Attempting to lose 20 pounds in 10 weeks can seem daunting, but if you break it down, you only need to lose two pounds per week. This is a very attainable goal and a healthy rate of weight loss that increases your chances of keeping the pounds off.
By creating and following a 10-week weight loss plan that includes cardio, strength training and adjustments to your diet, you can lose pounds.
Burn More Calories
Burning calories with cardio exercise is an important component of any weight loss plan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week for all adults. For weight loss, aim for a minimum of 300 minutes, or five hours, per week.
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In order to lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume. The number of calories you burn in a cardio session varies greatly based on the activity you select, the intensity of your workout and your body weight.
What type of cardio should you do? Make sure you choose something you enjoy enough to stick with it and feel free to mix up your workouts. Here are the estimated calories burned per hour for various cardio activities according to Harvard Health Publishing. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn for a given activity:
- Running at a rate of six miles per hour: 600 to 888 calories
- Water aerobics: 240 to 356 calories
- Elliptical trainer: 540 to 800 calories
- Stairstep machine: 360 to 532 calories
- Swimming laps: 600 to 888 calories
Build Lean Muscle
Muscle strengthening exercises are equally important for your health and weight loss. Target all of your major muscle groups at least twice per week. This ensures that you build and maintain your lean muscle mass while burning fat.
Lifting weights is an excellent way to strengthen muscles if you have a gym membership or a home gym. But you can still get strength training in with other equipment such as resistance bands, or even with body-weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats.
Aim for a minimum of one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. Build up to two to three sets and then increase the weight or resistance to make sure you continue to challenge yourself.
Whether you are doing strength training or cardio, be sure to do a good warm-up before exercising and cool-down at the end of your workout. This helps to decrease the risk of injuries that may derail your exercise and weight loss plan.
10-Week Diet Plan
If your calorie intake prior to starting exercise was the correct amount to maintain your weight, you may be able to lose weight with exercise alone. However, by reducing your caloric intake, you increase your chances of success.
When creating a meal plan for extreme weight loss, make sure the adjustments you make are both healthy and sustainable. Otherwise, you may find that you gain the weight right back when the diet is over.
The number of calories you need to maintain your current weight varies based on your activity level, age, weight and gender. Use an estimated calorie requirements calculator to determine your daily caloric needs.
Focus on a diet that includes lean meats, plenty of fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Avoid foods that are high in salt, saturated and trans fats, or have added sugar. Be sure to monitor your portions. Even if you are eating healthy foods, if your portions are too large, you may still be taking in too many calories to achieve weight loss.
If you find that you feel hungry when you cut calories, try changing the type of foods you eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that fullness is related more to the amount of food that you eat rather than the calories contained in that food. Here are some substitutions to consider:
- Broth-based soups instead of cream-based soups
- Carrot and celery sticks with hummus instead of pretzels, chips or crackers
- Extra-lean ground beef instead of regular ground beef
- Low-fat dairy instead of regular-fat dairy
- Steamed vegetables instead of fried vegetables or french fries
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Eat More, Weigh Less?"
- ExRx.net: "Estimated Calorie Requirements"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "I Want to Lose a Pound of Weight. How Many Calories Do I Need to Burn?"