When it comes to offering advice that can change lives, I don’t rely on gut instinct—rather, I look to the data. You see, I think my clients deserve to know what’s really possible with quality coaching and a solid commitment from both coach and client.
That’s why I’ve watched the “how much fat you can lose in a week” debate with interest. In the fitness industry there are a lot of opinions about this. Some from very qualified trainers and coaches. Others from not so qualified trainers and coaches.
Generally, it’s suggested that people on a fat loss program should be losing 1 lb per week. But, to my knowledge, this number is completely made up. I’ve scoured the literature and there isn’t much published data detailing how much weight someone should lose on a consistent, weekly basis.
You see, for the past few years I’ve kept meticulous notes on thousands of clients who’ve gone through our online coaching program. In many ways I think this may be the largest body transformation project ever conducted. And, in the end, my team has come up with some honest-to-goodness weight loss data that will change the way you see your next fat loss program.
The Ideal Rate of Fat Loss
Over the last 3 years, nearly 6,000 men and women have successfully completed our online fat loss coaching program. In reviewing the data of our top performers – those who did at least 80% of what we asked them to do and ended up as finalists in our $40,000 body transformation contest—we realized that we could come up with a very accurate weekly weight loss expectation.
In other words, if someone wants to achieve a jaw-dropping transformation, we know exactly how much weight they should be losing, on average, each week.
To derive this number, we compared our clients’ starting body weight and their body weight after 24 weeks (the amount of time they were in our program). Then we compared their actual weight loss (in pounds) and their weight lost as a percentage of starting body weight. From here we found the following stats.
To achieve a jaw-dropping transformation:
- Men should be losing 0.71% of their body weight each week.
- Women should be losing 0.625% of their body weight each week.
Using the numbers above, a 200 lb man, with the right coaching and over 80% adherence to a solid program, should be able to lose about 1.42 lbs per week (200 lbs x 0.0071), on average.
And a 150 lb woman, under the same conditions, should be able to lose about 0.94 lbs per week (150 lbs x 0.00625), on average.
Keep in mind, these numbers represent the average weight loss over 24 weeks. We don’t expect our clients to lose this exact amount of weight every single week. Indeed, progress usually happens in fits and starts. That’s why we look at the averages rather than any individual weekly weight loss result.
How Much Weight Loss You Should Expect?
Without getting all statistical on you, I have to make an important point about the numbers above. When evaluating our own clients’ results on a weekly basis, we don’t actually use the rates indicated above.
Yes, they represent what our average finalists achieve. However, not everyone has that much weight to lose. In addition, some clients, by losing a lot of fat while gaining a lot of muscle, achieve an awesome transformation without losing at the rates above. Finally, not everyone commits to high compliance right out of the gate.
For these reasons (and a bunch of complicated statistical ones) we use an adjustment factor of 85%. Based on this statistical adjustment, our actual weight loss expectations are as follows:
- Men should be able to lose .604% of their body weight each week, on average.
- Women should be able to lose .531% of their body weight each week, on average.
These are the numbers we use on a daily basis to evaluate our clients’ progress.
How We Use The Data
In our coaching programs, we evaluate our clients’ results weekly, based on the adjusted coefficients above. In essence, we use the following formulas to decide how our clients are doing each week.
- For men: [(starting wt – current wt) / # of weeks] – [0.00604 * starting wt] = change index
- For women:
[(starting wt – current wt) / # of weeks] – [0.00531 * starting wt] = change index
Complex math aside, these formulas give us what we call a “change index.”
- A positive change index means they’re losing at a rate above our expectations
- A zero change index means they’re losing at a rate equal to our expectations
- A negative change index means they’re losing at a rate below our expectations
How Coaches Should Use the Data
Recently, PTontheNet published one of my articles, called The 3 Types of Clients and How We Coach Them. In that article I presented a unique way of grouping clients:
- Low compliance, Low Results
- High compliance, Low Results
- High compliance, High Results
Interestingly, our change index determines exactly how we should be coaching each type of client
For example, let’s say you have a Low Compliance, Low Results male client. This client would be doing less than 80% of the prescribed workouts and nutritional habits and losing less weight than expected (i.e. change index would be negative). For this type of client, compliance is the big issue. So, you’d simply work on increasing his compliance before tweaking the program at all.
On the other hand, let’s say you have a High Compliance, Low Results female client. This client would be doing more than 80% of the prescribed workouts and nutritional habits but they’d still be losing less weight than expected (i.e. change index would still be negative). This is where individualization becomes important. In essence, this person may need a more individualized and/or advanced program.
Finally, let’s say you have a High Compliance, High Results male client. This client would be doing more than 80% of the prescribed workouts and nutritional habits while losing as much weight, or more weight, than expected (i.e. change index would be positive).This type of client would receive some recognition and perhaps a new challenge.
Why Can’t You Just Tell Me How Many Pounds I Should Be Losing?
We admit, using % of body weight is a little complex. However, we don’t use total pounds lost because it’s almost impossible to derive a meaningful number.
Imagine you have two women, one who starts the program at 125 pounds and one who starts the program at 225 lbs. Each of them loses 15 lbs in 15 weeks. Who did better?
Well, according to the “weight lost per week” rule, they did the same thing. The both lost 1 lb per week. However, according to the “% of starting weight per week” rule, the first woman lost 0.8% of her own body weight per week, which is more than we expected. And the second woman lost 0.4% of her own body weight per week, which is less than we expected.
So, can you now see how the “one pound per week” rule (and others like it) don’t really make sense? The most important factor in expected weight loss, starting weight, is never considered.
Sustainable Weight Loss
All these data calculations are pretty neat. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the most important consideration: these data are built on a model of sustainable weight loss.
I bet most trainers could come up with a program that produces faster results than those discussed above (the grapefruit diet anyone?). However, we want our clients to achieve a lasting change, not just temporary weight loss.
So we don’t use crash diets, impossible to sustain exercise programs, or any other weight loss trickery. Our numbers are based on real-world, maintainable weight loss. And don’t you forget it.
What Coaches Should Consider, What Clients Should Consider
Now, there’s one danger associated with knowing all this great weight loss information; only coaches and trainers should be monitoring it. You see, we’ve found that the best results happen when:
- Clients focus on behaviors
- Coaches focus on outcomes
This means we want our clients thinking only about things they can control, like how many veggies they’re eating per day, how much exercise they’re getting per week, etc. In other words, their habits.
It’s their coach that should be thinking about things like the expected weight loss factor and the change index. That’s the “big picture” stuff. And really, it’s where coaches get to shine (assuming they have the necessary tools and education).
So, clients, don’t stress out over weekly weight loss numbers, trying to compare them with our numbers above. You can’t control the numbers. All you can control is your behavior. So focus only on the next workout you’re going to do and the next habit you’re going to follow. And leave the outcomes (the numbers part) for your coaches and trainers.
Imagine the Possibilities
For you personal trainers and coaches out there, these numbers should provide a new measuring stick for evaluating client progress, especially when you’re incorporating intelligent training programs and sound nutrition coaching.
They should also provide an awesome source of motivation and inspiration, for this reason. The results we shared above are derived from our distance-based online coaching programs.
Just imagine what you could accomplish with an in-person coaching component. Imagine how many people you could help make lasting change. Imagine how profitable and fun your business would be.
It’s enough to give me goose bumps.