Fat Loss vs Weight Loss 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Exercise • • minute to read • By INFS, INFS Faculty
Are you trying to lose weight but don’t understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss? Losing weight is a common goal for many people, but it’s essential to understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss to achieve your desired goals. In this article, we will discuss the difference between weight loss and fat loss and provide tips on how to maximise fat loss while minimising muscle loss.
Understanding the Difference between Weight Loss and Fat Loss
Weight loss and fat loss are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Weight loss refers to a decrease in overall body weight, which can result from losing body water, bone mass, and even food weight. On the other hand, fat loss specifically refers to losing body fat.
Very low-calorie diets may lead to weight loss, but they can also result in muscle loss, water loss, and other harmful effects. Losing water weight is typically temporary and can be regained once the diet ends, but the loss of muscle mass can lead to a slower metabolism and decreased strength and tone.
Let’s look at each concept in a little more detail.
What is Fat Loss?
Fat loss refers to the process of reducing body fat while maintaining muscle mass and overall health. It involves creating a calorie deficit through a balanced diet and regular exercise to burn stored body fat for energy. Unlike weight loss, which can include the loss of water weight, bone mass, and muscle mass, fat loss specifically targets reducing body fat. By reducing body fat, individuals can achieve a healthier body composition, improve metabolic health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
What is Weight Loss?
Weight loss refers to the overall reduction in body weight, which can include the loss of water weight, muscle mass, and body fat. While weight loss can be beneficial for individuals who are overweight or obese, it’s important to understand that not all weight loss is created equal. Loss of muscle mass will lead to weight loss – but ask yourself: is this desirable?
Clearly, fat loss is a better way to get fit and become healthy than simply losing weight by any means possible.
Why is Fat Loss better than Weight Loss?
Fat loss specifically targets reducing body fat, while weight loss can include the loss of water weight, bone mass, and muscle mass.
This means that weight loss is not necessarily a good indicator of fat loss because it can involve the loss of other body components.
Fat loss involves creating a calorie deficit through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
A calorie deficit means consuming fewer calories than your body burns, which forces your body to use stored body fat for energy.
Fat loss helps to maintain muscle mass and overall health.
Unlike very low-calorie diets or crash diets, which can cause muscle loss and other negative health effects, fat loss aims to preserve muscle mass and overall health.
Fat loss can lead to a healthier body composition and improved metabolic health.
By reducing body fat and maintaining muscle mass, individuals can achieve a healthier body composition and improve their metabolic health, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Key Takeaway: Fat loss is generally considered to be better than weight loss because it targets the reduction of body fat, which can lead to a healthier body composition and improved metabolic health. Losing muscle mass or water weight can have negative effects on health and can also result in a slower metabolism. By targeting fat loss specifically, individuals can achieve a healthier and more sustainable weight loss goal.
Lifestyle Plan for Maximising Fat Loss
If you want to maximise fat loss and minimise muscle loss, you need a sustainable plan that includes diet and nutrition, exercise, among other things:
Determine your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
To achieve both muscle gain and fat loss, it’s important to stick to a calorie-reduced diet that is not too far from your TDEE. Total Daily Energy Expenditure is the total number of calories your body burns in a day from all your activities. To calculate your TDEE, you could use FITTR’s free online calculator here. This will help ensure that you are consuming the right amount of calories to support your fitness goals.
This article will help you understand Total Daily Energy Expenditure in more detail.
Monitor your calorie intake
Once you know your TDEE, it’s time to decide how many calories you must consume in a day to lose fat. It’s also important not to cut your calories too drastically. This can result in muscle loss and slow down your metabolism. Instead, aim for a moderate calorie deficit of 250-500 calories per day, which will help you lose fat while preserving muscle mass.
For example, if your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is 1800, you could start by consuming 1500 calories a day which is a deficit of 300 calories.
The next step is to decide your macros and create a personal diet plan. We have an article which explains how to do this. Plus, FITTR has a free Macro Calculator and Diet Tool which will definitely help you get started.
Incorporate Resistance or Strength training
Resistance or strength training is essential for preserving muscle mass and increasing your metabolism. Aim to include at least 2-3 strength training sessions per week, focusing on compound movements that work multiple muscle groups. This will help you build and maintain lean muscle mass, which can help increase your metabolic rate and burn more calories.
If you need help with selecting the right exercises for your workouts, check out the Exercise Videos available on our websiteFree Training Tool which also has thousands of step-by-step exercise and workout videos.
Get enough protein
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, so it’s important to ensure that you are getting enough protein in your diet. Aim for 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, spread throughout the day. Choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, fish, eggs, and plant-based options like paneer, tofu, tempeh, beans and lentils. If you want to understand the role of protein in weight loss better,, check out our article on the importance of protein in weight loss.
Prioritise rest and recovery
Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise when it comes to building muscle and losing fat. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and incorporate rest days into your exercise routine to give your muscles time to recover. Stretching and foam rolling can also help improve your flexibility and prevent injury.
Drinking enough water is essential for muscle function and overall health. Aim to drink at least 8-10 cups of water per day, or more if you are exercising or sweating heavily. This will help keep your muscles hydrated and functioning properly.
Stress can negatively impact your fitness goals, so it’s important to find ways to manage it. Consider incorporating mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga into your routine, or find other ways to relax and unwind, such as taking a bath or going for a walk. Reducing stress can help improve sleep quality and support overall health and well-being.
By following these points, you can develop a diet plan for muscle gain and fat loss. By reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass, you can achieve a healthier body composition, improve metabolic health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
How do you know you are losing fat and not muscle?
It can be challenging to differentiate between fat loss vs weight loss at home to determine at home whether your weight loss is coming from fat or muscle. The number on the scale only provides a general indication, as it does not differentiate between the loss of water, muscle mass, and body fat.
A more accurate way to measure fat loss is by taking measurements using a tape measure around your neck, waist, and hips. A decrease in these numbers is a good indication of fat loss.
You can also use a body fat calculator, to estimate your body fat percentage. Body callipers or BIA machines at a fitness centre are other options to consider.
In addition to measuring your body fat, you can also use other non-scale measurements such as the fit of your clothes, progress photos, and improved overall health factors like increased strength levels and reduced fatigue.
Is it possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously, but it’s challenging. To achieve this, you’ll need to follow a calorie-restricted diet that includes adequate protein and do strength training exercises regularly. However, if you’re a beginner, you may find it easier to focus on one goal at a time – either losing fat or gaining muscle – before trying to do both simultaneously.
Can certain foods help with fat loss?
Some foods, such as lean protein, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, can help with fat loss by keeping you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods. Additionally, foods that are high in protein can help to preserve muscle mass while you’re losing weight. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no single food or nutrient is a magic bullet for fat loss. A balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods is the most effective way to promote fat loss and overall health.
Can I spot-reduce fat in specific areas?
No, it’s not possible to spot-reduce fat in specific areas of the body. When you lose weight, you lose fat from all over your body, not just one specific area. However, doing targeted exercises for specific muscle groups can help to tone and strengthen those muscles, which can improve their appearance.
Can I lose fat without exercising?
Yes, it’s possible to lose fat without exercising, but it may be more challenging. When you’re in a calorie deficit, your body will start to burn fat for energy regardless of whether you’re exercising or not. However, incorporating regular exercise into your routine can help to preserve muscle mass, increase your metabolism, and improve overall health and fitness.
How much weight can I realistically lose in a week?
The amount of weight you can realistically lose in a week depends on various factors, such as your starting weight, body composition, diet, and exercise habits. Generally, a safe and sustainable rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. However, it’s important to keep in mind that weight loss is not always linear, and there may be weeks where you don’t lose any weight despite your efforts. The key is to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes that you can stick with over the long term, rather than trying to achieve rapid weight loss.
- Cava, E., Yeat, N. C. and Mittendorfer, B. (2017) ‘Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss’, Advances in Nutrition, 8(3), p. 511. doi: 10.3945/AN.116.014506.
- Thomas, D. M., Bouchard, C., Church, T., Slentz, C., Kraus, W. E., Redman, L. M., … Heymsfield, S. B. (2012). Why do individuals not lose more weight from an exercise intervention at a defined dose? An energy balance analysis. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 13(10), 835–847. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01012.x
- Wing, R. R., & Phelan, S. (2005). Long-term weight loss maintenance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1 Suppl), 222S–225S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.1.222S
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., Wilborn, C. D., Krieger, J. W., & Sonmez, G. T. (2014). Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11, 54. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-014-0054-7
- Pasiakos, S. M., Cao, J. J., Margolis, L. M., Sauter, E. R., Whigham, L. D., McClung, J. P., … Young, A. J. (2013). Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal, 27(9), 3837–3847. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.13-230227
- Kuk, J. L., Ardern, C. I., & Church, T. S. (2009). Is maintaining your weight loss really that difficult? Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 10(2), 88–95. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00511.x
The plan that has transformed 300,000+ lives and counting!
- Customized diet & workout plans
- Access to a full suite of smart tracking tools
- Join the world’s largest online fitness community
- Customer Satisfaction score of 95.5%
- Coaching in your local language for clear guidance
Get results or get your money back!