Want to lose fat?
Then you need to be in a calorie deficit.
What is a calorie deficit?
It is when you consume fewer calories than you burn. Essentially, fat loss is calories in versus calories out.
You create a calorie deficit by either eating less calories, burning more calories (through exercise) or a combination of the two. Simple but, not necessarily easy!
For example, if 2,500 calories a day is enough to maintain your weight then you will need to eat less than that and/or perform exercise to burn additional calories.
If you do this consistently you will lose weight.
Many people think only in terms of a day at a time but, the key to fat loss is to be in a calorie deficit over the course of weeks or, months, depending on how much fat you need to lose.
This may sound daunting but, is actually good news. Why?
Well if you needed to be in a calorie deficit every single day then that wouldn’t be much fun would it. It would interfere with your social life too.
For example, imagine the following scenarios…
Your mate: “Hey buddy, want to meet up on Saturday to grab a few beers, a pizza and watch the footy?”
You: “Nope. Gotta be in a calorie deficit.”
The hot girl at work you’ve got a crush on asks if you want to go grab a drink after work. “Sorry, I’m in a calorie deficit so you’ll have to go on you own.”
Your girlfriend wants to go out on a date for a slap up dinner.
You: “No way, you know I’m trying to get shredded and what do I need to achieve that?”
Long suffering girlfriend (LSG for short): “I know you’ve told me a thousand times…a calorie deficit.”
LSG: “You’re dumped!”
Well fret not. You can go out and enjoy yourself have a few slices of pizza or a burger and fries. Just be sure to factor it in. For example, if you are going out with the lads on a Friday night you probably want to eat a bit less for a few other days that week.
Say you have a few pints and a curry which comes in around 1000 calories. Earlier in the day you had already eaten 1800 calories. This puts you 300 over maintenance for the day. Not to worry. If you cut just 100 calories (approx. 1 banana) for 3 days that week you are back to maintenance. Make it 200 and you are in a deficit for the week. Make it 200 over the other 6 days and you will have lost in the region of half a pound that week.
No stress and you still have a social life.
So much better than beating yourself up about enjoying yourself, right?!
So we’ve established you need to be in a deficit over a period of time. But how much of a deficit?
Here’s my take on it:
How much fat do you have to lose and how long do you want to diet for?
Most people underestimate the former and obviously, would like to diet for as short a period of time as possible. As such, a pretty substantial calorie deficit is required.
Unfortunately, this is a false economy.
Well super restrictive diets do cause rapid weight loss but, much of this is water weight and muscle. Of course there is some fat lost too but, going too aggressive can actually mean you just end up small and weak looking.
Not a good result!
Severe calorie restriction often also causes a huge blowout when the diet is over. Often people binge on all the foods they’ve avoided. This means all the weight and, often some extra, come back on in a short period of time.
Diet hard for 10 weeks. Look great for a few days. Binge for a week or two. Look like you never dieted in the first place. Yep it sucks.
Trust me I’ve made that mistake before. It is not worth it!
Different strategies for determining your calorie intake:
Diet only no exercise.
Record what you are eating for 3-5 days on an app like MyFitnessPal. Did you gain, lose or maintain weight?
If you maintained then you know how many calories you need to sustain your current weight.
Simply reduce calories by 300-500 per day (depending on the timeframe to lose fat and how much you have to lose. For those with less to lose stick to a smaller calorie deficit).
Diet and weight training (WAY BETTER THAN DIET ALONE!!!).
Record your calories as above. Then simply stick at maintenance but, add in a well-planned weight training program like this FREE Training Plan
This should have you in a deficit in the region of 400 (+/- 200) calories on training days.
You should be losing fat at about 0.5-1lbs per week if you train 4 days a week.
When this stops working reduce calories by 100 per day and continue to monitor progress.
Simply multiply your weight in pounds by 15. That gives you your total calories for the day. Consistently, hit that number until progress stalls.
When you hit a plateau reduce calories or increase activity levels to get the ball rolling again.
If calories get down to as low as 10xbodyweight in lbs then don’t go lower!
You have pretty much tapped out calorie restriction.
Going lower will feel like hell. If you aren’t already you will feel like crap. Lack energy, training intensity, motivation and your sex drive will be lower than that of a 90-year old nun!
At this point you are probably pretty lean (hint: if you’re not you did something wrong along the way). In fact you should be ripped.
If you still want to get leaner then it will be a case of taking 1 step back to take 2 forwards. A period of refeeding and building your calories back up is required.