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Calorie Deficit

We've probably all heard the phrase "calorie deficit". James Smith has made it his hashtag & bought it into the mainstream media. But how many of you actually know what a calorie deficit is & if you need it?


90% of the riders I work with have the goal of either weight loss or "toning up". We all know weight loss means reducing our body mass & fat composition. Toning up can often be a confusing phrase where you might think you don't need a calorie deficit to get yourself there but in fact, you actually do.


To clarify toning up is reducing your fat composition to show off your muscular definition underneath the fat. If you have too much fat covering the muscle then you won't get that toned or defined look you are aiming for. Toning up, being lean whatever you want to call it comes down to being in a slight calorie deficit in order to reduce your fat composition.


Depending on how lean you already are will dictate how much of a deficit you need to be in. The bottom line is whatever you do must be sustainable so you can stick to it. If you're toning up you want to do it slowly & steadily so that your result is maintainable. It's also important to remember that for some of us being "lean" all year round may not be that achievable. Genetics play a big role here so some may find it easier to stay lean 24/7 whilst others of us won't!


Anyways back to the calorie deficit. So a calorie deficit occurs when you consume fewer calories than your body expends, therefore you are putting your body in a negative energy balance. So you either need to consume fewer calories through food & drink & maintain your current activity level or do a bit of both which as a coach is what I advocate.

If you keep your activity level high your body will be burning more calories through expenditure, therefore, you can keep calories higher meaning it will be easier for you to stick whilst still getting results.


A calorie deficit is the bottom line of weight loss & how you lose weight. Diet brands such as slimming world or weight watchers ultimately adhere to a calorie deficit just the same as fad products like slimming shakes, diet pills, juice diets too as well. At the end of the day, the reason they work & you drop weight is because you are in a calorie deficit. However & it is a big however their approach is incredibly aggressive & restrictive making it very hard & unsustainable for you to stick to in the long run. This means that after a while you just won't be able to stick to it & therefore the weight you lost will come back.


They also don't just tell you that the bottom line of how their products work is a calorie deficit so remember that when you're parting with your money.


That is where a coach like myself comes in using & encouraging you to use a sustainable approach that works for your lifestyle whilst giving you results but it is actually something you CAN stick to for the rest of your life. That might sound bold but that is the only way to maintain your results long-term. No more yo-yoing just achieve your results & stay here.


So how do you put yourself in a deficit? There are many ways to do this if you google it but the best way is to find your own personal deficit. It may sound complex but it's not. I suggest using the Harris-Benedict Equation to help you work this out.

First of all, you need your height in cm, weight in kg & age. Then using the above formula you can calculate your BMR. BMR is your basal metabolic rate which in the simplest term is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest.


Then once you have your BMR you multiply that number by a number that equates to your activity level. I always slightly underestimate activity level as if you overestimate your calories will therefore be calculated higher. For most riders, you do overestimate activity levels as for most of us looking at our Fitbit or activity trackers we probably do somewhere between 12-30k steps on a daily basis. However, what you need to judge your activity level on is your own steps & many of those in your step count will most probably be riding steps plus we know that activity trackers are fantastic tools but they're not the most accurate.

From here you then have your maintenance calories. You then minus 5-15% off this number to achieve your deficit. The higher you go the more aggressive your calorie deficit will be & you may then find it hard to maintain. When you're in a calorie deficit your body is getting less energy than it needs already so it is crucial to make sure you do this in the most sustainable way so you can manage your hunger & energy levels well whilst sticking to your target. That is key so you still have enough energy to do all the things you need to in your day!


I would suggest you put yourself in the 5-10% range, starting closer to the 5% mark & then if you find you can stick to it easily whilst your hunger & energy levels stay balanced & you get results then maybe you can move up towards the 10% mark.


Obviously the higher you go the faster your progress will be but it must be sustainable! I must have said that word 100 times already but that is the golden key to achieving & then maintaining your results. At the end of the day, you'll get results as long as you stick to your deficit.


In my professional opinion as a coach you want to focus on hitting your calories & that is no 1 but doing it in a balanced manner. Aiming for 80% of your total food to come from whole food, unprocessed sources then you have room for 20% of your intake to come from more of the foods you like which are often the more "treatier" type foods if you like that are commonly higher in calories!


So at the end of the day to clarify; if your goal is to reduce your weight or tone up you're talking about reducing your body fat composition whilst maintaining your muscle mass to give you that toned, defined physique. The calorie deficit is the ONLY method to get you there & that is all you need to remember. Stick to the science, save yourself some money & leave the fads & diets at the door & focus on a sustainable calorie deficit!

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