How to (Safely) Lose 10 Pounds in One Week
Shedding 10 pounds in a week is an incredibly lofty goal (and for some, it may be too lofty), but it might be doable if you’re willing to stick to a strict diet and exercise routine. You should expect to lose a maximum of 2 to 3 pounds of fat in a week, and the rest of that slim down will come from excess water weight. While you might not meet your exact 10-pound goal in just a week, you can visually slim down within a few days through lifestyle tweaks, and use the 1-week diet to jump-start longer-lasting weight loss.
For more health and wellness tips, 10 Best foods to Eat to Lose Weight, How to Lose Belly Fat, and 6 Bedtime Snacks That Help You Burn Fat (And Sleep Well, Too!).
Create Aggressive Calorie Goals
Your top priority for quick weight loss -- cut calories as much as (safely) possible. Your 1-week diet will push your calorie intake down as much as possible to accelerate weight loss -- without cutting calories so much that you’ll enter starvation mode and resist losing fat.
Start finding your lower calorie limit by using an online calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs. Since you’ll be working out daily over the course of the week, set the calculator to assume you’ll be active for about an hour a day.
Your minimum calorie need is either half your daily calorie burn, or 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men -- whichever is more. For example, a woman who burns 2,600 calories a day should eat 1,300 calories daily for maximum weight loss, while a woman who burns 1,700 calories daily should eat 1,200 to lose weight as fast as possible.
Stoke Your Metabolism with the Right Foods
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Let’s cut through the hype -- no single food will make you torch thousands of extra calories each day. But eating plenty of protein can up your metabolism and could help you burn an extra few hundred calories daily. You’ll burn about 30% of the calories in protein during digestion. So, for example, if you eat 300 calories’ worth of lean chicken breast (which is almost 100% protein), you’ll burn up to 90 calories just breaking it down. So subbing out carbs and fat for protein will boost your weight loss.
Start your day with egg whites topped with lots of fibrous veggies, snack on a low-calorie protein shake or a handful of pumpkin seeds, and include lean meats, fish, tofu or beans at each meal. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, and eat 5 to 6 meals each day.
A super high-protein diet isn’t safe for everyone, and it can cause harmful side effects if you have an underlying health condition. Check with your doctor before adding tons of protein to your diet.
That’s not to say carbs aren’t important too. You’ll need ‘em to stay energized and motivated for the week. But choose carbs that are packed with fiber – think quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat bread, beans and legumes. Fiber makes your food tougher to digest, so it has similar metabolism-boosting benefits as protein.
Need a metabolic boost? Cook with ginger! A recent study found that it boosts your calorie burn during digestion, so you’ll increase your metabolism without doing any extra work. Sweet!
Say “Sayonara” to Sodium
Sure, sodium makes your food taste great, but it also makes you bloat – the last thing you want when you need to lose weight fast! Simply getting rid of the excess sodium in your diet by shifting your diet to whole, unprocessed foods might lower your salt intake enough to lose 5 pounds or more.
Obviously, you’ll need to nix processed and pre-packaged foods (that includes any fast food!) but you should also shop for low-sodium soups and broths, bread and cottage cheese – these are healthy “hidden” sodium bombs.
Keep track of your sodium intake along with calories – you should cap your intake at 1,500 milligrams daily, max.
Craving salty flavor? Try seasoning your meals with potassium chloride (a sodium-free salt substitute) or kelp flakes instead.
Work Out Hard, Then Taper Off
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When you need to lose 10 pounds fast, it’s “go big or go home”... at least for the first part of your week. To get the best results, you’ll want to push yourself hard for the first few days of the week. Tough workouts raise your metabolism for up to two days, and certain exercises trigger hormonal changes that make it easier to lose fat. And obviously, these workouts will torch calories to help you lose more fat.
Alternate one day of full-body strength training with one day of interval training workouts for the first four days of the week to jump-start your weight loss. Include plenty of squats and deadlifts on your strength training days to maximize the release of fat-burning hormones. Then do low-impact but high-intensity sprints – for example, high-resistance rowing or elliptical training – for your interval workouts, performing 10 to 20 sets of 15 second sprints and 45 second rest intervals.
After your 4-day burst, adjust your workouts to lower the intensity. Try taking a Pilates class, for example, instead of hitting the weight room; go for a moderate-intensity cycling sesh instead of a sweaty, breakneck spin class.
Why the taper?
Your burst of activity early in the week creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. These tears make your muscles fill up with water (bodybuilders call this the post-workout “pump”). Tapering off your workouts later in the week gives your muscles lots of time to heal, so you’ll lose that extra water weight and see a bigger difference on the scale.
Never push so hard that you feel nauseous or faint, or lift weights so heavy you can't use proper technique. If you’re not sure of your limits, consult a trainer for help.
Last-Minute Slimming Tweaks
Between diet and lifestyle tweaks, you’ve done all you can to lose the 10 pounds fast – but you still have a few slimming tricks up your sleeve. Make sure you’re wearing the right undergarments to eliminate any lumps or bumps, and play up your best assets with a statement piece – whether that’s a stunning necklace, a killer pair of shoes or a tasteful-but-noticeable tie.
If you've been trying to lose the 10 pounds for a particular event or celebration, practice standing up straight during the day, and mindfully check in with your posture the day of your event, and set the clock app on your phone to give you regular reminders. Not only does good posture make you look taller, longer and leaner, it helps you radiate confidence, which will always make you instantly more attractive.
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Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Based in Ontario, Canada, Tremblay is an experienced journalist and blogger specializing in nutrition, fitness, lifestyle, health and biotechnology, as well as real estate, agriculture and clean tech.