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You may have heard of a calorie deficit in relation to weight loss, as it’s often discussed as the fundamental step to achieving your weight loss goals. Personal trainers and nutritionists may often recommend getting into a calorie deficit, but may be wondering what does a calorie deficit mean and why it’s so key to driving weight loss.

This article will explain everything you need to know about calorie deficits, leaving you feeling clearer about its role in terms of weight loss, and also how to achieve it in a healthy and sustainable way.

What is a calorie deficit and how is it calculated?

Calories describe the units of energy found in food and drink, which serve as the fuel your body needs to move and function each day. When you burn more calories than you consume, you enter into a calorie deficit.

You burn calories in a multitude of ways, including key bodily functions like breathing, digesting and metabolising your food, and through activities like sports, running or gardening.

With this in mind, what does a calorie deficit mean? To be in a calorie deficit means that you are burning more calories than you are consuming, which can result in weight loss. You can also go into a calorie surplus, which is where you are eating more calories than you are burning, eventually leading to weight gain.

How to work out your calorie deficit

It is generally recommended that in order to lose weight healthily, you should aim for a calorie deficit of around 500 calories per day. Going by this calculation, let’s calculate how to work out your calorie deficit together. There are 3 key steps you need to follow to figure out your calorie deficit:

  1. Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is explained below. 
  2. Work out how many calories (approximately) you burn each day.
  3. Reduce by 500 kcal to find your calorie goal.

Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate

Use the following formula from Verywell Fit to calculate your BMR. Make sure you write down your results, you will be needing this very shortly! 

Men: (88.40 + 13.40 x weight in kg) + (4.80 x height in cm) – (5.68 x age in years)

Women: (447.60 + 9.25 x weight in kg) + (3.10 x height in cm) – (4.33 x age)


How many calories do you burn per day

Consider how many calories you are likely to burn on an average day. Are you in an office-based job, where you are sedentary for the majority of the day? Or are you always up, on the go and active? Your level of activity will impact how many calories you burn and what your calorie deficit will be.


You should use this calculation if you are consistently sedentary. That is, you have a very inactive job, you don’t exercise and you generally move a minimal amount each day.


Use this calculation if you move a little bit 1 to 3 days per week. This may include doing housework around the home, walking short distances, or doing low impact exercises that involve gentle movement. 


Use this calculation if you take part in sports or activities that get you moving moderately, around 3 to 5 days per week. You should be performing a level of exercise that increases your heart rate, but not too much. You move at a moderate pace with little intensity.


This level of exercise would mean that you partake in an intense workout 6 to 7 days a week. You work hard, sweat, and apply intensity. 


You are extremely active every day. You train hard and for extended periods of time. You may be an athlete, for example, who trains and competes weekly.

Find your daily calorie goal

It is important that your calorie intake and nutrient consumption is at a healthy level. You should be eating enough to stay at a healthy weight and maintain your usual daily activities with enough energy. According to health guidance, women should not consume less than 1,200 calories a day and men should not go below 1,500 calories.


How to achieve a calorie deficit

Now you’ve calculated your calorie deficit target, you may be wondering how exactly it can be achieved. Well, you have two areas to focus on: firstly, what you’re consuming, and secondly, your activity levels. Strike the perfect balance between the two, and you’ve found a surefire way to reach your weight loss goals.

Focusing on your diet is the most important element of staying in a calorie deficit as part of your weight loss plan.  Regular exercise will certainly help, and the two make a powerful combination, but it is a lot easier to maintain reducing your calorie intake by 500 kcals than it is to burn 500 calories through exercising every day.  Here are some key tips for consuming less calories:

  1. Calorie counting: Download an app like MyFitnessPal that helps you keep track of your calories. You can input your meals, snacks and drinks into the app and most will be recognised instantly. If you don’t like the idea of counting calories for a long period of time, you could start by using the app for a few days and gauging what your deficit will look like from there.
  2. Swap out high sugar snacks: Replace calorific treats for tasty but healthy options that satisfy your sweet tooth. Opt for a protein yoghurt snack, a granola bar, or greek yoghurt with fruit as simple alternatives.
  3. Drink plenty of water: Opt for water instead of fizzy drinks and black coffee instead of cappuccinos. Lots of people don’t realise how many calories they drink each day. The sugar in your coffees and fizzy drinks really adds up, so opt for water instead and help flush out your system while reducing your calorie intake.
  4. Eat high fibre foods to stay fuller for longer: Minimise consumption of highly processed foods and opt for high fibre foods instead. Highly processed foods often contain a calorific punch, while increasing your fibre intake is integral to help reduce the absorption of calories in the bowel and improve your metabolism.
  5. Increase your protein intake: Eating more protein will help to keep cravings at bay: Protein shakes such as our REGO recovery powder are a great way to top up on protein if you find it hard to integrate it into meals or if you follow a vegetarian diet.


Sustainable weight loss tips

Now that you know what a calorie deficit is and how to work one out, you have all of the skills you need to keep to a calorie deficit as part of your own weight loss regime. However, it’s important to do this in a way that is both healthy and sustainable.

Any sustainable weight loss plan should include regular exercise, and there are plenty of enjoyable options that you can easily integrate into your routine: 

  1. Try to reach 10k steps a day: If you are minimally active, start with walking and aim for a 10k step count. Download a step tracking app to monitor your progress. 
  2. HIIT: There are lots of HIIT classes in gyms or online. HIIT has been proven to be a highly effective way to burn visceral fat that sits around our organs. 
  3. Resistance training: This helps increase your BMR, which basically means that your body burns more calories while functioning day-to-day. It also helps your body burn fat instead of muscle. And if you’re looking for the perfect protein powder to speed along your muscle recovery, we stock a wide range of muscle recovery supplements here at SiS!

From energy supplements to high protein bars for the perfect on-the-go snack, our range of endurance sport nutrition products have been expertly formulated to keep you fuller for longer, curbing cravings meanwhile giving your body the fuel it needs to power you throughout your day. 

When consumed as part of a balanced diet plan, our range of products can support you on your weight loss journey and help to drive your efforts, putting you on the path to achieving your body sculpting or weight loss goals.

Written By

Jessica Redman - Head Coach and Founder of Work That, Trustee at CIMSPA

Jessica founded an online personal training platform called ‘Work That’ and was previously Co-founder of ‘GRL GYM’. She is currently on the CIMSPA board where she is aiming to help drive forward knowledge about the benefits exercise has on mental health. Jess believes in using exercise to help people feel good, relive pain and enjoy an active lifestyle.