Once upon a time, it was strongly believed that restricting your calorie intake was the key to losing weight. While there is some science behind this, it can actually do more harm to your body than it can good, even if you’re actually losing weight. With a rising increase in popularity for gym-goers, both male and female, have added weight lifting to their typical regimen, balancing out the need to lose weight with the desire to become strong and fit. But, when it comes to competing and ‘shredding’ calorie deficits are a crucial aspect of the body-building world. So how are you supposed to know when a calorie deficit is benefiting you, and when it’s actually harmful to your body and goals?

What is a calorie deficit?

You may have never heard of the term calorie deficit before, but the concept is nothing new. The idea of a calorie deficit is rather simple: you burn more calories during the day than you eat. According to Women’s Health Magazine, eating fewer calories every day is one of the most traditional forms of weight loss and dieting that people practice, and while it can be done safely, it isn’t always sustainable.

Bodybuilders don’t live in a calorie deficit

Social media is a great outlet for connecting with other fitness and health enthusiasts, but it can also give us unrealistic expectations — especially during show season. When you see bodybuilders lean out to compete, it is easy to get caught up in how much muscle definition they have. But, just like us, bodybuilders cannot live in a constant state of this extreme calorie deficit, and, while it yields rather astonishing results, there are some negative consequences to being in a calorie deficit, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

Calorie deficits aren’t sustainable

The reason why older diets that focus only on calorie deficits were more like yo-yo diets is because calorie deficits aren’t a sustainable diet. While you can shred off the pounds while burning more calories than you eat, it also isn’t a diet that most people can maintain long-term. When in a calorie deficit, dieters report several negative side effects such as :

  • Lethargy and overall lack of energy
  • Nausea and stomach upset
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog
  • Inability to focus
  • Loss of strength
  • Lowered stamina

How to diet in a calorie deficit safely

Calorie deficits aren’t sustainable, but they can be used in a short-term way to jumpstart long-term goals. The biggest mistakes that dieters make when using a calorie deficit to begin a major lifestyle change are binge eating as they give into harsh cravings resulting from calorie deficits, and not making long-term lifestyle changes to their diet that help them keep off any weight lost. The best ways to ensure that your calorie deficit is more beneficial than harmful is:

  • Make sure you are still getting all of the essential nutrients and vitamins your body and mind need
  • Drink plenty of water (if you struggle with this, check out our easy 20 Day Water Challenge that will get you to your daily water goal in a snap!)
  • Find foods and meals you actually enjoy eating
  • Listen to your body — staying healthy is far more important than losing weight
  • Take a break — don’t forget to have a few cheat meals and don’t let your diet pull you away from enjoying meals with friends and family


Overall, calorie deficits aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t uncommon for them to be done in a bad way. Maintaining your health while striving for your goals is important, and if you follow these tips, you can achieve your goals long-term while keeping your body and mind healthy.




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