Whether you subscribe to the paleo diet, IIFYM, the SeeFood diet (See Food you eat it), ketogenic dieting or fasting the one variable that consistently across all diets was the only variable that delivered results was a deficit in calories. Literally the only thing that worked is essentially burning more calories than you consume.
It’s not rocket science. I promise.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we live a life of extremes- we either feast or we fast, we either train like a person possessed or we don’t train at all. On top of this we are often guilty of living life on the side of gluttony- hell, I know I have, once with a group of friends we tackled two double deluxe meals and a thickshake at Greasemonkey in the one sitting.
Does anybody need that much burger? Of course not. (Sidenote- they were hella delish).
Back to the core message here. Calorie deficit. What does that actually mean? Well, put simply as we said above if you are burning 1800 calories per day and consuming 1750 calories worth of food and beverage you are in a 50 calorie deficit. Burning 1800 calories but going full on animal on burgers like we did and consuming 3000 calories you are now in a calorie surplus. A surplus leads to weight gain, a deficit to weight loss.
It really is that simple, however there are a few important pieces to be aware of.
First Up- Let’s Talk Maintenance
Before we worry ourselves with being in a calorie deficit we need to get to maintenance first. Maintenance calories will depend on a few variables- namely your energy output, your height/weight and muscle tissue plus your metabolic rate.
The goal here is to find a calorie amount that you aren’t losing weight, nor gaining weight but you have plenty of energy for training and brain power for life.
Often 30-33 calories per kilogram of body weight is a great start, from there we can factor in your exercise if necessary but for most people 30-33/kg body weight is a solid start.
Either do the maths in your head or on the calculator and chances are the number you get looks like a lot of calories. Say for example you’re an 80kg male you would be looking at 2400-2640 calories per day. That may be a lot or a little compared to what you’re currently eating.
Step Two- Track Calories For a Little
This is either step 0.5 or step two depending on your order of operations. Now that you know what your maintenance calories should be I highly recommend you track your current eating for a week to work out what a typical day is for you. Are you eating like a sparrow? Or acting as a food storage unit for a family entering a cold winter?
Once you’re all over what you currently consume and you have started to Prepare for Food Prep I highly recommend you again track your “new” eating style for three to four weeks until you start to go full Matrix mode and see calorie figures in place of your meal.
You will notice your weight will fluctuate here, it may go up a little (don’t stress, this is normal if our 80kg male was previously eating 1100 cals/day) or it may go down (if he is a fully fledged snackosaurus pumping 4000 cals/day). Either way we are looking to work to a point where weight plateaus and there are no changes across a couple of weeks.
Step Three- Time to Enter Deficit Zone
Now that we have hit our first plateau, assuming your training goal is fat loss it is time to enter the land of calorie deficits.
NOTE: this does not need to be a ridiculous drop of a thousand calories. Merely knocking 200 calories per day off the top will be enough to get you dropping body fat.
The stored body fat essentially is stored energy. Our 80kg male’s body is now used to burning 2400 calories per day, but is only being fed 2200 so his body should turn to stored energy to make up the difference. The result? Ciao ciao body fat.
Step Four- Now What?
Let’s now call our 80kg dude Larry, because by this stage he should be as happy as Larry. He has no doubt lost a few kg’s and is seeing a big jump in performance in the gym. Now that he has entered a calorie deficit, so consuming 2200 calories a day he is likely consistently losing 500-800g of body fat per week.
There is absolutely no need to change anything, until what we are currently doing stops working. Let’s say that after six weeks Larry has lost 4kg of bodyfat, is looking lean and is strutting his stuff, proud of his results. However he has stopped dropping body fat and is determind to let a little more go to see his abs.
Well, we can try taking off another 200 calories and repeat the process. Now consuming 2000 calories per day Larry is at the bottom end of his deficit calorie goals (76kg at 26 calories/kg = 1976 calories).
If our training is working well (which it should) then Larry should also be adding muscle tissue while dropping a little fat.
Step Five- The Refeed
Larry is now 12 weeks into his program and our dude has been busting his ass and sticking to the plan like shit stains to a blanket. He has dropped 9kg of body fat total, his abs are out, his numbers in the gym have gone through the roof and he is killing it outside the gym too.
For the first time however he is feeling a little flat in the gym. Maybe his numbers have stopped going up. It is time for…….the refeed. This does not mean wedge open your mouth and pour all the junk you can possibly generate into the bottomless pit. It simply means big jump in calories, the cleaner they are the better. Usually this meal will be heavy on the carbs.
Fortunately for Larry, being a male it is highly likely that the next day he will look better again than previously and now feels beyond a million bucks.
Step Six- What is the Next Goal?
With close to 10kg of fat knocked off his frame it is now time for Larry to set new goals- maybe it’s to increase muscle tissue, maybe more fat loss, maybe run a marathon or increase his strength.
It doesn’t matter, because over the last twelve weeks he has set an excellent foundation and is now first and foremost healthier while leaner, stronger and hopefully a little more mobile too.
His new calorie targets will be dependent on the training goal but that is talk for another day.
Broken down to its most simple form, burn more calories than you consume and you are in a calorie deficit. Unsurprisingly not all deficits are created equal. Should you want more information or help on getting started on a training program that will get proper results than I highly recommend you jump over to our Introductory Fundamental Packs and grab one today and get started ASAP on building a body that serves you day in and day out while looking better than ever before.