What is a calorie surplus and what does it mean to be in one?

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 23:43 -- Jamie

Today the topic of thought is about calorie surplus’ in which I will explain what they are/what they mean and the background to it.

So first and foremost, what is a calorie surplus and what does it mean to be in one?

A calorie surplus is when you eat more calories than you burn.

People don’t become overweight for one reason, there are many reasons/ways that we can be in a calorie surplus and gain weight and these are explained below-


Weight gain factors-

Environmental pressures- An example of an environmental pressure would be the temperature in the environment that you are in, e.g if you were in a cold temperature you probably wouldn’t tend to want/eat a salad, you’d probably be more inclined to go for the sweet hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows or that warm apple crumble with custard so environmental factors like this can cause weight gain.

Physical Activity- Little to no activity as if you’re not burning the extra calories from exercise as well as other factors such as NEAT (which I will talk about in another blog), well then you aren’t going to burn more than you eat which then puts you in a calorie surplus as you are eating a certain amount but you are not burning that certain amount off as you are not exercising.

Maternal Development- If you are pregnant you are going to weigh more because of the baby and you will eat a few hundred more calories, like as the saying goes ‘eating for two’, well this causes weight gain.

Biological and Medical- Certain medical conditions can cause weight gain such as medications etc.

Economic- Some people can’t afford more nutritious foods for example: A protein bar or a punnet of strawberries could be £2-£2.50 yet a bag of donuts or cookies could be £1, this can be where people struggle as sufficient funds etc may make people want to buy the cheaper option because that may be all that they can afford.

Food Environment- Picture this, you have a long day at work, you are starving hungry and want food straight away. There’s a Mcdonalds drive through around the corner from your work yet the fresh grocery store/supermarket is a 20-minute drive, which one do you go for? Well, a lot of the time if someone was in this situation they would go to Mcdonalds because it seems more of a convenient option so therefore certain food environments can change the way you live your lifestyle and can cause weight gain.

Psychological- If you have a family bereavement, loss of a friend, a break up of a relationship etc. These factors can affect weight gain as psychologically people can tend to emotionally eat therefor they can choose to eat products like a big bar of chocolate, a large pizza etc, this can be because they are upset/feeling emotional to they emotionally eat to try to suppress their feelings.

Social-  When at social events or around a group of people socially, e.g when you’re in work and there’s food available in which someone that you work with can say something like ‘oh just have the slice of cake or the sausage roll, it won’t hurt you’. This is an environmental pressure from others that are around you.

Age- With age people tend to move around less and be less active so this can cause weight gain as that person isn’t moving as much to burn more calories.


Weekends of eating big and consuming more calories on Saturday and Sunday can wipe out all of the hard work that a person has put in from eating well for them 5 days from the Monday to the Friday, therefore eating more on weekends can prevent people from losing weight.

Below I will show you some examples:


Monday- Friday

An individual that eats 2,500 calories a day contains a total of 17,500 calories a week.

2,500 x 7 = 17,500.

To maintain their weight they would need 17,500 calories a week.

If this same individual eats 2,500 from Monday to Friday but eats 3,500 calories on Saturday and Sunday then this means that their weekly intake of calories would then be more and it would equal to 19,500 calories in a week.

From going over at the weekend they ate an extra 2,000 calories within two days, this means that their intake for the week has gone up to 19,500 calories,

5 x 2,500 + 2 x 3,500

This means that this individuals calorie in are bigger than their calories out (the extra +2000 calories), therefore by eating in this way and going over the normal amount of calories that you’d eat, well on weekends can cause people weight gain and put that person into a calorie surplus.

By eating these extra 2,00 calories, this person would also gain roughly half a pound of fat because the calories in(calories eaten) are greater than their calories out so this person's weight then goes up. This is why we should always be mindful of overdoing it on the weekends by eating more calories, I mean having a treat now and then is what we need especially when we are dieting all of the time but we must also be very mindful as we don’t want things like overeating undoing all of our progress.


Adding exercise into our routine can help with energy expenditure and being in a calorie deficit can help you lose weight, I will now explain why this is. If you create a 500 calorie deficit a day then you can lose a total of 3,500 calories burnt a week, for example-

If an individual required 17,500 calories a week then their intake is 5 x 2,000 = (10,000 calories) + 2 x 3500= (7,000) = 17,000. This creates the calories in slightly lower than calories out so within 7 weeks this means that this individual will lose 1 pound of fat.

To only lose a pound of fat in 7 weeks of dieting will probably make you feel demotivated as 1 pound isn’t a high amount of fat loss for 7 weeks of dieting. This means that you may need to lower your calories that you consume as this will create a bigger calorie deficit which will then help you to lose more weight or you can do it so that you can eat the same amount of calories but you must move more/exercise more in order to burn more calories to lose fat if you don’t want to reduce your food intake. You will have to do either one of these things in order to lose fat though.