One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose this the number of calories you burn each day must outnumber the number of calories you consume through food. The American Academy of Family Physicians says it is safe, healthy and sustainable to lose one to two pounds per week regardless of your starting weight. To lose one pound per week, AAFP recommends cutting 250 calories from what you eat every day and burning an additional 250 calories each day through exercise.
Before you start cutting calories, you must first know how many you need to maintain your current weight. Talking to a dietitian will help you figure out the correct number of calories for your personal weight loss journey, but an online calorie calculator can give you a generalized estimate. It calculates your caloric needs based on your age, height, weight, activity level and gender. If you are a 30-year-old woman who is 5 feet, 6 inches with a desk job, the calculator estimates you'll need approximately 2,520 calories to maintain your current weight of 300 pounds. Subtract 250 calories from this total to lose one pound per week giving you a total of 2,270 calories each day. Remember, you will need to burn an additional 250 calories per week through exercise to create a loss of one pound.
The most efficient way to burn calories is through aerobic exercise. Choose the activity that you like the most and will perform at least 30 minutes most days of the week. In 2006 researchers from the University of Utah, Gappmaier et al. found that a significant amount of weight was lost no matter the activity. Participants took part in walking, swimming or walking in a pool for 40 minutes, four times per week at 70 percent of their maximum heart rate. They lost an average of 13 pounds and 3.7 percent body fat.
Resistance training is an important part of your weight loss routine. A 2009 study published in the Brazilian Archives of Cardiology, "Arquivos Brasileiros Cardiologia," found that overweight and obese women who participated in circuit weight training lost 11 pounds and reduced their body fat percentage by 6 percent. Choose exercises for each of your major muscle groups, including your legs, hips, back, arms, chest and core. Perform the exercises in a circuit by alternating 30 seconds of resistance training with 30 seconds of walking or jogging in place. Do this three times per week, resting for at least one day between workouts.
A sample workout includes hamstring curls, shoulder raises, lunges, dumbbell fly, bicep curls, crunches, lat pulldown, seated back extension and incline press. Choose a weight that is about 50 percent of the most you can lift. Do the first exercise for 30 seconds then walk in place for 30 seconds before moving on to the second exercise. Continue until you complete each exercise. Repeat this circuit one or two more times. You should finish in about 30 minutes. Consult a fitness professional to ensure proper technique.
- Arquivos Brasileiros Cardiologia; Circuit Weight Training Versus Jogging in Metabolic Risk Factors of Overweight/Obese Women; Fett et al.
- Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; Aerobic Exercise in Water Versus Walking on Land: Effects on Indices of Fat Reduction and Weight Loss of Obese Women; Gappmaier, et al.
- Iowa State University Extension: Estimated Calorie Needs Calculators
- FamilyDoctor.org: What it Takes to Lose Weight