A caloric deficit happens when you consume fewer calories than you burn, which often leads to weight loss. Creating a caloric deficit safely is crucial, since consuming too few calories is very dangerous. When done safely, creating a caloric deficit is very effective for losing weight slowly and steadily. This is because a caloric deficit will force your body to start burning more stored energy in the form of excess fat. When in a caloric deficit, your body will burn fat for fuel, because you aren’t consuming a surplus of calories that your body could otherwise use for fuel.
Creating a caloric deficit safely and effectively is easier said than done. Everyone has different caloric requirements, activity levels, and metabolic rates. It’s best to calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) which uses your weight, age, height, and other information to tell you roughly how many calories you need to consume per day to maintain your current weight. Safely creating a caloric deficit involves cutting about 500 calories per day from that number.
This means that if you need 2,000 calories per day to function and maintain your weight, you could lose weight safely by consuming 1,500 calories per day instead. By consuming only 1,500 calories per day, you’re creating a caloric deficit safely. It’s unsafe to consume less than 1,200 calories per day.
To learn more about what this weight loss strategy requires, read this article overviewing the concept of a caloric deficit.
To cut calories safely, you’ll need to make sure you’re still consuming enough calories to function, while creating a ratio of more energy expended than energy (calories) consumed. The best way to get started is to improve your knowledge of your calorie intake. This means counting the calories consumed on a regular basis, and tracking the exact deficit you’re creating.
Below are some tips for creating a caloric deficit safely and effectively:
Keep a Food Diary
Many people find it helpful to keep a food diary, so they can gain a better understanding of their eating habits, their negative eating triggers, and which foods may help them to feel fuller for longer.
Not only does a food diary help you count calories, but it also helps you realize which foods fill you up on less calories. For example, you’ll likely realize that high-fiber foods keep you fuller for longer.
Drink Fewer Calories: Creating a Caloric Deficit by Cutting Liquid Calories
Liquid calories are often a forgotten source of extra calories in your diet. One of the easiest tips for creating a caloric deficit, almost without noticing the change, is to reduce the number of sugar-sweetened drinks and calorie-rich beverages you consume.
A single 475ml bottle of Coca-Cola, for instance, contains nearly 200 calories and 44 grams of sugar. Reducing your consumption of these beverages can reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. Plus, some experts believe sugary drinks can also increase the hunger hormones in your system. Drinking less could mean you’re less tempted to eat extra later on.
As mentioned above, counting your calories will be an important part of effectively creating a caloric deficit. However, it’s easy for a lot of people to ignore certain sources of calories. You know your drinks and food contain calories, but what about the condiments you use every day? Counting calories is about tracking the calories in everything you consume – even condiments.
That extra spoonful of ketchup or mayonnaise can add several extra calories to your meal. Similarly, adding sweetener and sugars to your drinks can increase your calorie consumption.
Track all your calories by logging them in a calorie-counting app such as MyFitnessPal. Creating a caloric deficit is much easier with these calorie-counting apps.
Switch Out Your Favorite Foods for Healthier Alternatives
Creating a caloric deficit doesn’t have to mean going hungry. Instead, it can involve simply changing the kinds of calories you consume, so you’ll feel fuller and more satisfied for longer. For instance, getting rid of junk food which is often high in calories, such as unhealthy chips, cakes, biscuits, and similar snacks, is a great way to cut down on calories fast.
Switch out a bag of chips for a healthier alternative, such as Uplift Food’s probiotic cheese puffs.
You should also get in the habit of switching your mashed potato side for a healthier vegetable side. You can then bulk up your meals with vegetables, which increases your fiber intake, and keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Not to mention, it means you get more vitamins and minerals into your routine. Around 87% of US citizens aren’t getting the right number of vegetables into their meals.
Ditch Your Take-Out Habits: Eat More Home-Cooked Meals
Aside from cutting out junk food, it’s also worthwhile to get in the habit of cooking more often. Preparing your meals at home means you can have complete control over the portion size, the amount of oil used, and the amount of butter used, which significantly reduces your calorie intake.
One study found people who cooked dinner at home 6-7 times per week ate around 137 fewer calories per day than people who frequently ate out. With your home-cooked meals, you’ll also be able to experiment with different flavors and foods you may not find elsewhere, while saving money.
Eat Smaller Portions, and Eat Slowly
Currently, our plates that we eat off of are around 44% larger than they were in the 1980s, which means we’re more likely to fill them with food. According to studies, people with larger plates eat anywhere up to 45% more food than those with a smaller plate. Placing smaller portions of food onto smaller plates could help you to eat less without realizing it.
It’s also worth taking your time with your food. Eating your meals slowly can help you to better determine when you’re full and you don’t need to eat anymore. If you’re struggling to slow down, try stopping every few bites to take a drink of water. Drinking water can help you to feel fuller and cause you to eat fewer calories.
Eat Mindfully, Without Distractions
Speaking of being able to recognize when you’re full, we often struggle to do this when we’re constantly distracted by our phones, or what’s happening on TV. Studies indicate that if you’re distracted while you eat, you’ll be more likely to overeat.
Turning the television off for a while will give you a chance to focus on your food and how it makes you feel. You might even notice unusual reactions in your body to certain types of food. This could give you something to investigate further with your DNA test and help you to identify potential food intolerances.
Try Intermittent Fasting
People who have tried intermittent fasting often find that they are creating a caloric deficit more easily. While intermittent fasting, you might consume less calories per day because you’re only allowed to eat during a specific window of time. If you’re struggling with cutting down on your calories throughout the day, intermittent fasting could be a great way to achieve your caloric deficit. The approach works by cycling your eating patterns so you have periods of eating and fasting.
The strategy has been proven to be very effective for weight loss, and if you get into the right pattern with your intermittent fasting strategy, you can sustain the results long-term.
Creating a Caloric Deficit: Ensure Your Health is Your Top Priority
Remember, creating a caloric deficit can be an uncomfortable or dangerous process if you don’t do it right. If you consume less than 1,500 calories per day, you might feel lethargic, dizzy, weak or moody. If you consume less than 1,200 calories per day, this could be very harmful for your health.
One particularly important thing you can do to keep your health in check is get plenty of sleep. People who don’t sleep well are generally more likely to struggle with their weight compared to those who are well-rested.
Exhaustion will often make you feel hungrier, more emotional and more overwhelmed, which means you may end up eating more.
Creating a Caloric Deficit Your Way
A caloric deficit is an essential component of a successful weight loss strategy. However, it can be a complicated concept to master at first. You’ll need to make sure you understand your body, the amount of energy you regularly expend, and your caloric needs.
The good news is once you have a handle on your caloric deficit, you should start to notice weight loss results.