Are you trying to lose weight?
Or trying to lose fat?
These questions have probably confused you, with society nowadays persisting in using them synonymously.
Hey, even I do it now and again.
It isn’t like losing fat and losing weight aren’t correlated.
If you are losing fat then you are losing weight.
But you can’t just flip that sentence around and say that if you are losing weight, your body is healthier.
If the scales are dropping, but you see no difference in your body fat or your physique, then something is going wrong.
Maybe you are training right, but measuring the wrong aspect on the scales can cloud our judgment and cause us to slack in some areas of our fitness life.
That’s why I have formed this comprehensive guide on the difference between fat loss and weight loss.
You can now train and diet with the intention of losing fat and changing your physique, rather than just unhealthily dropping weight in the wrong areas.
Let’s get into it.
What Is Weight Loss?
You have probably jumped on a scale at one point and noticed a drastic decrease in weight, and thought to yourself – “Hey, that’s pretty good”.
And if you’re working hard, it is probably a great sign.
But then a day or two later, you jump back on the scales and notice all that weight has piled back on.
This is one of the many reasons why weight loss is an unhealthy indicator for someone trying to get into shape.
Your body weight is made up of a variety of different aspects, this includes fat levels, as well as muscle mass, water weight, organ mass, and of course, our bones.
And unfortunately, the standard scales in your bathroom will not take any consideration into what weight has been lost when it spits out a number.
You could be losing from any of these areas, and I very much doubt anyone is trying to lose muscle mass or even organ mass to look lighter on the scales. We all want to get rid of fat.
So, you try a new diet you downloaded on the internet that says you are going to drop that excess belly fat quickly.
They give you a whole list of food to eat and drop the carbs out completely.
At first, it looks like it’s working when the scales drop and you lose weight.
But what you don’t know is that removing carbs, or decreasing the amount of sodium in your body, is harmful to your body.
Instead of removing the excess fat, your body is just reducing the amount of water retained in the body.
And as soon as you start eating salty foods again, the weight will seemingly be put back on.
Even on days that seem normal, your weight may vary.
Your body may be going through a hormonal fluctuation, you may be a little bit more bloated at the time you weigh, or maybe you just haven’t ingested enough fiber, and more food is sat in your digestive system.
Simple reasons like this will greatly affect what you weigh on the scales, and might not have that much of an effect on your physique, spiraling you into even more unhealthy tactics to try and look better.
What Is Fat Loss?
If we take away all the mass in our body composition, then we are left with all the fat in our bodies.
This level of body fat, also known as the body fat percentage, is one of the main contributors to health problems in the body.
Having a body fat percentage too high in accordance to your age, weight, height, activity level, and many other factors can result in a variety of illnesses and diseases troubling you for the rest of your life.
According to common scientific studies released in this body fat index, men aged 20-39 must ideally have around 8%-19% body fat, with women coming in at around 21%-33% body fat for the same age.
Having higher than this puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (creating a gateway for a lot more problems down the line).
This is why when people talk about losing weight, they aren’t hinting that they want to lose their lean body mass, they mean removing the visceral fat that accumulates around their body and causes weight gain in the midsection.
We all need a certain amount of fat to store energy and keep our organs protected, but having too much is clearly unhealthy and doesn’t help us feel happy with our physique.
One common misconception we must consider before we go into the methods of measuring and losing fat is the idea that you can spot reduce fat alone.
Unfortunately, you can’t lose fat and expect to retain all lean body mass at the same time.
Nor can you aim to just lose fat in one area by doing a specific exercise or eating a specific food.
Putting your body into a calorie deficit, while eating healthy foods packed with macronutrients that can help maintain muscle mass and keep sodium levels steady is the best way to lose fat efficiently.
What Methods Can We Use To Measure Fat?
Distinguishing between losing fat or muscle mass by using nothing but a numerical value on a scale can put the wrong idea in your mind about where you are heading on your fat loss journey.
Here are some of the common ways of measuring your body fat percentage according to the Harvard Public School Of Health.
This method was commonly used by doctors in the years before advanced modern technology surfaced and began to make methods like this a little bit less accurate.
Even in that case, this method is still an extremely convenient and easy way of measuring someone’s body fat, without it costing an arm and a leg.
Usually, a researcher or qualified practitioner will pick the skin and fat in specific skinfold areas around the body, such as the stomach or the fat on the upper arm.
The values from this caliper, as well as other factors in the body, such as size measurements and age, are combined in an equation to predict your body fat percentage.
Bioelectric Impedance Analysis
Have you ever noticed one of those huge, towering scales at the gym with the fancy screens that ask you to hold onto the handles to determine your body composition?
Well, those kinds of machines utilize this kind of technology.
Although it does seem like an advanced piece of equipment, employing sensors to send a safe electrical current through the body to measure resistance, isn’t the most accurate.
Nor is it very easy to calibrate.
The current seems to pass through fat slower than water or muscle, and these intervals can be inputted into equations to estimate your body fat.
The problem is that the results can vary depending on a person’s hydration level, making the type of food you eat in a day drastically affect the reading it provides.
This type of method is the fastest and most convenient for most of us in our day-to-day life, though, with it being accessible in almost any gym.
Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA)
The more accurate advanced technology, the likelihood is you will not be able to experience this type of equipment on demand.
It usually comes into play when your weight becomes life-threateningly unhealthy, or a medical professional needs to understand your body fat percentage for the prevention of illness.
It is mainly used in Universities for research purposes, though, as the equipment is expensive and difficult to determine between the Visceral fat (the fat you want to lose) or the subcutaneous fat (the fat under the skin).
This equipment uses X-ray beams to pass through the tissue and measure the rate at which they flow to estimate the density of your fat, bones, and muscles.
Due to the small doses of radiation exposure, pregnant women cannot use this method.
Another method mainly used in a research setting, this method is accurate but extremely inconvenient and time-consuming for an ordinary person wanting to measure their body fat percentage every day.
As lean tissue is denser than water, with fat tissue being less dense, a researcher can measure the weight of a person in the air and then in water. Comparing the two values using the volume displaced and a variety of specially developed equations from the Archimedes Principle will determine the body fat percentage.
By volume, fat weighs less than muscle, meaning a person with more fat will weigh less underwater than someone with more muscle.
5 Tips To Lose Fat And Maintain Muscle
So here we have it.
The shrine is going to help you shred your physique, without losing lean muscle mass.
While these 5 tips aren’t going to make the efficiency of losing weight 100%, we are going to try and shift your goals towards losing fat.
- Consume The Correct Number Of Macros: By making sure that we have the right intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in our diet while sticking to our calorie deficit, we can ensure that the muscle in our body remains, while the fat drops off. I usually aim for around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- Eat In A Slight Calorie Deficit: If you decide to starve yourself each day, then the weight you lose is going to be quick, but extremely unhealthy. Your body is going to be taking the energy to survive from any source it can, and this includes your muscle. By eating in a calorie deficit of around 200-300 Kcal, we can expect the weight loss to be slower, but a higher ratio of it being fat.
- Keep Resistance Training: We may think that on a cut we need to do as much cardio as we can to burn more calories, and put us further into the deficit. This isn’t going to be useful, as you should be lifting weights and putting stress on your muscle fibers as frequently as possible, so they continue to recover stronger.
- Consume BCAA’s: By having a consistent intake of branched-chain amino acids, found mainly in fish and lentils, or available to take in capsule form, you can reduce the amount of muscle loss and breakdown in a calorie deficit. This is because they protect the muscle tissue, so our body breaks down more fat for energy.
- Avoid Fad Diets: In your fitness journey, you will come across so many influencers trying to tell you that you need to buy their diet plan to lose fat quickly. They will tell you to cut carbs, cut fats, stick to a smoothie diet, cut out all chocolate, etc… This is all wrong. A lot of these diets are good for losing weight in the short term by decreasing your water retention, or reducing your protein intake so your muscles break down quicker. A lot of these diets I have seen cause people to lose weight, but their body fat percentage remains the same or even increases.
Check out the video below where I have a go at the carb cycling diet!
To wrap up this article, there is a big difference between losing weight and losing fat.
We may commonly state that we are losing weight, but the value on the scales are not indicating whether this is fat, muscle, or even just reducing our water retention.
You want to use the various methods of measuring your body fat percentage while eating healthily to reduce your weight in the right areas and shape your body into the physique we always dreamed of.
Try to avoid diets that say you can lose weight quickly, as those are the ones that are the worst for you.
This isn’t me telling you to never use your bathroom scales again.
Just always take the values with a pinch of salt when they fluctuate throughout the week, and remember it isn’t a true indicator of your progress.
So, what are your opinions on the difference between losing weight and losing fat?
Do you have any methods to reduce your body fat percentage, but keep your lean mass the same?
Let me know in the comments below.