Let’s Talk Calories, Part 1: Calorie Deficits
Calories. We all eat them. We all burn them.
When we look at calories alongside a fat loss goal, muscle growth goal, or disease prevention goal, they are not the only things that matter. However, calories DO matter.
They have a real way of promoting our goals or de-railing them. And pushing everything else aside, calories are involved in a mathematical equation that directly affects your well-being.
Let’s talk about the basics. And what they can mean for you on your path to wellness.
What’s a calorie?
It’s energy. A calorie measures the amount of energy in a food or drink.
When speaking of calories burned, a calorie is the amount of energy burned.
Seeing calories as what they are can be very helpful.
Maybe you need to eat more energy. Maybe you’re overeating on energy. Maybe you’re not burning enough energy; or you might be burning too much.
Next time you think about calories, replace the word with energy. How does that alter your view? It’s kind of cool.
What’s a calorie deficit?
A deficit is the amount by which something is too small.
If you have a deficit in your bank account, you have a negative balance. You’ve spent more money than you have available. (Woopsie.)
How does that work with calories, or more appropriately energy?
Simply put, a calorie deficit occurs when a person is consuming less calories than they are burning throughout the day.
This can be intentional or not. Maybe you’re tracking calories to hit a calorie goal that puts you in a deficit, or maybe you’re eating less food, or less high energy foods, putting you in a deficit.
Whatever the process of getting there, a calorie deficit is required for fat loss.
How did your co-worker lose weight on Keto?
They were in a calorie deficit. By removing a food group (carbs), they removed a huge source of calories.
Why did not eating after 6 PM work in the past for losing weight?
You removed a portion of your day where you consumed more calories, putting you in a deficit. (Most people aren’t consuming smoothies after 6 PM, think sweets, ice cream - high energy foods.)
Why do people lose weight when they start a new workout routine?
They’re eating less calories than they’re burning. They altered the equation so they’re burning more than they’re consuming. They’re in a…calorie deficit.
Understanding the mathematical equation can make it seem quite simplistic, right? Then why isn’t everyone utilizing a calorie deficit to effectively hit weight loss goals?
Turns out it isn’t as easy as it sounds.
There’s a smart way to approach it. And a not so smart way.
Calorie deficits are a form of stress on our bodies. As such, they should not be maintained for long periods of time.
We all know that isn’t very effective when you’re trying to lose weight.
However, calorie deficits are in fact a controlled form of starvation. Got stress?
We are giving our bodies less calories in order to achieve a fat loss goal.
Extended calorie deficits can lead to unwanted results: fatigue, slower metabolisms (as our bodies adapt to less food being consumed, we end up moving less and slowing down bodily functions - metabolic adaptation), and imbalances in hormones (especially in women).
So what are we to do? Avoid a calorie deficit?
What if instead, you avoided a calorie excess?
Many of those who are frustrated with weight gain are in fact at a calorie excess most days of the week.
Having a calorie goal that is closer to a healthy balance for you could be sustainable AND promote healing AND stress relief overall.
That is my favorite approach.
When is a calorie deficit appropriate?
When balanced stress, energy, and mentality are in place! Why throw more stress onto your system? You can achieve wonderful things at a calorie maintenance range.
Important note: Calorie deficits should be short-lived. If you pursue a calorie deficit, understand they are very stressful on your body. You should have a plan on how to back out of one, and to live your life at a healthy calorie range.
Beautiful things happen at what is called a maintenance calorie range. Check out the next blog post to hear all about it.
Questions on a calorie deficit? Want to hear my balanced approach? Send me an email!