A calorie deficit is an essential component of any good weight loss plan. Creating this calorie deficit doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you take a few key things into account. Two of the biggest things you should pay attention to are the quality of food you are eating and how filling that food is.
Paying attention to those two things has a two-prong effect. It will help you to lose weight as well as help you maintain that weight loss. That’s because once you eat quality, filling foods to create a calorie deficit, your body will become accustomed to eating within that calorie range. That means you won’t have to count calories while maintaining your calorie deficit because your body will tell you when to stop eating.
You create a calorie deficit when you consume fewer calories than your body uses. So if your body uses 2000 calories in a day and you consume 1500 calories then your calorie deficit is 500 calories.
A calorie deficit diet plan helps you lose weight because if you consume less than your body needs, your body will use the fat stored in your body for energy. If your body burns the stored fat in your body for energy, you lose weight.
To figure out your calorie deficit, you need to first figure out how many calories you use up each day. The number you use up each depends on a variety of things like your age, sex, weight, and how active you are.
The amount of calories you use up each day is called your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). You can use a simple formula to calculate your TDEE, which we will explain in the next section.
Once you calculate your TDEE, you will then know how many calories you expend on average each day. To lose weight quickly, you need to consume fewer calories than the number you expend. To lose about one pound a week, you need to consume 500 fewer calories per day than you expend.
Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories your body burns each day for energy. Your body uses the energy to perform basic functions to live like breathing and cell regeneration. Your TDEE also includes any energy you use for activities like walking, running, dancing, playing a sport, or anything else that requires you to be out and about.
First, you need to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you burn without including any activity. The formula is as follows but you can also use an automatic calculator like the TDEE Calculator.
(9.99 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (4.92 × age in years) - 161
(9.99 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (4.92 × age in years) + 5
After you get your BMR, you need to factor in how active you are to get your TDEE. Multiply your BMR by one of the following numbers based on your activity level.
Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) represents almost the same thing as your BMR and as a result, the terms are used interchangeably. The slight difference between the two is that your BMR represents the number of calories your body burns for basic functions at rest while RMR represents calories burned at rest.
However, since the two are quite close, you can use the above formula based on BMR to calculate your TDEE.
You can create a calorie deficit in one of three ways. You can eat less, increase your activity level or eat foods that burn more calories.
Eat Less Than You Use
When you know what your TDEE value is, you also know how many calories your body consumes on a typical day. If you eat and drink fewer calories than your body uses then your body will have to go to your fat storage for energy. This will then help you lose weight. If you are wondering how to eat less than you need while still staying full, focus on eating filling foods that have fiber and protein.
Increase Your Activity Level
If you increase your activity level, your body will use more calories than usual. So, if you consume what your TDEE is but are more active than your typical day, then your body will need more calories. It will get those extra calories from your fat stores.
Eating Foods That Burn More Calories to Digest
Foods that are harder to digest force your body to use up more calories. These foods include those that are high in fiber as well as high in protein. You will note that you are fuller longer when you eat foods with high protein and fiber levels. That’s because your body doesn’t instantly break them down like it does carbohydrates.
Do note that if you want to be able to have treats while losing weight, it’s possible. You just have to make room for those treats within your calorie budget. Although the calorie deficit meaning equates to consuming less than you spend every day, you can save up calories for treats.
Let’s say your TDEE is 2100 calories so you need to consume 1600 calories to create a calorie deficit. To make room for a treat, you can eat 1500 calories instead and by the end of the week, you’ll have 700 calories to splurge on a treat.
Choosing what you eat is as important as how much of it you eat. You can eat a bowl full of lentils versus a bowl full of pasta and get very different outcomes. A bowl full of each of the items will come out to around the same amount of calories, but it's what happens after you consume them that’s important.
Lentils are full of fiber and protein, which keep you fuller longer. Pasta is full of carbohydrates which digests very quickly and makes you hungry again fast. Therefore, after you eat lentils you’ll be satiated and won’t consume more calories while with pasta you will end up consuming more calories.
Choose foods that are full of nutrients and that keep you full to create a calorie deficit. This will make the process easier than if you just simply cut calories. Focus on eating complex carbs over refined carbs as you’ll get more fiber. Also, eat more protein as it will keep you fuller for longer. Try to limit processed foods, which are full of sugars, as well as unhealthy fats that pack on the calories.
Picking the right drinks can help you go a long way in creating a calorie deficit. That’s because drinks can seem so innocent but often come with a lot of hidden calories. Drinking a fancy coffee drink like an iced caramel macchiato with whipped cream can set you back close to 500 calories. That’s more calories than your average fast-food hamburger.
Although fresh fruit juice might seem like a healthy choice, it is full of sugar. Sugar goes straight into your bloodstream, converts into energy fast which then causes your blood sugar level to drop. You will then feel tired and hungry, which will make you consume more calories than you need.
You can enjoy your favorite whipped cream drink as a treat on occasion, but try to limit frequent consumption so you can use the calories for filling foods. The best drink choice is water as it makes you full, is great for your body, and doesn’t cost any calories. Plain coffee and tea are also good choices for low-cal drinks that aren’t going to wreak havoc on your body.
When you cook more meals at home, you can control exactly what you are eating. You can choose to add more fiber and protein to your meals while restaurants may strictly focus on cheap and quick ingredients. Additionally, restaurants often opt to use cooking methods that are fast like deep-frying which adds unnecessary calories without keeping you full.
They may also use sauces that are high in fat and sugar for extra flavor rather than focusing on the quality of their ingredients. You can often cook the same restaurant dishes at home with far fewer calories. For example, instead of take-out fried chicken fingers, you can make and bake them at home. That can save you several hundred calories.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to go out and have lean meals that fill you up as long as you’re careful about what you choose. Order healthy takeout from places that have some healthy options like salad bars and non-fried foods to make it easy. Also, choose filling foods made of complex carbs, fiber, and protein from the menu to create your calorie deficit meal.
Highly processed foods usually contain a lot of fat and sugars which are used for flavoring and as preservatives. If you limit the amount of highly processed food you eat, you will instantly cut out hundreds of calories that don’t keep you full. When you save up on calories you can treat yourself to some of your guilty pleasures like pizza and creamy pasta.
Cutting down on processed foods doesn’t mean you have to eliminate convenience. Instead of fast food burgers and fries, you can opt for a fast food joint that has a salad bar, burrito bar, roast chicken, etc. Your local grocery store is a good place to grab quick snacks like sliced fruits and veggies with hummus. If you know you’re going to end up eating a processed dessert or other food in your week, you can always save up calories for it by eating less on your other days.
Fruits and veggies contain a ton of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. Fiber keeps you full for longer and that means you won’t feel hungry again quickly. When you don’t feel hungry quickly, you limit how many calories you consume which helps you reach that calorie deficit.
Additionally, fruits and veggies are a lot lower in calories than other foods you could be eating. A big bowl of veggies could cost you just 100 calories whereas a big bowl of pasta with meat sauce can be three or four times the amount of calories.
A good way to enjoy the foods you like while reaching your calorie deficit is to try and aim to fill up at least ½ of your plate with veggies and leave the other half for other complex carbs, protein, and fat.
When you exercise you burn more calories which increases your TDEE. That means it becomes easier to reach your calorie deficit. For example, if your normal TDEE is 2000 calories and you do some light exercise, you can increase that to 2100 or 2200 calories or more. That means it is easier to get to that calorie deficit because you can eat more calories.
Your exercise can include cardio like a ½ hour walk or dancing. Alternatively, you can do resistance training like using free weights or using your body weight to do things like squats, leg raises, and push-ups. Resistance training has the added benefit of strengthening your muscles, which helps you to burn more calories throughout your day.
Before you get into any kind of weight loss program, it’s best to consult with an expert. There are some health factors you need to consider before putting yourself in a calorie deficit. Too much of a deficit can be harmful to your health.
Although it may seem logical that the fewer calories you eat, the faster you can lose weight, that’s not exactly the case. If you eat too few calories, your body can start to behave as though you are in starvation mode. This is a natural mechanism that our bodies use to protect us in case there is a food shortage.
When your body goes into starvation mode, your metabolism slows and your body tries to hold onto calories instead of spending them on energy. Of course, if this situation plays out, then it means it becomes even harder for you to achieve a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Most people need at least 1200 calories for their body to perform its most basic of functions. That’s why the healthiest way to lose weight is to do so by a calorie deficit of 500. If you do more than that, you might even experience the opposite of what you intended.
Additionally, eating too few calories can harm your health so make sure you get adequate nutrition and allow the weight to come down gradually.
A weight loss coach can help set you up for success by easing you into achieving a calorie deficit. The best way to achieve your calorie deficit healthily is by way of a sequence. Fitmate coaches start with a plan that includes eating filling foods first. These foods will include fiber and protein, both of which keep you fuller longer. When you are fuller longer, you eat less overall and also have fewer cravings.
After increasing filling foods, we decrease non-filling foods. The combination of these two steps can go a long way in creating a calorie deficit naturally. Additionally, when you eat more filling foods for a long period, your body comes to know when you are full. That means you no longer have to do any kind of calorie counting.
When you consult with an expert, you get years of experience without actually having had to test different methods before getting to the right one. The key to reaching any goal is a plan and a Fitmate coach can create one for you that helps you gradually implement new habits to achieve your calorie deficit and start to lose weight.
Find out how a weight loss coach can help you implement a calorie deficit eating plan by taking the Fitmate Quiz.
How Do I Know My Calorie Deficit?
To figure out your calorie deficit, you need to figure out your TDEE. Your TDEE number will tell you how many calories you burn on your average day. A calorie deficit is a difference between how many calories you burn and how many you consume. If you consume exactly how many calories you burn, you have no calorie deficit.
If you want to lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than your TDEE. To lose one pound a week, you should eat 500 calories less than your TDEE number. (See the section titled ‘What is TDEE’ above for the TDEE formula.)
What Is a Calorie Deficit Example?
If the amount of calories you burn each day is 2000 and the amount of calories you consume is 1500, then your calorie deficit is 500. So that means your body will then have to get that extra 500 calories from your fat stores, which means you will lose weight.
Will a Calorie Deficit Slow Metabolism?
If your calorie deficit is too high, it can slow down your metabolism. That’s because if you are using up way more calories than you consume, your body is going to feel like it is in starvation mode. If it is in starvation mode, it is going to slow down your metabolism to hold onto more calories because it thinks there is not much food available.
Additionally, if you try to get a calorie deficit by eating refined carbs and other sugary foods, your metabolism can slow down. That’s because it is very easy for your metabolism to break down sugars so it slows down. On the other hand, filling foods, like those with protein, are much harder for you to metabolize, so your metabolism can speed up. If you want to burn more calories, it’s a good idea to include filling food in your diet to achieve your calorie deficit.
Find out how an expert can help you figure out the best plan for your weight loss by taking the Fitmate fitness assessment quiz.