Before we start I have to make it clear that although I am not a fan of fad diets like Ketogenic, Paleo, Weight Watchers, Intermittent fasting or Low fat etc etc, I will acknowledge they can have their uses for weight loss if the people using them actually like them and stick to it consistently. The issue is most of these diets are hard to be consistent with usually because it involves cutting out an entire food group or at least some of it, which is usually not feasible for long periods of time. In a nutshell however they all do the same thing and that is to get you into a calorie deficit, or put another way you will be expending more calories than you consume and therefore losing body fat. It’s just people realised they could make money out of cooler sounding diets than simply saying eat less than you are expending if your goal is weight loss. Image result for calorie deficit meme  

Fat Loss

You’ve heard the line before that you can’t outwork a bad diet and unfortunately it is so true. If your goal is fat loss then you need to read the following information very carefully as you must be in a Calorie Deficit Let this concept sink in for a second as I’m going to mention it a lot. A calorie deficit is the most important factor here when it comes to constructing your fat loss plan.     **Note I’m using the Harris Benedict method here but I will also add in another method for reference so you have a few options. Please bare in mind that this will not be exact and there is a certain amount of trial and effort based on your lifestyle that you will need to account for and you will need to track and measure for a few weeks so you can adjust as you go.

Maintenance calories

Find out your Maintenance calories – What is this? Well this is the total number of calories needed to maintain your current weight based on your current activity level. Put another way: Maintenance is Calories consumed = Number of calories expended

Step 1 – work out your maintenance calories

Our next step is to find out the below information so we can calculate your maintenance calories.
  1. Work out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).
    • This is the total amount of calories that your body will burn if you just lay there in a coma. The calories needed to keep the lights on so to speak and your body functioning as normal without getting up and walking about
    • To do this there are a number of calculations but here is an online calculator that will help you do this 
  2. Now that you have your BMR you need to factor in the following:
    • Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) calories burned by your body each day through exercise
    • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – calories burned during absorption of the food you eat
    • Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) – calories burned as a result of all the minor movements you do throughout the day that does not include exercise. This could be walking up the stairs at work or tapping your foot on the bottom of the chair for 15 mins.
    • It’s important to note that these factors vary a great deal from person to person regardless of similarities with age and weight for example
    • Because all of the above is hard to estimate the Harris Benedict method also gives us a hand as seen below using their activity multiplier.

Take your BMR that you worked out above and multiply by the number below

Harris Benedict Formula
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
  1. If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  2. If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  3. If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  4. If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  5. If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
    Example: say my BMR is 1800 calories and my activity level is a 1.55, I now multiply the 2 together = 1800 x 1.55 = 2790. Therefore based on my BMR and my activity level I would roughly need 2790 calories a day to maintain my current weight.  

Step 2 – Get yourself into a calorie deficit (this is a requirement to lose fat)

  Now that you have your estimated maintenance calories we want to set your diet up to be in a calorie deficit which is the key driver for fat loss. The fact you are now below maintenance will automatically put you into caloric deficit… which as I’ll say again is needed for fat loss to happen (hopefully this has really sunk in now) Ok so how many less calories does it take to lose weight?? Well this is the key piece of information, deciding how far below your maintenance level you should actually go? There are a few ideas on this but I like to recommend that you maintain a deficit of between 15 – 25% below the maintenance limit you worked out above. This is both reasonable and a lot less of a drastic change to most peoples lifestyle which should assist with transitioning into a fat loss diet and adhering to it.  


Let’s take the previous example I used above. Our maintenance calories = 2790. So let’s say we take 20% off 2790 and we get 2232 calories. This is now the amount of calories you should eat to be in a deficit of 558 cals a day under your maintenance calories. Maintenance calories = 2790 New calorie deficit total = 2232 (20% of 2790 = 558 calories to be removed from diet) To keep it really simple (I will add research notes and links to studies below) – 1lb of fat (adipose tissue) = 3500 cals so over the course of a week if you are in a deficit of 558 cals a day that equals 3906 calories (558 x 7 days)  which now means you are losing around 1.1lbs of weight a week (technically it may not all be fat loss that you lose but you really don’t need to know that right now) Should I use 20% too? Well this is down to you. How fast do you want to lose the weight? If you use 10% it will be a slightly slower process and if you use 25% it will be a quicker process. What I will say is that the greater the deficit you go into the more difficult it is due to the impact on your hormones/metabolic make up. Stay with me here!  

Step 3 – Monitoring your progress around your lifestyle

  See my previous post on the best way to track your calories The next step is to now monitor the weight coming off – I suggest you do this first thing in the morning before eating anything and wearing as little as possible. Record your weight each day and then take the average at the end of the week. Please do not get obsessed with the scales – this is merely a tool to make sure you are heading in the right direction The guys over at the website really sum it up nicely: “Pay attention to the weekly averages (not the meaningless daily fluctuations) for a period of 2-4 consecutive weeks. Ask yourself the following question: is my weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be? If the answer is yes, you’re all good. Keep eating this amount of calories each day and continue monitoring progress. If the answer is no, then adjust that calorie intake up or down in small increments (e.g. 100-300 calories at a time), wait another 2-4 weeks and see what happens then. Is your weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be? If so, you’re good. If not, adjust again and repeat this process until it is. All of the maintenance level estimates, calculators and deficit recommendations in the world are lovely and wonderful, BUT THIS IS THE KEY STEP to guaranteeing that you’re eating the right amount of calories a day.     Remember there is a certain element of trial and error here so be patient and adjust as you go along  

Summing It Up

  That is the bare bones of setting up your diet for fat loss
  1. Estimate your maintenance calories.
  2. Create your deficit
  3. Monitor your progress and adjust when/if needed.
My personal recommendation based on the research I’ve looked at is to aim to lose around 0.5 – 1.5% of your total body weight per week and this is of course depending on how much weight you have to lose in the first place. A 200lb 5ft 5 woman will most likely have the ability to lose more initially than a 200lb 6ft 3 man would. Stay tuned for posts on the different types of macro-nutrients and how to utilize these in your diets. Any questions hit me here   References:   The information and materials in this book are provided for general information purposes only,and do not constitute medical advice. Please consulate a doctor before you embark on any nutritional plan as these suggestions may not be relevant to your particular set of specific circumstances.