Losing weight is a struggle for many, especially if we have some sort of medical issue. However, many people who have lost weight in a sustainable manner report that the results were due to consuming less calories, exercising more, and generally eating healthier. There has also been talk of following a calorie deficit diet plan and seeing success with that method. In the history of dieting, it seems like this plan might work for the majority of overweight people.
Calories are the energy units that we get from the food and drinks we consume throughout our lives. They’re also responsible for excess weight, as extra calories get turned into fat and stored away in the body. It stands to reason that when we burn fewer calories than we eat, we gain weight. The opposite is also true; when we achieve a calorie deficit — bringing more calories than we take in–the result will be weight loss.
There are many ways to achieve a calorie deficit, but it all boils down to increasing our energy expenditure and decreasing our calorie intake.
How We Expend Energy
We can increase our energy expenditure in three ways–resting digesting, and activity. The resting energy expenditure, or REE, represents the calories that our bodies burn while we’re at rest. This means the essential functions of breathing, blood circulation, and other systems that are keeping us alone.
Another way in which our body burns energy is to process the food we eat. This includes digesting the ingredients, absorbing their benefits, and metabolizing the food.
While we may not have much control over the calories expended in the first two, we do have control over the final method. This is activity energy expenditure, which means that calories we burn while being active. We can increase the energy expenditure here by playing more sports, exercising at the gym, or going for a walk more often. It’s also possible to burn off nominal amounts of calories by doing chores around the horse or simple moving our fingers.
How the Calorie Deficit Works
When we don’t give our bodies enough calories to support all these expenditures, the stored fat in our bodies is used for this purpose. Instead of getting the energy it needs directly from the food we’ve consumed just now, the body gets its needs fulfilled by the fat. Since fat is a much better source of energy than glucose, we might even end up feeling healthier and more active than before.
How to Calculate Our Calorie Needs
If you think that achieving a calories deficit is the next step in your weight loss journey, it’s time to calculate the amount of calories you need. These are also called maintenance calories and can be determined by using online calculators such as the National Institute of Health’s Body Weight Planner.
Once you figure out the calories your body needs to function normally throughout the day, it’ll be easier to settle on a realistic calorie deficit goal. For most users, this means a deficit of around 500 calories each day. This amount will likely result in weight loss and would probably prevent sagging energy levels.
Online calculators can estimate the amount of maintenance calories you need. The influencing factors include your sex, height, level of physical activity, and age. You might get a more reliable result by tracking your weight and caloric intake for around 10 days. This will help you with your weight management goals as well as deciding what to consume in order to lose weight. Download a calorie tracking app, put in the calories you’ve consumed each day, and enter your daily weight as well. Make sure you use the same kind of scale each time and strip down to get the most accurate results. It’s best to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating anything.
If you find that your weight remains around the same over a 10-day period, the average calories that you’ve consumed are what you need. These will be your maintenance calories, so you now need to reduce that number on a daily basis.
Calculating Your Calorie Goals
First, subtract 500 calories from the maintenance calories you’ve calculated. The result will be your maximum calorie goal for the next few weeks at least.
Once you’ve lost some weight, the amount of your maintenance calories will go down as well. You would then need to change your daily calorie intake.
If you want to ensure a sustainable weight loss that’s also healthy as well as a proper intake of nutrients, take a look at your minimum calorie intake. Males shouldn’t have a calorie intake below 1,500 calories, while females should take at least 1,200 calories a day.
To ensure better health overall, you may also want to consider adding certain supplements to your diet.
How to Achieve a Calorie Deficit
Achieving a calorie deficit is easier said than done. In a nutshell, it means that we burn off more calories than we consume. This means controlling our diet as well as exercising more than usual.
Research has found that it’s actually more sustainable if we control our eating habits rather than focus on exercising. Exercising every single day requires a lot of energy, time, and motivation. Many of us may also require an experienced trainer to help us exercise properly without injuring ourselves. All of this will cost time, money, and a lot of effort. In any case, several sources report that exercise doesn’t really burn a whole lot of calories very easily.
At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to miss out on 500 calories than burn off the same in a grueling exercise routine. However, exercising for the sake of strengthening muscles and toning the body is still recommended. Physical activity has its own health benefits, but that’s a separate topic.
How to Eat Fewer Calories
If we want to achieve a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories in the first place, there are some strategies to keep in mind. Here are a few to start you off:
- No drinking calories: The best way to consume a lot of calories is to consume sweet juices, soda, shakes, and specialty coffee. Reduce these items or do away with them from your diet completely; it’s best to drink plain water and have black coffee/tea for your caffeine needs.
- Reduce processed foods: Highly processed items have a lot of sugar, fat, and sodium in them; these include fast foods, desserts, and sugary beverages. The flavor of these foods encourage a lot of excess consumption and unnecessary calories.
- Choose minimally processed foods: These include choices like legumes, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and fruits.
- Cook at home: Choose and control what goes into your body by cooking primarily at home. This will save money and also allow you to exercise portion control. Eating at a restaurant will make you more likely to finish a large portion while also consuming unhealthy ingredients.
A calorie deficit diet plan takes place when the body doesn’t expend as many calories as you take in. If a deficit of just 500 calories doesn’t work, you might have to tweak the amount by a 100 more or so. Once you start losing weight, those excess pounds will hopefully not come back for a long time. Calorie counting might help you keep track of what you consume, but setting a limit and staying within it has helped a lot of dieters.