Fat loss is a term that has been thrown around quite often in the fitness world but what does it really mean? Fat loss refers to the process of using various methods to reduce fat and weight from your body. Weight loss, on the other hand, can refer to a number of things such as reducing muscle mass or losing water weight. In this blog post, I will discuss why you should focus on fat loss more than on weight loss and the differences between the two.
What is fat loss?
The process of fat loss allows you to lose weight by reducing the amount of body fat that you carry around. The only way to lose fat is by being in a calorie deficit.
What is a calorie deficit?
A calorie deficit occurs when the number of calories a person consumes in a day is less than the number of calories that their body burns. If you consume fewer calories than your body needs, it will turn to stored energy in order to survive, and as a result, your weight will decrease.
For example, if someone needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain their weight, they should cut down 200-400 calories a day, and eat 1600 calories a day to be in a deficit, and that will result in fat loss. You want to make sure you are not in too big of a deficit where you will lose muscle mass and slow down your metabolism.
What is weight loss?
Weight loss can refer to a number of things such as reducing muscle mass, losing water weight, and/or your body fat. Weight refers to the amount that you measure on scales. When someone sees they lost a pound on the scale, it could be from muscle or water weight and not necessarily fat loss.
When some people are trying to lose weight, they will reduce their calories too low and will lose muscle mass, and get excited that the number on the scale went down. Well, this type of weight loss is not a good thing and I’ll explain why.
Muscle mass directly impacts your basal metabolic rate, which is the speed at which your body burns calories. The more muscle mass we have, the more calories we burn throughout the day doing our daily activities and while we are at rest.
Many times, calorie restriction comes with not consuming enough protein. When we are not getting enough protein, our body cannot rebuild muscle tissue. So it is important to work with a registered dietitian to help you determine your calorie deficit and protein needs so you are not losing muscle mass and slowing down your metabolism.
Many times when people will just start dieting they will lose a lot of weight in the first few weeks. The weight that they are losing is not all fat loss, a lot of it is water weight. The cause of water weight in our body is mostly from carbohydrates and sodium.
Carbohydrates that we don’t use right away for energy are stored as glycogen. Glycogen pulls in water, so the more glycogen we are storing, the more water our bodies are holding onto. When you first start dieting, your body is flushing out the water that was stored with the glycogen and will result in weight loss.
When we start dieting we’re also probably eating fewer carbohydrates. Carbohydrates retain three times as much water as any other type of macronutrient, so when we are eating fewer carbohydrates, we are not retaining as much water, causing the number on the scale to be lower.
Sodium holds onto water, too. Sodium is found in many of the store-bought foods we eat, such as chicken broth and canned soups. When you’re starting out on a diet, some people will experience weight loss because they are eating less sodium which leads to water retention.
How do I know If I am losing fat?
The best way to tell if you are losing fat, muscle, or water weight is by going on a body fat scale such as the InBody scale. A lot of people don’t have access to such a scale because of the price tag that comes along with it.
There is no real way to know whether you lost fat or muscle without a body fat scale. However, I can suggest that if you’re losing more than 1.5- 2 pounds a week it’s probably not all fat loss.
How can I lose fat without losing muscle?
When it comes to weight loss, we want to try to maintain as much muscle mass as possible. Losing fat without losing muscle will lead to an increase in your basal metabolic rate, which means your body will burn more calories throughout the day. To support fat loss and maintain muscle mass, maintain a calorie deficit while eating lots of protein, carbs, and strength train 3-4 times a week.
Fat loss vs. weight loss: What’s the difference?
Weight loss and fat loss are similar, as they both indicate a lower weight but are really different. Weight loss is a measure of the number on the scale dropping whereas fat loss indicates we lost pounds or kilograms of body fat. If you lose weight, the scale will show a decrease in body weight on your scale but doesn’t necessarily mean that all those pounds lost were from fat. Weight loss can be from fat, muscle mass, water weight, and other things.
It is important not to solely rely on the number on the scale to determine fat loss as there are other factors that may contribute to a weight change. A good way to keep track of your progress without using a scale is to take before and after photos and measure yourself every six weeks.