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Calculating Calories (dos and don’ts)

Calorie Deficit, Why Does it Matter?

A calorie deficit occurs when the number of calories you eat is less than the number of calories you burn. Creating a calorie deficit over time leads to weight loss. 

Calculating Calorie Needs 

Individual calorie needs are based on a variety of factors including age, sex, general health, body size, height, activity levels, body composition, and health goals. You can use prediction equations to calculate calorie needs such as Harris-Benedict, Mifflin street, or Katch-McArdle to determine Basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR is the number of calories your body needs to perform basic physiological functions like breathing, digesting, and blood circulation. You’ll also burn calories doing normal activities such as bathing, walking, typing, or standing. 

These calculations will provide an estimate of recommended calorie intake 

  • Little to no exercise: BMR X 1.2
  • Light exercise: BMR X 1.375 
  • Moderate exercise: BMR X 1.55
  • Heavy Exercise: BMR X 1.725

The dotFIT program automatically calculates the daily number of calories you burn and how much you have to eat to achieve your goal, whether that is weight loss, muscle gain, or improving athletic performance. 

Create a Healthy Diet Deficit 

The three ways to create a healthy diet deficit are to eat fewer calories, burn extra calories with increased activity, and combine the two. You can reduce calorie intake by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as well as having more lean protein and drinking more water. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average male should drink around 3.7 liters of water a day and the average female should drink around 2.7 liters of water a day. Adequately replenishing your water supply will ensure that your body will function properly during your healthy diet deficit. This will ensure that you can also reduce calorie intake by replacing 1-2 of your normal meals with a protein shake or a smoothie which has shown evidence of accelerated weight loss. Increasing physical activity by exercising more frequently and adding more movement to your daily lifestyle. Combining both has been shown through research to be more effective in creating sustainable weight loss than just one method.

Problem with Eating Too Few Calories 

Despite the potential short-term weight loss, eating too few calories is not sustainable because people become hungry, tired, and burnt out while also lowering their metabolism. Additionally, normal-weight individuals, in particular, can experience notable muscle loss that is further exacerbated if their diet is low in protein and they are excluding resistance training. Not eating enough calories can also cause nutrient shortages and deficiencies especially if the foods aren’t high in vitamins or minerals.


While it is tempting to create a huge maximum calorie deficit, it could have undesirable effects on health. A calorie deficit that exceeds 1,000 calories per day can negatively impact health and set the stage for weight gain later on. Sustainable eating habits combined with a strong exercise routine are the most effective, healthy way to lose weight. 

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