How Much Fat Can You Lose?

Humans

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The other day, I was browsing nutrition headlines when I came across a summary of some new research on exercise and fat loss, which concluded that “it is not possible to lose more than 1 kilogram of fat per month.” (A kilogram is just over 2 pounds).

Not possible to lose more than 2 pounds of fat per month? Most diets promise that you’ll lose that much every week!

Intrigued, I pulled up the actual study, which was published last month in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, and read the whole thing. Weirdly, however, the study said absolutely nothing about the amount of fat that can be lost per month. The researchers were looking at the amount of fat that can be oxidized during a single exercise session.

So, I tracked down the researcher, Dr. Juan del Coso Garrigós, who lives and works in Madrid, Spain. He explained that his comment about it being impossible to lose more than 1 kilogram of fat per month in fact had nothing to do with his recent study. Apparently, it was taken out of context from a different part of the interview, which was also translated from Spanish. It just goes to show you how easy it is for bad information to get into widespread circulation.

As long as I had him, though, I took the opportunity to ask him more about his research. Dr. del Coso Garrigós explained that, when conditions are just right, well-trained athletes can burn about three-quarters of a gram of fat per minute during moderate intensity exercise. The rest of us seem to max out at about a half a gram of fat per minute or 30 g of fat per hour.

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