Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

Follow this guide to learn how to lose body fat, and how to distinguish weight loss from fat loss.

UPDATED: June 1, 2016

Way to Reduce Body Fat Without Losing Muscle

1. Find out how many calories you burn daily using my macronutrient calculator

2. From the macronutrient calculator select "fat loss". My suggestion is to choose a moderate or standard fat loss goal. Moderate will reduce your food calorie goal to 85% of your TDEE. While Standard will reduce your food calorie goal to 80% of your TDEE. This is to create that caloric deficit you need, in order to force your body to burn body fat for energy.

3. Make sure you're eating 1-1.2g of protein for every pound you weigh

4. Perform muscle challenging exercises like strength training and resistance training. Challenging your muscles signals to the brain that they're necessary and should be maintained

All too often the phrase lose weight and lose fat are used interchangeably. I’m guilty, you’re guilty, we’re all guilty. Although both phrases are used interchangeably they arguably mean two different things.

HOW IS WEIGHT LOSS DEFINED vs. HOW IS FAT LOSS DEFINED?

Weight loss is simply a reduction in body weight. Fat loss is a reduction of body fat. A person’s weight is comprised of bone, fat, muscle tissue, skin tissue, organs, water etc. While fat is pretty cut and dry. This is why “losing weight” is not any real indication of what you actually lost. Nor is “gaining weight” any real indication of what you actually gained. Losing 5lbs of weight could really mean you lost 1lb of muscle and 4lbs of water. Or it could mean you lost 7lbs of fat and gained 2lbs of water weight. It really is a toss-up. On the other end, if you lost 5lbs of fat, you lost 5lbs of fat. Okay, I feel like I rammed that point home so let’s continue.

WHY DOES IT MATTER EITHER WAY?

You diet because you want to achieve a certain physique. A woman who is 5’5” and 135lbs at 35% body fat looks very different than a woman who is 5’5’’ 135lbs at 20% body fat. This is because fat is a layer of mass that covers our muscles. The more you reduce that fat, the more your muscles will show. The more you reduce fat, the tighter your body will appear. This is why there is no amount of ab workouts that will give you a visible six pack if you still have a layer of fat covering them. Your six pack is very much there; it’s just nestled safely beneath a layer of fat. When you have a goal physique in mind and you diet improperly, you will either lose anything BUT fat or a very minimal amount of it. An extended period of dieting only to never achieve the desired physique is discouraging and even crazy-making.

HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT vs HOW TO LOSE BODY FAT

When you diet your body your body has to find ways to continue to produce energy in a caloric deficit. Only three things you consume produce energy for the body, and they are protein, carbs, and fat. The body then has a pecking order for which macronutrients it accesses for energy. Your body will burn carbs first for energy, then fat, and lastly protein when absolutely necessary. In order to lose weight, simply eat fewer calories than you burn. Or you can burn more calories than you consume. DISCLAIMER: You likely won’t achieve your goal body with this method. With this method, you will lose weight and that could mean just about anything.  In order to lose body fat, you will need to consume less calories than you burn while making sure to consume the appropriate amount of protein, carbs, and fat. You will also need to challenge your muscles consistently which signals to your body that they’re necessary and need to be preserved.

HOW TO MEASURE WEIGHT LOSS vs HOW TO MEASURE FAT LOSS

You can use many of the same methods to measure both. Visually you can see if you’re overall frame is smaller which signals weight loss. Also, visually you can see if you’ve achieved great muscle definition which signals fat loss. However, the scale can only truly indicate weight loss, because the scale doesn’t know what you lost to cause the number to decline. It merely reads you the number. Buy a body fat tester off of Amazon like the one to the right. If used consistently, it can indicate if you’re losing body fat overtime. I wouldn’t put much stake into the % body fat it reads for you. Instead focus on if it reads a decline in body fat over time.

WHY AM I NOT LOSING WEIGHT vs WHY AM I NOT LOSING FAT?

You’re not accurately and consistently tracking how many calories you’re eating vs how many calories you’re burning. This is true for both, and there’s really no other answer.

WHICH IS BETTER, LOSING WEIGHT OR LOSING FAT?

This really comes down to your personal preference and the goal you have for your fitness journey. I know that for some, losing weight should be the main goal initially before they focus on anything else. Either way, decide on your goal and make sure you're taking the proper steps to achieve it.