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How to Calculate your Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss in 2023

Are you trying to lose weight and achieve your dream body goal? You’d be happy to know you can do it in a few simple steps.

But to achieve and maintain your dream body requires eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, and having enough discipline to stay on track when you feel like quitting.

One of the most important factors in successfully losing weight and keeping it off is managing your daily caloric intake. And when weight loss is the goal, being in a calorie deficit is paramount.

In this article, I’ll explain what a calorie deficit is, how to calculate your calorie deficit and the potential risks associated with being on a long-term calorie-deficit diet.

Let’s dive in!

Calculating your Calorie Deficit. An Overview

To calculate your calorie deficit, you must first know how much energy you’re required to consume from foods and beverages.

The amount of energy you need to consume daily is calculated by estimating your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE resulting from all metabolic processes over 24 hours.

This includes sleep, rest, activity and thermogenesis (production of heat within the body from certain processes such as the metabolism of foods).

Once you know your TDEE, you can create a calorie deficit by reducing the number of calories that you should consume every day or you can burn more calories by increasing your daily activity levels.

If you choose the former, the number of calories to reduce to be in a deficit will depend on how much weight you want to lose and how quickly you’re aiming for it. The same is true for how many calories you burn by increasing your activity levels.

It’s important to note that a calorie deficit of around 250-500 calories per day is generally considered safe and effective for weight loss as long as you’re still consuming enough nutrients and staying hydrated.

So, what is a calorie deficit?

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What Is Calorie Deficit?

A calorie deficit occurs when your body is using up more energy (calories) than it takes in from food and beverages daily.

This means if you eat fewer calories than what you expend over an extended period, then your body will have no choice but to use its fat stores as fuel and thus help promote weight loss.

A moderate level of caloric restriction provides just enough nutrition necessary for optimal bodily function while still allowing for an overall deficit; meaning continual weight loss over time.

To successfully lose weight and keep it off though, it is based on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

This is because it takes into account all the different activities you do each day (eg. work, exercise, cleaning) as well as your basal metabolic rate; which is the amount of energy required to keep your body functioning optimally.

Now let’s break down what TDEE is and its impact on your weight loss plan.

Calculating Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

Before beginning any kind of diet or fitness plan, it’s crucial to first understand what metabolic rate you’re working with – otherwise known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

Your TDEE or Calorie Intake is the total calories your body burns daily and it is calculated based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR), activity level, and the thermic effect of food.

Your TDEE values can be determined by using this tdee calculator or you can use the following equation:

TDEE = BMR + TEA (Thermic Effect of Activity) + TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The energy required to keep your body functioning at rest. This is also known as Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR).

But RMR measurements are taken under less restrictive conditions than BMR. BMR is calculated by age, gender, height, weight and activity levels.

Calculate your BMR using our Smart Calorie Calculator.

  • Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA): This refers to the energy you expend exercising and undertaking physical activity throughout the day. It includes planned exercise, walking, and daily chores.
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): This refers to the energy expended to metabolise foods. It varies according to macronutrients.

Protein has the highest thermic effect of food, about 20-30%, Carbohydrates 5-10%, and Fats 0-3%. Source

TDEE can help you determine exactly how many calories are needed per day to reach or maintain your desired goal body weight over time.

It’s important to note here that everyone’s TDEE values are different due to various factors such as age, gender, height & weight etc.

So before creating a calorie deficit for weight loss, you must find out your specific TDEE value using this TDEE calculator before beginning your weight loss journey.

The TDEE calculator above uses the Harris-Benedict equation and it takes into account different factors such as sex, age, activity level etc.

It then combines these values into an equation which calculates the estimated daily maintenance calories you need per day – whether you’re aiming to lose fat, maintain your weight, or build muscle.

However; due to individual differences within each person’s metabolism, the results you get from using the smart calorie calculator should only be used as guidelines rather than hard rules.

And you may need to adjust accordingly depending on your progress made after several weeks at the initial level of caloric deficit percentage.

By combining diet and exercise into a cohesive calorie deficit plan suitable to achieve your goals and well-being overall.

Once you have your TDEE values, it’s time to calculate your calorie deficit.

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How to Calculate your Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss

Now that you have an idea of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), the next step is to determine how much of a calorie deficit you need to create to lose weight.

Luckily for you, the smart calorie calculator does this automatically and helps you create a calorie deficit value by subtracting 14% of your TDEE from it.

For example, if your TDEE or calorie intake to maintain your body weight is 1797 calories per day, then subtract 250 calories from it to get your starting calorie deficit plan for weight loss.

This will give you a calorie deficit number that is required to bring about healthy and sustainable weight loss without risking your health or feeling like you’re starving yourself.

The 14% calorie deficit value is a safe starting point and you can always adjust it as needed depending on your weekly progress and changes to factors such as age, gender, height & weight etc.

The smart calorie calculator mentioned above is a tdee calculator and it also gives you an accurate estimate of how much protein you should eat daily while in a calorie deficit.

Protein is the most important macronutrient for weight loss and muscle building, so it’s important to make sure you are eating enough of it. If you want to eat more protein, get our FREE 1-Week High Protein meal plan here.

By creating a calorie deficit plan tailored to your specific needs, you can healthily lose fat and achieve your dream body without losing your soul.

How to Create a Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss

Now that you know how to calculate your calorie deficit using this smart calorie calculator, it’s time to put this information into action.

Here are some tips on how to adjust your lifestyle to create a calorie deficit plan that works for you:

Increase activity levels: Regular exercise is a great way to increase your daily activity levels.

If you can’t exercise, start with a low-impact 30 mins walk daily and gradually increase the intensity of your walk to burn more calories and create a calorie deficit.

One thing I do daily is, walk 5 miles a day and this is something you can do too to burn more calories.

Cut down on calories: Cutting down your daily calorie intake by 14% will put you in a calorie deficit of 250 calories. A 250-calorie deficit 6 days a week is 0.5 lb per week weight loss.

You can start by cutting out unnecessary snacking, reducing your portion sizes and opting for healthier meals that are high in protein, and lower in fat and sugar content.

• Drink lots of water: Staying hydrated helps to keep your metabolism more active and can help you feel fuller for longer.

Aim to drink at least 2L of water a day to stay hydrated and make sure you drink before, during and after eating your meals.

• Get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep is important for your physical health and mental well-being. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose fat.

If you struggle with insomnia, try going to bed at the same time every night and turning off all electrical devices one hour before sleeping.

Aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep per night to ensure your body has time to repair itself and keep your metabolism working efficiently.

Potential Health Risks Associated with Being on a Long-Term Calorie Deficit Diet

While being in a calorie deficit is the foundation of weight loss, it can also be dangerous if not done correctly and safely.

Long-term calorie deficit diets have been linked to various health risks, including nutrient deficiencies, poor digestion, hormonal imbalances, weakened immune system, decreased metabolism and increased risk of injury or illness.

The safest way to approach a calorie deficit plan is by not being in a calorie deficit for too long.

The longer you’re in a calorie deficit, the more difficult it becomes to stay disciplined and committed to your weight loss plan.

If you’ve been in a calorie deficit for over 3 months, and don’t begin to see any changes or progress, your body may have adjusted to the calorie deficit and you will need to adjust your plan accordingly.

A good tip is to try the zig zag calorie schedule as suggested on the results page of our smart calorie calculator.

This will help you stay in a calorie deficit for most days of the week while enjoying a small calorie surplus now and then to keep your metabolism active. This is good because you can still enjoy your favourite meals on your calorie surplus days and not feel like you’re starving yourself to lose weight.

Related Article: How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day?


By creating a calorie deficit plan tailored to your specific goals, you can eat a healthy diet of whole foods, lose weight and achieve your dream body without losing your soul.

Just remember the most important thing is to stay consistent with your calorie deficit diet plan and adopt an exercise regime that works for you.

The most important thing while trying to lose weight is having a plan you can adhere to till you achieve your desired results.

If you find this article helpful, please leave a comment below and tell us how it has helped you.

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