Calorie Deficit, Does It Work?

When you eat anything, you increase your caloric intake. Every time you lift weight or spend time exercising, you burn calories. In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calorie than you eat. It means that if you eat 2,000 calories a day but burn 2,500 calories, the deficit of 500 calorie per day will help you lose a pound in a week, as 3,500 calories equal a pound.

Your body needs food to function properly, but when you have eaten fewer calories or burn more than what you have consumed through exercise, your body will be forced to use body fat to fuel your workouts. This is when you will be able to lose weight. Therefore, it would not be wrong to suggest that a calorie deficit is actually the only way to experience fat loss. But, you should also need to proceed systematically and have a plan of action to ensure that calorie deficit helps you burn fat only, and you do not end up burning muscle tissue.

How to Lose Weight

Calorie Deficit, BerriesWhile caloric deficit really works, you need to plan things properly with three goals in mind. First, you need to maximize fat loss. Then, you need to minimize muscle loss. And finally, you need to proceed in a way that is sustainable for you. However, it is not easy to find a right balance of these three aspects. For instance:

  • You can proceed with a small caloric deficit, which is going to be the easiest in terms of sustaining it on a long-term basis. You do not even need to make serious dietary changes either. You are less likely to deal with mood shifts, hunger pangs, and metabolic problems. With a small caloric deficit, there is also no need to worry about losing muscle mass in the process. But, the main problem is that the rate of weight loss will be very slow, which is why many people are least interested in going this way.
  • You can go with a large caloric deficit in order to experience quick weight loss. The problem is that it is the most difficult plan to follow, because you will be making several dietary changes. A sudden reduction in your caloric intake is also going to make you feel hungry all the time. It is also going to have a huge impact on your training and recovery, which is why there is always a high risk of losing muscle mass in the process.

In order to lose weight efficiently, you have to find a middle ground, and that is when you need to stick to the moderate caloric deficit. A moderate sized deficit is likely to produce enough weight loss to keep you motivated, and there will be a reduced risk of losing muscle fat in the process. For a moderate-sized caloric deficit, you should be aiming for a 20% reduction in your caloric intake. It is better to stick to a percentage-based deficit instead of going for a set number of calories to lose each day. With percentage-based deficit, you will have to find 20% of your current caloric intake. Sometimes, losing 500 calories is not going to work for everyone, especially when have a lot of weight to lose.

You can also take advantage of a Calorie Calculator. You can also find other calculators that help you get a better estimate of your calorie needs based on gender, size, and physical activity level. Once you know your daily caloric intake, it is easy to reduce 500-1,000 calories from that figure. You can do it in many different ways. Before talking about how to create that caloric deficit, it is important to mention that the calorie calculators only offer an estimate, so it is important to keep a close eye on your body weight and calorie intake.

How to Lose Body Weight through Calorie Deficit

Once you know how many calories you are taking on a daily basis, you need to develop a plan to burn more to create a deficit. You can achieve this in a number of ways. For instance:

Pay Attention to Your Diet

By educating yourself about how many calories are there in everything you eat, you can get an idea about how to create a calorie deficit. First, you should identify unhealthy foods with empty calories and eliminate them from your diet. These foods are high in calories and offer no nutritional value, as they do not contain antioxidants, minerals, fiber, or vitamins. Some good examples of foods with empty calories are cookies, soda, candy, potato chips, muffins, and fast foods. You should be eating nutrient dense foods with low calories. Some good examples include brown rice, whole-wheat products, veggies, and fruits. Do not forget to calculate the total number of calories to ensure you are not eating too much of healthy food.

Include Cardio Exercise into Your Routine

Even when you are eating healthy, you may find it difficult to cut too many calories to create a calorie deficit. That is why it is important to do cardio exercise 3-4 times a week. Ideally, you should be doing it for no less than 30 minutes per session, but you can increase the duration gradually to get better results.

Train with Weights

Strength training is probably the best thing you can do to burn calories quickly. Interestingly, you keep burning calories even after you have completed your workout. In addition, training with weights helps you put on muscle, and more muscle means your body is going to burn more calories at rest. Another benefit of weight training is that you will actually be losing fat and not muscle.

Try High-Intensity Intervals (HIIT)

Calorie Deficit, Woman Drinking BottleThis training technique can increase the number of calories you burn in a session. The idea is to perform high-intensity exercise for a brief period followed by brief rest periods. You can pick any exercise to utilize this training method.

For instance, you can jump rope for a few seconds to warm up and then jump rope at a high intensity for 10-20 seconds, but instead of stopping completely, you should perform another set at a slower pace for about 30 seconds.

You can do the same with running – you can sprint for a few seconds followed by jogging at a slow pace for a couple of minutes.

Add More Protein to Your Diet

Eating healthy food is important, but adding more protein to your diet is also going to help with weight loss. It improves your metabolism and makes it easier to burn more calories even when you are at rest. A faster metabolism may not burn so many calories, but combined with good exercise, it may be enough to create a calorie deficit you are aiming for. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology confirmed that eating high-protein diet helps you burn fat quickly. Just ensure you are getting enough protein – something about 1g per pound of body weight may work. Ideally, you should opt for lean proteins (low in fat), such as chicken, turkey, fish, and lean cuts of beef.

Sleep Well

You may be thinking that you need to spend hours upon hours in the gym to burn more calories than you eat, but you have to understand the importance of getting enough sleep every night. Giving your body a chance to recover after a strenuous workout session is critical. A study published in the Journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who sleep for at least 8.5 hours a night lose more weight compared to people who sleep 5.5 hours per night. One good reason is that hormones like leptin and gherlin that make you feel hungry stay in check during sleep. You are less likely to deal with hunger pangs, so there will be no chance of overeating. Moreover, a study has also found that sleep deprivation can make your brain’s reward zone react to sugar treats and fatty foods more enthusiastically.

Hitting a Plateau Even After Creating a Calorie Deficit

It is true that create a calorie deficit is the best way to lose fat naturally. However, there are situations when you may stop losing weight even after creating a calorie deficit. It can happen due to a number of reasons. For instance:

  • Metabolic Adaptation: When you make a change to your diet or try to burn more calories, your body reacts accordingly and tries to counteract with the steps you are taking. This is the reason why sometimes your metabolism gets used to how much food you are eating, and tries to preserve calories by slowing itself down. There are other factors too. For instance, you are less likely to burn equal amount of calories when your body gets smaller with time. This will bring your weight loss to a halt. You can have to go back to the drawing board and make a new plan to change your calorie intake, so you can continue to shock your metabolism and get better results.
  • Water Retention: Another obvious reason why you are not losing weight even after eating in a calorie deficit, is that your body has started retaining more water. In other words, you may still be losing fat but your weight may not come down, because your body is retaining more water. Water retention is usually the result of an increase in a hormone called cortisol, and an increase in this hormone is the result of physical stress created by dieting and exercise. To resolve the issue, be sure to spend some time doing relaxation exercises. Yoga, meditation, and even deep breathing may help relieve stress and lower water retention at the same time. Consider going for a short walk in the morning – a short 30-minute walk can help relax your nerves. Getting a massage, having sex, or journaling about your day may help tackle stress and in turn lower water retention.
  • Health Issues: Even when you are burning more calories than you eat every day, you may still continue to gain weight because of an underlying health issue. It could be the result of conditions like menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and hypothyroidism. Certain medications may also be playing a role here. Similarly, antidepressants and birth control pills can lead to weight gain. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you suspect that a medication or a medical condition is making it difficult for you to lose weight.
  • Muscle Gain: Another reason why your weighing scale is showing an increase in weight even after being on a calorie deficit, is that you are actually putting on muscle. Understand that the scale is just a tool to help you track your progress, but you should not rely too much on it. Instead, check the size of your arms, chest, and quads, as well as your waist. If your waist has shrunk a bit but your arms measurements have increased, know that you are gaining muscle. When you gain muscle, there will also be an increase in strength. So, if you are feeling stronger but that scale shows you are gaining weight, stop worrying about it. You are moving in the right direction!


Calorie Deficit, Woman Eating HealthyThe fact of the matter is that burning more calories than you eat will create a calorie deficit, and keeping your body in that deficit will help lose weight over time.

You can tweak your diet or include certain exercises in your routine to increase the number of calories you burn. Just do not cut so many calories suddenly, but focus more on burning more in the gym in the beginning.

Remember, there is no shortcut to weight loss, so be persistent and you will be there!

Have Your Say

Get the conversation started by leaving your comments using the form above.

Add your comment

We'd love to get your opinion. Please keep it clean and stay on topic, no spamming. Comments are moderated before being made live. Your email address will not be published.
We cannot give advice about medical conditions or prescription drugs. Please direct specific medical questions to your doctor.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.