Losing Weight by Calorie Deficit

So, the other day I was listening to a new client of mine go on about how she had tried everything from detox teas to hours on the treadmill to eating only salads at every meal for days, with the expectation of sizing down and becoming more athletic. 

Its not surprising that with the advancement in technology everyone now has an easier reach towards the information that is going to solve all their problems, which further leads me wondering whether it’s the creators or the consumers or both spearheading this movement. 

Fat loss as I assume we all would be aware of by now, is the result of a calorie deficit. 

Before moving forward, lets get some terms out in the open. 

Body Weight = Lean Body Weight + Body Fat Weight 

Lean Body Weight = (Muscle + Bone + Organ + Body Water +…) Weight

 Body Fat Weight = Weight of Fat Tissue 

When we step on a weighing scale, we see the total body weight, which is a combination of the lean body weight and the body fat weight. The priority should be to decrease the body fat weight rather than the lean body weight for reasons, which I’ll cover in a separate post. 

For now, just remember that losing body fat is what should be expected from a weight loss (or rather fat loss) program. 

While there are numerous products and services available these days (thanks to the internet) promising you the physique of your dreams, if you’re not in a calorie deficit you’re not going to lose that fat. 

Calorie Deficit by definition means to be in a state of negative energy balance where the consumption of energy in the form of food and beverages should be lower than the exemption of energy in the form of physical activity, digestion, metabolic activity, etc. 

Calorie Deficit = Energy In < Energy Out 


Calorie Deficit = Negative Energy Balance 

Now, to create a state of negative energy balance we have some options: 

  • Reduce food (including beverage) intake below maintenance
  • Increase physical activity from planned exercise
  • Increase foods with higher thermic effect of feeding (TEF)
  • Increase physical activity from non exercise activity
  • A combination of food restriction and increased exercise activity
  • A combination of food restriction and increased non exercise activity
  • A combination of food restriction, increased exercise activity and increased non exercise activity

For those wondering, increasing foods with high TEF like protein and fibre although beneficial, alone, might not be sufficient to provide you with the best outcomes for your fat loss quest. 

Without going into every other point stated above, I’ll boil it down to the best strategy that can be easily followed by most without much hassle: 

A combination of food restriction (calorie deficit), increased physical activity (preferably strength training) and increased non-exercise activity (like a daily/weekly step count). 


Weight Loss For Women

This is probably the best course of action because:
  1. Most can start with a manageable calorie deficit ranging from 10 – 20% of maintenance calories.
  2. Exercise activity like strength training can help with an additional utilization 100 – 300 kcals per session. Some might use more or less depending on individual factors like body weight, exercise intensity & duration, etc.
  3. Having a daily/weekly step count goals helps with making sure we are active throughout the day, thereby increasing energy expenditure.
  4. If we were to rely solely on either food restriction or exercise, then we would have to either cut down on energy intake by a huge amount which might make us feel hungry and low in energy for most part of the day, or increase exercise intensity and duration to an extent where recovery and subsequent performance might become compromised. Not to forget the increased risk of injury from too much exercise or the increased risk to health and metabolic issues from too severe calorie restriction for a prolonged period of time.
  5. Additionally, a few cardio sessions per week, with this approach can further help with losing fat and help improve cardio vascular fitness.
  6. Finally, the strength training workouts would help with muscle retention (provided training stimulus and protein intake are adequate) or even increasing it for some.

Now, for all those who are wondering where do supplements like fat burners, thermogenics (green tea’s, coffee, etc.), fasting, or even yoga, fit in this picture, let me remind you that “Body Fat Decrease = Calorie Deficit”.

There is absolutely no need to take any supplements claiming to help with weight or fat loss.

Prime focus for decreasing body fat should be to create a sustainable calorie deficit by restricting food intake (food quantity) whilst consuming fresh fruits & vegetables, whole gains, lean protein, etc. (food type) and regularly engaging in purposeful physical exercise preferably strength training along with monitoring step count to be fairly active throughout the day. You can most certainly add in some other type of exercise like yoga, pilates, etc. as per your preference. 

Coming back to the new female client of mine, while she was successful in creating a calorie deficit mostly by limiting food to an extent where she did not have enough energy available to do anything else, she wasn’t able to sustain it long enough which made her regain pretty much everything she lost. 

However, this time she’s doing it differently with me. We put her on a small calorie deficit (15%), had her start a new 3-day per week strength based program while making sure to hit a specific step count range each day. It’s been a few weeks; she’s lost some weight, feels more energetic and has a smile on her face every time we talk during her weekly assessment.



Clinical Dietitian Keshav || MSc Dietetics (DFSM), PGND, CNCC


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