Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss
The most common health goal among Americans is to lose a certain amount of weight or change their body composition, and for good reason since our obesity rates keep increasing. Often, people will set a date that they want to lose a certain amount of weight by, and many will reach their goal, disappointed with the lack of change in body composition and negligible changes in body fat percentage. This can be disheartening after all that time, effort, and work, but there is a reason: weight loss and fat loss are not the same. So, what’s the difference?
Weight loss is a decrease in bodyweight due to both losses in lean muscle tissue as well as body fat. Weight loss can be a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you’re carrying around less weight which will relieve some of the pressure on your joints and organs. The less positive side of weight loss is the decrease in lean muscle, which will result in higher levels of body fat. Lower levels of lean muscle mass at any weight is associated with a greater risk of mortality at a younger age.
There are a few reasons why weight loss can occur with minimal to negative amounts of fat loss. The main culprit would be caloric restriction with either no exercise, or with endless amounts of cardio. Most trendy or fad diets reduce or eliminate high reward foods loaded with sugar, salt, or unhealthy fats. Eliminating these foods from the diet will naturally decrease the amount of calories consumed and can result in weight loss overtime.
Steady state cardio will increase the amount of calories burned during exercise, and can be beneficial for heart health, but will do very little for lean muscle mass. Since many calories are burned during this type of exercise, weight loss will occur, but since no muscle is being built from steady state cardio, the weight loss will consist of muscle and fat loss, and will leave a less than desirable appearance (i.e. cross country runners). So what is fat loss and how can we increase the amount of fat we lose?
Fat loss is a decrease in in body fat while maintaining or increasing lean muscle mass. Fat loss can be accompanied by weight gain or weight loss depending on the person’s goals, and will almost always improve body composition. The best way to decrease body fat is a diet high in protein and veggies/fruits in combination with some type of resistance training. Resistance training can include: free weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, sandbags, bodyweight, sprints, and HIIT training, and should be done at least 3 times a week. Resistance training will increase lean muscle mass which will result in a drop in body fat if diet is adequate.
I hope this clears up some confusion about weight loss vs fat loss. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment and/or share if this helps you.
Joshua Gray BS, CSCS, NASM CES, USATF 1
Owner of Gray’s Academy LLC