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Calorie deficit - a woman measuring her waist with a tape measure

Calorie deficits: Everything you need to know plus more!

Being in a calorie deficit is considered an efficient way to lose body fat. The body needs to burn calories throughout the day in order to function correctly. Therefore, being in a calorie deficit means to burn more calories throughout the day than you are putting into your body. But what exactly does this mean? And what effect does this have on our bodies? Auro has put in the work and done the research for you to answer all your questions regarding calorie deficits… 

But first, we must say that if you are considering going into a calorie deficit in order to achieve weight loss, we advise that you consult a doctor or medical professional first, similarly to any diet or change in lifestyle.

What is a calorie deficit?

According to online weight loss coach, Daniel, “Being in a calorie deficit means you’re consuming fewer calories than you burn. You can think of it as a negative energy balance, and your body makes up that deficit by burning body fat.” 

Nutritionist Heather Hanks advises: “To create a calorie deficit, you must burn more calories than you ingest. But this can be harmful if not done properly. While this number may vary, most men need between 2,000 to 2,2000 calories per day to maintain weight. Women need 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day.”

How do I get into a calorie deficit?

First of all, you need to work out what your caloric needs are. You can do this by visiting a medical professional or by using an online calculator (however, this may be less accurate). After you have worked out your caloric needs, you then need to calculate how many calories you need to deduct to get into a calorie deficit.

Daniel advises: “A very simple way of calculating how many calories you need to get into a calorie deficit and lose around 1 lb per week is to take your target body weight in lbs and multiply by 12. So if you weigh 180 lbs and you want to get down to 150 lbs, 150 x 12 = 1800; so eat 1800 calories per day.”

Registered dietitian and masters of science Shena Jaramillo proposes that “A calorie deficit can be achieved by decreasing food intake, increasing exercise, or both. To see one pound weight loss per week, a person would need to create a 500 calorie deficit per day.”

Foods to eat on a calorie deficit:

Getting into a calorie deficit does not mean you need to stop eating your favourite foods. You can easily make your favorite foods fit into your daily calories by consuming smaller amounts of calories during your other meals. You can also make certain swaps in your diet to reduce your intake in calories. For example, swapping fruit juice to fruit itself, swapping regular fries for sweet potato fries, and swapping a takeaway to a homemade fakeaway. Here is a list of many more easy swaps you can do to help reduce your calorie intake:

  • White bread for rye or wholemeal bread
  • Crisps for popcorn or carrot sticks
  • Pork sausages to chicken or vegetarian sausages
  • Takeaway pizza for homemade wrap or pitta pizzas
  • Sugary cereals for porridge or high in fiber cereals

Jay Cowin, ASYSTEM‘s Registered Nutritionist and Director of Formulations advises toStick to nutrient-dense foods that will fuel your body. No takeout, greasy, fast food.. I’m talking about real vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. This way you’re eating less but fueling your body with the energy it needs so you don’t get overly tired and run down. You’ll still be able to exercise and have energy while burning the extra calories.”

Reda Elmardi, certified nutritionist, PT, bodybuilder enthusiast, fitness expert, and owner of StrongChap.com weighs in on the subject:  Consider switching sugar cereals with oatmeal covered with fruit, for instance, switch chips with lightly roasted and salted cashews. Consuming home-cooked meals is also linked to improved consistency of nutrition, higher fruit and vegetable consumption, lower levels of body fat, and lower chances of heart disease and diabetes. Without calorie counting, avoiding sugar drinks, cooking mostly minimally processed foods such as fruits and vegetables, and preparing home-cooked meals can help you hit a calorie deficit.”

What does being in a calorie deficit do?

When you are in a calorie deficit and your total amount of calories that you consume per day are reduced. Heather Hanks informs us that “This will help burn through glycogen, which is a stored form of glucose that your body reserves as energy (fat). Eating a calorie deficit will also help prevent food from being stored as fat.” Therefore, being in a calorific deficit will effectively burn your excess body fat. 

Is a calorie deficit safe?

It is suggested that cutting out between 500 to 1000 calories per day is sufficient for a calorie deficit. However, everybody is different. You should not aim to lose more than 2lbs a week, as losing weight too fast is unhealthy and not sustainable. At the end of the day you do not want to lose weight too quickly and then put the weight back on again as soon as you discontinue your calorie deficit. Additionally, cutting down on too many calories may lead to certain negative side effects which we will talk about next.

The drawbacks of a calorie deficit:

There are certain ways in which restricting calories too much can be harmful to your body. For example, restricting your calories too much can cause tiredness and fatigue and may make it difficult for you to fuel your body with all the nutrients that it needs. Supposedly, people on an extensively low calorie deficit for 4 -16 weeks could potentially suffer from side effects such as fatigue, constipation, nausea and diarrhea. 

Additionally, if you are in a calorie deficit for too long your metabolism can slow down and you will conserve more energy. This is because your body notices that you are consuming less energy, so your thyroid levels fall. This will mean that you will stop burning fat because your body wants to store it.

What does it feel like to be in a calorie deficit?

It is likely that you will feel more hungry, as you are consuming less calories than normal. You may also feel more tired than usual. Food is energy and if we are not giving our bodies as much energy as usual, we will start to feel fatigued. Consuming less calories and eating healthier may make you feel less bloated too, especially as your body starts to burn excess fat.

Exercising on a calorie deficit

Remember that when you exercise you burn calories. Therefore, you must consider this when counting your calories on a calorie deficit. If you exercise more, you must eat more. Food is fuel and your body needs it to function and look after yourself. So, on the days that you move more, remember to eat more.

Calorie deficits: the outcome

Research suggests that being in a calorie deficit is an effective way of burning body fat and losing weight. Before starting a new diet plan, you must consider your current health, listen to your body and outline your goals. Speak to your GP or a medical professional if you are considering a change to your diet.

Auro are always here to provide the most insightful information about fitness, wellbeing and nutrition. To keep up to date with what’s going on, join our private FB Community Group. The Auro app is also free to download on the App and PlayStore. 

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