Moving the needle…Is it fat loss or weight loss?

In a previous post I covered a personal experiment where I lost 6 kgs and then gained it all back in less than a 24 hour period.  We also covered how some supplements can assist in the fat loss and weight loss journey.  However there is still some misconceptions regarding weight loss and fat loss. Everyone seems to be trying to lose weight nowadays. But what’s the difference between weight loss & fat loss? People seem to use both terms interchangeably. After reading this post you’ll understand the difference between weight loss & fat loss, but also which one you should aim for and how.

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Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

What’s the difference? Let’s start by defining weight loss & fat loss so you know what I mean here.

  • Weight Loss. You want to lower your body-weight, the sum weight of your bones, muscles, organs, body fat etc.
  • Fat Loss. You want to lower your body fat, the amount of fat your body carries. Healthy goals are 10-15% body fat for men and 15-20% for women.

Problems with Weight Loss. If you want to lose weight, it’s most likely because you carry too much fat. There are people who must lose weight, like athletes before a competition.  This is a technique where they dehydrate the body of all stored water from carbs and surrounding organs and are able to achieve 7-12kg weight loss, but most of us want to specifically lose fat. So STOP weighing yourself!

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  • Unreliable. Your body-weight can fluctuate daily ( even hourly) since it’s influenced by your stomach/bowel/bladder content, water loss/retention, muscle loss/gain, fat loss/gain, looking solely at the scale you will have absolutely no clue whats really going on.
  • Irrelevant. 2 people with the exact same height can weigh the same, but look completely different because one has lower body fat than the the other.

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Here’s How The Weight Scale Can Mislead You. Clothes, mirrors & pictures don’t lie. Neither do fat calipers. But the weight scale can become your worst enemy by misleading you and killing your motivation. Examples:

  • Carbs & Water. Carbs bind to water. So eating less carbs will make you lose weight: water loss. This is why you lose so much weight on a diet like Atkins the first 2 weeks: it’s mostly water. Of course, increasing your carb intake will make you gain weight again: water retention.
  • Muscle Gains & Fat Loss. You’ll gain muscle while losing fat when you get into strength training. But on the weight scale it will look like you’re not making progress: your body-weight doesn’t change. Track your body fat using a fat calipers, circumference measurements, and progress photos and you’ll see your body fat is going down.

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How to Make Sure You Lose Fat, Not Muscle? Check the picture above: 2kg of muscle takes less space than 2kg of fat. The old myth that “muscle weighs more than fat”is not true. The weight is identical but the volume is what makes the difference. That means you’ll look slimmer at the same body-weight by building muscle. Keys to losing fat, not muscle:

  • Get Stronger. Strength training builds muscle & prevents muscle loss. . The way to lose just fat is by adding strength training into your fitness program. Don’t try to lose weight simply by performing cardio. The pounds you lose through cardio will come right back if you stop the cardio, without muscle mass to keep the weight off. Don’t worry about bulking up or gaining too much muscle. For the majority of the population, it’s simply not a concern. When you add muscle, you improve the body fat composition ratio, which is the main goal
  • Eat Healthy. Try to include as many whole foods in your diet as possible.  And if you are familiar with your macro nutrient ratios, use that as a guideline to achieving your ideal physique.

Losing Muscle Slows Metabolism

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Losing weight other than fat is unavoidable, but the loss of muscle mass will cause a rebound effect that leads to weight gain. Muscle is metabolically active and lights your furnace, keeping your metabolism brisk and burning calories. Even when you’re sitting on the couch, you burn more calories if you have more muscle mass on your frame. So losing muscle means your furnace slows down, your metabolism gets sluggish and the weight keeps on coming.


How to Track Progress Efficiently. 
You don’t need to track progress weekly, changes wouldn’t be drastic enough. Track progress every 2 weeks.

  • Stop Weighing Yourself Daily. The daily fluctuations will mess with your motivation. Weigh yourself once every 2 weeks, not more.
  • Stop Looking in The Mirror. Self-image issues can skew perception. Shoot full body pictures and compare them with old ones.
  • Track Body Fat. Get a fat caliper and track your body fat every 2 weeks. Use this how-to guide and watch this video.
  • Take Measurements. Girth measurements of your neck, chest, arms, waist & thighs. Waist should go down, rest should go up.
  • Shoot Pictures. Full body pictures from ankle to neck, front/back/side, every 2 weeks. Compare with your previous pics.
  • Strength Stats. Log your workouts. Strength going up means muscle gains and strength training prevents muscle breakdown.

You Might Not Want to Lose Weight. Big guys who want to lose weight often change their mind once they’ve lowered their body fat. They realize they prefer to stay big as long as their body fat is healthy.  Focus on fat loss first. Once you’ve got your body fat down, check if you like what you see. Then decide if you still need to lose weight.

Categories Diet, Fat, Mindset

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