What is a calorie deficit?
If you are putting in the time on your workouts and not seeing the results in your body, it is likely that you are not achieving a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit means consuming fewer calories than you burn, this causes your body to use stored fat for energy and so your fat mass reduces.
If the thought of calorie counting fills you with dread, do not worry – we will explain the process and give you guidance on how to make things easier for yourself.
But calorie counting is so boring!
Some people hate the idea of calorie counting because it sounds tedious and overly restrictive. If this sounds like you then maybe you have the wrong idea about calorie tracking. It used to be that people had to read labels, work out portion sizes, and write everything down.
What are the best apps for calorie deficit tracking?
Nowadays, apps like MyFitnessPal and Nutracheck get rid of a lot of that hassle. Apps will work out your basal metabolic rate and take into account your activity levels (apps can link to wearable fitness trackers to make use of that data) to produce your daily calorie output. You can then set a goal amount of weight loss per week and it will calculate your daily calorie limits.
All you need to do is to commit yourself to input food into the app every time you eat. You can scan the barcodes of foods, search their databases for foods, adjust portion sizes, and save the nutritional information for meals you cook yourself. For example, if you enjoy cooking a chicken stir-fry, you can input the ingredients and tell the app how many servings you yield from each batch.
The app then saves this as a custom recipe and next time you cook it you can simply select ‘chicken stir-fry – 1 portion’. These apps have made calorie counting easy to do and convenient too.
Macros and how to count them
at the end of the day, weight loss is about calories in versus calories out
Other people believe that, as long as they are eating the right foods, then they have done everything they need to do. While concentrating on eating lean protein and lots of veggies is a good way to structure your diet, at the end of the day, weight loss is about calories in versus calories out.
You can gain weight by eating healthily and you can lose weight while eating junk food.
Portion size and frequency of snacks are two common pitfalls to weight loss, especially if you eat a lot of ‘gym products’ like protein bars which commonly clock in at around 200kcal. Tracking your food intake will help you to understand how much you are putting into your body, whether you are snacking out of boredom or even habit.
Calorie tracking apps will also track your macros, so you can see a full breakdown of your calories and understand which meals fuelled your body best. This can also be useful for muscle gain periods when you purposefully eat a calorie surplus. Simply loading your body with loads of high-protein foods is not good nutrition as it ignores the balance of macronutrients and micronutrients that we need to feel healthy.
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How long does a calorie deficit take to work?
There are no hard and fast rules about how long it will take you to see results from calorie counting. Factors like starting body fat, the size of the deficit, the consistency of the deficit, and what your end goals are will all affect how quickly you progress.
If you feel frustrated with the pace of progress, you can speed things along by cutting more calories from your diet or throwing in an extra cardio session. However, there are limits to how much you can safely cut from your daily intake, which will make you feel drained and unwell if you push them.
There are no strict limits on how much cardio you can safely do, but we all know the risk of burnout is high when we overtrain.
Calorie deficit training can be a huge boost to your motivation
For most people, sustaining motivation when results do not seem to match effort or are taking a long time can be difficult. The good thing about calorie tracking is it is mathematical proof that you are doing things right and, given enough time, your body will change.
This can be comforting if you feel like you have made progress in the wrong direction. A quick look at your food diary and categorically say that there is no way you have gained fat.
Final thoughts on using a calorie deficit in your home gym
The final thing about calorie tracking is that you have to be completely honest with yourself. Write every bite – yes even that half a fish finger your kiddie left on their plate or the few crisps you pinched from your partner. Individually, these calories might be pretty insignificant, but if you regularly have little nibbles they clock up and can hinder your body goals progress.