quick fat loss

The Quick & Dirty Fat Loss Method

You’ve put on a little more extra weight than you’d like.
You had one too many burgers, a few too many ice-creams…I’m not judging, it’s cool.
But your abs are starting to fade a little, you’re feeling a bit “soft”. The time has come to cut, so you can again feel confident and comfortable. Because being lean is where it’s at. That means a long dreary diet. Or does it?

Today I am going to share with you a method I personally use and have used with a lot of success with many of my clients. We cut fat fast, so we can get back to gaining strength and size, and of course eating lots of tasty food. It has long been thought that we should aim to lose 1 to 2lbs a week. I am here to tell you it can be done quicker, and in some cases, should be. I introduce to you the quick dirty fat loss method.

Why Quick & Dirty Fat Loss?

The more time we are dieting, the less time we are adding pounds of lean muscle to our physique, and the more time we feel like a living zombie.

And if you’ve been eating well and training hard for a decent stint of time, you simply won’t get very far trying to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. So you’re better served focusing on one or the other.

That is why this quick fat loss method works so well. You get aggressive with your diet, so it’s over in no time, and you can get back to eating big and hitting PRs. There is, however, a caveat here. I am assuming you are “lean-gaining” and by that I mean not putting on pounds of needless fat. You’re gaining at a realistic rate, so that you limit fat gain. The “eat big to get big” protocol is a thing of the past. Focus on getting big while staying lean. Because if you gain too fast, you’ll end up needing to do short cuts so frequently that you’re not actually gaining for more time. So assuming you haven’t done what Alan Aragon refers to as a “fulk” (fat bulk), we can look at using this approach and why it is in many ways superior to longer dieting approaches.

quick fat loss

Our body doesn’t care about getting a 6-pack, it cares about survival. If we can limit the time we are dieting our body will have less time to respond. Image courtesy of YouTube.

You see when we diet for long periods of time our metabolic rate slows down. This is called metabolic adaptation [1]. Basically our body adapts to what you give it, and because it is receiving less fuel (food) it lowers its expenditure. Our body doesn’t care about getting a 6-pack, it cares about survival. If we can limit the time we are dieting our body will have less time to respond, and so our metabolic rate won’t slow down so much. This means we can continue to eat more and not have to spend time reversing the slowdown that may have occurred. For example, in one study on non-overweight men in a 50% calorie deficit for 24 weeks, they lost a quarter of their body mass.  They also saw a 40% reduction in their calorie expenditure. The 40% was made up of 25% due to the mass lost, and 15% was due to metabolic adaptation [1]. So you can see here metabolic adaption and slow down does occur, but only when diets are prolonged and the deficits are very large.

Fortunately for us, we won’t be dieting for 24 weeks, so we can get away with a larger calorie deficit, which means fast progress! So we see pretty large differences in the scale and mirror. This is great because there is nothing worse than starting a diet and not seeing any progress. You feel like you’re doing well but have nothing to show for it. Because this diet is short we can get quite aggressive with our approach, which leads to fast, easy to measure results. Plus how many people say “oh I will start my diet on Monday” but keep putting it off? Loads. That’s because long diets suck, whereas when we know we’ll be in and out in a matter of weeks, we don’t mind the restriction. In fact because we know results come fast we almost look forward to it. Each week you can see visible difference in your physique.

quick fat loss

The final benefit of a quick cut, and this is the best one of all: we stay lean year-round. Image courtesy of Ripped-Science.

The final benefit, and this is the best one of all: we stay lean year-round. Not only is this good from a confidence perspective (who doesn’t like to have abs year-round?). But it is also healthier and allows for better chances of muscle gain. You see when we breach around 15% body fat our body shifts its focus. It actually starts to favor fat gain over muscle. This is due to something called the P-Ratio which dictates where nutrients are sent. When we are below 15% the P-Ratio is in our favor. It shunts nutrients towards muscle. However, when we get over this it turns on us, leading to greater chances of fat gain. So it makes good sense to stay below 15% body fat. In addition to priming our body to put on muscle over fat we also diminish the chances of gaining new fat cells. You see when we gain weight we initially fill fat cells. There is a point (that is different for everyone) when these cells are full and new ones are produced. The worse thing is once you have a new fat cell, you cannot diet it off. You are left with it, for life! The more fat cells you have, the easier it is for you to gain unwanted weight. So to avoid this you’re better off staying lean. You may have heard this referred to as “culking”-a term I love that I got from Alan Aragon, a top nutrition researcher. You basically fuse bulking and cutting into one slow steady refinement of the physique in terms of size and leanness.

So briefly- why quick & dirty:

  • Stay gaining muscle for longer.
  • Avoid any metabolic slow-down.
  • See measurable progress.
  • Remain lean year round.

What Makes This Quick & Dirty?

Most diets are long and drawn out, but using this approach you will only be dieting for 4 to 6 weeks.

That is important because you wouldn’t want to just keep this up long-term. It is an aggressive diet and as we have seen that can lead to problems.

The point of this approach is to use it before you get too fat, avoiding the need for a longer diet. Typically we hear 1 to 2lbs a week of weight loss is a good and sustainable figure to go for. While there is some logic to it, I think it is a bit flawed. It doesn’t take the individual into account. For example, I had one client who was 250lbs. He was maintaining weight on 3500 calories. We dropped his intake by 1000kcal to 2450, and he lost on average 2lbs a week. Whereas my other client, who also wanted to drop fat, was only 160lbs. He was maintaining on 2500 calories. If we were to drop his calories by the same 1000kcal it would give him quite an unsustainable diet. So we dropped by 500 calories, which lead to an average loss of 1lb a week.

So you can see, larger individuals have more potential to lose greater amounts of weight. This is largely because our metabolic rate is heavily reliant on our RMR (resting metabolic rate). That figure is influenced by how much weight we have to maintain. Thus we must take our body-fat and total body-weight into consideration when losing fat. Simply put the more fat you have, the faster you can lose it. Therefore rather than using arbitrary numbers like 1 to 2lbs, I like to use a % of total body-weight. For myself and my clients, I shoot for 0.5 to 1.5% of total body-weight lost per week. The shorter the deficit and the larger the % of total fat mass, the higher end to that scale we can afford to go. So what makes this different to a standard diet? Well because we are only dieting for a short period of time we can edge towards a greater % of total body weight lost per week. So for a 180lb male they can look to lose up to 10lbs in just 4 weeks.

What about Muscle Loss?

It is understandable that you would be concerned about muscle loss, because I’d be lying if I said that by eating in a calorie deficit you don’t increase your chances of losing muscle.

However, when you look at the studies that showed test subjects losing lean mass there are some easy fixes to be made. The problem is the test subjects were not eating sufficient protein or undertaking resistance training.

quick fat loss

A high protein diet coupled with a productive resistance training routine is your best tool for maintaining muscle. Image courtesy of AlterVista.

A high protein diet coupled with a productive resistance training routine is your best tool for maintaining muscle. Time and time again I have taken my clients through aggressive but short diets and we see tremendous results. They either maintain or increase their strength and see no muscle loss. They love the quick and dirty fat loss method. Furthermore, in one study [2] on 15 men who were lean (as low as 10%), with at least 5 years training experience, they compared the effects of high and low calorie deficits during a 4 week, high-protein (around 1g protein per pound), low-carb diet. They were randomly given either a 750kcal deficit or 300kcal deficit. The volume and intensity of their training was controlled, and they used food diaries to account their intake. What happened? The guys on the larger deficit saw a drop of almost 4lbs, whereas the guys consuming 450kcal more saw only 0.5lbs. There were no significant changes in lean mass, cortisol, testosterone or performance. A pretty awesome case can be made for a larger calorie deficit when the length of it is short.

There are not a lot of studies done on trained individuals who are also consuming sufficient protein. But using this study, along with my experience as a coach and trainee, and Eric Helms et al’s recommendations in their paper for Recommendations for Natural Bodybuilders, we can be rest assured we won’t be dropping significant amounts of muscle. The threat to muscle really only becomes an issue with diets longer than 2 to 4 months in length, and when individuals are very lean (sub 10% bodyfat). In those cases you would want to take a slower approach to avoid lean body mass loss.

Setting up your Quick & Dirty Cut

So now you know why fast fat loss works and who it’s best suited for, let’s get to setting it up.

What we are doing is finding the sweet spot between being fast enough to get the most bang for our buck fat loss wise, and slow enough so we do not experience any muscle loss, excessively limited food selection, decreases in our performance or large drops in metabolic rate.

So we need to balance the length of time and the energy deficit to abide by the above.

  • Calorie deficit: 20 to 30%
  • Length of time: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Rate of loss: 1 to 1.5% of total body weight per week

Setting your calorie deficit and macronutrients

There are a bunch of different calculations out there, but for simplicity’s sake I am going to go with:

  • Calories: Body Weight (lbs) x 13 to 16
    • Take away 20 to 30%

You’ll be at the higher end if you’re male, have a higher training volume, active job or lower bodyfat. Thus at the lower end if you’re female, have a low training volume, are relatively sedentary and have a higher bodyfat.

Remember we are all different, we can’t expect generic calculations to be 100%. But they provide a starting point for us to work from. Once you do have this however you want to begin setting up your macronutrient breakdown, and here is what I recommend:

  • Protein: 1.2 to 1.4g per lb

This protein recommendation is because we are trying to fight against muscle loss. By having protein intakes high we increase our chances of winning. Countless studies have shown the benefits of high protein diets. One recent study done on trained athletes found that 2 weeks of high protein (around 2.3g per kg) spared far more muscle than a lower intake of 1g per kg [4].

Furthermore, Helms et al suggest that the lower the body fat of the individual, and the greater the imposed caloric deficit, the higher protein intake should be. So because we are getting pretty aggressive with our diet, we want to make sure we put a precedence on protein.

  • Fat: 15 to 25% of total calories

When it comes to us guys who are weight training it has been found that a high protein, lower fat diet that maintains carbohydrate levels has been superior for promoting muscle maintenance [3]. This is largely because carbs are our main fuel source when we train with weights, and by keeping them in we’re better able to lift. This in turn allows us to keep our muscle. Thus, I like to prioritize carbs over fat during this diet, hence the low % of total calories.

  • Carbs: make up the difference


180lb male who is fairly lean and has an office job but high training volume

  • 15×180 to give 2700.
  • 30% deficit; 2700 x 0.7 = 1890 calories.
  • 180 x 1.3 = 234g Protein (234×4 = 936kcal)
  • 1890 x .2 = 378/9 = 42g Fat
  • Leaving 1890 – (936+378) = 576/4=144g Carbs

1890kcal of which 234g Protein, 42g Fat, 144g Carbs

You would then adjust this to land within a 1 to 1.5% of total body weight loss per week. So this dude would want to lose roughly 1.8 to 2.7lbs for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

What to eat?

I won’t go into too much detail here but I encourage everyone to follow what is called a macro guided flexible diet.

So you have your macros above, you then pick and choose foods according to your preferences to fit those macros.

quick fat loss

You must also be sure to make 80% of your choices from unprocessed, wholesome foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, starches etc.). Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

You must also be sure to make 80% of your choices from unprocessed, wholesome foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, starches etc.). Then the remaining 20% can be discretionary (ice cream, chocolate, pizza etc.). As you’ll note, 20% is very small when dieting, and so you might not be able to fit in much ‘junk’.  Because this method of cutting is quick and dirty this isn’t a problem, the restriction is short lived. You’ll be back eating plenty of tasty treats in no time. This approach to dieting is incredibly effective [5][6][7]. I have used it for years and continue to use it with my clients and get great results. It becomes a lifestyle that they enjoy, which makes it sustainable.

How to train?

I have written about this thoroughly before, but in short you want to train like you would for muscle growth [8].

Train muscle groups multiple times through the week and always aim to progress whether it be weight or reps. This isn’t time for silly metabolic circuits or tons of cardio.

What’s next?

Once you’re done with your 4 to 6 weeks hopefully you are nice and lean again.

You’ve got your 6 pack back, you can see some striations re-appearing, and you can now get back to gaining lean mass. If this is the case you can bring your calories right back to around 90% of maintenance levels.

quick fat loss

You’ve got your 6 pack back, you can see some striations re-appearing, and you can now get back to gaining lean mass. Image courtesy of Muscle & Fitness.

Slowly adjust each week until you’re back at your desired rate of gain. In the above scenario you have managed to get down to below 15% so you’re in a good position to start building muscle mass again. However, what happens if you aren’t as lean as you hoped after 6 weeks? Well you sir gained too much fat in the first place, but all’s not lost. You can transition into a longer cutting phase. But remember, this aggressive loss of fat can’t be sustained if you want to keep your muscle mass and prevent stalling. So simply move into a less aggressive cut. So if you were shooting for a 30% calorie deficit and losing 1.5% of body weight a week, bring this down to 15 to 20% and aim for 0.5 to 1% of body weight lost per week. Simple. This makes the quick and dirty approach incredibly useful for many different scenarios.

The Quick & Dirty Fat Loss Method Summarized

There are three key points to the quick & dirty method:

  1. You’re aggressive with your calorie deficit, dropping 25 to 30% below maintenance.
  2. You aim to lose 1 to 1.5% of your total bodyweight per week.
  3. You’re in and out within 4 to 6 weeks.

So there you have it, the quick and dirty way to lose fat. If you follow the above, never letting your bulk get out of control, and then use this method you will be able to prevent long drawn out dieting periods.

You will keep gaining size and strength for longer and look and feel better year round. Because you never know- the sun might decide to pop out in winter, and you will be ready.

About the Author

quick fat lossSteve Hall is an Online Personal Trainer and owner of Revive Stronger. He specialises in helping guys gain mass, drop fat and get stronger. The approaches used are driven by science and in the field experience. He has developed a free nutrition, training and supplement plan that has helped thousands see better results.

1. Durrant, M., Garrow, J., Royston, P., Stalley, S., Sunkin, S., & Warwick, P. (1980). Factors influencing the composition of the weight lost by obese patients on a reducing diet. BJN British Journal of Nutrition, 275-275.
2. Huovinen, H., Hulmi, J., Isolehto, J., Kyröläinen, H., Puurtinen, R., Karila, T., . . . Mero, A. (2014). Body Composition and Power Performance Improved After Weight Reduction in Male Athletes Without Hampering Hormonal Balance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29-36.
3. Helms, E., Aragon, A., & Fitschen, P. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: Nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 20-20.
4. Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. (2010). Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 326-337.
5. Stewart, T., Williamson, D., & White, M. (2002). Rigid vs. flexible dieting: Association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite, 38(1), 39-44.
6. Timko, C., & Perone, J. (2006). Rigid and flexible control of eating behavior and their relationship to dieting status. Eat Weight Disord Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, 11(3), E90-5.
7. Smith, C., Williamson, D., Bray, G., & Ryan, D. (1999). Flexible vs. Rigid Dieting Strategies: Relationship with Adverse Behavioral Outcomes. Appetite, 32(3), 295-305.
8. Helms, E.R., Fitschen, P.J., Aragon, A.A., Cronin, J., & Schoenfeld, B.J. (2015). Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: Resistance and cardiovascular training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 55(3), 164-78.