Calculating A Calorie Deficit For Weight Loss

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Getting into a calorie deficit isn’t as complicated as most people think.

I’m gonna explain how you can start calculating a calorie deficit for weight loss.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age. If that sounds good, please subscribe to my channel. A calorie is a unit of energy. So if you wanna lose weight, then you’ll want to burn off more calories than your body needs to maintain itself. If you give your body more calories than it needs on a daily basis, then you’ll be in a calorie surplus, and you’ll start to store fat. There are a lot of strategies for weight loss, but they all rely on getting into a calorie deficit because that’s how you lose fat. You don’t actually have to calculate a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. And I’ve got another video coming up where I’m gonna explain another strategy that you can use if you don’t wanna calculate.

So make sure you subscribe to my channel.

But if you do wanna track and monitor your calorie so that you know that you’re as accurate as you possibly can be.

Determining Maintenance Calories

The first thing that you need to do is determine maintenance calories.

That’s the amount of calories that your body needs just to maintain the weight that you’re at right now.

Now that means there’s gonna be no gain in weight and no loss in weight. And this can vary by about 200 or 300 calories a day. It’s kind of a moving target. It’s not like your maintenance calories are static. So all the calculations that we’re doing here are obviously just an estimate, but they do give you a good guideline to work from.

A Simple Calculation To Determine Maintenance Calories

Most of the calculators that you’re gonna find online, that help you determine your maintenance calories are going to be a bit of an overestimate.

So to keep things simple, I like to use a really easy multiplication, just 13 times, your body weight in pounds, in order to determine your maintenance calories for someone who’s very active, it might be 14 or 15 or 16 times your weight in pounds to determine your maintenance calories.

I prefer to stick with that 13 times your body weight in order to get a more conservative estimate.

So let’s start there.

If you’re 180 pounds, your maintenance calories are gonna be about 2,340 calories.

How Much Weight Do You Wanna Lose?

So safe and effective weight loss is considered to be about one to two pounds per week. Now I love math, but I know people wanna keep these things as simple as possible.

You can also estimate it by saying 0.8 to 1% of your body weight per week.

And this is how we account for the fact that someone who’s much larger can lose weight faster than someone’s. Who’s already close to their target weight.

If you’re 300 pounds, you can safely lose up to three pounds per week. But if you’re only at hundred and 50 pounds, you probably only wanna lose up to 1.5 pounds per week.

You’ll probably find that you’ll lose weight faster at the beginning when you’re a bit heavier and further from your goal than when you get closer to your goal weight.

Calculating A Calorie Deficit

So let’s use a very simple example. Let’s assume that you wanna lose one pound of weight a week. That’s realistic and practical.

That equates to about 3,500 calories per week. That you’re going to have to deduct from what you are consuming, or you’re gonna have to burn them off.

Now, if we divide that by seven days, you’re looking at 500 calories per day in order to lose that pound a week.

You’ll need a 500 calorie deficit per day in order to lose a pound a week. Changing your diet alone will work really well if you’re on the heavier side. So let’s say you weigh about 250 pounds. That means that your maintenance calories would be 3000, 250 calories per day, dropping 500 calories a day from your diet means that you’ve been consuming 2,750 calories per day.

And that’s pretty reasonable. That’s a decent amount of food, but let’s say you’re a smaller person who only weighs 150 pounds. That means that your maintenance calories are 1,950. And if you wanted lower that by 500 calories in order to get that deficit, then you’re down to 1,450 calories a day. And that’s not a lot.

Minimum Calorie Intake For Calculating A Calorie Deficit

There’s a general minimum energy intake that we consider to be reasonably healthy in order to provide your body with the micronutrients. And that’s the vitamins and minerals that you need in order to keep functioning and to keep healthy.

For men, we consider that lower range, 1800 calories per day.

And for women, it would be about 1200 calories per day.

That’s the absolute minimum of calories that you should be consuming. So forget those 800 calorie a day diets, please, if you don’t weigh as much, and you’re a smaller person, it’s a little bit more challenging to lose weight.

That’s also why as you lose weight, it becomes harder and harder. There’s only so many calories you can drop down to. It’s easier to lose weight when you have more weight to lose. So if you have 50 pounds to lose, you’re gonna find those first 30 or 40 pounds a lot easier to take off than the last 10 pounds. When you get closer to your target weight, you’re gonna have to fine tune things a little bit more when you get relatively lean. And I’m gonna talk about how someone who’s more advanced and very close to their goal can make changes. Ideally, you wanna use a combination of diet and exercise in order to produce weight loss. So you want to reduce your calories in and increase your calories out.

My Approach When Calculating A Calorie Deficit

When I do online coaching, I tend to look at both sides of the equation for each particular person.

And I wanna find the way that’s going to be easiest for that person. What’s going to be the best way of them achieving the calorie deficit. And what’s gonna cause them the lowest amount of discomfort to change.

Adding Activity When Calculating A Calorie Deficit

Being more active can certainly increase your calorie deficit and help you to lose weight.

But there’s a limit on that.

And it’s gonna depend on whether you are currently sedentary, whether you’re moderately active or you’re very active already. So if you’re inactive right now, mostly sedentary in your job, and you’re not doing any workouts or formal exercise, then you have the most space in order to increase the calorie deficit through your physical activity. If you’re moderately active, there’s certain things you can play with. But if you’re already very active in that you’re walking a lot. You have, let’s say three to five workout sessions in the gym every week.

There isn’t as much for you to work with. And chances are, if you are that active, you’re gonna be fairly close to your target weight anyway. So that means you have to be much more specific and you’ll probably need to track your calories more carefully in order to make sure that you continue to be in a calorie deficit and get leaner.

How To Get Into A Calorie Deficit

So let’s go back to that 500 calorie a day deficit that we want.

And ideally, as I said, it’s best to split those up 250 calories of activity, and then reducing our caloric intake by about 250 calories per day. So you can burn off those 250 calories a day through a formal workout. It’ll probably take about 45 minutes. I mean, a lot of this depends on your body weight and how intense you are with the physical activity that you’re doing. If you’re working harder, you’re gonna burn more calories.

If you’re working longer, you’re gonna burn more calories.

Balancing Your Calorie Intake Over The Week

So let’s say you’re at the gym or working out at home three to five days a week. That’s probably going to be enough for those days. And on alternate days, you can also increase your activity by walking, let’s say 30 to 45 minutes.

You might not have time to do your workout and walking on the same day, but you wanna make sure that you’re trying to burn off approximately 250 calories a day.

Doing More On The Weekend

If you’re very busy during the week and just attempt to walk for about 30 minutes a day, and then you can make up some of that calorie burn on the weekend.

We’re really looking at a weekly goal of 3,500 calories. If you don’t burn off any additional calories, one day, you can make them up on another day, but don’t get too carried away and just do nothing for five days and then hope that you’re going to be able to make up the activity on the weekend.

That’s not likely to work.

I personally like to do additional activity on the weekends, whether it’s going for a walk or doing some kind of sport with my family. That’s how I burn off additional calories, probably more than I have time to do during the week. So if you’re playing tennis for an hour, you’re going for a long hike or a long bike ride, then potentially you could burn off 500 calories on a Saturday and 500 calories on Sunday.

That also means that you won’t have to worry about reducing your caloric intake on the weekend so much. And that tends to be when a lot of people over eat or at least eat a little bit more in a calorie surplus, and don’t get that deficit just from their nutrition.

Getting A Calorie Deficit With Nutrition

Now, reducing your calories in by 250 calories a day, generally, isn’t that hard to do.

If you have a donut, you just skip that donut for the day. Sometimes those can be 300 calories. So reducing the amount of treat foods overall during the week and then on the weekends as well, can help just whittle those calories down. You only need to reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories. If you are doing additional exercise as well.

Checking Your Progress

Once you’ve been in a calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 calories a week for about three weeks, that’s when you wanna make sure that you check your progress. I mean, you do wanna monitor along the way. It is helpful to weigh yourself. It is helpful to take a look at how your clothes fit, whether you feel leaner, whether you see any difference in the mirror, remember that there are natural variations in your weight from day to day or week to week. So you don’t always wanna get caught up just with the weight loss.

If you start to see changes leanness in your arms, your legs, particularly around the waist, that tends to be a good indicator for a lot of people. Then your calorie deficit is likely working and you can keep it going.

Making Adjustments To Your Calorie Deficit

Now you might have to make adjustments, if you don’t see any of those changes.

If after two to three weeks, you’re really not seeing any signs of progress. And you’ve been trying to eliminate those 500 calories per day. Then you want to adjust and work your way down. It doesn’t actually mean that you’re doing a greater calorie deficit.

Chances are that your estimates are a bit off.

Maybe you’re forgetting certain things that you’re eating. Maybe you’re not burning off as many calories because you’re not pushing yourself as hard as you can during your workout. Or maybe you’re not walking at the pace that you think you’re walking.

Remember that everything is always an estimate. So if you are not seeing changes, then it means you’ve estimated incorrectly. If you’ve actually been tracking and monitoring your calories with an app, like myfitnesspal, where on a day to day basis, you’re entering in all your food and you see that the numbers are where you think your calorie deficit should be.

Whether you’ve decided to go 500 calories less per day (because it made sense for you) or whether you’ve decided to reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories a day, and then burn off an additional 250 calories through physical activity.

How To Know Your Calorie Deficit Is Working

You’re going to see if you’re in the right calorie deficit based on the results that you’re achieving. So you may not be entering the foods correctly, or you might not be getting the quantities, correct. Or you just might be missing something, perhaps there’s fats and sauces and things that you’re not adding to your totals.

So that’s when it pays to take a closer look and start to bring those calories down again.

How To Make Changes When You’re Closer To Your Target Weight

I’ve already mentioned that it takes more effort as you get closer to your target weight. So if you’re down to the last five or 10 pounds of fat that you wanna lose, you wanna get quite lean, then you really have to be specific.

Maybe you need to be more focused on the intensity of your cardio so that you know that you’re getting it high enough. Or you need to go a little bit longer with your cardio sessions, or you need a weight training workout that’s pushing you a little bit harder.

Modifying Diet And Exercise

So there are a lot of different ways that you can approach both sides of it.

For the calorie side, it tends to be just trying to be much more accurate and absolutely everything that you eat has to go into the app so that you can have an accurate number.

What To Do If You’re Not Seeing Weight Loss

And if it seems like you’re doing that, but you’re still not getting the result, then it looks like you might just be one of those people who needs a lower calorie intake in order to lose weight.

And that’s what you’ll have to do unless you decide to work a little bit harder. Add an extra workout each week. Do a little bit more walking.

It’s always up to you how much you want to do.

My Approach To Achieving A Calorie Deficit

I just prefer the mix of nutrition and exercise because it’s just a healthy, balanced lifestyle. It tends to go together. You feel better. It is possible to do just diet alone or just to exercise alone.

Although exercise alone is very challenging and you need to commit to working out quite a lot most days in order to burn off sufficient calories.

So it’s best to use a combination of nutrition and exercise to get yourself into a calorie deficit.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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