We all want to lose weight at one time or another. Many weight loss methods promise that you can lose 20 pounds in an incredibly short time, which can involve some unhealthy measures, like dangerous calorie restrictions. But how long does it take to lose 20 pounds – healthily?

There are multiple ways, so let’s review them! We’ll also discuss critical lifestyle choices that can help you with weight loss, no matter how much you want to lose, as quickly as possible.

Scale Weight Loss Journey

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds By Working Out?

Working out can help you with weight loss in a couple of ways. It burns calories and helps you build muscle, which burns more calories while you’re at rest. Plus, you can replace fat with muscle to help you consistently burn more calories and look leaner.

So – how long does it take to lose 20 pounds by working out? The answer depends on several factors. Different workouts can burn a wide variety of calories, and how often you do them will also come into play.

For example, a vigorous 30-minute run burns 342 calories for a 120-pound person or 510 calories for a 180-pound person. Meanwhile, a 150-pound person who jogs at half the speed of the runners burns 170 calories in 30 minutes.

With that in mind, let’s say you exercise five days a week, burning 700 calories each time. That burns an extra 3,500 calories per week. Since there are about 3,500 calories in one pound, it would take you one week to lose one pound and 20 weeks to lose 20 pounds.

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds Healthily?

Weight loss ultimately comes down to calories in and calories out. In order to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. You burn calories by working out, but you also burn calories naturally.

Daily Habits Cooking

Your body burns a certain number of calories by doing the processes that keep you alive, like circulating blood and breathing. This is your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which varies depending on your age, weight, height, and gender.

You can make a rough calculation of your BMR by using the formulas below:


655 + (9.6 * weight in kg) + (1.8 * height in cm) – (4.7 * age)


66 + (13.7 * weight in kg) + (5 * height in cm) – (6.8 * age)

For example, the formula for a 35-year-old woman who weighs 185 pounds and is 5’5” would look like this:

655 + (9.6 * 83.9) + (1.8 * 167.64) – (4.7 * 35) = BMR 1,597.692

This person’s body burns close to 1,600 calories daily. Next, we multiply that BMR by activity level to get the overall daily burn:

  • Sedentary: Minimal or no exercise. Multiply by 1.2.
  • Lightly active: Some exercise one to three times per week. Multiply by 1.375.
  • Moderately active: Exercise three to five times per week. Multiply by 1.55.
  • Very active: Strenuous exercise six to seven days per week. Multiply by 1.725.
  • Extra active: Very strenuous exercise most days of the week and/or have a physical job. Multiply by 1.9.

If the woman is moderately active, her BMR goes up to about 2,480 calories. At this point, it’s important to get an idea of how many calories she’s taking in.

You can use a free calorie tracking app to find out how much you’re eating each day, on average. We suggest tracking for about a week or two.

Let’s say the woman consumes about 2,500 calories per day, keeping her at around the same weight. Now, she needs to either reduce her calorie intake or burn more calories. A combination of both is the healthiest, easiest way to experience healthy weight loss.

As we noted above, one pound is about 3,500 calories. By moderately cutting your calorie intake and adding in a bit of exercise, you can lose 20 pounds fairly quickly.

Let’s say the woman in our example reduces her daily calories to 2,200 and starts taking 30-minute walks, burning an additional 200 calories.

That puts her at a 500 calorie deficit each day and a 3,500 calorie deficit per week – that’s one pound lost each week! Generally speaking, losing 1 to 2 pounds per week can be a healthy rate.

How long does it take to lose 20 pounds healthily? At this rate, you could lose 20 pounds in 20 weeks, which is very sustainable

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds If You Work Out Daily?

As we noted above, workouts can vary in calorie burn by a large margin. However, we can provide some examples for reference to help understand how long it would take to lose 20 pounds.

Stay Healthy by Exercising

For this example, let’s assume you’re a 25-year-old. You could burn:

  • 456 calories by doing 1 hour of moderate-intensity cycling
  • 399 calories by doing 1 hour of power yoga
  • 656 calories by running at a 7 mph pace for 1 hour
  • 258 calories by doing 1 hour of intermediate level pilates
  • 371 calories by doing 1 hour of aerobic dancing

If you cycled for 1 hour per day at a moderate intensity, you’d burn 3,192 calories per week. At that rate, it would take you about 22 weeks to lose 20 pounds.

Now, let’s say you’re doing pilates every day. You’d burn 1,806 calories per week, which is about half a pound. You’d take just under 40 weeks to lose 20 pounds. So, how long does it take to lose 20 pounds if you work out daily? It depends on your effort level!

How Long Does It Take To Lose 20 Pounds By Walking?

Calorie burn depends on the pace at which you walk and your weight, which will ultimately determine how long it takes to lose 20 pounds by walking. Here are a couple of examples.

After walking for 1 hour, a 150-pound person burns:

  • 224 calories at a moderate 3 mph pace. Done daily, they’d lose 1 pound in 2.23 weeks and 20 pounds in 44.6 weeks.
  • 340 calories at a very brisk rate of 4 mph. Done daily, they’d lose 1 pound in about 1.5 weeks and 20 pounds in 29.5 weeks.

The Fastest Way To Lose Weight

1. You Should Be Ready

Before setting out on any type of health and fitness journey, you should be in the right mindset. Regardless of how quickly you need weight loss, this process takes dedication. Motivation comes and goes – your mindset and new habits will carry you through the difficult days and get you to your goal.

2. Set Realistic Goals

How long does it take to lose 20 pounds? In truth, what really counts is how you go about it. 20 pounds is a great goal, but you could really hurt yourself by trying to hit unrealistic goals.

Safe weight loss can be anywhere from half a pound up to 2 pounds per week. That equals a 250 to 1,000 calorie deficit every day.

Overweight Adults

Consider your eating habits to see if there’s any room for correction – perhaps you quit snacking and save 500 calories. Then, maybe you add daily walks and burn an extra 250 calories.

That puts you in a deficit of 750 extra calories per day – you’d be in a deficit of 5,250 calories per week – this equals a reasonable goal of about 1.5 pounds lost per week.

3. Count Your Calories

Counting calories gives you insight into how much you’re actually eating every day. You might think you have a general idea, but most don’t realize when we’re snacking or overdoing it on portion sizes.

By measuring your food and counting calories, you get a solid idea of where you can adjust if needed.

4. Drink A Lot Of Water

You should try to drink about three liters of water each day. This is, first and foremost, because your body needs it to thrive. However, it’s also extremely helpful in weight loss.

It’s easy to confuse signs of thirst for hunger. By keeping hydrated, you won’t mindlessly snack. Instead, you’ll be better tuned in to your hunger signals.

5. Reduce The Consumption Of Carbs

Carbs provide quick fuel to your body, as well as nutrients and satiety. However, there are a lot of empty carbs that aren’t so nutrient-rich, resulting in weight gain.

This includes things like chips, fries, white bread, and pasta. These foods are stripped of fiber and won’t keep you full, so you’ll be reaching for more food fast.

Instead, opt for healthier carbs. Choosing whole food sources, like vegetables, which provide some carbs, but also pack in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

6. Eat Protein

Protein is the building block for muscles and provides a lot of satiety, which reduces your appetite and helps you eat less. It can support a healthy metabolism, which means you burn calories at a sustainable rate.

Daily Calorie Intake through Healthy Lifestyle

Eating plenty of protein can also help you maintain your muscle mass while losing fat.

7. Lift Weights

Lifting weight is one of the best ways weight loss methods. It offers multiple benefits. First, it helps you build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even while at rest, so replacing fat with muscle can help you reach your health goals.

Plus, muscle takes up less space than fat, so you end up looking leaner. Lifting weights can get your heart rate up like a cardiovascular exercise, which means you also burn a decent amount of calories.

8. Get Enough Sleep

A lack of sleep or poor sleep quality has been shown to increase your risk of weight gain and developing obesity. This is because sleep deprivation increases hunger hormones, which can make you eat more and gain weight.

Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep as an adult. If you struggle to get to sleep at night, be sure that you’re mentally and physically tiring yourself out during the day. Make sure you keep your bedroom cool, clean, and comfortable to encourage sleep.

9. Consume More Fiber

97% of adults in America are deficient in fiber, yet studies show that people who eat more fiber lose weight and maintain their weight more easily. You can find fiber in whole grains, like brown rice and quinoa, as well as vegetables, like broccoli.

Beans and legumes, like lentils, chickpeas, and black beans, are also good sources. You can opt for whole wheat bread and whole wheat or legume pasta.

10. Add Cardio To Your Gym Sessions

Cardio burns calories. While building muscle is important for long-term health, cardio can help you torch calories and lose weight faster.

For example, a 150-pound person burns 306 calories in just 30 minutes of stair climber conditioning. By adding a few cardio sessions to your workout routine per week, you can boost your weekly calorie burn and reach your weight loss goals faster.

11. Meal Variety Doesn’t Matter

A well-researched diet plan consisting of many of the same foods can help you meet your weight loss goals faster. It can even contain all the nutrients you need.

If you find a meal that you enjoy and meets your nutrition goals, it’s okay to eat it often! Cooking new meals can be confusing and requires a lot more work to confirm that it will help you stay on track to meet your goals.

12. Eat Home-Cooked Meals

Going out to eat often is linked with an increase in body fat. This is because restaurant meals are pumped full of processed oils, salt, and fat – that’s why they taste so good!

Eat healthy food

These ingredients can also be addicting, which is how they get you to keep coming back, accelerating weight gain. In comparison, when you cook at home, you know exactly what goes into your food.

13. Eat Slower

It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’re full. If you tend to eat quickly, you could be overeating before your brain has a chance to receive that signal. Instead, try to chew each bite thoroughly – taste your meal and slow down so that you don’t eat too much.

14. Exercise

Exercise can help you with weight loss faster than diet alone. While it is possible to lose weight just by changing your eating, exercise can help you burn additional calories, which equates to more pounds lost.

Plus, exercise helps reshape your body so that your weight loss looks even better.

15. Sit Less

The amount that we sit today is unnatural – our bodies aren’t designed to be so inactive. On the flip side, maintaining activity can help you with weight loss.

In one study, adults who lost at least 30 pounds all consistently tracked at least 12,000 steps each day. The results also suggest that maintaining high levels of activity helped them maintain their weight loss.

16. Avoid Drinking Calories

Chewing is part of what signals to your body that you’re eating and will soon be full. Plus, food that you have to chew typically contains more fiber, which helps you feel satiated.

Meanwhile, drinks like soda are high in calories, contain tons of sugar, and don’t provide the feeling of fullness.

17. Try Intermittent Fasting

One review found that intermittent fasting helped reduce body weight by 3% – 8% over 3 to 24-week periods. It generally leads you to eat fewer calories without having to actually count calories, which can be helpful for weight loss.


So – how long does it take to lose 20 pounds? If you focus on diet alone, the timeline simply depends on how many calories you can cut from your daily consumption.

This will vary depending on how much you already eat. If you have room to cut out 300 to 500 calories each day, weight loss can be fairly quickly.

Choosing foods we’ve outlined above – whole foods, veggies, protein, and water – can help you stay satiated and stick to your diet.


A combination of resistance training and cardio will yield the best results, but there are many variations of each. For example, resistance training can include bodyweight exercises, free weights, weight machines, and powerlifting.

Meanwhile, cardio can be anything from brisk walking to rowing. Pick a combination that keeps you motivated and consistent.


Motivation is fickle – it comes and comes. What truly keeps you on track is your habits. You can create better habits by habit stacking.

This simply means tying a desired habit to an existing one. For example, planning tomorrow’s meals right after you brush your teeth at night or working out right before you make your morning coffee.

It’s also important to make weight loss fun. Be sure to plan meals you know you enjoy and do workouts that you think are entertaining!

Planning Your Timeline

You should never aim to lose more than 2 pounds per week. That means you need to be in a deficit of no more than 1,000 calories per day.

Planning your weight loss journey

Take a look at your diet and exercise routine to determine what makes the most sense for you. Then, compare that to your own deadline – do you have an event you need to lose the weight by?

Try to tweak the plan to meet your own timeline while remaining healthy.

Losing Weight Too Quickly

When you cut calories, your body mostly uses stored fat to meet energy needs. However, when you cut food intake drastically, your body may resort to burning muscle as fuel.

While you’ll still experience weight loss, the loss of muscle can also lower your metabolism and change the appearance of your body. This is what leads to a more flabby appearance rather than a toned look.

Expect Ups and Downs

Apart from your own weight loss efforts, your body also fluctuates a few pounds from day to day naturally.

This might make it seem like sometimes you’re not losing weight. You might drop weight quickly thanks to a new diet, but then your body can get used to it and plateau.

Know that peaks and valleys are normal in weight loss. Don’t weigh yourself every, don’t obsess over a few pounds, and stick to your plan. Consistency will pay off.

Keeping the Weight Off

Weight loss is only the beginning of the journey. The changes you make to lose the weight will need to become permanent – your smaller body won’t need as many calories as it did when you were heavier.

Maintaining an active lifestyle and eating a healthy diet full of fiber and protein can help you keep the weight off for good.

Factors that can speed up or slow down weight loss

Weight loss tips to lose more weight

To conclude, let’s quickly review what can speed or slow weight loss.


Eating too much will push you over your calorie goals while eating foods that don’t keep you full pushes you to eat more than necessary. Stick to whole foods for the best results.


Sitting too much can ruin your weight loss progress. Be sure to get in enough steps each day and incorporate some exercise that you enjoy and that burns calories.


Don’t let sleep sabotage your results! Be sure to get 7 to 9 hours to avoid increases in appetite.

Weight Loss With Center for Wellbeing

So – how long does it take to lose 20 pounds? It all depends on how much effort you want to put into it.

However, having experts curate a plan for you and hold you accountable can greatly speed the process. If you’re ready to finally lose the body weight for good, check out Center for Wellbeing’s weight loss program.