What Is a Calorie Deficit? Why Is It Important for Weight Loss?
The term "calorie deficit" is probably something you've heard a lot of times. Getting into one, on the other hand, is probably a lot different than what you thought it was. But if you're trying to lose weight and comply with a calorie deficit so you can fuel your body, then you'll want to know the best way to go about it.
What Does Calorie Deficit Mean?
Calories are units of energy. When you eat food, your body breaks it down to release energy. The amount of calories in the food determines how much energy is released. To maintain a healthy weight, you need to eat the right amount of calories for your body. If you eat fewer calories than your body needs, you'll lose weight.
Everyone’s needs for calories and deficits are different. Calories in and out are important, but other things like how much exercise you get, your genes, hormones, and metabolism also affect how much weight you lose. It can be hard to create a calorie deficit in a healthy way that doesn’t leave you feeling hungry all the time.
If you find yourself struggling to lose weight, it might be worth checking in with your doctor about how to adjust your diet accordingly.
What's the Right Amount of Calorie Deficit for You to Lose Weight?
You can figure out your exact calorie deficit by looking up your basal metabolic rate and subtracting 500 calories from it.
If you have a 1,800-calorie daily diet, and you want to lose one pound per week, you’ll need to cut out eight hundred calories a day.
For example, if you eat a bowl of cereal with whole milk for breakfast every morning, try switching to skim milk and eating a piece of fruit instead. That eliminates around 300 calories right there.
You don't have to cut 500 calories out of your diet every day to lose weight, but it can be faster that way. The key is finding a deficit that works for you.
For example, if you currently eat 1,500 calories per day, reducing that by 250 calories per day creates a 500-calorie daily deficit. This could result in a one-pound weight loss each week (or two pounds if you're very active).
What Are Good Foods for a Calorie Deficit?
Technically, you can eat anything while on a calorie-deficit diet—as long as that food’s energy content is less than what you burn.
Here are a few of the foods that can help you feel full throughout the day:
- Skinless chicken Breast
- Cauliflower rice
How Can You Achieve a Calorie Deficit?
To lose weight, you can create a calorie deficit by cutting back on your portions, exercising more, or trying a combination of these two methods.
1) Strength training exercises
To lose weight, be sure you are doing strength training exercises. Exercise in general can help burn more calories, but strength training helps boost your body’s energy needs and increases how many calories you burn at rest. Thus, you won't have to cut back on foods as much to create a deficit.
2) Cutting back on carbohydrates
In order to avoid storing excess calories, limit your carbohydrate intake. Carbs are converted by the body into sugar and stored for later use. Eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as you can is a good way to ensure you're getting the nutrients your body needs.
3) Adding more fiber & nutrient-rich food
To help you eat less, aim for a higher protein, fiber, and healthy fat content in your meals. Adding fruits and veggies to your diet will help you feel satisfied longer. You can also add foods like nuts or seeds to your diet for protein and healthy fats.
4) Maintaining a food journal
Writing in a food journal can be a powerful tool for losing weight and keeping it off, but you do have to keep it up. To avoid falling back into old habits, try cutting back on portion sizes or eliminating certain foods from your diet.
At the end of the day, developing a sense of awareness about how you’re eating is very important. If you don’t know whether you’re eating too many calories, your efforts to cut back aren’t going to be that effective.
So, take a few moments during each meal to reflect and make sure that you’re finding a balance between your food and your calorie intake. This will make it much easier to recognize any potential problems with your existing diet.
Of course, don’t be afraid to ask for help when considering how much you should eat in a day—your primary healthcare provider or registered dietitian should have the information and ability to help you get on track with a plan that works for you!