Can Burning More Calories Than You Take in Hurt Your Weight-Loss Goals in the Long Run?

It takes time to reach your goal weight.
i BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Shedding pounds successfully does require you to burn more calories than you take in on a regular basis until you reach your goal weight. However, creating an excessive calorie deficit can hurt you in the long run if you’re losing weight too rapidly -- your body could experience starvation mode and a reduced metabolism. Burn off more calories than you eat, but do it in recommended amounts to ensure that you reach your goal weight in a healthy manner -- and maintain it long term.

Recommended Calorie Deficit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests burning off 500 to 1,000 more calories than you eat daily to shed 1 to 2 pounds weekly. Although you may want more rapid weight loss, 1 to 2 pounds per week is safe, helps you avoid feeling hungry and is beneficial for long-term success. To accomplish the CDC’s recommended calorie deficit, you can boost your physical activity, eat fewer calories or do both.

Boosting Calorie Expenditure

Your body expends calories throughout the entire day, even when you’re relaxing. By reducing your calorie intake, you’ll often burn more calories than you take in. However, boosting your physical activity -- and overall calorie expenditure -- makes it easier to create the ideal caloric deficit for effective weight loss. For example, a 155-pound woman who begins a jogging exercise program will burn about 600 extra calories jogging for an hour at a pace of 5 mph, notes Harvard Medical School. This increased calorie expenditure will help her lose about 1 pound weekly – as long as she doesn’t also boost her calorie intake.

Very Low-Calorie Diets

If you're dangerously overweight, shedding pounds at a rapid pace of more than 2 pounds weekly can get you quick results and reduce your disease risks -- but only under a doctor's care. Dropping weight too quickly means you may feel hungry, sluggish, nauseated, dizzy or weak. Rapid weight loss also means you’re at risk for weight regain and nutrient deficiencies, especially if you’re not eating a well-balanced diet. Only consider a very low-calorie diet -- often containing 800 calories or less daily -- after a talk with your doctor to determine if this type of medically supervised weight-loss program is right for you.

Long-Term Success

To boost your chance for long-term success, try maintaining a 10-percent weight-loss level for at least six months, suggests the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. If you’re successful at achieving this goal and you’re still overweight, try another weight-loss stint -- of up to another 10 percent loss. For example, if your initial body weight is 180 pounds, maintain a weight of 162 pounds before dropping more weight. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests many women should eat at least 1,000 calories daily, but active women and those weighing 165 pounds or more require at least 1,200 calories daily.

the nest