Whether you're trying to drop 5 pounds as the first milestone in a larger weight-loss goal, or you're trying to shed that last stubborn bit of fat, lifestyle changes can help. Good news: if you have a lot of weight to lose or live a very active lifestyle, you'll likely be able to lose 5 pounds of fat within two to three weeks. Add diet modifications to avoid water weight and you'll likely achieve your 5-pound weight loss more quickly.
Create a Weight Loss Plan
When dieting for healthy weight loss, you can expect to lose an average of 1 to 2 pounds of fat each week. If you have a greater amount of weight to lose -- or are very active or lose weight easily -- aim for a 2-pound weekly weight loss that will allow you to shed 5 pounds of fat in a little over two weeks. If you're already slim and trying to shed the last 5 pounds, expect your weight loss journey to take at least five weeks -- possibly as long as 10 weeks.
Regardless of your starting weight, you'll need to cut calories to reach your goal. If you have a larger body size or you're very active, you probably burn a higher number of calories each day, so you can cut more calories to lose weight quickly. For example, a person who burns 3,000 calories a day could cut calorie intake to 2,000 calories a day. That 1,000-calorie gap means burning about 1,000 calories' worth of mostly body fat each day -- enough to add up to 2 pounds over the course of a week.
On the other hand, if you have a smaller body size, are close to your goal weight or live a sedentary lifestyle, you burn fewer calories and should cut calories less aggressively. Someone who burns 2,000 calories per day, for example, might be able to cut only 250 to 500 calories per day -- enough to lose 1/2 to 1 pound a week. While this might be slower than you expected, it's still the quickest way to lose weight safely.
Drop Water Weight Fast by Cutting Sodium
You'll need to wait a few weeks to drop 5 pounds of body fat, but you may be able to lose a few pounds of water weight by cutting sodium intake. A sodium-laden diet can inflate your weight on the scale; sodium forces your body to retain water, so you'll gain water weight even if you haven't put on fat. That water weight can be significant. Theoretically, just 200 milligrams of extra dietary sodium, or about 13 percent of the daily limit for most American adults, can result in a gain of 1 pound of water weight. So, if you're taking in 1,000 milligrams of sodium from, say, a fast-food meal, you could gain 5 pounds simply from fluid retention. As you go back to your regular diet and lower your sodium intake, you'll shed the excess water weight. That could allow a 5-pound weight loss in less than a week from lost water weight.
Sodium-Lowering Diet Tips for a 5-Pound Loss
Limit your sodium by avoiding packaged foods, as well as restaurant meals and fast food. Instead, opt for naturally low-sodium foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, unsalted nuts and lean proteins, along with healthy fats. Limit sodium-laden cottage cheese, salad dressings, condiments, sauces and breads. Although these foods are healthy, their salt content triggers water retention.
Use lower-sodium -- and weight loss-friendly -- alternatives. Make wraps using hearty sodium-free collard leaves instead of sodium-laden wheat tortillas. Season your meals with antioxidant-packed spices and herbs, and forgo store-bought sauces and marinades that contain sodium, sugar and fat. Make large batches of low-sodium, freezable recipes -- like vegetable soups or chili -- for a healthy alternative to store-bought frozen meals, and pack unsalted walnuts, almonds or pistachios to eat instead of salty pretzels or chips. Not only will these substitutions make it easier to meet your calorie goals, they'll limit your salt intake to help you shed water weight.
Lose Weight Quickly with HIIT
You might be able to achieve a 5-pound weight loss relatively quickly through diet modifications, but adding exercise should accelerate your results. You'll see the fastest results doing high-intensity interval training, also called HIIT. Like any exercise, HIIT burns calories, but also triggers physiological changes that elevate metabolism for hours after a workout, actually burning nine times as much fat as slow-and-steady cardio methods, according to the International Sports Sciences Association.
HIIT requires working at a high intensity for a short period of time, alternating with less intense work, so you'll get the best results if you start slow by adding just one to two intervals to your workouts. After warming up, "sprint" at maximum intensity for 20 to 30 seconds. Rest or work at a slow pace for a minute or two to recover, then complete one more 20- to 30-second sprint and recovery period. Complete the rest of the workout as you normally would. As your body adapts, add more intervals to your cardio routine to accelerate your results, so you'll keep seeing changes in your body even after your initial 5-pound weight loss.
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- Towson University: Salt, Sodium, and High Blood Pressure
- Colorado State University Extension: Sodium in the Diet
- International Sports Sciences Association: What You Need to Know About High Intensity Interval Training
- Colorado University: Impact of Exercise Intensity on Body Fatness and Skeletal Muscle Metabolism