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Calorie Deficit VS Calorie Surplus

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

Calories intake plays an important role when it comes weight loss and mass gain!


What is Calorie Deficit?


Calorie Deficit happens when the amount of calories we consumed, is lower than the amount of calories we burn in a day. Calorie Deficit leads to weight loss.


On the other hand, Calorie Surplus happens when the amount of calories we consumed, is higher than the amount of calories we burn in a day. This will then lead to mass gain.


Some require a calorie surplus to build muscle but when one needs a calorie deficit to lose weight.


The math is simple:

Eat < Rate Body Burns Energy (aka Metabolism) = Calorie Deficit = Weight Loss


However, one’s metabolism is highly variable and depends on sex, age, physical activity levels, height, weight, and body composition.


Some estimated calorie burns are listed below from MedicalNewsToday:


Calorie burns table for male by age:



Calorie burns table for female by age:




How to calculate a Calorie Surplus?


On average, our body burns 1600-2200 calories a day. Also, our body burns an extra 400-600 calories, and potentially achieves a calorie deficit while working out (based on a 60 mins workout)! If you are consuming more calories than the above, likely, you are achieving a calorie surplus.


According to research and studies, you will lose 0.5 KG when you achieve a 500-calorie deficit for 7 days in a row.


When you create a calorie deficit, your body gets energy or fuel from stored fat. This is the extra fat that you carry on your hips or thighs, in your belly, and throughout your body.


How to have a Calorie Deficit?


  • A plate of chicken rice contains around 600 calories.

  • A bowl of white rice contains around 200 calories.

  • A cup of Bubble Tea contains around 400 calories.

  • 1 fried chicken wing contains around 100 calories.

  • 2 hard boiled eggs contains around 150 calories.

  • 200 grams of cooked spinach contains around 50 calories.

  • 1 stalk of broccoli contains around 50 calories.

Does that mean I'll just eat 1 chicken rice and 1 bubble tea daily and I'll have a 500-calorie deficit? That sounds manageable on how to maintain calorie deficit!

Admittedly, you will lose weight if you maintain the diet above, but you are likely to be losing this mass from your muscles and not your fats. In fact, you could still be gaining those fats from that choice of diet, and the end result? Arms and legs that may appear smaller but definitely flabby.


What is a Calorie Deficit Diet ?


Losing weight is easy. However, losing fats will require some effort and knowledge! And this also means losing weight in a sustainable manner. As after all, when you no longer have muscles left to burn, your weight will see an upward trend, since you have been gaining fat all this while.


Thus, the nutritional content contributing to the deficit/surplus plays an important role in our general health!


In general, our body requires four servings of protein, four servings of vegetables, and two servings of carbohydrates, as supported by Women’s Health. This is essential for our body to rebuild or even grow our muscles, as a result of daily use or even a workout, fibre and basically energy to function. When these recommended amounts are not achieved, especially with the high intake of sugar or carbohydrates (complex sugar), our body will store them as fats instead.

Of course, we are not saying you need to go for those tasteless food 24/7. We just have to know what our body needs and doesn't need.


Some tips for eating fewer calories from Healthline include:


1) Don’t waste it on drinks!

Sugary beverages like soft drinks, fruit juices and coffee contains a ton of calories. A cup of latte with skimmed milk from Starbucks already contains 65 calories, which you could actually eat an entire cucumber with! Not to mention alcohol, they are extremely high in calorie count.


2) Stop those processed food

Processed food is usually high in calories because they are very tasty with a lot of seasoning and sauces. Those mean things are very high in sugar and fats (hence tasting very good). Generally, avoid things that are starchy and full of gravy!


3) Home-cooked meals are the way to go

Less oil? Cutting down on the sauces? Bye to sugar? All these are within your control when you do it on your own. You generally do not know what goes into the food that is prepared by others, and is harder to estimate what you have ingested in your body.

We can still achieve a calorie deficit with 2 normal meals and 1 cheat meal. It's possible! Have a balance and always eat in moderation.


The bottom line, choice of food is the key!


Other FAQs about Calorie Deficit


Is calorie deficit healthy?

Yes! As long as your body is still receiving the type of food it needs, while maintaining that calorie deficit, you are good to go.


What is a good calorie deficit?

Generally, 500 calories is a good estimate. But of course, the way forward is not only managing your diet but you could also do some strength training or workout to increase that metabolism. Read our article on strength training for weight loss for more pro-tips!


In Summary…


Top three things for you (tldr):

  1. Calorie Deficit is necessary for weight loss

  2. It is not about eating less, but eating right (4 servings of protein, 4 servings of vegetables, and 2 servings of carbohydrates; minimal sugar!) too

  3. A deficit of around 500 calories per day is safe and healthy


Not sure where exactly to begin in losing weight? Get in touch with our freelance yet certified personal trainers for a no-obligation trial or consultation!

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