Losing 50 pounds in three months is an ambitious goal that's not recommended by health professionals. While you can see major results in your health and appearance by sticking to a healthy eating and exercise plan for three months, it's more realistic to aim to lose between 12 and 24 pounds in that timeframe.
Here's why, and how to get started toward your goal.
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Is Losing 50 Pounds in 3 Months Safe?
The short answer is no.
To lose a pound of fat, you have to cut or burn about 3,500 calories. So, by the numbers, you would have to burn about 175,000 calories in order to lose 50 pounds.
If your timeframe is 100 days, which is slightly more than three months, you would have to cut or burn 1,750 calories a day to achieve your goal. That means you'd have to follow a very low-calorie diet and exercise intensely, both of which carry short- and long-term health risks, including muscle loss, nutritional deficiencies and gallstones. Plus, you're more likely to gain the weight back.
Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends aiming to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. While it's still not easy to lose weight at this pace, it is achievable, and people who stick to this plan are more likely to keep the weight off.
In short, losing 50 pounds in three months isn't safe or sustainable, but you can safely get about halfway to your goal in that timeframe. Here's how:
1. Cut Your Calories
Weight loss comes down to burning more calories than you take in, so you'll need to start by taking a look at how many daily calories you're getting and trimming that number appropriately.
First, understand how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. To get a good general idea, check the Dietary Guidelines for Americans' Estimated Calorie Needs chart, which breaks it down by age, sex and physical activity level.
To get a more personalized calorie estimate, you can use a calorie tracker, which takes more factors into account and also lets you track your food intake and exercise.
Once you know your number, you can subtract about 500 calories per day, which would help you lose about 1 pound per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. Burning more calories through exercise (more on that in a minute) can help you lose closer to the maximum of 2 pounds per week.
2. Get Plenty of Protein
While you may be trying to eat fewer calories overall, you should prioritize calories from protein. According to a December 2019 review and meta-analysis in Advances in Nutrition, people who are actively cutting calories should aim to eat about 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (that's higher than the 0.8 g/kg recommended for the average adult).
Keep in mind that a kilogram is about 2.2 pounds. So if you weigh 200 pounds, for example, you should aim to eat about 118 grams of protein each day while losing weight.
Examples of healthy foods high in protein include:
- Chicken breast
- Ground turkey
- Canned tuna
- Tofu and tempeh
- Beans and lentils
3. Eat Your Fiber
In addition to protein, make sure you're eating foods that are naturally high in fiber — namely, fruits and vegetables.
Fiber is good for weight loss because these foods help you feel full on fewer calories, and they're also crucial to your gut and metabolic health. Indeed, just aiming to eat about 30 grams of fiber each day can help you lose weight as effectively as a more complicated diet, according to a February 2015 study in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Foods high in fiber include:
- Beans and lentils
- Firm tofu
- Flaxseed and chia seeds
- Sweet potato
4. Work in Strength Training
Although cardio workouts like running or biking can burn a lot of calories in the moment, don't underestimate the power of strength training for weight loss. That's because these workouts build muscle, which increases your resting metabolism and helps you burn more calories overall, day after day.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) and working in at least two full-body strength training workouts, too.
You'll get the most burn if you choose cardio-intensive, weight-bearing movements like squats, burpees, deadlifts, push-ups and pull-ups. You can hold onto weights, or just use your body weight if you're relatively new to the moves.
5. Add HIIT
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates short, intense bouts of activity (20 to 60 seconds) and lower-intensity recovery periods. It's a quick and efficient way to work out, especially if you're short on time, and it's an effective way to burn fat and lose weight, according to a February 2018 meta-analysis of nearly 40 studies in Sports Medicine.
Never tried it before? Check out this seven-day kickstart plan to lose weight with HIIT.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Losing Weight"
- 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Table A2-2: Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level, Ages 2 and Older"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Protein Intake Greater than the RDA Differentially Influences Whole-Body Lean Mass Responses to Purposeful Catabolic and Anabolic Stressors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
- Annals of Internal Medicine: "Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial"
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: 2nd Edition
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Xtreme Lean Diet Program
- Calculate Your Maintenance Calories