How to Calculate a Calorie Deficit

To lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than your body burns each day. It seems simple enough. What’s not so easy is actually doing it. How do you know if you’re eating fewer calories than your body burns? Exactly what size of a “calorie deficit” should you aim for? And how can you make sure you’re hitting the mark?

These are the questions you must answer to get on track toward your weight-loss goals. So, let’s answer them.


The Calorie Deficit Sweet Spot
The easiest way to ensure you eat fewer calories than you burn is, of course, to eat very little. If you have an apple for breakfast, a small salad for lunch, a piece of toast for dinner and nothing else, you can be pretty sure you’re maintaining a calorie deficit. But you’ll also be miserable with hunger and a lack of energy.

The optimal calorie deficit is large enough to stimulate steady fat loss, but not so large that you’re always hungry and lethargic. Avoiding a calorie deficit that is too large is even more important for athletes, who need to keep their muscles well-fueled for training. The calorie deficit “sweet spot” for athletes is 300 to 500 calories per day.

Do the Math
Your ultimate goal is to figure out exactly how many calories to eat daily to lose weight without being hungry and lethargic and without sabotaging your training. To do that you need to figure out how many calories you burn each day and then subtract your target deficit of 300 to 500 calories from that number.

There are two components to your total calories burned daily: calories burned at rest and calories burned during workouts.

To begin, add up the total number of hours you train in a typical week and divide that number by seven to yield the average number of hours you train daily. For example, if you train seven hours per week on average, it works out to one hour per day. Next, multiply this number by your body weight in pounds and the average number of calories you burn per pound of body weight per hour of training. The average number of calories you burn per hour of training is influenced by your speed. Use this table to get the appropriate multiplier.

Training Speed

• Slower (run 11:00/mile): 4 calories per pound per hour

• Average (9:30/mile): 5 calories per pound per hour

• Faster (7:00/mile): 6 calories per pound per hour

The result of this calculation is the average number of calories you burn through exercise daily. For example, suppose you run one hour per day on average, you weigh 150 pounds, and your speed is slower. In this case, 1 hour x 150 pounds x 4 calories per hour = 600 calories per day on average through exercise.

Your next step is to calculate your calories burned at rest (i.e. outside of workouts) during the day. To do this, first visit the caloric needs calculator and enter the information requested. In the “Activity Level” field enter “Sedentary” if you are mostly inactive outside of your workouts (that’s most of us) or “Lightly Active” if you have a physical job. Do not select “Active”, as this option is intended to account for your workouts, which you’ve already accounted for separately for greater accuracy.

The result is an estimate of the number of calories you burn in 24 hours outside of exercise time. But since you spend part of those 24 hours working out, we need to remove that part from the estimate.

To do this, take your estimate of calories burned at rest and divide it by 24, then multiply the result by the number of hours per day that you do not spend working out. For example, suppose your calculated calorie usage outside of exercise is 2,000 calories per day. If you work out 1 hour per day on average, then there are 23 hours of the day when you’re not working out. In this case, your daily calories burned at rest is [2,000 calories per day / 24 hours per day] x 23 hours a day you do not work out = 1,916 daily calories burned.

To determine the total number of calories you burn daily, add together your average daily exercise calories burned and your calories burned at rest. So, if you burn 1,916 calories per day at rest and 600 calories per day through exercise, then the total number of calories your body burns per day on average is 2,516.

This number also represents the total number of calories you would need to consume daily to maintain your current weight.

The total number of calories you should aim to consume is equal to the number of calories you would need to eat daily to maintain your current weight minus your chosen calorie deficit. Remember, the appropriate deficit range is 300 to 500 calories. Let’s say you choose 400. Then you should aim to eat 2,116 calories per day (2,516 total calories burned per day — 400 calorie deficit) during your weight-loss initiative.

Exercises to Tone Your Lower Abs

Muffin top, gut, beer belly—call it whatever you like. Many are able to make the top row of the desirable 6-pack visible, but the dreaded lower abs can be challenging to develop.

You can’t necessarily isolate one section of the rectus abdominis muscles, but you can target one area more than another. An effective way to do this is by performing exercises that move the lower body toward the upper body, as opposed to traditional movements (crunches and sit-ups), where the upper body moves toward the lower body.

A popular fitness saying is “abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.” When it comes to lower abs, this quote holds especially true.

You can perform ab exercises every day, but if you follow your workout with a trip to the local fast-food restaurant, your six-pack will remain a mystery.

Most individuals need to get their body fat percentage into the single digits to reveal the midsection. The solution is a combination of a healthy, clean diet consisting of eating real food, higher intensity workouts to help shed fat, and safe, effective ab exercises.

  1. Hanging Leg-Lifts
    Grab a pull-up bar firmly. Keeping your shoulders and back active, let your feet hang. Begin the exercise by bending your knees and bringing them up toward your armpits. Pause for a count at the top of the movement, and lower your legs down under control.

Equipment Options: pull-up bar, ab slings, dip bar

Variations: straight legs, bent knee, weighted, rotations (“hanging wipers”)

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

  1. Body-Saws
    Begin in a forearm-plank position with your feet in the TRX cradles. Initiate the movement from your torso and shoulders by pushing your body back from your elbows (think about pushing your heels behind you). Bring your knees toward your chest to complete one rep.

Equipment Options: TRX, stability ball, sliders

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

  1. Slider Seal Walks
    This exercise requires a pair of sliders for your feet and a turf or hardwood surface (towels can be used on hardwood) that allows sliding. Begin in a push-up position with the sliders under your feet.

Keep your abs braced and be sure to not fully lock out your elbows. Walk forward on your hands as your feet drag along behind you.

Note: This is a great anti-rotation movement because the goal is to minimize side-to-side rotation of the pelvis.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 yards

  1. Stability Ball Reverse Crunches
    Begin on your back with your arms by your side, palms flat on the ground and a stability ball in between your legs. Squeeze your heels hard into the ball and bring your knees up toward your shoulders. Lower your legs back down under control to complete one rep.

Note: In addition to working the lower ab muscles, the reverse crunch has postural benefits as well.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps

  1. Ab Wheel Rollouts
    Start with your knees on a pad or mat with an ab wheel in your hands. Slowly roll straight and forward. Be sure to bring your hips along and don’t just extend the arms. Extend far enough to engage the abs, and focus on bracing the core as you use your abs and hips to pull yourself back to the starting position.

Note: It’s important to not go too far out on this movement and drop into excessive lumbar extension.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

  1. Dragon-Flags
    Made popular by Bruce Lee, this advanced exercise requires a great deal of core strength. Lie on your back on a flat bench and reach your hands behind your head to grab the top of the bench for support.

Lift your legs up toward your head, attempting to keep them straight. Pause for a count at the top of the movement, and lower your legs in a slow, controlled motion. Maintain control and a neutral spine; try to avoid excessively arching the back.

Note: At the top of the movement, make sure you’re supporting your weight with your upper back and not your neck. Additionally, apply constant tension by gripping the bench firmly.

Sets/Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps

  1. Pull-Ups
    In addition to training the upper-body muscles, pull-ups and chin-ups are an effective exercise for activating the lower abs. On each rep, fight the urge to go into extension and maintain a slow and controlled tempo.

Sets/Reps: Vary greatly depending on strength. Begin with 2 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

What is Tabata Training?

There are countless workout styles you’ve probably heard about over the years, and all of them are meant to help you reach your fitness goals.

You may want to increase strength, lose weight, improve flexibility or build muscle. Whatever yours goals are, most exercise programs can help you reach them, as long as you stick to the plan.

If you’re looking for a new program to add to your routine, you may want to give Tabata try. Tabata training is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, featuring exercises that last four minutes.

The History of Tabata
Tabata training was discovered by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata and a team of researchers from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo.

Tabata and his team conducted research on two groups of athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity level while the second group trained at a high-intensity level. The moderate intensity group worked out five days a week for a total of six weeks; each workout lasted one hour. The high-intensity group worked out four days a week for six weeks; each workout lasted four minutes and 20 seconds (with 10 seconds of rest in between each set).

The results; Group 1 had increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular), but showed little or no results for their anaerobic system (muscle). Group 2 showed much more increase in their aerobic system than Group 1, and increased their anaerobic system by 28 percent.

In conclusion, high-intensity interval training has more impact on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

The Tabata Program
Each exercise in a given Tabata workout lasts only four minutes, but it’s likely to be one of the longest four minutes you’ve ever endured. The structure of the program is as follows:

Work out hard for 20 seconds
Rest for 10 seconds
Complete 8 rounds
You push yourself as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. This is one set. You’ll complete eight sets of each exercise.

You can do pretty much any exercise you wish. You can do squats, push-ups, burpees or any other exercise that works your large muscle groups. Kettlebell exercises work great, too.

An example of a Tabata workout looks like this:

Push-ups (4 minutes)
Bodyweight Squats (4 minutes)
Burpees (4 minutes)
Mountain Climbers (4 minutes)
Start with push-ups. Perform them for 20 seconds at a high-intensity. Rest for 10 seconds, and then go back to doing push-ups for 20 seconds. Once you complete eight sets of push-ups, rest for one minute.

Next, move on to squats and repeat the sequence of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Once you finish eight sets of squats, rest for one minute, and then do burpees. After burpees, finish the workout with mountain climbers.

Tabata is great to get a quick workout in if you’re short on time, you need to switch up your routine, or you want improve endurance and speed. Incorporate this type of workout into your fitness routine and produce results.

Sample Tabata Workouts and Exercises:

30-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Workout
20-Minute Tabata Core Workout
30-Minute Kettlebell Tabata Workout
30-Minute Medicine Ball Tabata Workout
11 Butt Kicking Tabata Exercises
Tabata for Beginners

How to Calculate Your Training Heart Rate Zones

Heart-rate training benefits everyone, from the beginning exerciser trying to lose weight, to individuals trying to improve their cardiovascular fitness, to the highly conditioned athlete preparing for the next competition.

The key to making progress is to elevate your heart rate into the correct training zone, so your effort matches your goals.

Here are seven easy-to-follow steps that will help you calculate your ideal heart-rate training zone.

  1. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate
    The easiest way to do this is a simple paper-and-pencil calculation. Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.

It’s important to note that this method does not take into account your fitness level or inherited genes, which can make your true maximum heart rate 10 to 20 beats per minute higher or lower than the age-predicted number.

A second method to calculate your maximum heart rate is to have an exercise tolerance or stress test. This usually is supervised by a physician and performed in a hospital or clinical setting in three-minute stages, during which the speed and incline continue to increase in an effort to elevate your heart rate until it climbs to its highest level.

  1. Determine Your Resting Heart Rate
    Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for several days in a row to get consistent readings.
  2. Calculate Your Heart-Rate Reserve
    Subtract your heart’s resting rate from your maximum rate.

For example, if you are 40 years old, subtract that number from 220; your maximum rate is 180. Next, subtract your resting rate or 80 in this example. Your heart-rate reserve is 100 beats per minute.

This heart-rate reserve represents the cushion heartbeats available for exercise.

  1. Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart-Rate Range for Fat Burning
    This fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your heart-rate reserve.

Using the example above, 50 percent of 100 beats per minute is 50. And 75 percent of 100 is 75. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 50 + 80 = 130 and 75 + 80 = 155. Therefore, during aerobic training, the heart rate that will most efficiently burn fat is 130 to 155 beats per minute.

  1. Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart Rate for Fitness
    The range required to improve aerobic endurance is higher than that needed for fat burning. It ranges between 75 and 85 percent of your heart-rate reserve.

Using the previous example, 75 percent of the heart-rate reserve of 100 is 75, and 85 percent is 85. Again, add the resting heart rate to both numbers.

Re-add your resting heart rate to both numbers: To improve your aerobic endurance, you need to aim for between 155 and 165 heartbeats per minute.

  1. Calculate Your Aerobic-Anaerobic Threshold Heart-Rate Range
    This range represents the upper limits of aerobic exercise—the point just before you push yourself into exhaustive anaerobic work. Exercising at this intensity is usually done to improve athletic performance. It is not recommended for weight loss.

The range to accomplish this task lies between 85 and 90 percent of your heart-rate reserve. Again, using the example of a person with a heart-rate reserve of 100 and following the same process as in previous steps: the desired range would be 165 to 170 beats per minute.

Be advised, however, operating at this intensity level will not burn body fat. It becomes a carbohydrate (muscle-glycogen) burning exercise.

  1. Calculate Your Anaerobic Training Heart-Rate Range
    This is all-out effort and represents 90 to 100 percent of the cushion of your heart-rate reserve. The goal here is to go as fast as you can for as long as you can.

Using the same example, anything from 170 beats per minute to your maximum of 180 beats per minute becomes pure anaerobic, carbohydrate-burning, exhaustive, lactic acid-producing exercise.

This is no-pain, no-gain type training.

5 Simple Tips for Fitness Success

Congratulations on taking a forward step to get in shape and feel great. Many people are guilty of wishing they could get a sculpted body from eating junk food and watching TV all day. But that is just not going to happen. Even though getting in shape sounds like a long, time-wasting process, the effort put towards being in shape has many positive effects. If you want to start your journey to having a better body to feel great, here are some tips:

  1. Exercise Daily
    Exercise daily for at least an hour. You do not have to kill yourself from running, jogging, etc., but you should have some sort of moderate physical activity in your everyday life. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds fast, do a higher-level intensity workout. For example, go on a walk at a brisk pace for an hour. Or, you can jog and set certain intervals to sprint during that hour. Make sure you’re not in severe pain during your workout. Just a warning, your muscles will ache after a high intensity workout. It may be irritating, but that means your body is changing for the better. Be sure to stay hydrated, stretch, and eat foods with a decent amount of protein after each workout. The protein will help keep your muscles, not fat, rebuilding.
  2. Eat the Right Foods and Portion Each Meal
    No matter how bad your stomach is telling you to go for candy over healthy food, try to stay away from sweets. Sugar from candy will not help you get in shape. Even if it’s just a single candy bar, one will eventually lead to another. Fruits and vegetables are the best thing to eat when getting into shape. Apples, for example, do a good job at making the stomach feel full for up to 3 to 4 hours. Green vegetables such as green beans and broccoli keep the digestive system clean and running.

Also, stick to lean meats like turkey and chicken. Seafood, such as, shrimp, and tilapia are also great alternatives. These foods are full of protein and healthy nutrients to help keep muscles fit and ready for workouts. In addition, be sure to portion what you eat. Having a good metabolism comes from portioning meals. Try to plan out eating six times a day and setting smaller portions, rather than having three large meals throughout the day. This will also help you find yourself breathing smoother when working out rather than huffing and puffing for air. This is because you will have less food in your digestive system, which means more energy is used toward your exercise.

  1. Keep Track of Calories and Food Intake Per Day
    Keeping track of how many calories you eat in a day will be helpful in planning out your physical exercising. Ever wonder why body builders’ body masses are so big? That’s because they plan out their meals and take in more (healthy) calories than the average person. On the other hand, losing weight and striving for a skinnier physique will involve more physical exercise than calories you ingest.
  2. Be Sure to Get Sleep
    Even though most of us have eight-hour jobs during the day or night, it is crucial to get enough sleep to recharge the body’s batteries. Six to eight hours of sleep will keep the body going throughout the day, but if you happen to feel tired at any point after coming home from work, by all means take a small nap before exercising. You should only nap for about a half hour. This will prevent you from staying up later in the night.
  3. Stay Motivated
    An important key to being in shape is to set goals and keep a positive mindset. If you stay positive, you will be able to push yourself to get that fit body you’ve always wanted.