Evidence Based

How To Lose Weight After Pregnancy? Exercise & Nutrition Tips

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Published at 02:03

A low-calorie, balanced diet and exercise helps with weight loss. Photo: New Africa/shutterstock

Many women wonder how to lose weight after pregnancy. A balanced diet similar to the one followed for good nutrition during pregnancy can be used for post-partum weight loss for calorie goals of 1600 and over. Using the Dietary Guidelines,  choose the appropriate number of servings from the food groups that match your caloric goal and status as lactating or not.

Your calorie goal is calculated by determining how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and subtracting 500-1,000 calories daily to lose 1 to 2 pounds weekly. A calorie calculator can be found online to help you. If you are lactating, the calories for weight loss should not drop below 1,800 per day, and non-lactating women should not eat less than 1,200 calories daily.

Read on to learn how much weight you should lose from childbirth and insightful tips for taking off post-partum weight.

Losing Weight After Pregnancy

  • Safe postpartum weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week is achieved with a deficit of 500-1,000 calories daily through calorie restriction and increased calorie burn.
  • Safe weight loss can be achieved by exercising for 150-300 minutes per week at moderate intensity; alternatively, greater fat loss is achieved with vigorous exercise for 75 minutes weekly.
  • Non-lactating postpartum women should not decrease their calories below 1,200 per day.
  • Breastfeeding moms should not limit their calories below 1,800 for adequate milk production while losing weight.

How Much Weight Do You Lose Right After Birth?

How Much Weight Do You Lose Right After Birth
How Much Weight Do You Lose Right After Birth? Photo: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

It will take time to lose all the weight you gained during pregnancy. You probably even gained some weight from the IV fluids given to you during delivery. The placenta, amniotic fluid, and fetus represent about 35% of a 25 lb weight gain or about 8.75 pounds. 

The extra blood volume totals approximately 2.80 pounds, and 3.30 pounds (10.3 pounds with generalized edema) come from the extracellular fluid, totaling 14.85-21.85 pounds lost post-partum after a period of adjustment. The rest of the weight gain is from increased breast tissue and fat stores for lactation.
So, if you gain an average of 25 lbs. and lose 15 lbs. after delivery, you will have about 10 pounds of additional weight to lose post-partum. Limiting or avoiding foods during pregnancy may have affected the weight you must lose after delivery, depending on how it affected total weight gain.

5 Tips for Losing Weight After Pregnancy

The first step is to set a reasonable weight loss goal. Then, determine the number of calories you need to eat to reach that goal and the number of calories you need to burn with exercise. 

Here are five valuable tips to guide you through your weight loss journey.


According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, breastfeeding uses up 330 extra calories in the first six months and 400 calories per day in the next six months. So, adding extra activity to this caloric expenditure should help you to lose weight. Just be sure you don’t slip much under 1800 calories, so you have a good milk supply.

Breastfeeding also helps the uterus to contract, helping you to regain your shapely figure faster than if you didn’t breastfeed, thanks to the hormone oxytocin. 

 Using an online calculator, a sedentary breastfeeding woman who is 5’6” and weighs 145 pounds after delivery needs 1703 + 330 calories for breastfeeding = 2033-500 calories to lose 1 lb/wk=1533, which is less than 1800. So, you adjust the plan to lose ½ lb by calculating 2,033-250 calories for ½ lb wt. loss per week =1,783 calories, or 1800. Then, any exercise calories you burn will add to the weight loss of ½ lb per week.

Women who breastfed exclusively lost 3 pounds more weight at twelve months than those who chose not to breastfeed and were more likely to return to their prepregnancy BMI.


Adults should exercise 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity, aiming to include two days of strength-building activity within the 150 minutes per week. A moderate intensity would be a 40%-59% target heart rate. Target heart rate is measured by taking 220-age=maximum heart rate x intensity =beats per minute.

For more substantial health benefits and calorie burn, exercise 300 minutes per week at moderate intensity.

Alternatively, you can exercise vigorously at a target heart rate of 60%-84% to burn fat more efficiently for 75 minutes weekly. So, if you are a 24-year-old woman, your vigorous heart rate would be 220-24=196 x 0.60-0.84=118-165 beats per minute. Exercise training decreases abdominal fat, especially at higher intensities.

Studies have shown that exercise is less effective for weight loss at moderate-intensity heart rates and that vigorous exercise achieves more significant fat loss. Regardless, exercise of any type burns calories.

This chart gives the approximate number of calories burned per hour for a representative weight category. You can use it to choose exercises that burn the most calories — ones you enjoy and can stick with.

Track Your Calories 

There are at least a couple of free online apps for tracking calories. Calorie trackers may also show you the percentage of calories you eat from the protein, carbohydrate, and fat groups. And, if you are exercising to lose weight, you should keep track of the total daily calories expended in your exercise routines.

 Research shows that using tracking apps facilitates movement towards goal achievement.

Eat A High Protein Diet

Protein has satiety and thermogenic effects, causing a rise in calorie burn and a feeling of fullness. This leads to less food intake and, thus, fewer calories. Emphasizing low-fat or plant-based sources of protein will enhance weight loss.

A high-protein diet accounts for 30%- 35% of your calories. So, if you follow an 1800-calorie diet, 30% would be 540 calories divided by four calories/gram = 135 grams of protein per day. Eight ounces of skinless, diced chicken has about 35 grams of protein; an 8 oz glass of low-fat milk has about 9 grams of protein; ½ cup of lentils has 37 grams of protein; and 1 ounce of seeds has 10 grams.

Other high-protein, lower-fat foods include lean beef, veal, soy, cottage cheese, reduced-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, peas, lima beans, and fish. 

A high-protein diet lowers insulin resistance and moderates variations in glucose control compared to the widely-used Mediterranean Diet. A stable blood sugar level means better appetite control. 

This type of diet also decreases fat mass while preserving lean body tissues.

A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is effective for weight loss. However, such a diet may adversely disrupt the gut microbiota, affecting overall health. If you are following this type of macronutrient distribution pattern, it is strongly suggested that you supplement your diet with probiotics.

While lowering the calories from your pregnancy diet based on the Dietary Guidelines will likely work in the long run, a high-protein diet may be more effective at achieving your goals. This is due to protein’s thermogenic nature and ability to regulate body composition. The distribution pattern of the Dietary Guidelines is not considered a high-protein diet, with a range between 10% and 35% protein calories

Eat More Fiber

Fiber is filling, causing you to feel like you have had enough to eat before consuming too many calories. Only about 5% of Americans get the recommended amount of fiber, a factor contributing to the obesity problem. Women should get at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories.
Fiber helps control appetite, promotes good digestive health, improves blood sugar control, and protects the heart. For more fiber, choose fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, and whole grains over refined products.

Risk of Being Overweight For Pregnant Women

The best time to lose weight is before or after pregnancy, not during. So, if you plan on getting pregnant, start your weight loss program now, as obesity in pregnancy poses a high risk for complications. Obese pregnancies often see miscarriages, the development of gestational diabetes, hypertension or pre-eclampsia, a need for cesarean deliveries, blood clots, and heavy bleeding after delivery.


Postpartum weight loss is an overriding concern for most pregnant women. Losing weight after birth will take some time as your body readjusts to not being pregnant. The best way to lose weight after childbirth and regain your figure is to breastfeed. 

Other ways to lose weight are to increase the amount of protein and fiber in your diet and exercise 150-300 minutes at a moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week at a vigorous intensity. 

Tracking your daily calories and exercise expenditures will likely align with your weight-loss goals, keeping you motivated. 

Losing weight preconceptually or postpartum are the two best times in a woman’s life to lose weight. Repeated bouts of pregnancy weight gain without taking off the excess weight between pregnancies will likely lead to obesity. 

 Consult your local Registered Dietitian Nutritionist if you need help planning a postpartum weight loss plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you lose weight while pregnant?

Losing weight during pregnancy can lead to inadequate fetal growth and development and may result in complications. Weight loss is advised before and after pregnancy for the best birth outcomes.

How many pounds can you lose weekly by burning 250 calories daily and eating 250 calories less than your needs?

One pound of weight per week can be lost by achieving a 500-calorie deficit/day through reduced intake, increased calorie burn, or a combination thereof.

How does protein help you lose weight?

Protein is thermogenic, which burns more calories and satisfies the appetite. Choose low-fat protein.

What should you add to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to avoid adverse health outcomes?

Probiotics should be added since this diet affects the microbial diversity in the gut, and you must replace the good bacteria to maintain health.

Kathy Shattler, a Registered Dietitian for over 25 years, operates a Telehealth Clinic and freelances as a writer. Holding a Master’s in Human Nutrition from Michigan State University, her expertise spans clinical nutrition and public health. Recognized as a pioneer in her field, Kathy continually pursues excellence in integrative medicine public health education, and her writing endeavors.


MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

  1. USDA (2020). Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020 -2025. [online] Dietary Guidelines for Americans. USDA. Available at: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf.
  2. CDC (2024). Physical Activity for Pregnant or Postpartum Women: An Overview. [online] Physical Activity Basics. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physical-activity-basics/guidelines/healthy-pregnant-or-postpartum-women.html [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  3. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. (2017). When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume? [online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/calories [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  4. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/. (2017). When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume? [online] Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/calories [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  5. Kominiarek, M.A. and Peaceman, A.M. (2017). Gestational weight gain. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, [online] 217(6), pp.642–651. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2017.05.040.
  6. Ever wonder how many calories you burn during exercise? (n.d.). Available at: https://www.washburn.edu/student-life/recreation-wellness/employee-wellness/documents/EW-PH-Calories-Burned-Exercise.pdf [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans 2nd edition. [online] health.gov, pp.1–118. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.
  8. Zečević, M., Dejan Mijatović, Mateja Kos Koklič, Vesna Žabkar and Petar Gidaković (2021). User Perspectives of Diet-Tracking Apps: Reviews Content Analysis and Topic Modeling. JMIR. Journal of medical internet research/Journal of medical internet research, [online] 23(4), pp.e25160–e25160. doi:https://doi.org/10.2196/25160.
  9. M. Brennan Harris and Kuo, C.-H. (2021). Scientific Challenges on Theory of Fat Burning by Exercise. Frontiers in physiology, [online] 12. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2021.685166.
  10. SDSU Extension. (2024). Target Heart Rate: Finding the Right Intensity. [online] Available at: https://extension.sdstate.edu/target-heart-rate-finding-right-intensity [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  11. Tettamanzi, F., Bagnardi, V., Panayiotis Louca, Nogal, A., Gianna Serafina Monti, Mambrini, S.P., Lucchetti, E., Maestrini, S., Mazza, S., Rodriguez-Mateos, A., Massimo Scacchi, Valdes, A.M., Invitti, C. and Menni, C. (2021). A High Protein Diet Is More Effective in Improving Insulin Resistance and Glycemic Variability Compared to a Mediterranean Diet—A Cross-Over Controlled Inpatient Dietary Study. Nutrients, [online] 13(12), pp.4380–4380. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13124380.
  12. Sergeev, I.N., Thamer Aljutaily, Walton, G. and Huarte, E. (2020). Effects of Synbiotic Supplement on Human Gut Microbiota, Body Composition and Weight Loss in Obesity. Nutrients, [online] 12(1), pp.222–222. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010222.
  13. Quagliani, D. and Felt-Gunderson, P. (2016). Closing America’s Fiber Intake Gap. American journal of lifestyle medicine, [online] 11(1), pp.80–85. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615588079.
  14. Fiber Content of Foods. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.nutrition.va.gov/docs/UpdatedPatientEd/FiberContentofFoodsAug2023.pdf# [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  15. CDC (2024). Fiber: The Carb That Helps You Manage Diabetes. [online] Diabetes. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/healthy-eating/fiber-helps-diabetes.html [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  16. NHS Choices (2024). Obesity and pregnancy. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/existing-health-conditions/overweight/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  17. NHS Choices (2024). How to get more fibre into your diet. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/digestive-health/how-to-get-more-fibre-into-your-diet/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
  18. Murphy, M.M., Barraj, L.M. and Higgins, K.A. (2022). Healthy U.S.-style dietary patterns can be modified to provide increased energy from protein. Nutrition journal, [online] 21(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-022-00794-w.
  19. Moon, J. and Koh, G. (2020). Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. Journal of obesity & metabolic syndrome, [online] 29(3), pp.166–173. doi:https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20028.
  20. Jarlenski, M.P., Bennett, W.L., Bleich, S.N., Barry, C.L. and Stuart, E.A. (2014). Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women. Preventive medicine, [online] 69, pp.146–150. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.09.018.

Help us rate this article

Thank you for your feedback

Keep in touch to see our improvement