Updated: Jul 19, 2022
So you may have heard before that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. It gets thrown around a lot these days. But I’m going to delve a little deeper and explain exactly what it is and how I best recommend implementing it with my clients to help them reach their fitness goals.
So let’s use an analogy. If your dog is overweight when you take it to the vets what do they tell you to do? Feed it a little less and walk it a little more. Super simple. Well it’s exactly the same when it comes to you. If you eat less and move your body more then you will lose weight. Sounds super simple but I know it isn’t as simple as that.
What is a Calorie Deficit?
So a calorie deficit is defined as when the number of calories a person consumes in a day is smaller than the number of calories they burn. The body needs to burn a certain number of calories to perform all its functions each day. This is called your BMR (Basal metabolic rate) essentially meaning the number of calories you burn just being alive. Having to breath, walk & talk. So for me my BMR is 1,360 calories per day. Then you have to take into account your activity levels. For me I have an active job and workout daily so my daily calorie expenditure is on average 2,100 calories per day. 740 active calories & 1,360 as my BMR.
If I want to lose weight then over an average of 7 days I need to be eating less than 2,100 calories on a daily basis. Now I know you’re probably thinking okay I’ll eat 1500 calories a day and you’ll lose a lot of weight quickly. Yes you’re right but this is in no way sustainable. This is the complete opposite of what I implement on my clients. Yes you may see quick results but 99% of people will not be able to maintain such a drastic deficit. You will feel lethargic, have no energy, be grumpy, Have decreased performance when training and you’ll end up binge eating because you’ve restricted yourself too much. Resulting in you no longer being in a calorie deficit, losing motivation and giving up on your weight loss journey before it’s even really started.
Hopefully now you can see that a drastic deficit is not the way. This is how I help my clients lose weight. Through a sustainable way that means you keep the results you’ve earned. I recommend that my clients start off in a 10% daily calorie deficit. So for me this would mean eating 1,890 calories per day. Obviously for each individual it’s different and that’s why I use percentages. I would keep my client in a 10% calorie deficit for 4 weeks and then reassess.
Just a tip not to forget that as you lose weight your BMR will decrease, so you will need to adjust your daily calories as the number on the scale decreases. After the 4 week mark if my client is still losing weight on a 10% deficit then they can stay at this as it’s the most sustainable way. If they have plateaued then I would look to increase to 15% and see if we are able to break through that plateau and start to see the numbers on the scale drop again.
You will hit plateaus during your weight loss journey and the key to breaking through them is consistency. If you haven’t seen a reduction in weight for 2 weeks then look at reducing your calories further. This being said I’d never recommend anything more than a 25% calorie deficit for an individual. There is no fun & joy in restricting yourself too severely that you end up having to miss out on social occasions and foods you love. The majority of clients that want to lose weight are because they want to be healthier and happier. Going too deep into a deficit is going to have the complete opposite effect.
Tips & Tricks to aid you in your Deficit
Now it’s all well and good me explaining what a calorie deficit is and what number of calories you should be eating in a day but below I’ve listed some tips to help you stay on track on your weightless journey.
1. Use less sauce
Adding ketchup or mayonnaise to your food will add more calories to your meals than you may realise. 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise adds an extra 57 calories to your meal. If you use a lot of sauce, try eating a bit less, or not using it at all, to reduce the number of calories you’re eating. Try seasoning your meals with herbs and spices to improve the taste at a fraction of the calories sauces do.
2. Don’t drink your calories
So many of my clients when they first come to me don’t even take into account the fluids that they are drinking as calories. For example you have 2 large lattes from your preferred coffee shop. That’s an extra 500 calories you’re consuming a day! I’m not saying cut out coffee but try drinking them black or having one black coffee and one latte. You’ll already be cutting out 1,750 calories per week just having one less milky coffee a day.
Then there’s things like juices and fizzy drinks. I love fizzy drinks and it is one of my downfalls but a super easy way of working around this is go for zero sugar options. A can of regular Coca Cola has 161 calories compared to a can of coke zero, which has 0. Yes it contains sweeteners and there are a lot of thoughts around this being bad for you. But as of yet there is no scientific proof that artificial sweeteners are harmful for humans. So, for as long as this is the case it’s a great way to stop you from drinking your calories.
Then there is the tough subject of alcohol. Drinking alcohol is essentially drinking empty calories. If not drinking isn’t an option, then try and drink things like gin and slimline tonics, which only have 91 calories in comparison to your large glass of wine, which has up to 150 calories. The other side of alcohol aside from the calories is that it will affect your fitness performance and often leads to poor food choices. How many of you are hungover on a Sunday and order a takeaway? You’re probably looking at in excess of 1500 calories in that one meal and can completely destroy the deficit you’ve built up during the week.
3. Don’t add sugar to tea and coffee
Tea and black coffee are healthy, low-calorie drinks, but even just 1 teaspoon of sugar adds around 16 calories to your drink. Though this may not sound like much, the calories in a few cups of tea a day can add up.
4. Don’t keep junk food in the house
I get my clients to sort out their cupboards when they first come to me. Getting rid of any processed junk food in the process. Not because they can’t eat it at all but because if you keep junk food within easy reach, it’s much easier to eat. It can be especially problematic if you tend to eat when you’re stressed or bored. To stop the urge to reach for unhealthy snacks, keep them out of the house. If you are having to go and get a treat from the shop at least you’re getting in some extra steps whilst doing so.
5. Bulk up meals with vegetables
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. In fact, it’s estimated that around 87% of people in the United Kingdom don’t eat the recommended amount. Filling half your plate with vegetables is an excellent way to increase your vegetable intake while cutting back on higher-calorie foods.
6. Get more steps into your day
Increasing your daily energy expenditure is the easiest way to increase your daily deficit. So you should be aiming for a minimum of 8000 steps per day. Easy ways to increase your current step count would be to always take the stairs rather than the lift. Or get off a few stops early on your work commute and walk the rest of the way. If you’re somebody that works from home, set an alarm on your phone for every 2 hours and get up when it goes off to make some steps. Better yet, if you’re ever on work calls and you’re able to get up and walk around whilst on your call. These small little things will add up to a bigger picture at the end of each day.