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Calorie Deficit - What is it and how do I calculate mine?

In simple terms, being in a calorie deficit is when you consume less calories from food and drink than you burn through activity.

Being in a healthy calorie deficit is the only way in my opinion to achieve healthy weight loss.

I prefer my clients who are looking to lose weight, to focus on a daily calorie deficit, however, if you're on a calorie deficit over say a week, you'll still see results.

So for anyone choosing to be on a calorie deficit during the week but binge on the weekend, do bear in mind that this could falter weight loss results. The over consumption of calories on the weekend could just make up for the shortfall of calories during the week. Here's a simple example of being in a calorie deficit, if you burn 2500 calories a day but consume 2000 you are in a deficit of 500 calories.

How do I calculate my calorie deficit?

Knowing how to safely calculate your personal calorie deficit is very important. Don't copy a friend, or someone you've met in the gym. We are all unique with individual goals and activity levels so it is vital that you work out your very own calorie deficit. This will also ensure that your weight loss is sustainable. By following a calorie deficit that does not allow you to function effectively you are at risk of not only feeling lethargic but you will not be able to sustain what you set out to achieve. Firstly you must calculate you BMR (basal metabolic rate), this is the amount of calories your body uses at rest (no activity). From this you want to then focus on a healthy calorie deficit of around 300-500.

So using the below calculation, calculate your BMR for healthy sustainable weight loss results.

For Men:

BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight (in pounds)) + (12.7 x height (in inches)) - (6.8 x age (in years))

For Women:

BMR = 665 + (4.35 x weight (in pounds)) + (4.7 x height in inches)) - (4.7 x age (in years))

So now you know your BMR, (this is the amount of calories you really should be consuming daily), in order to reach a calorie deficit I advise you to get active. For example, my BMR is 1937, I will consume roughly 1900 calories a day on the days I am not active for maintenance (I would never consume less calories than 1900 per day), on the days I am active, I will burn between 500-1000 active calories through exercise. So for me to be in a calorie deficit of 500, I will consume my BMR of 1937 on the days I only manage to burn 500 active calories and 2400 roughly on the days I'm extremely active.


Using TDEE (Total Daily energy expenditure) calculator

is also very helpful giving you a good guide into how many calories you should be consuming on a daily basis depending on how active you are. Simply google search TDEE calculator do your calculation and -500 to work out your calorie deficit target. However you may not be as active as you think which may not give you the correct calculation, preventing progress. Wearing a smart watch preferably an Apple Watch will give you a good guidance to how many active calories you're burning each day which I highly recommend. Tracking your consumption of calories and activity levels are both massively key to a successful weight loss journey.

So now what do I eat?

Once you've calculated your BMR or TDEE, you can be much more mindful of what you are eating and the amount.

It is essential, in order to remain as healthy and energised as possible, that you fill these calories with nutritious foods from a variety of food groups majority of the time. It's no good turning to your favourite fast food restaurant for a burger everyday and not eating anything else, chose your food wisely with your health at the forefront of your mind as much as possible.

Variety... It is so easy to work out the amount of calories in a certain breakfast, lunch and dinner and stick to those meals day in day out for convenience. But are you getting enough variety? No. variety is really important so that the body reaps the benefits of multiple vitamins and minerals and other essential ingredients, this can only be achieved by eating a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Portion Sizes...

For this process to be most sustainable, I would be most mindful of portion sizes when it comes to the higher calorie foods like fats, proteins and carbohydrates. However when it comes to vegetables, don't be afraid to bulk up on a rainbow of colourful veg. Most vegetables contain very few calories but are packed full of goodness and fibre. Fibre is essential for our digestive system but also keeps us fuller for longer when teamed up with lean proteins like fish and chicken.

So when do I start?

Why not straight away? If you're keen to lose weight then get calculating your BMR and do some research on advisable portion sizes and the amount of calories in your favourite foods. At the start as you are counting calories, you may feel like you are dieting, but once you get a gist of all the foods you like, it should become second nature.

I feel educating ourselves on portion control is really important, we have such easy access to food now it is so easy to over consume and therefore become overweight. In my opinion it does no harm for someone to have a better idea of the amount of food they should be consuming for their body type and activity levels.

If you want to maintain your weight you can use the same calculations and just consume roughly the same amount of calories as you are burning. If you want to gain weight then eat more, but chose healthy food options still. Lastly if you want to gain muscle, exercise and the right diet is crucial, but seek more professional advice from your personal trainer on this one, or keep up to date on my instagram for more information (@bradleysimmonds).