Calorie Deficit: How To Consume Fewer Calories Than Your Body Uses

To reduce body fat and lose weight, you should create a calorie deficit. This means taking in fewer calories than your body uses so that it taps into already existing fat reserves. But how do you make sure you have a calorie deficit?

No matter what diet you’re on, whether it’s low-carb, keto, or interval fasting, you need a moderate calorie deficit to lose weight successfully.

However, there is no such thing as the perfect and most optimal calorie deficit, since everybody reacts differently depending on their metabolism.

But there are a few tricks to calculate a calorie deficit individually to know if you are really in deficit during the day or not.

If you want to lose fat and weight with the help of a calorie deficit, you should adhere to the following tips – then the chance is great that the weight loss will be sustainable and successful in the long term.

What is a calorie deficit?

First, it’s important to understand what a calorie deficit really is.

When losing weight, a moderate calorie deficit is key: the number of calories you gain each day must be high enough that you can still tolerate the deficit – and still lose weight.

If you eat too few calories, you’ll be too tired for workouts, feel hungry all the time, sleep worse, have digestive problems, and actually not lose weight at the end of the day.

A moderate calorie deficit is between 300 and 700 calories a day.

Calculate your individual calorie deficit

You can calculate your calorie deficit by multiplying your body weight by 10, 11, and 12. The calorie deficit should be best between the results of these three calculations.

Another and more accurate way to calculate your calorie deficit is to first determine your total energy expenditure – the number of calories your body burns each day.

This total metabolic rate is made up of basal metabolic rate and power metabolic rate.

In addition, the training units for the corresponding day should also be taken into account – this is how much the body burns during the respective sports.

The total metabolic rate (plus sports unit) is determined. Then subtract the selected calorie deficit from it. The result is the number of calories you can consume during the diet.

In any case, you should make sure that you always eat more than 1,200 calories per day – especially if you exercise regularly.

Find out the optimal fat loss

How long does it take to lose one kilogram of fat mass using the calorie deficit?

One thing can be said in advance: in one week it is hardly possible to lose one kilogram of pure fat mass. For that, you would have to aim for a high, unhealthy calorie deficit.

You can calculate the required healthy period like this:

For 1 kilogram of pure fat mass, you need to cut 7,000 calories. The size of the calorie deficit is crucial

  • Example 1: With a daily deficit of 200 calories, it takes about 35 days.
  • Example 2: With a daily deficit of 500 calories, it takes about 14 days.

Take healthy eating seriously

It’s important to eat a balanced diet and include enough complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. All meals should also provide plenty of vitamins and fiber.

Above all, an increased protein requirement of 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is highly recommended for weight loss success.

Why is sufficient protein so important? It satiates longer, prevents cravings and, in a calorie deficit, fewer carbohydrates are consumed at the same time.

In addition, an increased protein intake promotes muscle growth. And the more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns at rest.

Once you’ve adjusted your calorie and protein amounts, follow this tip: Weigh, measure, and meal plan.

It’s hard to tell if you’re in a calorie deficit if you only have a rough idea of how many calories certain foods provide. It’s easy to overestimate.

To help you keep track of what you eat, tracking apps that let you count calories can be useful.

Be consistent, but not too strict

How long is it best to be in a calorie deficit? It’s hard to give a blanket answer. It depends on how much fat and weight you want to lose.

It is advisable to be in a moderate calorie deficit between two to six months maximum so that your metabolism can still function well and normally.

Don’t be too strict with your body: if you are not in deficit one or two days a week, it is not tragic. Because the weekly balance is what really matters.

If you don’t manage to work out or eat one brownie too many, it’s no big deal. Better get yourself back on track the next day with a workout or a healthy meal.

Keep a positive mindset.

Record progress

Weighing yourself can be helpful if you keep in mind that this numerical scale is not the only way to monitor your progress.

If only because the number on the scale can sometimes be deceiving, other methods should also be used.

Regular photos of yourself as well as tracking your energy level, mood, and general health are useful measures, for example.

No weight loss despite calorie deficit?

This is actually not possible. If you have been in a consistent calorie deficit for weeks, then you will definitely lose weight.

This can be the reason for the standstill on the scale.

  • Fat loss does not always mean weight loss: There are phases in which the body stores more water. Women in particular are more affected by this due to their menstrual cycle. Although the weight does not change, you may still have already lost fat.
  • You are too impatient: You must not expect to lose weight in a few days.
  • After two months diet is suddenly standstill? Attention! Often the total metabolic rate has not been recalculated. Due to the previous weight loss, the basal and total metabolic rate has decreased, and consequently, the daily calorie intake has decreased.
  • You have been in deficit for too long or you are following a deficit that is too high: the result is that the body fights back.

It pays to keep at it

Everyone holds the strings to success in their own hands: the best thing is to decide for yourself whether you are making the progress you really want.

If so, stay the course. If not, adjust the number of calories you take in very slightly and keep going.

To figure out your individually appropriate calorie deficit, you’ll most likely have to do some trial and error.

However, persevering until you find the optimal calorie deficit for you and see weight loss results is worth it: if you show discipline and consistency here, you will not only lose fat and weight but also benefit in other areas of life.

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Written by Bella Adams

I'm a professionally-trained, executive chef with over ten years in Restaurant Culinary and hospitality management. Experienced in specialized diets, including Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw foods, whole food, plant-based, allergy-friendly, farm-to-table, and more. Outside of the kitchen, I write about lifestyle factors that impact well-being.

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