How to Find a Healthy Caloric Deficit

Nov 14, 2022

The questions in this article were answered by Steven Ramirez, a certified personal trainer at O2 Fitness Clubs Burlington - New Market Square. Click here to learn more and book a complimentary training session with Steven!

Typically, when your goal is to lose weight, you will have to create a calorie deficit. And lots of diets or things you read online will tell you that large calorie deficits as the "secret to slimming down."

But what is a calorie deficit?

Is a bigger deficit better when it comes to weight loss?

And how do you make sure you're following a healthy calorie deficit?

Let's get to the bottom of these questions and learn what we need to know about finding a healthy caloric deficit!


Are there benefits of being in a caloric deficit?

There are multiple reasons someone could consider implementing a caloric deficit. The main focuses of a caloric deficit typically benefit one of these four categories: health, performance, physique, and lifestyle.
Being in a caloric deficit tremendously helps with overall health through weight loss in the form of excess adipose tissue and improving blood work (blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugars).
You might also be looking to enhance your performance in sports or other activities. You could improve your flexibility, mobility, or jumps by lowering your calories.
Possibly the most popular reason I've found from people who want to start a caloric deficit is for "aesthetics" or their looks. Some people want to obtain a certain look, and they see being in a calorie deficit as a way they can achieve it.
Lastly, cutting a few calories can help with everyday life things such as feeling better all the time, less joint aches, becoming less prone to injury, and a lot more such as sleeping better!

What is a healthy caloric deficit for me? Is there a way to calculate it?

The first step to figuring out how much of a caloric deficit you should be in is first finding out what your maintenance calorie level is. Your maintenance calories are how many calories your body needs on a daily basis to keep its current weight.
Finding your maintenance calories can be done in a few ways:
  1. Finding an online calorie calculator based on the Mifflin St.Jeor method. This method is one of the most accurate and reliable methods in current scientific studies!
  2. The simplest yet rough estimate of multiplying your current weight by 13 (in general, one roughly needs 13 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their current weight).

After finding out your maintenance calories, it is recommended to subtract 300-500 calories in order to obtain a healthy weight loss of 1-2lbs a week.


How can I tell if I am in too much of a caloric deficit?

Although there can be a lot of benefits to being in a caloric deficit, there are also downsides you can face if you are cutting too many calories.
One way to tell if you're in an unhealthy caloric deficit is by feeling super fatigued or constant exhaustion. Being really fatigued can cause you to be easily irritated and could lead to less daily movement overall. This could contribute to you burning fewer calories throughout your day with non-exercise activities than you normally would. These non-exercise activities consist of things like getting up for water, cleaning the house, going on walks, etc...
If you are consistently resistance training while in too much of a caloric deficit, it is a real possibility that you could experience less muscle, strength, and power, and can leave you feeling weaker overall! In extreme cases, cutting a lot of calories can cause disruptions in reproductive hormones too.
No matter what reason you decide to start a caloric deficit, it is essential to find your maintenance calories and start in a slight deficit versus cutting out a large chunk of calories all at once!

What additional information do you want to tell someone about starting or considering a caloric deficit?

One last thing e Deficits is that if you choose to partake in it,  do it in phases!
Doing a caloric deficit in phases will help with sustainability and negate any rebound effect you may experience from being in one for too long. After lowering your calories for about 8-12 weeks or if you lost more than 10% of your body weight, I suggest entering a phase of calorie maintenance to let your body recover and reset your metabolism.
To find your new maintenance, slowly raise calories until you reach a stable body weight. This weight will now be your new set point. The maintenance phase should last for about 1-2 months, and once that is done, you can return to a caloric deficit, reach your new goal, and repeat!
Have more questions? Talk with one of our knowledgeable trainers during a complimentary training session!

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