At one point or another, everyone has tried to figure out how to lose weight quickly — whether for an upcoming vacation or for a special event. But everyone has probably also heard — or found out first-hand — how unhealthy most quick weight-loss fixes can be, and how they can actually lead to more weight gain in the long run.
But there is a safe way to lose weight quickly: “There are always little tricks where you can jumpstart your metabolism and see some results fast,” says Beachbody Super Trainer Joel Freeman. Joel and fellow Super Trainer Jericho McMatthews — co-creators of CORE DE FORCE — share their 13 tips for how to lose weight quickly — in a healthy way.
1. Skip Crash Diets
“A crash diet isn’t a great idea,” Jericho says. “It’s not healthy, and it just doesn’t send your body the right message.”
Tori Schmitt, RDN, agrees: “Super low-calorie meal plans that aren’t calorie- and nutrient-adequate can make you feel fatigued in the short-term,” she explains. In the long-term, these low-calorie diets may slow your metabolism, which may make it harder to lose weight in the future, she adds.
What’s more, most low-calorie diets really only help you lose water weight. “There is a difference between fat loss and water loss. Most people crash diet for a week or two, ‘lose weight’ and then complain that they ‘gain’ it all back a few weeks later. Yes — because it wasn’t fat loss, it was more water-weight loss, which will come back quickly,” says Alexandra Caspero, R.D., nutritionist.
2. Set Attainable Goals
For your goals to be achievable, they have to be realistic. “People sometimes think of things in terms of ‘The Biggest Loser,’ where they see this extreme weight loss and think, ‘Oh I can do that.’ But in reality, that’s not the healthiest way to lose weight,” Joel says.
Sure, losing five dress sizes in two weeks would be nice — but it’s not realistic to achieve in a healthy way. Four pounds over the next two weeks, though, is realistic, adds Joel. Aim for a healthy and realistic goal of shedding one to two pounds a week.
3. Pencil In Your Weight-Loss Plan — Literally
Once you set your goal, sit down with a calendar and write out what every day of the next 7, 14, 21 will look like. Then write in your workouts where you know you can do them — not as a side note, but as a designated time when you WILL workout.
“You have to be realistic in what you’re already doing, and whether that workout is going to fit into your daily routine,” says Joel. If you have kids, you’re probably not going to get to the gym before work. But you probably could squeeze in a 30-minute workout at home.
4. Ease Into Your Plan
“The number one thing I see people do is try to overdo it by taking on too much, too fast,” Joel says. “They go from what they’re currently doing — which might be not working out at all and eating unhealthy food — and then they go to the opposite end of that, overworking their bodies and saying that all they’ll eat is kale.”
If you don’t gradually incorporate healthier eating habits into your diet, you risk falling off the wagon. If you don’t ease into a workout program, you risk overtraining and even injury. That’s one reason why Beachbody programs feature modifications for beginners, says Joel.
5. Focus on High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Both Joel and Jericho agree that the most effective workout for losing weight as quickly as possible is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. “If you only have 20 or 30 minutes, you can get in a really great workout,” Jericho says. “It’ll push you into the anaerobic zone, so you’ll see results in a short amount of time.”
Not only will you burn a ton of calories during HIIT, but you’ll also continue burning them at a higher rate for up to (and possibly more than) 24-hours afterward as your body goes about the repair and recovery processes, Joel adds. Science agrees: High intensity exercise induces the greatest increase in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal resting state. In practical terms, that just means that HIIT elevates your metabolism, and keeps it elevated much longer than low intensity workouts.
6. Be Active Every Day
You can work out up to six days a week, as long as you’re following a carefully designed program like CORE DE FORCE, which manages workout intensity and variety to prevent overtraining and burnout. “I love to mix my workouts up: I might do HIIT one day, and then something more relaxed the next, like a dance workout,” says Jericho.
At least one day per week should be earmarked for recovery. But don’t mistake recovery for inactivity. Go ahead an hike, bike, swim, etc.—just keep the intensity low. If you can’t easily carry on a conversation, you’re going too hard.
7. Ladies, Get to Know Your Weights
“If you’re looking to lose weight quickly, I would incorporate weights into HIIT,” Jericho advises. “A lot of women think that to lose weight they just need to do cardio, but incorporating strength training increases your caloric burn after you work out, since increasing lean muscle mass elevates your metabolism.”
Plus, strength training increases bone density, strengthens your tendons and ligaments, and helps prevent injuries — all crucial to staying truly healthy, she adds.
A lot of women are afraid of putting on weight, but lean muscle mass is the weight you want. And thanks to genetics, most women don’t have to worry about packing on bulky “man muscle” anyway. “Don’t be as concerned with the number on the scale as the inches you’re losing or the way your clothes are fitting,” Jericho says.
8. Eat Super Clean
“When it comes to fast weight loss, definitely first and most important, in my opinion, is cleaning up your nutrition as much as possible,” Jericho says. Get back to the basics: She recommends focusing on lean protein and vegetables and drinking a lot of water to stay hydrated.
In addition to protein and veggies, Schmitt advises focusing on other whole foods like fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds as well. “Keep in mind that proteins, fats, and fiber helps you feel fuller longer, so when you focus on whole foods like hemp seeds, broccoli, salmon, eggs, berries, and almonds, you’re getting at least one of those hunger-busting nutrient benefits,” she adds.
9. Cut Excess Calories
Look at what you’re already putting into your body and see what needs to change, Joel advises. He and Jericho both recommend cutting any “extras” in your diet — an idea echoed by Schmitt.
“The extras might be the foods you eat when you’re not truly ‘stomach hungry’ or the foods that don’t provide a high level of nutrient density, like alcohol or added sugar,” Schmitt says.
“We all know what we should and shouldn’t eat, so it’s fairly easy to figure out what you need to take out of your diet,” Joel adds. “Knock out the big ones — sugar, alcohol — and you’re going to see a lot of results even without adding workouts.”
10. Guys, Make Sure You’re Fueling Enough
“The overall mindset of people is ‘If I eat less, then I’ll lose weight,’ but one thing I’ve realized over the years is eating is not a bad thing,” says Joel. “If I’m trying to trim down, and training hard, I tend to actually eat more because that makes my body more efficient.” He likens it to a car: If you want your car to go further, you have to put fuel in it.
“You need to fuel your workouts,” agrees Caspero. “When you cut your calorie intake, you are also cutting energy, which is essential for exercise, especially HIIT.”
11. Track Your Weight-Loss Progress
Keep a journal, put a calendar on your fridge, download a tracker app — recording your progress can help you take the time to pat yourself on the back, check in with yourself, and keep yourself accountable, Jericho says.
Tracking your food, especially, can help: A long-term weight-loss maintenance study of almost 2,000 subjects showed that keeping a food diary can double your weight loss.
12. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Don’t beat yourself up too much if you veer from your plan, Jericho adds. “If you fall off the wagon or miss a workout, a lot of times people spiral and just give up,” she explains. “Pat yourself on the back, acknowledge that you’re human, and keep going.”
13. Make a Post-Event Plan
Once you’ve hit your goal and wowed everyone at your wedding/high school reunion/special event, take time to celebrate all your hard work — but then start formulating a plan for tomorrow. “Giving yourself a few weeks to lose weight for a specific event usually takes a lot of workouts and restrictions, which usually leads to binge eating after the fact,” says Caspero.
The good news is you’ve already proven to yourself that you can live with two less sodas a day and that you really do have time to squeeze a workout in every day. “If you can stay consistent, that’s when you start to feel better and see the consistent results,” says Joel.
The Bottom Line
So, yes, you can lose weight quickly — but skip the sketchy quick fixes and do it the healthy way so you can keep the weight off and finally break the “I gotta lose weight fast!” cycle.