Do you have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight?

14 June, 2021

Do you have to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight?

Many of us know that there are certain things we can do to increase weight loss. The general adage is to eat less and exercise more, however with so many diets to choose from it can be hard to know which one is the right one for you.

The truth is that whether you’re losing weight with a keto diet, a paleo diet, a vegan diet, a low fat diet or any diet really, it is perhaps not the diet itself that is making you lose weight, but rather the calorie deficit.

In this article we’re unpacking what a calorie deficit is, and why you need to be in one to lose weight.

What is a calorie deficit?

Each body has a basal metabolic rate or BMR, which is the base number of calories your body will burn each day just from being alive. You need to eat these calories in order to stay healthy, and you will probably be surprised at how high that number is.

For example, if you are a 30 year old female who is 5’9 tall and weighs 75kg, your BMR will be 1545 cals a day. Every body is completely different, so you can use a BMR calculator to work out your personal BMR and then use this to work out your calorie deficit.

Eating in a calorie deficit simply means eating less calories than you burn. This includes calories from your BMR, and also calories expended during exercise and movement throughout the day. It is also important to note that other factors can affect how many calories you burn a day, such as your metabolism, your menstrual cycle and any individual illnesses like thyroid issues. The BMR of an individual is only a guide, however for the average person it will be accurate.

It is always recommended to consume no less calories than your BMR, as you will be risking healthy body systems if you do. The best way to eat in a calorie deficit is to up your exercise and lower your calorie consumption. Creating this calorie deficit will allow you to lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way.

Healthy Meal

Do you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight?

In short, yes. You do need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. Many people come to us and say things like “I’ve been in a calorie deficit and I can’t lose weight”. The reality is that this can’t be true. In fact, two things may have happened in this scenario:

  • The calorie deficit was calculated incorrectly at the start of the diet so they’re working to the wrong numbers
  • The amount of calories going into the body was calculated incorrectly (this is normally the reason e.g. when people don’t track their calories properly!)
  • The amount of calories burned is calculated incorrectly

It is almost impossible to be in a calorie deficit and not lose weight unless:

  • You’re building a lot of muscle and this is heavier than fat so the scales aren’t going down but your body composition will be improving
  • You have underlying health conditions that are impacting your weight loss
  • Your metabolism is especially slow (e.g. after years of eating too little calories)

Healthy Meal

What is the best diet to lose weight?

As you can see, almost any diet will make you lose weight if you are in a calorie deficit. You could eat McDonald’s every day (not recommended) and still lose weight if you are burning more calories than you consume. However, some diets will have a better impact on your macronutrient intake and this can shape your body composition.

For example, we recently wrote an article on why protein is so vital for fat loss and muscle creation. At 20PerFit, we recommend that someone who is trying to lose weight should up their protein intake and aim to have a good source of protein with every meal.

There is no real answer to what is the best diet, as it really depends on your needs and goals. You need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight, however this isn’t always the best way forward if you want to build muscle and lose fat. Exercise is a vital ingredient to losing weight, and EMS training is a great option for those looking to get fitter, leaner and healthier.

Book a session here or contact our friendly team on 1300 202 073.

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