In this article I will explain everything there is to know about calorie deficit for fat loss, what is it and how to do it properly to maximimze your results.
What is a good calorie deficit for fat loss?
In general, a good calorie deficit for fat loss can be maintained over a long period of time, without unwanted eating behaviors. On average, an energy deficit of 500 to 1000 calories is optimal to drive reasonable fat loss that can be sustained and implemented into the lifestyle.
But does it mean you have to count calories?
Calorie Deficit Needed For Fat Loss
As a general rule, as low as 300 calorie deficit is needed to trigger fat loss. During a calorie deficit, the body creates a series of metabolic adaptations where it switches from utilizing glucose as a source of energy, to deriving fatty acids from adipose tissue.
In other words, for most people something as simple as skipping one meal a day is enough to create fat loss.
Or doing intermittent fasting once or twice a week.
So it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Of course, you won’t know exactly how many calories you eat.
But does knowing the calorie number really make a difference?
I don’t think so.
Think about how many people you know who knows everything about calories, ketones, muscle protein synthesis…
But they still fat.
So knowing the numbers doesn’t move the needle.
Let me show you what is really important.
Best Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss
In general, the best calorie deficit for fat loss is the one that can be persevered over several weeks or even months. 2000 calorie deficit may trigger best fat loss results, but 1000 calorie deficit may be more sustainable in the long term, and therefore, be better overall.
Sure, everyone can smash it in the short-term.
I had so many people fired up for weight loss.
- Waking up at 5 am
- 30-minutes after Michelle Obama and 15-minutes before The Rock
- Drinking kale smoothies
- Dissecting skin from chicken breast
- Running 10k before sunrise
But for how long?
Just because large calorie deficit sounds more appealing or brings better results in the short time.
I doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for fat loss.
Remember that fat loss is a long term process.
Sometimes even months.
What is more achievable?
- 500 calorie deficit over 12 weeks
- 2000 calorie deficit over 12 weeks
Less is more.
Because you cannot live your life with severe calorie deficit. It’s just unsustainable.
So the best calorie deficit for fat loss is the one you are:
- Ready to do
- Able to do
- Willing to do
Otherwise, you won’t do it.
HOT TIP: Ask yourself – how confident you’re (on a scale of one to ten) that you can do it over the long term?
- If you get 9 – 10 out of 10 then go for it.
- If you get below 9, reduce the task
Shrinking your task you actually increase compliance aka sustainability.
Related article: Why Am I Gaining Weight In A Calorie Deficit?
How To Create Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss
The most effective way to create a calorie deficit for fat loss is to reduce food intake around your basal metabolic rate over a long period of time. Basal metabolic rate accounts for 70% of your total daily energy expenditure, and eating around this amount will create a 30% calorie deficit.
You have two ways to create calorie deficit.
You can either:
- Establish your BMR and count calories from every food you eat to match this number.
- You can eat less food without counting calories
Tracking numbers is super useful.
- For your KPI’s
- For your finance
- For your blood work
Eating behavior is a different animal.
Because many of us use food not only to satisfy physical hunger.
But to silence and mute the emotional hunger.
- Physical hunger is the hunger signal coming from our gut.
- Emotional hunger is the signal telling us about psychological needs that aren’t sufficiently met.
In most cases, people struggle to lose weight and jump from one diet to another not because they eat too many carbs, fats, or whatever.
They do so because they use food as a coping mechanism for emotional hunger (source).
They eat to:
- Not feel lonely
- Not feel angry
- Not feel stressed out
- Not feel frustrated
- Not feel disappointed
- Not feel rejected
- Not feel worried
They use food to feel better.
So knowing the calories, counting every bite, measuring portions, calculating BMR, and weighing bloody servings won’t make the problem go away.
The food is not the problem.
The problem is the problem.
How To Create Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss
There are 5 steps to create calorie deficit for fat loss without counting calories.
- Start food journal
Don’t write calories. Just write down what you eat and be consistent. Food journal creates self-awareness. And self-awareness is enough to create change (source).
- Eat slowly for 20–25 minutes
Slow eating spike your satiety signals.
The more you “stretch” out your meals, you will feel fuller with less food (source).
- Eat when you’re hungry
Eating only when physically hungry.
Not when you’re bored.
Not when you’re stressed out.
Only when really hungry.
- Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry
Being satisfied after the meal is when you’re no longer hungry.
Being full after the meal is when you’re no longer hungry, but you’ve continued to eat anyway.
Stop when no longer hungry (source).
- Skip a meal
What happens when you put oil into the water?
It comes up tot he surface.
It cannot hide because it can’t disolve.
Same with your hunger when you skip your meal.
You play hunger games.
You can tell how does the true hunger feel after you haven’t eat.
It’s actually humbling.
And once you do it over and over, you realize that:
- hunger is not an emergency
- hunger comes and goes
- hunger is nothing to be panicking or worry about
This way you increase your hunger tolerance (source).
So you can eat less food, get into calorie deficit and lose fat.
Without counting calories.
- Intermittent fasting
The next levels from skipping a meal.
Try a full day fast.
Or one meal a day.
Either way, the longer you stay without food, the more comfortable you become with feeling uncomfortable.
To learn more how to stop counting calories, check out my article.
How To Calculate Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss?
To calculate calorie deficit for fat loss you need first to establish your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This number reveals the amount of calories your body burns during the day at rest. And as long as your food intake is around this threshold, you will be in a calorie deficit.
Calculating your calories has it’s benefits.
People like to know what they eat.
They like data.
And they like to make an informed decision about food they eat.
We choose what, when, and how we eat based on dozen different factors:
- Usual eating times
- Usual food composition
- Traveling times
- Working times
- Stress levels
- Social pressure
- Food cues from the external environment
- Cultural behaviors and norms
- Marketing and media
All of that is gonna influence food choices.
And knowing the calories or calculating calorie deficit becomes so irrelevant.
Maximum Calorie Deficit For Fat Loss
To maximize calorie deficit for fat loss you need to:
- Proteins with every meal
- Fiber-rich foods with every meal
- Eat mindfully without distractions
- Adequate hydration
- Regular exercise
- Adequate sleep
- Positive social support
Will Calorie Deficit Burn Belly Fat?
A calorie deficit is effective in reducing fat mass. Creating optimal calorie restriction sustained over a long time will utilize body fat as energy, which will trigger weight loss, including belly fat and fat deposits around the abdominal area.
Calorie Deficit vs Low Carb For Fat Loss
The difference between calorie deficit and low carb diet is that fat loss achieved from low carb is done because of the calorie deficit, not because of carb absence. A calorie deficit occurs when calorie expenditure exceeds calorie intake, regardless of the method or diet.
Creating calorie deficit for fat loss doesn’t have to be complicated.
In fact, less is more.
And while counting calories is an effective way to measure food intake.
For most people, it is not sustainable.
At least not in the long term.