How Aggressive Should Your Deficit Be?

In the Clean Simple Eats App, we give the option for weight loss at different deficits (between 10-30%). If you’re left scratching your head about deficits and how aggressive you should be, and how many lbs you can expect to lose, this post is for you! 

From the Mayo Clinic: 

3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat, and it's estimated that you need to burn about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound.

So, in general, if you cut about 500 to 1,000 calories a day from your typical diet, you'd lose about 1 to 2 pounds a week.

It sounds simple. However, it's more complex because when you lose weight, you usually lose a combination of fat, lean tissue and water. Also, because of changes that occur in the body as a result of weight loss, you may need to decrease calories further to continue weight loss.


You put all your details in the Clean Simple Eats app and select “maintenance.” Your maintenance calories are 2,000 calories per day. A 10% deficit for you would mean cutting 200 calories per day (bringing your daily calorie total down to 1,800 calories). It would take 17.5 days at that 10% deficit (if you’re not going over your daily caloric limit for your cheat meals) to lose 1 lb. Over the course of the 6 week plan, you would lose 2.4 lbs. 

You can apply the formula below to ANY calories at ANY deficit, but ultimately, results will vary slightly depending on age, gender, cheat meals, and activity level. We've seen people lose upwards of 20-30 lbs at a 25% deficit. It's all going to depend on your unique body! 

(maintenance calories X deficit percentage (use .10 for 10%, .15 for 15% etc) X 7 days X 6 weeks) 

Then, divide that number by 3500 and you’ll calculate your expected lbs lost in 6 weeks. 

In this case, we did (2,000 calories X .10 percent deficit X 7 days per week X 6 weeks) / 3500 calories needed to lose approx 1 lb = 2.4 lbs lost over the course of 6 weeks.

If you are doing this plan for the first time, we recommend you start with about a 10% deficit. If you're nursing, 10-20% deficit (but always consult your doctor). If you're pregnant, select maintenance (read more here if you are pregnant or nursing). Keep in mind, if you go out to eat and go way over one night, it could wipe out your deficit for the week completely. If you consistently stick to 10% everyday, that would be awesome! And remember, it's not all about the scale. You might notice that if you begin working out more during this challenge, you're actually losing inches instead of lbs. At the end of the day, it's about how you feel in your body! This journey is all about getting to know your body and how you feel. 

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