• Daniel K, MSpCoach

Weight loss Vs Fat loss, what’s the difference?

For most individuals who are exercising, one of the most common reasons they begin the journey is to see the number on the scale decrease, aka they want “weight loss”. This is a perfectly reasonable and achievable goal for everyone who begins on this journey. It should be clarified that not all weight loss is equal, as there is a difference between losing weight and losing fat. Weight loss is the overall weight that you lose, and it can be a mixture of fat, water weight, and muscle mass. Losing weight is typically evident by the number on the scale dropping. On the other hand, fat loss is the amount of body fat you lose. Losing fat can still show a decrease in the number on the scale, however, using girth measurements and body fat percentage can be a better indicator of your success. When you lose fat, generally you can maintain a higher percentage of your lean muscle mass. Greater lean muscle mass goes beyond simply being aesthetically pleasing, it can be better for your posture, performance, and metabolic rate.

Individuals focussed on weight loss want to use more calories than they consume, and often do this with a two-fold approach. The first part of their approach is nutrition focussed where in some instances they fall into the under-eating category. This strategy is not sustainable long term and can lead to binge eating. The second part of their approach is focused on burning calories primarily through cardiovascular exercise. Inherently there is nothing wrong with cardio. All individuals should participate in regular cardio exercises as it is great for the health of our hearts and lungs. A big part of the reason these individuals focus on cardio exercises is because typically speaking, you can burn more calories during a 60-minute cardio workout versus a 60-minute resistance workout. However, what should be kept in mind is that once you finish your cardio workout, you return to your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the standard rate at which you burn calories. With weight loss, the number of the scale will drop but you won’t necessarily ‘look toned’, which is where terms such as ‘skinny-fat’ come from.

Just as with weight loss, fat loss is achieved by being in a calorie deficit. This is typically a more reasonable deficit of between 100-300 calories less than your basal requirements. A deficit of this is size more sustainable as you don’t feel ‘deprived’ of nutrition. Second to consuming fewer calories than their requirements, individuals who are focussed on fat loss also look to increase their lean muscle mass. Having a higher percentage of lean muscle mass allows your body to become more effective in expending calories. How do you increase your lean muscle mass? You participate in resistance training, or commonly known as, weight training combined with your cardio exercises. As mentioned earlier, in comparison to a cardio workout, a minute-for-minute resistance workout won’t produce the same calorie expenditure. But resistance training has the benefit of excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) which basically means that even after you’ve finished your workout, your body will be burning calories at a rate slightly higher than your BMR. Resistance training can mean a range of exercise styles, but at the heart of it, it comes down to giving your body sufficient resistance while performing exercises to target your muscles. This resistance can range from bodyweight through to external resistance such as barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands to name a few. Along with well-planned resistance workouts, increasing your muscle mass will require nutrition to meet your specific needs and sufficient rest & recovery.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with striving for general weight loss. However, a healthier and possibly more sustainable, way to achieve your ideal physique and fitness levels is by striving for fat loss. Recognizing the difference between the two will give you better clarity of the approach you should take for your specific health and fitness goals.

If you want guidance in helping to meet your specific needs, get in touch today to see how I can help you.


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