Does it matter what you eat in a calorie deficit?

Eating a balanced diet is essential for maintaining good health and reaching calorie deficit goals. Consuming the right amount of major nutrients like fats, proteins and carbohydrates, as well as getting enough vitamins and minerals, is crucial for proper bodily function. However, not getting enough of these essential nutrients can have negative effects on our health. In this article, we will discuss the consequences of not getting enough of these nutrients, and the importance of eating a balanced diet while keeping calorie deficit in mind.

Does it matter what you eat in a calorie deficit?

Yes, it does matter what you eat in a calorie deficit, as a diet lacking in essential nutrients can lead to various negative side effects.

When trying to achieve a calorie deficit, it’s important to remember that simply cutting calories without considering the nutrient density of foods can have negative effects on the body. If a diet is too low in important nutrients, it can lead to side effects such as fatigue, low mood, and constant feelings of hunger. Consuming a diet that is lacking in essential vitamins and minerals can also lead to deficiencies and health problems over time. A calorie deficit is best achieved by eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrient-dense foods, rather than cutting out entire food groups or relying on processed, low-nutrient options.

The Effects of not getting enough major nutrients while on a calorie deficit

The 3 major nutrient families fat, protein and carbs all play their part in maintaining your body. Here’s some examples of the effects of not getting too much and how it really does matter what you eat in a calorie deficit if you want to function well.


A diet too low in fat can lead to deficiencies in essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins, as well as an increased risk of heart disease. (Healthline) Examples of healthy fat sources include oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds

When in a calorie deficit, it is even more important to ensure that you are getting enough of the essential nutrient, fat. Despite the bad reputation it often receives, fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and not getting enough of it can lead to health issues. The body needs fat for various biological processes such as absorbing vitamins, cell growth, brain and eye health, wound healing, hormone production, and as a source of energy.

There are different types of fats: trans fats, which should be avoided as much as possible, saturated fats, which should be consumed in moderation, monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for the heart, and polyunsaturated fats, which the body can not produce and therefore should be consumed through diet. Even in a calorie deficit, it’s important to include healthy fats in your diet to ensure your body is functioning properly.


Not getting enough protein can result in muscle loss and weakness, as well as impaired immune function. (WebMD) Examples of healthy protein sources include lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, lentils and beans. Most lean proteins are free foods.

“You should get a minimum of 10% of your daily calories from protein” as stated in the article by WebMD, it’s important to get enough protein in your diet to avoid swelling, mood changes, hair, nail, and skin problems, weakness and fatigue, hunger, slow-healing injuries, getting or staying sick and for athletes to have enough protein to support their training. It’s also important to note that its also easy to get too much protein thanks to the over emphasis on supplements in the modern age.


A diet too low in carbohydrates can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and difficulty in maintaining blood sugar levels. (Livestrong) Examples of healthy carbohydrate sources include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes

Many people are interested in trying a low-carbohydrate diet because they’ve heard it promotes weight loss, however, a lack of carbohydrates is associated with some adverse health effects such as ketosis, muscle loss, a heightened cardiovascular risk, and a higher risk of mortality.

It’s important to note that while trying to achieve a calorie deficit, it’s crucial to maintain a balance of these nutrients and not to cut out one completely, as it can lead to negative effects. It’s always best to consult a dietitian or a medical professional for a personal assessment and recommendations.

The effects of not getting enough vitamins and minerals when on a calorie deficit

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. It is essential for maintaining good vision, healthy skin, and a strong immune system. In a calorie deficit, it is even more important to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin A in your diet.

Sources of Vitamin A can be found in animal-based foods such as liver, fish, eggs, and dairy products which are rich sources of vitamin A. Plant-based foods such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and kale also contain vitamin A in the form of carotenoids. Some fortified foods such as cereal, milk, and margarine also contain vitamin A.

Signs of Vitamin A Deficiency include night blindness, dry, itchy and scaly skin, and an increased risk of infections. It’s important to note that excessive consumption of vitamin A can also lead to toxicity, thus it is essential to consult a healthcare professional to ensure an appropriate intake of vitamin A during calorie deficit.

Cleveland Clinic has more information.

Vitamin C

In a calorie deficit, it is important to pay attention to nutrient intake as the body may not be getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals from the limited food intake. This article from Lloyds Pharmacy highlights why Vitamin C is one of the essential nutrients that can be easily overlooked in a calorie restricted diet. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is important for the production of collagen, a protein which helps to maintain and repair skin, bones, tendons, blood vessels and teeth.

Without enough vitamin C, the body may have difficulty healing from wounds and fighting infection. Scurvy, a severe vitamin C deficiency, can cause fatigue, low mood, sore joints, and bleeding gums. It can occur in people who haven’t consumed enough vitamin C for at least three months. To avoid deficiency in a calorie deficit, focus on incorporating vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, peppers, and leafy greens into your diet and/or taking supplements under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Vitamin D

In this article by Healthline, it is discussed that Vitamin D deficiency can occur when the body doesn’t get enough Vitamin D from sunlight or diet, and can cause loss of bone density, osteoporosis, and broken bones. Vitamin D is important for bone health, immunity, and also plays a role in preventing cancer and protecting against chronic conditions. It is difficult to get enough Vitamin D through diet alone and deficiency is common worldwide.

In the context of a calorie deficit, it is important to ensure that one is getting enough Vitamin D through their diet or supplements as cutting calories may result in cutting out important sources of this vitamin. It is also noted that people with a restricted diet or certain demographics such as Hispanic and African American adults are at higher risk for deficiency. Signs and symptoms of deficiency include frequent illness or infections, fatigue and tiredness, muscle and bone pain, and depression.


According to Henry Ford Health, iron is a mineral that plays a critical role in maintaining oxygen levels in the body. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. A calorie deficit can lead to iron deficiency as the body may not get enough iron from the diet.

This can cause fatigue, weakness, and a decreased ability to complete tasks. Severe iron deficiency can lead to other symptoms such as paleness, shortness of breath, headaches, and even cravings for non-food items. Underlying digestive issues, pregnancy, menstruation, a lack of iron-rich foods in the diet, and genetic forms of anemia can also contribute to iron deficiency. To help increase iron levels, it is recommended to avoid consuming polyphenols with iron-rich meals, eat vitamin C-rich foods with iron, and take supplements under the guidance of a doctor.


Medical News Today’s great article on calcium deficiency says that hypocalcemia, also known as calcium deficiency disease, occurs when the blood has low levels of calcium. A long-term calcium deficiency can lead to dental changes, cataracts, alterations in the brain, and osteoporosis, which causes the bones to become brittle.

Symptoms of a calcium deficiency include muscle aches, cramps, and spasms, pain in the thighs and arms when walking or moving, numbness and tingling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs, as well as around the mouth, extreme fatigue, dry skin, dry, broken, or brittle nails, coarse hair, alopecia, eczema, psoriasis, osteopenia, osteoporosis, severe PMS, dental problems, depression, and more. A calorie deficit can contribute to a calcium deficiency, as well as underlying health problems or treatments, such as kidney failure, the removal of the stomach, or the use of certain medications, such as diuretics.


n conclusion, when trying to achieve a calorie deficit, it is important to not only focus on reducing calorie intake but also to pay attention to the types of foods consumed. A balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help to prevent deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as support overall health and well-being.

Also, one should make sure to maintain their micronutrient intake, for example, adequate intake of vitamin D, calcium, and iron is important during calorie deficit as deficiency in these micronutrients can lead to serious health problems. However, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns.

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