How to Lose 5 Pounds in a Week (Meal Plan, Tips, and What Not to Do)


There is a big difference between losing weight and burning fat. Understanding the difference is critical if you want to lose 5 pounds safely and successfully in a week.

Burning fat requires a consistent calorie deficit, over time, whereas cutting weight can also be attributed to your body retaining less water.

When burning fat, it’s generally advised not to lose more than 2 pounds per week. Anything more than this is typically seen as unsustainable and potentially dangerous.

On the other hand, when losing weight (i.e., retaining less water) it’s totally acceptable to target 5 pounds in a week, or more. And there are a variety of reasons why someone might want to do that.


Disclaimer:

It’s important to consult a doctor before cutting weight. Losing weight too quickly can cause a variety of health problems, including muscles loss, nutritional deficiencies, and Gallstones. Getting professional advice prior to cutting weight will ensure you’re not putting yourself at risk.


When I was Boxing, I’d often need to lose 5-15 pounds in the week leading up to my fight. This is common for other athletes as well, such as Powerlifters, Bodybuilders, and Wrestlers. You might also want to cut weight for a photo-shoot. 

Regardless of what your intentions are for losing 5 pounds in a week, it’s important to do it safely.

Increase Water Intake

The first, and likely most effective thing you can do to lose 5 pounds in a week is increase your water intake.

I know, it’s counter intuitive. Drink more water and weigh less? It’s true, though.

When you drink more water throughout the day, your body will adjust by holding (or retaining) less of it. This is because your body understands there is a continuous supply of fresh water and it doesn’t need to hold nearly as much of it.

Alternatively, when you don’t drink enough water, your blood becomes thicker and more concentrated. This causes your kidneys to retain more water to prevent your water levels from dropping too low.

For many of us, this will be the easiest thing to manipulate to help lose those pounds.

It’s estimated that over half of Americans don’t drink enough water. One study of 2000 people in the US found that only 22% drink the USDA recommended 8-10 glasses a day. This is likely because they are too busy, don’t track it, or forget.

If you’re really serious about losing that weight quickly, I’d suggest drinking a gallon or more per day (in the beginning). You should lose a few pounds in as quick as 3-4 days.

One important thing to mention here is that the increase in water intake should be spread out evenly throughout the day.

Chugging water can negatively affect the manipulation process and can be dangerous.

Decrease Sodium

Decreasing the amount of sodium, or salt, in your diet is another great way to lose weight quickly.

Higher amounts of sodium in your diet directly impact the amount of water your body will retain and can be reflected in your weight almost immediately.

Like water intake, decreasing sodium is likely “low-hanging fruit” in regard to weight loss.

Most Americans already consume way more salt than is recommended. The Daily Value for sodium is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg), but most Americans eat closer to 3,400 mg of sodium each day.

This extra 1,100 mg can have a huge impact on the amount of water your body retains.

Just monitoring how much salt you’re eating you can result in a noticeable difference in your body’s weight. It’s estimated that water retention can make a person’s weight fluctuate by as much as 2-4 pounds in a single day!

While cutting down on table salt can help, most of this sodium comes from packaged or processed foods, like frozen pizza, cheeses, and certain salty snacks.

In addition to monitoring how much salt is in your diet, there are some foods that you can add to your diet which reduce sodium levels in the body.

Foods with higher concentrations of potassium, like bananas, leafy vegetables, and avocados, will help keep your sodium levels low.

Sweat (Exercise, Sauna, etc.)

This next tip for helping you lose 5 pounds is an obvious one. Sweat!

Sweating, especially through exercise, can do two things for immediate weight loss. It will cause an immediate drop in water weight (sweat) and improve your circulation which can reduce the amount of fluid your body retains.

While most of the fluids you lose when exercising need to be replaced (critical to avoid dehydration), the reduction in water retention from improved circulation should be noticeable by the end of the week.

Additionally, exercise will contribute to fat loss through the burning of calories.

While fat loss is important for long-term weight loss, it generally takes much longer to have a significant or noticeable effect on the scale.

Bottom line, exercise has numerous benefits on a person’s health and well-being. Some of these benefits may not directly impact your weight, but many of them will indirectly affect your ability to lose weight.

For example, exercise has been associated with better sleep and an increased ability to manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Both will impact your ability to lose weight.

It doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym, either.

Many of us have incredibly busy lives. With work, school, family, and other obligations, it sometimes feels like there isn’t enough time left to work out.

The truth is, going for a walk or jumping rope for 15 minutes is better than nothing!

Eat Fewer Carbohydrates

Like Sodium, Carbohydrates also cause water retention in the body.

When consuming carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, our body responds by releasing insulin into the bloodstream via the pancreas. Insulin is what our body uses to metabolizes those carbs.

This surplus of insulin causes the body to produce more cholesterol, which causes the kidneys to retain more sodium (i.e., water).

“Eating too much sugar or refined carbohydrates can lead to excess insulin in the system, but it’s also important to look at the period of time during which we consume our food,” – Dr. Julia Coffey

She goes on to add that many people consume food and snacks for twelve hours, or more, out of every day. This around the clock snacking means our body is constantly releasing insulin.

So, not only should you eat fewer carbohydrates, but you should also be mindful of when you’re eating carbohydrates.

Intermittent fasting has been one of the most helpful strategies for helping me consume fewer carbs while also limiting how often I’m eating during the day.

Intermittent fasting is more of an eating schedule than a diet. Instead of telling you what you can and cannot eat, it tells you when you’re allowed to eat. I won’t go into detail in this article, but if you’re curious I’ve got an entire article dedicated to the subject.

10 Rules of Intermittent Fasting

Get More Sleep

Getting plenty of sleep is one many of us struggle with, myself included. It can make a huge difference in your ability to lose weight, though.

The amount of sleep Americans are getting, on average, has been steadily declining over the years, while obesity has been steadily increasing. The data suggests there is a correlation between the two.

It seems lack of sleep leads to poor dietary choices and less physical activity, although more research needs to be done on the subject.

Additionally, the two main “hunger hormones”, Leptin and Ghrelin, are affected when you don’t get enough sleep. Ghrelin is the hormone that signals hunger to the brain, while Leptin signals fullness to the brain.

When you don’t get enough sleep Ghrelin actually increases and Leptin decreases.

You can see how this can have an adverse effect on your ability to lose weight. Especially if you’re trying to lose as much as 5 pounds in a week.

Lastly, just being awake for more hours during the day provides more opportunities for you to consume calories. By going to bed a few hours earlier, you’re less likely to find yourself standing at the fridge at 11pm.

While the recommended amount of sleep we should be getting each night depends on age, the CDC recommends getting 7+ hours of sleep each night for most adults.

Cut Out Alcohol

Alcohol and weight loss are two things that just don’t go together. In fact, drinking alcohol while trying to lose 5 pounds in a week is going to be nearly impossible.

You might be able to jump on the scale a few hours after binge drinking and be a couple pounds lighter, but that would likely be attributed to dehydration.

The main reason alcohol isn’t conducive of weight loss is because of how high in calories it is.

The calories you get from drinking alcohol are also considered “empty calories”, meaning they provide little to no nutritional value. And, there are a lot of them.

A single 12-ounce beer contains about 150 calories and a 5-ounce glass of wine has about 120 calories.

And often, you’re drinking more than just a single beer or glass of wine.

Additionally, many of the alcoholic drinks we consume are usually a combination of carbs and sugars. Both of which contribute to water retention, as mentioned above.

Many mixed drinks, like a Cuba Libre for example, contain not only alcohol but soda.

Lastly, drinking has been shown to impact our digestion system in a way that will negatively affect your ability to lose weight, especially quickly.

If you’re going to drink, just be mindful of the calories and understand that you might need to make sacrifices in other areas of your diet if you want to hit your weight loss goals.

Drink Black Coffee

Coffee, specifically black coffee (i.e., no sugar or milk), can be useful when looking to lose 5 pounds quickly. This is primarily because it’s a diuretic.

Now, as you’ll see later in this article, I’m very much against the use of diuretics as a way to lose weight quickly. Most diuretics can cause more issues than they solve.

Relying on diuretics to lose weight can cause a variety of health problems, some milder than others. Symptoms can range from headaches and dizziness to diarrhea and even skin rashes.

That said, caffeine is a relatively weak diuretic.

Coffee can be a great way to increase short-term urine output and decrease water retention. And, it’s shown to do this without causing any significant dehydration.

This is due to two nutrients contained in coffee, potassium, and magnesium. Both of which cause the body to release excess water and salt, which reduce water retention.

Another benefit coffee can provide regarding weight loss is its ability to speed up metabolism.

In one study, participants who drank coffee over a two-month period showed greater (faster metabolisms) than those who didn’t drink coffee.

While drinking coffee, alone, won’t result in any significant weight loss, it can help you to lose weight slightly quicker than not consuming it at all.

Just remember to drink it without any cream or sugar.

Losing 5 Pounds in a Week (What Not to Do)

Losing 5 pounds in a week is not easy. In addition to certain things, you should be doing, there are also various things you should avoid doing.

Things like late night eating, using laxatives and diuretics, or relying on “crash diets” are all things you should stay away from.

These are either unsafe, counterproductive, or are not as effective as they’re made out to be.

Here are the five things not to do when trying to lose 5 pounds in a week.

Laxatives

Laxatives are medications used to treat constipation. It helps people who have trouble with bowel movements by softening their stool.

Unfortunately, it’s sometimes used by people who believe it will help them with weight loss.

This is both untrue and potentially dangerous.

When using a laxative, you’re not reducing body fat. Instead, you’re ridding your body of water weight. Many laxatives actually cause the gut to absorb excess water which is what softens the stool.

Using laxatives for something other than what they’re meant for can cause a variety of health issues, some worse than others.

Among some of those are diarrhea, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and in more serious cases it can disrupt your intestine’s ability to function properly.

Diuretics

Diuretics, often referred to as “water pills”, are a type of medication prescribed to help control blood pressure. They assist the kidneys in getting rid of excess water and salt. The reduction of water in the blood vessels results in lower blood pressure.

One side effect from taking diuretics is weight loss.

This reduction in weight is entirely due to your body holding (retaining) less water. It does absolutely nothing to reduce body fat.

Taking diuretics for anything other than what your doctor prescribes them for can cause a variety of side effects, some of which are extremely dangerous.

In many cases, taking diuretics can cause an imbalance in your blood chemistry. This imbalance can cause you to feel tired or weak, make you throw up, or even pass out if your blood pressure becomes too low.

Diuretics should never be used for weight loss.

When looking to lose weight it’s never suggested to try and cut corners. It’s best to stick to water, whole foods, and exercise.

Late Night Eating

Another thing you should avoid when looking to lose weight quickly is late night eating or snacking.

This may be news to you… it was to me.

For many years, “studies” suggested that a calorie was a calorie regardless of when it was consumed. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Research now suggests that food consumed late at night is more likely to be stored as fat than burned as energy.

Not only is late night eating linked to weight gain, but it’s also correlated with irregular sleep patterns and an increased risk for certain cardio-metabolic diseases.

And, as mentioned previously in this article, sleep is critical when it comes to weight loss.

Additionally, the foods we consume late at night are more likely to be higher in sugar and salt.

So, not only are we eating foods with little to no nutritional value, but we aren’t allowing our bodies the time needed to work off those “empty calories”.

It’s best to stick with the old adage; “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince, and dinner like a Pauper”.

“Juicing”

Juicing has been a fad diet for as long as I can remember.

Consuming your favorite fruits and vegetables in a smoothie, for every meal of the day, seems like it would be a good idea. Lots of fiber and antioxidants, low calorie, why not?

The truth is most forms of juicing can do more harm than good. This is primarily due to how much sugar is in a single smoothie.

Most juices contain more than 9 teaspoons of sugar which is the daily recommended amount of sugar by the American Heart Association.

Additionally, when we consume fruits and vegetables in juice form, they’re absorbed differently by our bodies than if we were to eat those same foods in a balance meal.

In juice, the fruits and vegetables are broken down into simple sugars. These sugars are digested by our bodies much quicker. This leads to sugar spikes, increased insulin, and feelings of fatigue.

This is extremely counterproductive if you’re looking to lose weight quickly.

That’s not to say there aren’t healthy juices out there, because there are. It’s just important to read the nutrition labels before jumping on this bandwagon.

The juices you make at home are typically better than the ones you buy in the supermarket.

Crash Diets

A crash diet is a type of dieting aimed at achieving significant weight loss in a very short period of time. It’s often achieved by either extreme calorie restriction or by cutting out many of the main (and most important) food groups.

This type of dieting is both unsustainable and potentially dangerous.

While it can be tempting to try and accelerate your fat loss, it’s rarely effective. This type of calorie and food restriction often leads to weight gain in the long-term.

And crash dieting will usually result in severe nutritional deficiencies which can cause a variety of negative symptoms.

Fatigue, dehydration, weakened immune systems, dizziness, and even hair thinning are all potential side effects from crash dieting.

It’s best to approach weight loss by creating a diet and eating schedule that is sustainable. Depriving yourself of all the foods you enjoy might work in the short-term, but at some point you’ll likely find yourself burned out.

Try to think of it as a new lifestyle rather than a “quick fix”.

Meal Plan to Lose 5 Pounds in a Week

Figuring out what to eat and how much to eat can be challenging. It can also be extremely time consuming. It helps to have some guidance.

Fortunately, I have a lot of experience with dieting. I also have a lot of experience with weight cuts and know how to perform them safely and effectively.

I’ve created a meal plan for a 5-pound weight cut. This meal plan is meant to be done in 7 days. It includes everything from what to eat and when to eat, including water intake.

The meal plan I’ve created includes the recommended food and water intake but does not outline portion size or calories. Depending on your weight and age will determine how many calories you’ll want to consume.

To figure out what your Daily Calorie Needs are, check out this calculator.

The thing I like about this calculator, in particular, is it provides you with calorie intake suggestions for weight management and mild, moderate, and extreme weight loss.

So, depending on your goals and timeline will determine what your daily calorie needs should be.

Example of the daily calorie needs for a 29-year-old, 180lb male who is moderately active.

Day 1

  • Water Intake: 1 gallon (around 20 cups)
  • Breakfast: Bowl of steel cut oatmeal, banana, and cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Ground turkey, eggs, onion, tomato, and toast
  • Dinner: 8oz salmon, broccoli, and sweet potato
  • Snack (Optional): Pita bread and hummus

Day 2

  • Water Intake: 1 gallon (around 20 cups)
  • Breakfast: Ground turkey, eggs, onion, tomato, spinach, and toast
  • Lunch: Tuna, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, on tortilla
  • Dinner: 8oz boneless chicken breast, green beans, black beans, and rice (Buddha Bowl)
  • Snack (Optional): Dates and peanut butter

Day 3

  • Water Intake: 1 gallon (around 20 cups)
  • Breakfast: Bowl of steel cut oatmeal, banana, and cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Ground turkey, tomato, avocado, spinach, cheese, and mayonnaise on whole wheat tortilla
  • Dinner: 8oz boneless chicken breast, quinoa, black beans, sweet potato, broccoli, and snap peas, topped with hummus or low sodium hot sauce
  • Snack (Optional): Avocado on whole wheat toast

Day 4

  • Water Intake: .75 gallon (around 15 cups)
  • Breakfast: Strawberry, banana, and blueberries blended with almond milk and a scoop of protein powder, and a cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Ground turkey, eggs, onion, tomato, avocado, and toast
  • Dinner: 8oz salmon, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potato
  • Snack (Optional): Hard boiled eggs

Day 5

  • Water Intake: .75 gallon (around 15 cups)
  • Breakfast: Ground chicken, eggs, onion, tomato, spinach, toast, and a cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Tuna, mixed greens, red onions, shaved carrots, bell pepper, cheese, and pepper with a low sodium dressing
  • Dinner: 8oz boneless chicken breast, broccoli, and fingerling potatoes
  • Snack (Optional): Apple slices with peanut butter

Day 6

  • Water Intake: .5 gallon (around 10 cups)
  • Breakfast: Fried eggs and avocado on toast, and a cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Tuna, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, on iceberg lettuce wraps
  • Dinner: 8oz salmon, asparagus, and sweet potato
  • Snack (Optional): Dates and peanut butter

Day 7

  • Water Intake: 5-8 cups (hydrate only when needed)
  • Breakfast: Bowl of steel cut oatmeal, banana, and a cup of coffee
  • Lunch: Tuna, pickles, onions, mayonnaise, on iceberg lettuce wraps
  • Dinner: 8oz boneless chicken breast, quinoa, black beans, sweet potato, broccoli, and snap peas, topped with hummus or low sodium hot sauce
  • Snack (Optional): Greek yogurt with mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, etc.)

Will Holmes

Former personal trainer and athlete, currently working full-time as a health and fitness writer. Getting in shape, losing weight, and eating better, isn't always easy. It helps to have a friend... that's me, I'm the friend! Sincerely, Your biggest fan

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