The Optimal Rate of Weight Loss

Weight loss presents an interesting dilemma. When done appropriately, weight loss can result in improved body composition while maintaining or increasing performance [1]. However, when done inappropriately, weight loss can increase stress [2], impair muscle recovery and athletic performance [1-6], and can potentially result in more serious health complications [4, 6].

In 2011, a group of researchers investigated the effects of rapid vs. slow-and-steady weight loss in 30 elite Norwegian athletes [1]. The group was diverse; it included athletes from 18 different sports: football, volleyball, cross-country skiing, judo, jujitsu, tae kwon do, water-skiing, motocross, cycling, track and field, kickboxing, gymnastics, alpine skiing, ski jumping, freestyle sports dancing, biathlon, and ice hockey. All athletes were strength training during the weight loss period. Athletes were split into two groups: a slow-and-steady weight loss group (SLOW) and a rapid weight loss group (FAST). The SLOW weight loss group lost 0.7% of their body weight per week. This would equate to 1.4 lbs per week for a 200 lb individual. The FAST weight loss group lost 1.0% of their body weight per week, or 2.0 lbs per week for a 200 lb individual. Each group lost 5-6% of their body weight in total, but the SLOW group lost their weight over a longer period of time since they were losing the weight at a slower rate.

Both groups improved body composition and athletic performance during the study period. However, the changes in the SLOW weight loss group were more favorable compared with the changes in the FAST weight loss group. The SLOW group lost more body fat, and had larger improvements in vertical jump height, 1RM bench press, 1RM bench pull, and 1RM squat performances.

It should be noted that it took the SLOW group three additional weeks to lose their weight (since their rate of weight loss was slow), which meant three more weeks of resistance training. This additional training could have certainly impacted the performance-related results of this particular study. However, other studies have also suggested that rapid weight loss negatively impacts performance. In fact, a recent Position Stand from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, the authors state: “reliance on rapid-weight loss techniques and other hazardous practices that may result in performance decrements, loss of FFM, and chronic health risks,” [6].

ShakeBot Bottom Line

  • When it comes to weight loss, slow and steady wins the race. Losing weight at slow rates typically improves body composition and athletic performance measures, compared with faster rates of weight loss [1-6].
  • Aim to lose 0.5% – 0.7% of your body weight per week (1-1.4 lbs per week for a 200 lb individual)
  • Protein intake is paramount when it comes to weight loss. Although not discussed in the post, higher protein intakes are suggested during times of caloric restriction [6].

If you’re interested in pursuing weight loss, we advise checking out our post on the key nutrition strategy for successful weight loss intake for the full scoop.


  1. Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P.E., Koivisto, A. and Sundgot-Borgen, J., 2011. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 21(2), pp.97-104.

  2. Fortes, L.S., Lira, H.A., Mendonça, L.C., Paes, P.P., Vianna, J.M. and Pérez, A.J., 2017. Effect of body weight reduction on stress and recovery among Brazilian Judokas. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, pp.1-11.

  3. Rodriguez, N.R., DiMarco, N.M. and Langley, S., 2009. Position of the American dietetic association, dietitians of Canada, and the American college of sports medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(3), pp.509-527.

  4. Mountjoy, M., Sundgot-Borgen, J., Burke, L., Carter, S., Constantini, N., Lebrun, C., Meyer, N., Sherman, R., Steffen, K., Budgett, R. and Ljungqvist, A., 2014. The IOC consensus statement: beyond the female athlete triad—Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). British journal of sports medicine, 48(7), pp.491-497.

  5. Degoutte, F., Jouanel, P., Begue, R.J., Colombier, M., Lac, G., Pequignot, J.M. and Filaire, E., 2006. Food restriction, performance, biochemical, psychological, and endocrine changes in judo athletes. International journal of sports medicine, 27(01), pp.9-18.

  6. Thomas, D.T., Erdman, K.A. and Burke, L.M., 2016. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics, dietitians of canada, and the american college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), pp.501-528.

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