Rapid vs Slow Weight Loss: Which is Better?

Most Americans want to lose at least a little weight to either look or feel better or a combination of the two. That’s why consumers in the United States spend approximately $33 billion each year on weight loss products. 

Weight loss offers advantages beyond your physical appearance. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight is likely to produce health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars. 

Unfortunately, many individuals turn to a diet or product touted as easy and safe, including pills and supplements, creams, a slew of devices or other “magic” weight loss solutions. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate claims made by OTC weight loss products. Similarly, very low-calorie diets are a popular option for some, even though they’re only considered a reasonable weight loss option for people with obesity needing rapid weight loss for a specific purpose, such as weight loss surgery. 

“Fad” diets — i.e., juice cleanses, HCG, Atkins, Keto, Paleo — are designed to produce weight loss at a rate of five to 10 percent of your body weight per month. Except for the very low-calorie diet and weight loss surgery, though, no product, pill or diet has been proven to safely work for fast weight loss. Plus, there are specific Factors That Influence Weight Loss, including:

  • Your current weight
  • Your weight loss history
  • Your lifestyle
  • How far you are into your weight loss journey
  • Your hormonal health
  • Your workout of choice
  • Your genetics
  • Your sleep habits
  • Your age 

The Slow or Rapid Weight Loss Debate 

Losing weight at one to two pounds per week is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This type of gradual weight loss also is more likely to help you sustain it for the long-term. 

Some individuals attempt to shed excess weight through rapid weight loss, which ranges from losing two to 10 pounds weekly. Although this method was previously shunned by many healthcare providers, researchers more recently have suggested that there is little difference in the ability of people to maintain their weight after losing weight either gradually or rapidly. Nevertheless, though the advantages of both slow and rapid weight loss are fairly consistent, there are more documented risks associated with the quicker method. 

Benefits of Slow Weight Loss 

Those who lose weight at a slower rate often are better at learning the importance of healthful habits, from eating a balanced diet to exercising regularly. Therefore, their weight loss is both more realistic and achievable. 

Overall body composition is more favorable following slow weight loss. One of the reasons is that losing weight at a more regular pace should ensure you’re losing mostly fat, not muscle or water, and preserve your metabolism. One notable study found that those who lost weight more slowly lost less muscle mass, which was associated with less weight regain.  

Benefits of Rapid Weight Loss 

The obvious perk of this method is that you achieve results more quickly. For individuals with severe medical issues due to obesity, the pros outweigh the cons. 

Several studies have shown that rapid weight loss with high calorie restriction could cause an improvement of clinical state in obese individuals. Other reports postulate that losing weight this way causes significantly decreased weight, triglycerides, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and fasting serum insulin. 

Risks of Rapid Weight Loss 

Now let’s get down to the risks of rapid weight loss. Keep in mind that, even with these risks, rapid weight loss typically can be safe — if it’s done correctly. 

One of the most noted disadvantages of rapid weight loss is an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances, both of which can weaken your immune system. Other consequences of nutritional deficiencies are hair loss, extreme fatigue and weak and brittle bones. Some studies in women with obesity suggested that weight loss of more than 14 percent of initial weight during three to four months resulted in significant bone loss

Losing weight fast by eating fewer calories also may cause you to burn up to 23 percent fewer calories per day and puts you at a slightly higher risk for gallstones. Rapid weight loss diets contain lower absolute amounts of protein compared to a more gradual weight loss approach, which increases the risk of muscle mass loss. In addition, losing weight fast on a “crash diet” is linked to several side effects, including:

  • Hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feeling cold
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Dehydration 

Bariatric surgery has shown to be a very effective tool for weight loss and resolution of metabolic and chronic diseases associated with obesity. At VIDA Bariatrics, we have some of the most experienced bariatric surgeons in the world and internationally-certified facilities, a combination for providing an all-inclusive luxury experience. Patient safety and satisfaction are always our top priority! 

Check out the bariatric services we offer, and find out if you’re a candidate for weight loss surgery.