians has recommended losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds weekly (2, 6). To lose 1 pound of fat, you need to burn approximately 3500 calories weekly and this translates to burning off or cutting 500 calories from your diet daily. To lose 2 pounds of fat, you need to burn 7000 calories weekly and this translates to burning off or cutting 1000 calories from your diet daily.
Using the recommended weight loss rate, the recommended weight limit a person could lose in a month is 4 – 8 pounds (14000 – 28000 calories). That then means that the healthy amount of weight a person should lose in 3 months is 12 to 24 pounds which equals 42000 to 84000 calories. Depending on your starting point, even the higher end of that range could be difficult to achieve.
What Trying To Lose 50 Pounds In 3 Months Looks Like
50 pounds is equivalent to 175000 calories which means you need to burn all those calories in 3 months. Breaking it down to monthly installments, it means you would need to lose approximately 16. 67 pounds every month. 16.67 pounds are equivalent to 58345 calories. Breaking it even more, means you need to burn approximately 4.16 pounds each and every week and that is equivalent to 14586 calories. That then means you need to cut or burn 2084 extra calories every day. Those are too many calories to burn in a single day in a healthy manner.
Aiming to burn over 2000 additional calories is first of all not sustainable. There is no way you can burn 2000 calories every single day for a long period of time. Remember that 2000 calories are what you would need to burn over and above your normal maintenance energy expenditure. Having such unrealistic weight goals may lead you to try different fad diets which are not recommended.
Fad diets promise fast weight loss by using methods that are not healthy and recommended. A fad diet would have goals like losing 50 pounds in 3 months. Fad diets are also likely to cause malnutrition. This is mainly from the fact they would recommend eating less than 1200 calories in a day or only eating one food only, like eggs. When choosing a weight loss diet, it is advisable to choose a diet that you can sustain for a long period of time.
Over Working Out
Apart from fad diets, having such extreme weight goals may lead to overworking out. This is where you spend even many hours in the gym doing extreme workouts. Rest is essential for workout programs and working out this hard does not leave room for rest. Apart from rest, working out this much is also likely to cause injuries due to the wear and tear. Such working out is not advised.
The National Institute of Health recommends setting realistic weight goals and that is to say that losing 50pounds in 3 months is neither a realistic nor an achievable weight goal. The National Institute of Health recommends trying to lose about 5% to 10% of your total body weight in a period of six months (6). That is a more realistic goal which won’t have your trying weight loss approaches that may cause more harm than gain.
Effects Of Rapid Weight Loss
Rapid weight loss is not recommended. The reason for this is the fact that rapid weight loss comes with many serious dangers and side effects to your health. Here are some of the dangers and side effects of rapid weight loss:
Rapid Weight Loss Employs Harmful Weight Loss Methods
When you use any of these weight-loss approaches, you put your health in danger. Here are some of these dangerous rapid weight loss approaches:
Starvation Diets (3)
These are extreme diets that do not support the body’s normal functioning and put you on a slippery slope to nutrient deficiency. Any diet that recommends taking less than 1200 calories in a day belongs to this category and should be avoided by all means, unless under strict medical supervision.
Diet Pills And Supplements (3)
There are so many diet pills and supplements on the market today. These pills and supplements promise rapid weight loss. They either claim to block absorption of nutrients, increase metabolism or burn fat. Some people wanting to lose weight fall for these diet pills and supplements and they end up putting their health in danger.
What’s even shocking is the fact that various medicine regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate or evaluate the claims made by over-the-counter weight loss products. What this means is that the various producers of these pills don’t even have to prove that their products are safe or effective before they sell them to the public.
Creams, Devices And Black Magic (3)
This is where various websites and magazines promise fast weight loss without dieting or exercising. You will find them promoting certain devices or creams that are supposed to help you lose 50 pounds while sitting comfortably on your sofa. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Rapid Weight Loss Causes Dehydration (5)
This is one of the most common side effects of losing weight too quickly. When you lose too much weight fast, there are high chances that you are losing mostly water weight. Various studies show that even losing 2% of water weight can lead to things like increased mental fatigue, nausea, dizziness and apathy. In cases of extreme dehydration, there is an increased risk of various cardiovascular conditions, this also can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Rapid Weight Loss Causes Malnutrition (5)
As pointed out earlier, this can be caused by going on very restrictive diets. Over time, malnutrition leads to deficiencies of important minerals and vitamins and this results in a number of side effects such as fatigue, lack of energy, a weakened immune system and even dizziness.
Rapid Weight Loss Causes A Loss Of Lean Muscles (5)
If you continue working out while not receiving the required amount of nutrients, you are most likely to lose the lean muscles you currently have. Your body needs energy when you are working out. Most of the time this energy is usually provided by the food you eat and since you are not eating enough, your body will have to break down the muscles you currently have for energy. Losing lean muscles slows down your metabolism since muscles are metabolic active tissues which means they burn calories even while you are resting. Slowing down your metabolism affects your efforts to lose weight.
Rapid Weight Loss Often Leaves You With Loose Skin (3)
Loose skin is likely to occur on your abdomen, your hands and your legs. The reason you are likely to have skin hanging is because due to the rapid weight loss, the skin did not have enough time to shrink with the rest of the body and due to this it loses its elasticity. While this may not have long-term health consequences, it can cause mental distress, as well as uncomfortable chafing. If after two years your skin has not gone back to how it was, the only way to fix it would be through surgery.
Rapid Weight Loss Causes Gallstones (4)
Gallstones are hard deposits of cholesterol that usually form in the gallbladder. The development of gallstones is one of the most common side effects of rapid weight loss. Gallstones are said to be harmless, but they cause most of the people who have them to experience nausea and serious abdominal pain to the extent that the gallbladder may need to be removed. When you are overweight or obese, you are at risk of developing gallstones, so losing weight is beneficial. However, doing it very quickly actually increases your risk of developing them.
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Healthy Ways To Lose Weight
Since we’ve seen all the side effects or losing weight at a rapid rate, here are ways to use so as to lose weight at a healthy pace.
This is one of the most effective methods of losing weight. The concept of losing weight is pretty simple on paper, take in fewer calories than your body needs. Taking in fewer calories than your body needs creates a calorie deficit and this forces the body to use the stored fat for energy and leading to weight loss. As highlighted earlier, the recommended weight loss rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week which is 3500 to 7000 calories.
Calculating Your BMR
To cut calories, you need to find your basal metabolic rate (BMR) first. There are many online calculators that help with that. You can also do the math by yourself by using the formulas below (1):
- For men, BMR = 66.47 + (13.75 * your weight in kgs) + (5.003 * size in cms [height] ) – (6.755 * your age)
- For women, BMR = 655.1 + (9.563 * weight in kgs) + (1.85 * size in cms [height]) – (4.676 * your age)
Once you get your BMR, you need to multiply it by an activity factor to get your total energy requirements to maintain your current weight (1):
- If you are mostly sedentary, multiply your BMR by 1.2
- If you are lightly active, multiply your BMR by 1.375
- In case you are moderately active (exercise 3-5 days per week), multiply your BMR by 1.55
- If you are very active (exercise 6-7 days per week), multiply your BMR by 1.725
- If you are extremely active (exercise + have a physical job), multiply your BMR by 1.9
Once you know your total energy needs, if you want to lose 1 pound every week, you need to cut your daily calorie intake by 500 calories and if you want to lose 2 pounds every week you have to cut your daily calorie intake by 1000 calories. When doing this, you have to make sure your daily calorie intake does not go below 1200-1500 calories.
This is yet another way of creating a calorie deficit. Working out helps burn calories and the body ends up using the stored fat masses to provide the body with the necessary energy. Different exercises are known for different things and that is why if your aim is to lose weight you should go for cardiovascular exercises. Cardio exercises burn the most calories. Examples of cardio exercises that burn a lot of calories include cycling, rowing, swimming and sprinting. When doing all these exercises, it is important to warm up first as warming up reduces the chances of getting injured.
As discussed earlier, muscles are metabolic active tissues and that is why building muscles helps with weight loss. Just like cardiovascular exercises are known for burning calories, strength-training exercises are known for building muscles and strength. Building muscles increases your body’s metabolism and this promotes weight loss. Even though strength-training exercises are not known for burning calories, they are an important piece of the puzzle for weight loss and should be included in any routine.
Choosing The Right Weight Loss Diet
There are good diets that help with weight loss. The ones that are most often successful are not too restrictive and this reduces the chances of them causing malnutrition. A good way of finding a diet that works best for you is consulting a dietician or nutritionist. Years of research on diets like plant-based diets, low carb diets and low-fat diets have shown that they can be quite effective when it comes to weight loss hence those would be good diets to consider for your weight loss journey. You may even find that a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is better for you, which a dietitian can help you with as well.
Reducing Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol may deter your efforts to shed off a few pounds. Alcohol has what most people call empty calories. Empty calories are calories that have no benefit to the body but they are calories nonetheless. Taking alcohol increases your daily calorie intake and this promotes weight gain. Apart from that, drinking alcohol increases your appetite. An increase in appetite leads to you taking in more calories and this also leads to weight gain.
Drinking A Lot Of Water
You should reduce your alcohol intake and increase your water intake. Water helps improve your metabolism and this helps with weight loss as you are able to burn even more calories. Water also reduces the intake of food. If you drink water before you eat a meal, you are likely to eat less than you would have had you not drank water, This reduces your daily calorie intake thus aiding in your weight loss journey.
Increasing Your Fiber Intake
Foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains have a high fiber content and hence you should add such foods to your diet. Fiber promotes satiety in that it helps you feel full faster and for longer and this reduces your calorie intake. Reducing your daily calorie intake creates a calorie deficit leading to weight loss.
Not Skipping Meals
Although skipping meals might look like a good strategy to reduce your food intake, it actually affects your efforts to cut off a few pounds. Most people eat 3 main meals and a snack while others choose to eat 5 to 6 small meals which is also fine as long as you are not skipping meals. Skipping meals will increase your hunger and when you finally get to eat you might end up eating more than you would have had you eaten before (7).
The Bottom Line
Losing 50 pounds in 3 months is not advisable and you should try to avoid making such unrealistic weight goals. Make realistic weight goals and use the various methods highlighted in this article to lose weight in a healthy manner.
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!
- BMR Calculator (2019, diabetes.co.uk)
- Losing Weight (2020, cdc.gov)
- Rapid Weight Loss (n.d., webmd.com)
- Risks of Losing Too Much Weight Too Quickly (n.d., livestrong.com)
- The Potential Dangers of Using Rapid Weight Loss Techniques (2014, journals.lww.com)
- Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies (n.d., ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What It Takes to Lose Weight (2003, aafp.org)