What Is a Calorie Deficit in Weight Loss?

Learn how to use energy deficit to burn body fat and lose weight

calorie deficit for weight loss
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When you eat fewer calories than you burn you create a calorie deficit. You must create a calorie deficit to lose weight. A calorie deficit is sometimes also called an energy deficit because calories are a unit of heat or energy.

What Is a Calorie Deficit?

Each bite of food you eat contains energy in the form of calories. You need to consume calories for your body to function properly. But most of us consume more calories than we need each day.

This creates a calorie surplus or calorie excess. The extra calories are stored as fat.

So how do you get rid of extra fat and lose weight? You create a calorie deficit. This energy deficit happens when you eat less during the day. If your body doesn't get the calories it needs to perform all of its necessary functions, you create a calorie deficit. 

When you create a calorie deficit, your body gets energy or fuel from stored fat. This is the extra fat that you carry on your hips or thighs, in your belly and throughout your body. Stored fat is stored energy. Your body can use it to keep moving instead of using energy from food.  When your body burns fat for energy, you lose weight.

The Calorie Deficit Needed for Weight Loss

While it seems simple to create a calorie deficit and lose weight, many dieters struggle with the process. It's not as easy as it seems. You need to create a specific energy deficit for weight loss to happen.

Researchers estimate that you need a calorie deficit of 3500 calories per week to lose one pound of fat.

That seems like a lot of calories, doesn't it? While the total number seems high, the weekly energy deficit can be broken down into daily deficits to make weight loss more manageable. If you create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day, you'll reach a total deficit of 3500 calories per week.

How to Create a Calorie Deficit

So how do you create a deficit of 500 calories per day or 3500 calories per week? You don't have to starve yourself with a trendy diet or juice fast. In fact, there are three healthy ways to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.

  • Eat less food. If you cut your portion sizes, cut back on snacking and choose lower-calorie foods at meal time, you'll consume fewer calories each day. If you reduce your caloric intake enough, you'll create a calorie deficit large enough for weight loss.
  • Get more active. The number of calories your body needs each day depends on your activity level. That includes the exercise you do every day and also your non-exercise physical movement. If you increase the number of calories your body needs, but still consume the same number of calories from food, you'll reach a calorie deficit. 
  • Combine diet and exercise. Most successful dieters combine diet and exercise to lose weight. That means that they might eat 250 fewer calories each day and then go for a 60-minute brisk walk to burn an additional 250 calories. The calorie deficit would total 500 calories. If you created a similar plan for each day, you'd reach the 3500 calorie deficit needed for weight loss.

    It doesn't matter which plan you choose to create an energy deficit. Different plans work for different dieters. But if you understand and create a calorie deficit on a regular basis, you'll be able to slim down to your goal weight.

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