Weight Loss

Subscribe for more content

Losing Weight Too Fast: What are the long-term results?

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Nutrition, Fat weight loss, fast weight regain

By: Daniel Gastelu

Big TV Weight Loss, Big Post TV Weight Regain?

There’s scientific research about those popular fast weight loss television shows. You’ve probably seen them where obese contestants engage in an aggressive and strenuous weight loss program to lose the most weight. Faster and faster weight loss is a growing trend for products and programs alike. No wonder the shows are popular! However, the research I summarize here shows a big concern all fitness professionals should be aware of.

Problems with Rapid Weight Loss Programs

Before we discuss the research on rapid weight loss programs, let’s cover a few problems with rapid weight loss programs including:

  1. Weight loss should never be a race or contest. It can result in negative health consequences, including lowering metabolic rate and loss of lean body mass.
  2. Medical experts and government guidelines recommend a reasonable rate of weight loss per week that’s personalized and focused on body fat reduction (instead of quick total weight loss).
  3. Vanity shouldn’t drive weight loss programs. Looking and feeling more attractive is a side-benefit of healthy body composition and a healthy lifestyle. The focus should be on what’s right for each person’s health and well-being.

Fast Weight Loss and Regain Research Review

There was a follow-up study with 14 of the 16 original subjects in the TV show weight loss study. The data included measurements at the start of the competition, at the end of the 30-week program, and the follow-up 6 years later. These are the findings:

  • Average measurements: 328 pounds start weight and 199 pounds end weight.
  • Weight status 6 years after the competition: 290 pounds (significant weight regain).
  • Contestants said they maintained a nutrition and exercise program.
  • The resting metabolic rate (RMR) started at an average of 2,607 calories (kcal) per day; reduced to 1,996 calories per day at the end of the 30-week competition, then decreased after 6 years to 1,903 calories per day.
  • Fasting blood sugar and insulin decreased at the end of the 30-week competition, and then increased to the previous initial levels after 6 years.
  • There was a decrease in lean body mass at the end of the 30-week competition, which did not regain to pre-competition levels after 6 years.

The research study didn’t report details about the nutrition and exercise programs but here are some questions:

  • Why under the supervision of top experts did these TV weight loss contestants regain weight and excess body fat?
  • Is there a better way of healthy weight loss and maintaining weight?

TIP: The study reference is published in PubMed, which has the complete study article for free. Keep a printed copy of this article available to show your clients that may come to you requesting “TV fast weight loss”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4989512/

First Step Should Be to Stop the Weight Gain!

Seems logical enough, but this is an important first step that shouldn’t be skipped.

Think about how weight loss approaches usually start by going on a reduced calorie diet to lose weight fast. But, many people who want to engage in a weight loss program are in a weight gain mode, from overeating and low physical activity. So, their bodies are in a fat storing mode.

Then there may be other conditions to consider that can complicate reduction of body fat, like pre-diabetes, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, or abnormal fat metabolism that may need to be corrected first. 

Also, abruptly starting an exercise program, going from no or little exercise to exercising almost daily can have negative effects. Further, there will be a high client dropout rate because most people can’t go from doing nothing to suddenly doing a full exercise program.

For ISSA certified fitness trainers your training includes using a Drawing-In Phase and comprehensive fitness client evaluations to determine client suitability, limitations, and metabolic abnormalities from medical records that need to be addressed before proceeding with losing excess body fat. Then when losing excess body fat is warranted, the preferred ISSA targeted fat loss program is the ZIG-ZAG approach. This prevents a loss of lean body mass and prevent reduction in metabolic rate. It’s a highly personalized approach that includes working with clients closely on their nutrition and training programs, with long-term body composition goals.

Daniel Gastelu


Specialist In Sports Nutrition Course, ISSA, 2018 Updated and Expanded 5th Edition.

Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, Chen KY, Skarulis MC, Walter M, Walter PJ, Hall KD. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after "The Biggest Loser" competition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Aug;24(8):1612-9.