10 Ways to Make A Calorie Deficit Easier
Regardless of the foods you choose to eat, the supplements you choose to take, or the workouts you choose to perform, if you aren’t staying within a calorie deficit inside your nutrition, fat loss isn’t something you’ll see much of.
The law of thermodynamics inside of science is real. Whether you like it or not, your body composition comes down to one big math equation for the most part.
Before we hop into the meat and bones of making a calorie deficit easier, let’s explain what a calorie deficit is briefly in case you’re new to nutrition and have stumbled across this random article and are already wondering what the hell I’m talking about only 3 paragraphs in.
Being in a calorie deficit is simply consuming less calories on a consistent basis than what your body is burning. This is how weight loss is achieved.
If you burn more calories than you consistently consume, your body will be forced to use stored energy as an immediate energy source (aka – weight loss). If you burn less calories than you consistently consume, your body will be forced to store those calories as there isn’t any other use for them (aka – weight gain).
You might be thinking, “But what about Keto, Paleo, or any other diet out there with a name?”
These diets work because of the sole fact they make eating in a caloric deficit easier for some.
If you follow Keto, you’re forced to cut out carbohydrates. Taking an entire macronutrient off the menu is most likely going to cut a drastic number of calories from your daily consumption, which ultimately creates a caloric deficit through restriction of food choices.
Same thing with Paleo. By only being able to choose from a select amount of “healthy” foods, calorie intake is going to take a drastic hit which ultimately leads to a caloric deficit.
It’s not that Keto creates fat loss because carbs are bad, or that Paleo creates fat loss because you MUST eat “healthy” foods. It’s because either diet creates a caloric deficit inside the body which forces the body to use stored energy as fuel which results in weight loss.
With that single bit of knowledge, you can skip the fad dieting side of the industry and start individualizing your nutrition strategies to you with more freedom inside your diet while still creating the result you want.
That may sound like a drastic over-simplification, but it’s true. The hard part isn’t understanding “what” to do when it comes to fat loss, a simple caloric deficit is all that’s needed. The hard part is figuring out “how” to do it consistently.
You see, just because the principle is easy to understand, putting it to action day in and day out can be extremely hard. A caloric deficit requires some hunger throughout the process. It’s inconvenient as you can’t just “eat whatever you want” each day and stay within your numbers.
Today I’m going to drop “10 hacks,” that’ve not only helped myself make sticking to a caloric deficit easier over the years, but the 100’s of men and women I’ve helped with the consistency aspect to it as well.
Ready to hop into it?
(Would you rather listen to the episode instead of read it? If so, below is the podcast version. If not, continue reading!)
1 - Plan your meals around the times of day your most hungry or have cravings
There aren’t perfect times to eat for everybody, but there are perfect times for you as an individual to eat for better adherence. When are you generally most hungry? Do you like eating breakfast or not? Do you like to have a snack/treat before bed? Do you prefer having less frequent big meals, or more frequent smaller meals?
Figure out an eating schedule that fits best into your life instead of trying to force your life around an eating schedule. It doesn’t matter as much the times of day you’re eating if the goal is fat loss, but rather staying inside the caloric deficit consistently.
Many go wrong by eating breakfast because they “think” it’s best, or don’t have a snack before bed because they “think” it’s bad. When really, when, where, or how you eat doesn’t make an ounce of difference if you aren’t adhering to your caloric intake first. Find a schedule that allows you to stay consistent the most and stick with it.
Personally, I tend to skip breakfast most often so I can save calories for after dinner when I have a sweet tooth. You may love breakfast and don’t like to eat much before bed, either way works if it helps you stay consistent.
2 - Include high volume, low calorie foods EVERYDAY to avoid hunger and binges
This one gets overlooked by most. It may sound like common sense, but I’m going to state it anyway… The more food you can put in your stomach, the fuller you’re going to be and not want to keep eating. BOOM.
Think of it like this:
You could grab a handful of almonds for 200 calories, or you could pop two bags of Jenny-O 100 cal popcorn (my favorite) that fills up an entire movie bowl for the same 200 calories. Which one will fill you up more? The popcorn, obviously.
Some will make the mistake of eating the almonds because they’re “healthy,” when really, they’d be much more satisfied for the same number of calories with the popcorn choice. There are many foods like this that you can eat a lot of to create satiety with a smaller number of calories. Watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, black berries, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and popcorn are just a few. Spend a little extra time in your grocery store looking at different foods and nutrition labels and you’ll be surprised at what you might find.
*Pro tip: From the brain of the nutrition wizard himself, Jordan Syatt, a “big ass salad” everyday chuck full of veggies and lean meat will satiate you more than you realize making a lower calorie budget easier to stick to.
3 - Include protein in every meal to slow down digestion
If you’re going to pay any attention to any one macronutrient, make sure it’s protein. Protein takes the longest of the three macronutrients in the body to breakdown (protein, fats, & carbs), which means it’s the slowest to digest and will keep you feeling full for the longest amount of time after consuming.
Adding protein to each meal of the day will keep you satisfied for a longer amount of time, plus help your body recover optimally if you’re including resistance training consistently (I’d suggest you’re lifting for optimal fat loss).
Even more importantly, protein is the macronutrient that tells your lean muscle to stick around. As you’re inside a caloric deficit, weight loss will be most likely to come from fat stores IF you’re consuming adequate amounts of protein each day. A consistent protein intake will help you create “fat loss” instead of “weight loss” throughout your journey (there’s a difference).
If you want the lean, toned, or athletic look at the end of the process, eating somewhere between .75 – 1 gram of protein will be most optimal dependent upon your body. Find out how to individualize this to you inside of The Macro Starter Kit (an L&L FREE resource to setting up and individualizing your nutrition).
4 - Don't forget about fiber
Including fiber in most of your meals is another way to help you stay satiated longer after each meal. Fiber slows down the digestion process which also leads to the feeling of fullness after consuming it. Plus, it most often comes inside of foods that are packed with other vitamins and minerals that are beneficial in many ways.
On the flip, you don’t want to consume too much fiber either. It could potentially lead to an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, bloating, and even long-term constipation. A good guideline to follow in terms of how much to consume would be between 10-15 grams per every 1000 calories.
Food sources rich in fiber are things like broccoli, spinach, yams, sweet potatoes, whole grains, black beans, black berries, raspberries, popcorn, and the list goes on. There are even protein and snack bars rich in fiber that you can find in your local grocery store most likely.
5 - Utilize caffeine and diet soda strategically
This one can be a game changer. Caffeine is a stimulant that will suppress the appetite for a given amount of time. Now, this doesn’t mean you should walk around stimmed out of your mind all day just because you’re trying to lose some fat. But strategically adding caffeine boosts around times of the day where you generally get hungry or crave something sugary can help mitigate the temptation and steer your focus from food.
You’ll have a varied threshold to the amount of caffeine you can handle dependent on your history with the supplement, but I would suggest never going above 300-400 mg of caffeine per day for a more experienced user, or 100-200 mg per day for someone who hasn’t utilize it much. Also, I’d suggest not consuming within 6-8 hours before bed as the stimulant can sacrifice your quality of sleep.
Diet soda is another resource that you can utilize to curb cravings and appetite at times. Given diet soda, is zero calorie generally, it won’t affect your weight loss either. Having a diet soda after a meal or during a time of a craving can help satisfy your sweet tooth in the short term. I like to utilize caffeine free diet soda after dinner when in a deficit to help with fullness and think of the sweetness as a little “desert.” It almost tastes like ice cream of cake if you close your eyes…
6 - Have "go-to" meals that are consistent
Being flexible and fitting treats and random foods to your calorie intake is something I will always be a proponent of when it comes to fat loss and nutrition. I believe it helps make a diet far more sustainable in the long run without all the rigidness and harsh over corrections that restriction can bring. But at the same time, simplicity inside your nutrition is also something I believe creates a lasting, sustainable result.
Choose a couple simple high protein, high fiber/micronutrient meals that you enjoy eating and ride them out through the entire process each day. Having meals you can rely on daily that easily fit into your numbers and satiate you makes things much easier than throwing things together at each meal “hoping” they fit your calories.
For me, my go to meal most nights for dinner is lean ground beef, rice, and veggies mixed with low calorie taco sauce. It’s quick to make, high in protein, satiating, and dependable to fit into my calories so that I don’t have to think or worry about what to eat every night when I get home. Routine is key.
7 - Have "go-to" restaurants that are easy to track
Wait, I thought you weren’t supposed to eat out during a diet? I say bull crap. Sure, it will add a bit of “nuance” to being as accurate as possible when counting your calories, but just because you’re dieting doesn’t mean you have to treat it like a prison sentence.
If you enjoy eating out, there’s no reason not to. Just make sure you’re choosing places to eat that are easy to track and relatively consistent with their serving sizes. Personally, my wife and I eat out weekly at places like Costa Vida, Chipotle, and Subway when we’re on the go and restaurants like Texas Roadhouse and Chili’s for date nights because you can order simple things like a meat, carb, and veggie that’s easy to track and be accurate with.
There will always be some sort of restriction when it comes to dieting, but it doesn’t mean you can’t work it into your current life in some ways instead of having to drastically alter your social life just to hit your calories. Some flexibility inside your nutrition is necessary if you’re in this for the long term.
8 - Look at food as "worth it or not worth it," instead of "good vs bad"
You hopefully understand now that your diet in it’s entirety matters far more than the particular food choices you’re making at every meal. Taking away the “good vs bad” food mentality opens the doors of freedom and gives you the ability to choose all food in moderation and still achieve your goals.
At the same time, remember that a sugary bowl of cereal isn’t going to create the same satiety as a bowl of oats necessarily. Understanding this and learning to fill your nutritional needs through protein, satiety, and micronutrients before adding the “fun” things in like sugary or processed foods will create the best version of success in my experience.
Long term success in a calorie deficit comes from a combination of eating the foods your body needs first, and then adding in foods your mind craves second. Look at your calorie intake in that order and you’ll find a good balance overtime.
9 - Have a start and end date to the deficit
With most things in life, if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… it can be hard to stay motivated and see it through. A caloric deficit isn’t something you can, or should, do forever. Having a timeline to the fat loss phase is crucial.
Usually, somewhere between a 3 to 9-month period is the duration I’d suggest staying in a caloric deficit for at a time to prevent severe metabolic adaptions and hormone deficiencies. Having caloric “maintenance,” or even caloric “surplus” phases is as important as having calorie deficit phases if you want your progress to turn into a long-term result. When you stop looking at your body composition in a 1, 2, or 3-month span and start looking at it in a 6, 9, or 12-month span, you’ll ultimately look AND feel better than you could imagine.
If you spend a 3 to 9-month time frame inside a deficit, I’d suggest spending at least a 3 to 9 month time frame at a maintenance and/or surplus level before starting another deficit again to give your body (hormones and metabolism) the rest it needs. A caloric deficit is a stressor to your body, which means you have to mitigate that stress from time to time as well.
10 - Include refeeds throughout the diet
Inside of a 3 to 9-month deficit phase, scheduling times when calories are brought back to a short-term maintenance also helps alleviate plateaus and can promote better adherence. I’ll generally incorporate these “refeeds” with clients around social occasions, vacations, and weekends when sticking to a lower number of calories becomes extremely hard or not realistic.
If you’re the type of person who “needs” cheat meals or cheat days every week to stay sane, you could even schedule refeeds every Saturday and Sunday of each week. This way you’d be in a caloric deficit Monday through Friday and back up to a maintenance on the weekends to enjoy yourself a bit more. You could plan this bi-weekly, or monthly as well.
Just understand, the more often you incorporate the refeed, the slower fat loss will happen because you aren’t in a deficit as often. On the flip side, the less often you incorporate refeeds, the more your hunger will rise, the faster the metabolism will adapt, and the harder it will become to stay in a deficit. There’s a sweet spot to incorporating these and it becomes highly individual dependent upon the person and the situation, but something that shouldn’t be ignored for long term adherence and progress.
Hopefully these 10 tips have helped you in some way and possibly opened your eyes to how to make fat loss easier inside your individual circumstance. If you have more tips that might help someone out, leave them below in the comment section for others to read. Also, if you feel this blog may help others out, share it with them via messenger or post it to your social media wall for others to benefit as well!
If you’d like help setting up your nutrition strategy and calorie/macronutrient numbers needed to begin your journey, download our FREE resource – The Macro Starter Kit.
-How to individual your calorie intake to your body
-What macronutrients to worry about for your experience level
-And much, much more.
Thanks for reading!
Chaz is the co-founder/owner and head coach at Lost & Lifting. He also owns his own gym - Fit Factory, located in Preston, Idaho (his hometown). Chaz works with clients all over the world to take control of their body composition through evidence based and sustainable strategies. His passion has turned from building his own body to educating and helping others do the same through his online coaching platform.
Lost & Lifting Talk
L&L Talk (hosted by Chaz), is the Lost & Lifting podcast where we dive deep into nutriton, training, and lifestyle to help you become more educated inside your journey to produce the result you want faster, and in a more sustainable manner