The primary reason why people get into a calorie deficit diet is to lose body weight. When you consume fewer calories than the body’s daily requirement, it can lead to weight loss. However, being on a calorie deficit diet for long periods is not healthy, say experts, who emphasize the role of a structured exercise programme and nutrition in the fitness journey.
Benefits of calorie deficit diet
Experts says apart from aiding in weight loss, a calorie deficit diet has other health benefits such as:
- It is considered good for your stomach and gut health.
- It is good for the digestive process.
- It helps in detoxification.
- It delays the onset of age-related diseases.
- Improves lipid profiles.
Health implications of calorie deficit diet
If the calorie deficit is done under the guidance of a dietician, who can customize a nutrition plan for your individual needs, the health implications are minimal, say experts. The key is to avoid large energy cuts, which will drain the body of essential nutrients, and can lead to adverse health effects.
“Whether being on a calorie deficit diet is healthy depends on several factors,” says Dr J Hari Kishan, senior general physician, Kamineni Hospital, Hyderabad. “Short-term calorie deficits, when done in a controlled and balanced manner, can be a part of a healthy weight loss plan. However, long-term or extreme calorie deficits without proper guidance can be detrimental to your health. It’s important to strike a balance and ensure you are still meeting your nutritional needs.”
Energy requirement and calorie deficit
When on a calorie deficit diet, the energy intake is lower than your energy expenditure. As a result, your body starts to use its energy reserves, primarily stored fat, leading to weight loss. However, the body tends to adapt and lower the energy requirements over time, instead of tapping into the reserves. It is a natural defense mechanism that can be bypassed by planning the diet properly.
“The energy requirement does not reduce if proper calorie management is done,” says Diksha Dayal, head of the department and senior dietician, nutrition, and health at Sanar International Hospital, Gurugram. “It ensures that the energy from the food is used to increase the muscle mass while the deficit is met by burning the stored energy, which decreases the fat mass of the body. When this principle is practiced efficiently, the energy requirement does not reduce, and you become active and feel fresh.”
Watch out nutritional deficiencies
Consuming too few calories over a long period can cause problems such as nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, fatigue, and a weakened immune system.
“Severe and prolonged calorie deficits may even lead to issues like bone density loss, particularly if calcium intake is inadequate,” says Dr Kishan.
Being on a calorie deficit diet without any proper guidance can lead to such issues.
“But if the diet is formulated and planned by a dietician keeping in mind calorie management, there will be no energy loss or nutrient loss from the body and will continue to function normally like a healthy adult,” says Dayal.
How long should you be on a calorie deficit diet?
The duration of a calorie deficit diet varies from person to person. It is also dependent on the goal. However, it’s crucial to monitor the progress, make adjustments if needed, and consult a dietitian to ensure it’s safe and sustainable.
“If you have been diagnosed with certain medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer or if you are pregnant or a lactating mother, you should not be on a calorie deficit diet,” adds Dayal.
- A calorie deficit diet should be done under the guidance of a dietician who can customize a diet plan based on your individual needs.
- There should not be large calorie deficits as it can lead to adverse health effects such as nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, fatigue, and a weakened immune system.
- The duration of a calorie deficit diet varies from person to person and is based on their individual goals. Pregnant women, diabetic people, and lactating mothers should avoid such diets.