If I’m trying to lose weight, what’s my maximum calorie deficit?

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
We never recommend losing more than 1-2 pounds/week and therefore your calorie deficit should not exceed 1000 calories/day unless there are unusual timeline circumstances. The calorie deficit number is the difference between your food intake and the calories you burn, and therefore the greater the deficit the faster you lose weight. But that’s the problem: everyone’s in a hurry. Large deficits are generally not sustainable, and can be unhealthy if you don’t supplement your diet properly. Not to mention that if you do reach your goal using a very low calorie diet, the journey will be miserable and you will probably end up rebounding for your own sanity.
That said, the more overweight you are the greater the deficit can be if time is an issue.  But the slower you lose it, the greater your chance of long-term success. Additionally, you don't want to lose lean body mass (LBM/muscle) while losing weight. Unfortunately, during “traditional dieting" for weight loss, you lose both muscle and fat (1/4 muscle) unless you supplement and weight train. BUT even with weight training you can't lose any more than .7% of weight/week without losing muscle. For example, a person weighing 200 lbs can lose 1.4 lb/wk (750 calore/day deficit).  BUT they must supplement at least a daily multivitamin and mineral (MVM). The greater the deficit the more you need to supplement, meaning a MVM and pre/post workout formula is necessary to sustain LBM during dieting. Just make sure to fit your pre/post snacks into your allowed calories for the day. Maintaining or increasing LBM during weight loss helps you to burn more calories, feel better, avoid plateaus and reach your goal sooner. If you want to lose weight very quickly, but safely, use our Sharecare Fitness Application located under the Coach tab; click here for access:
Create your goal and you will receive the ideal plan to get you there.
Enas Shakkour
Nutrition & Dietetics

As a general rule, I recommend that the maximum calorie deficit be no more than 1000 calories/day. The maximum calorie deficit depends on how much you burn every day. I advise not consuming any less than 1500 calories/day. If you are burning 2000 calories/day, you will be losing 1 pound/week. 1500 calories/day will give you enough calories every day to get all the nutrients your body needs. Make sure that you select highly nutritious foods such as whole grains, lean meats, nuts, fruits, dairy, and vegetables. If you want to burn more calories, then increase your exercise time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.