Calculating Your Caloric Deficit for Weight Loss

All diets and weight loss programs work by establishing a caloric deficit. This means rebalancing your calorie intake to burn more calories than you consume each day. In this blog post by Dr. George Fielding, we explain how to determine the right caloric deficit for your age, gender, weight and activity level. Using a caloric deficit calculator can ensure that you don’t accidentally underestimate your calorie needs and slow your weight loss.

Rebalancing Your Caloric Intake

Calculate your best caloric deficit for weight loss.

The basic advice one often hears for creating a caloric deficit is “eat less, move more.” That adage makes it sound like weight loss is simply about willpower and avoiding food. The reality is much more complicated. People naturally have different caloric needs. There’s also a danger of slowing your weight loss and your metabolism if you undershoot your daily calories too drastically, too. In other words, crash diets are a terrible idea. Your body will adjust to such a steep deficit by shifting into starvation mode. Then if you binge or bounce back to your original diet, you’ll be at a significant disadvantage. So, it’s best to proceed thoughtfully and calculate a daily calorie target that makes sense for your body.

How Many Calories Do You Need?

A good rule of thumb is to shoot for a caloric intake that is 500 calories less than what you would need to sustain your current weight. But, how many calories is that? To answer this, first calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This basic formula estimates how many calories your body burns at rest:

BMR calculation is a good starting point for determining your best daily calorie intake.

Rather than do the conversions and calculations yourself, you can use an online calculator like this one. We share the equation mainly to emphasize the factors that influence your resting metabolism: your gender, body mass and age.

Once you’ve estimated your BMR, you can approximate the calorie intake that will help you lose weight. For example, if your BMR is 2000 calories, you should only consume 1500 calories per day to begin weight loss.

Of course calorie intake is only part of the equation. You can also increase your calorie deficit through movement and exercise. If you are more active, you can eat more and still be in a good calorie range for weight loss.

This gives you some flexibility with that 500 calorie deficit.  If removing that many food calories at once feels daunting, go for a walk.  Burning 250 calories and removing 250 from food will still achieve the 500 calorie deficit.

Dr. George Fielding, NYU Langone Weight Management Program

Meet Dr. George Fielding

For more on health, fitness and weight loss, subscribe to this blog. If you’d like to meet with Dr. George Fielding for an evaluation, please contact the NYU Langone Weight Management Program. He and his team of weight loss experts are ready to help you.