The fastest way to lose weight? Diets, pills and the conversation we need to have

It’s a feeling that’s familiar to many – maybe you have a wedding or beach vacation coming up, and you want to drop a few pounds to feel your best. Sometimes, life gets in the way and you’re crunched for time, so you try and find ways to lose weight as fast as possible.

But experts agree trying to lose weight over a brief period is generally not recommended.

Crash diets, when there is a severe calorie deficit, are associated with health risks like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. And when weight is lost on these diets it is usually in the form of muscle and water − not fat.

However, there are healthy, recommended, ways to lose weight, and with consistency, you can lose weight in a reasonable amount of time.

What is the fastest way to lose weight?

The broad answer is that you need to be in a calorie deficit – this occurs when you consume fewer calories than what your body needs to carry out its necessary functions. A calorie deficit can look different depending on a person’s weight, height and activity level. If you exercise more, you may need to consume more calories, and vice versa.

Your activity level may change your nutritional requirements as well.

Marcos Esquivel, CSCS, the owner and lead trainer at MDE Athletics in Chandler, Arizona, says there are a few tricks that have helped his clients lose the right kind of weight. If you are active, Esquivel says that eating the right amount of protein is vital for weight loss success. “Protein-wise, you want to be on the higher end. You can calculate the amount of protein you should be eating by multiplying your ideal body weight (in pounds) by 1.3 grams,” he explains.

“People equate eating protein with ‘bulking up,’ but … your body burns more calories just breaking protein down,” he explains.

This high-protein recommendation may not be best for people with lower activity levels. Harvard Health writes that the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Weight loss and athletic performance are highly individualized. You may want to reach out to a professional dietician or athletic trainer to help you come up with a weight loss plan that fits your specific needs.

2000 calories a day: What to know about weight loss and calorie deficit.

Can you lose weight in just a few days?

With a crash diet, this may be possible, but it’s not likely to last. You may also experience unpleasant side effects or even dangerous conditions like dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Some people have had rapid weight loss with new weight loss medications like Wegovy, Ozempic and Mounjaro. Your physician may help you determine if one of these medications is right for you and your health status.

What you need to know about calories

A calorie deficit does not automatically mean it’s healthy. It’s vital to make sure you get the nutrients needed to support your cells. You could eat 1,500 calories worth of brownies – and you may even lose weight. But you’ll likely feel hungry and lethargic. Dr. Julie Chen, an internal medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente in Gaithersburg, Maryland, says, that to safely lose weight, it's most important to make smart food choices. She recommends incorporating a variety of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and dried beans for essential nutrients and fiber.

Losing weight as fast as possible may not be the best strategy – but there are safe and effective strategies that can help you meet your goals, and it may happen faster than you think.

Ozempic: You've heard of Ozempic, but do you understand how it works?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the fastest way to lose weight? Tips to get results