You’ve probably heard the term Calorie Deficit. It’s almost like its the new topic topic for the fitness world but it has long been know that when it comes to losing fat, it is the only real way to go. 

It’s not new, it’s not even that exciting (apart from the results it brings)… but if you are serious about your health and fitness journey and you are looking to decrease your body fat, you need to understand it.

So… What is it?

When we eat and drink we consume the energy stored within. This energy is measured as calories. 

Your body can then either burn, store or absorb* those calories.

Understanding how your body uses calories is key to understanding fat loss and fat gain. Put simply:

If you eat more calories than you burn, you will store fat = Calorie Surplus

If you burn more calories than you eat, you will burn fat = Calorie Deficit

If you eat the same amount of calories as you burn, you stay the same = Calorie Balance

*The calories that are absorbed are the ones that end up in the toilet, not the most pleasant thought but its a fact!

OK, How does it help me?

Obviously the bit most of us are really interested in is Calorie Deficit. It is the key to our success in our fat loss journey. In this blog I am going to try and help you understand how to determine how to achieve the right calorie deficit for you. 

First, you need to understand that 1lb of fat has about 3,500 calories. 

Let’s say you decide you want to lose 1lb of fat a week. You would need a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories a day to achieve a weekly deficit of 3,500.

Now you need to determine your current daily calorie consumption. You do this by counting your calories every day for atleast one week. You can either use an app such as MyFitnessPal or write everything down everything you eat and drink and then look up the calorie content. 

Let’s say, for example, you have maintained your weight by consuming 2000 calories a day. You are currently in Calorie Balance. You want to lose 1lb of fat a week so you would need to cut your daily intake to 1500 calories. 

However, for some people, cutting their intake in this way may be too drastic and for others, too slow. If someone was maintaining their current weight at 1600 calories, to go down to 1100 calories a day would likely be too aggressive. On the contrary, if someone was maintaining their weight at 3000 calories, they would likely be able to achieve a faster fat loss with a bigger calorie deficit. 

So, you could just pick a number for your deficit (like 500 calories a day) and stick to it.

But, if you fall into one of the groups where maybe this doesn’t work as well for you, you could work on a percentage basis. 

To do this, you find your maintenance calorie number and subtract 20%. 

Let’s stick with the maintenance figure of 2000 per day. If we take 20% from this it would mean reducing the calorie intake by 400 calories to 1600 per day. 

This method works well and many believe it is the best approach as it takes into account your actual energy needs, rather than using a set figure which might not be suitable for your needs and lifestyle. 

So there you have it. Now you are armed with the information needed to get to work losing that fat. 

Then what? 

Once you have your calories right, and only then, can you start to look at the other areas of nutrition, like your macro balance; how those calories are made up between protein, carbs and fats. 

I will just say one thing on this, I have tried a few different things over the last couple of years; high fat diet, high protein diet, low carb diet and the results from all of them were pretty much the same… as long as my calories were on point. My body composition (weight, fat% and muscle%) didn’t vary much from plan to plan and the thing that was always the same was my calorie intake. If my calories were on point, I got the results I wanted, if they weren’t I didn’t!

My advice:

1) Focus on real food. Avoid quick fixes, meal replacements and “detox” plans. These may work in the short term but you aren’t addressing the long term issues or changing your relationship with food. Do not be fooled – the only way they work is by seriously cutting your calorie intake. Also you may not be consuming enough calories for your energy needs and this can leave you open to all sorts of issues. You may drop a few inches or a dress size by having one or two shakes instead of meals a day but what happens when you reintroduce the food. You haven’t learnt anything and I can pretty much guarantee that weight will come back on, and then some unless you are really lucky! 

2) Focus on foods with good flavour. If you are in this for the long term then you have to enjoy it. There is no point including foods you don’t really like just because you think you should. If you don’t like what you are eating, you won’t stick to it. Make the journey enjoyable for your taste buds, as well as your waist line.

3) Focus on Calories. As this blog post has hopefully shown, once you have thought about real food with good flavours, you need to get the calorie intake right. You now know how to do this 🙂 Once you have the calorie intake right you can start to look a bit more in depth at the function of the food and if you can tweak this to your advantage.