The concept of a calorie deficit is thrown around repeatedly when people are trying to lose weight. People are constantly preaching to others on social media, or in the gym, about using this straightforward method to make weight loss easy .
But people don’t understand what a calorie deficit actually is.
Asking people what this is or how to create the perfect deficit is sometimes too embarrassing but truly this is as straightforward as some preach. Following these simple steps will enable you to understand and lose weight while still eating the foods that you love.
But calories are simple and a deficit even simpler…
Scientifically speaking calories are just a unit of energy, so different food and drinks are made up of different amount of fuel for our bodies. Some foods have more calories than others but our bodies view each calorie just as an energy source and fuel to maintain our lifestyles, our movements and thus our day to day life.
The best way to explain this is to imagine that our bodies are a bank account and the food which we eat is money. Our bank accounts don’t look at where the money inside them comes from, it just views it as money, a positive balance or a negative balance. You might keep putting money into your bank account with wages or gifts but at some point this money gets spent as well, it could be bills or just the new pair of trainers that you have wanted. Regardless it’s spent at some stage. At the end of each day you are left with a balance, it could be positive or it could be negative, well our bodies work in exactly the same way. Throughout each day we put calories into our bodies and our actions cause them to be ‘spent’, leaving us with a balance at the end of the day. If we are left with a positive balance we are in a calorie surplus but if we are in a negative balance we are in a calorie deficit.
For our bodies to burn fat we need to be in a calorie deficit.
How about thinking about it like this, if everyday we are overspending on our calories or putting more into our bank account than we are going to spend, then we are bound to put on weight because you would be left with a positive balance at the end of each day. But if we are in a deficit, eating less calories than we are using, putting less into our bank account than we are spending, we are bound to lose weight because we would be left with a negative balance at the end of each day. Also know as this elusive calorie deficit.
Although truly, going £1 into debt is very different to going £10000 into debt, this works with our bodies too. A little over spending on our calories isn’t going to do a right lot, but continuing to overspend and going massively into debt will leave us with a big hole to climb out of. One day we find ourselves a little overdrawn at the bank, our wages might be going in the next day and this is just a short term issue. But continuing to stay in the overdraft and getting deeper inside it can cause real problems throughout the rest of our lives. Finding the correct balance between overspending and underspending is hugely important and once this is mastered, losing weight and eating foods you loves will be easier than ever.
But we know what a calorie deficit is, but how do we use it…
- Work out your maintenance calories.
- Minus the amount of calories to create a deficit, dependant on your goals.
- Track your daily calorie in take.
Of course, we need to know how many calories we can eat in a day for nothing to happen to our bodies otherwise known as our bodies maintenance calories. If we were still using the bank account analogy this would be your available balance to spend each day without consequence. Again, working this out seems to provide an argument for many gym goers but there are many options to do this. For me, using the tdee calculator is a good option as it seems to be noted by many professionals as an accurate measure given all the factors which accounts for. But using apps such as MyFitnessPal which will work your calories out are equally as good for a starting point. Once you have inputted your details you have your start point, your maintenance calories.
Often the function which you have used to find your maintenance will suggest a deficit amount of calories for you to follow for weight loss, but you can work this out for yourself as well. If you work on the estimate that 3500 calories makes up a pound of fat, which is commonly suggested to be the correct amount, then deducting 500 calories from your daily maintenance amount would amount to you losing a pound each week. It really is that straight forward.
So, we have worked out the amount of calories which you can eat to lose weight and we are now working in a calorie deficit. What’s left to do, I hear you cry? It simple, eat and enjoy the foods which you love eating. As long as you only eat the amount of calories which you have calculated you will lose weight, if you want a Donut or a handful of Doritos, go for it. But remember this, some foods are better for us than others and once you have mastered the art of a calorie deficit learning more about what’s inside food and why you might want to eat it would be beneficial; carbs, fats and protein especially.
Finally, whatever you do, do it with consistency. Don’t try and judge a weight loss on a week because I am sorry to have to tell you this but you won’t look like Eddie Hall or Jessica Ennis overnight. Look at your progress over 3 months or a year and I guarantee consistency and hard work will pay off.
After all, losing a pound a week for a year would be a massive 52 pound loss. I told you it was simple.