How do I Create a Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss?

Counting calories is an effective and direct method of managing your weight. Your body requires a very specific number of calories in order to function. If your body receives an excess of calories, you will gain weight. Conversely, by decreasing your caloric intake you can create a calorie deficit and lose weight. To make up for the calorie deficit, your body burns fat for energy. Knowing how to safely create a calorie deficit is the first step towards successful weight loss.

Calculate your own calorie deficit for weight loss. (Image: amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images)

Step 1

Calculate the number of calories your body needs in order to maintain your current weight. Your basal metabolic rate, commonly called your BMR, is a measurement of the number of calories your body burns in a day, at rest. The BMR formula for men is as follows: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - 6.8 x age in years). The formula for women varies slightly, and is as follows: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years).

Step 2

Reduce your daily caloric intake to create a calorie deficit between your BMR and your daily intake. The more calories you cut from your BMR, the larger the caloric deficit, which means more weight loss. recommends a daily caloric reduction of 500 calories for weight loss of 1 lb. per week, 1,000 calories for 2 lbs. per week. Follow these guidelines to establish your daily caloric intake. For example, a person with a BMR of 2,000 calories who wants to lose 1 lb. per week should reduce their daily calorie allowance to 1,500 calories.

Step 3

Increase your calorie deficit with regular exercise. Measure your heart rate at the end of your workout by placing your fingers on the side of your throat, where your carotid artery is located. To find the calories you burn with exercise, use a calculator and the appropriate equation: Males: [(-55.0969 + (.6309 x heart rate in beats per minute) + (.438 x weight in pounds) + (.2017 x age in years)] / 4.184; or females: [(-20.4022 + (.4472 x heart rate in beats per minute) + (.278 x weight in pounds) + (.074 x age in years)] / 4.184.

Multiply your result by the number of minutes you exercised. Add the total number of calories your BMR to find your total daily caloric allowance. For example: A person with a BMR of 2,000 calories, who burns 300 calories from exercise, with a weight loss goal of 1 lb. per week has a daily caloric allowance of 1,800 calories (2,000 - 500 + 300).


Get a heart rate monitor to evaluate your heart rate during exercise.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend weight loss of more than 2 lbs. per week. Talk to your doctor before you begin dieting.

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