It seems everyone these day’s is trying to lose weight. There is always a new diet, new workout program or new fat burning supplement promising you that you can have a bikini body in 30 days. But is losing weight the same as losing fat? People seem to use both terms interchangeably and it can get confusing. By the end of this post you’ll understand the difference between weight loss & fat loss, but also which one you should aim for and how.
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 weight you see on the scale. The weight of your bones, muscles, organs and body fat.
Fat Loss: You want to lower your body fat, the amount of fat you have on your body, while retaining as much muscle as possible.
The problem with weight loss
Far too often women get overly caught up on what the scale tells them. Weight loss can be completely subjective, and the truth of matter is the scale really doesn’t tell you anything.
If I told you to not eat for eight hours, you would weigh less.
If I told you to not drink water for a day, you would weigh less.
If I took you off a high sodium diet and put you on a diet of fruits and vegetables, you would weigh less, purely due to the excess drop in sodium (high sodium = water retention).
Your body weight can fluctuate up to 5lbs daily depending on your stomach/bowel/bladder content, water loss/retention, muscle loss/gain and fat loss/gain. Seeing this varying fluctuation in weight can kill your motivation and your mood. Remember: the scale does not define you. Moving on..
When people aim to lose weight (by doing cardio combined with a very low calorie diet – burning fat and muscle) what they create is a smaller version of themselves. They still have the same body shape, it is just smaller than it used to be, as shown in the picture below.
Now I know some of you are going to look at this picture and think – she looks great, whats wrong with that? There is nothing wrong with it. If she is happy then that is all that matters. I am merely using this picture to give you an idea of what I mean by ‘weight loss’.
To compare, here is a picture of a woman who has lost body fat.
Why you should aim to lose fat
Most women approach weight loss with the goal of losing weight and reaching a certain number on the scale. Now I’m not saying that’s wrong, but there is a better way to approach it, and that is fat loss. Your goal for fat loss should be to maintain as much muscle mass as you can while burning body fat (more muscle = higher metabolism = more calories burnt). Lets take a look at the picture below.
First let me clear something up. 5lbs of fat weighs the same as 5lbs of muscle. Whoever said muscle weighs more than fat had no idea what they were talking about.
Muscle is more dense than fat therefore it takes up much less space, which means you will look smaller even if you stay at the same body weight.
So, how do I lose fat?
We already know that our goal is to maintain as much muscle as possible so when losing fat here are the top 3 things you should do:
1. Lift Weights: Whether you are doing Circuit Training, 3 Day Split, 5 Day Split or Upper/Lower Split, the key is to LIFT! You can strength train anywhere from 2-6 days per week depending on your preference and goals. I usually recommend that strength training be the core of your workout program and use cardio to compliment it.
2. Cardio: Not excessively, but enough to burn extra fat. Obviously if you are training for a marathon or something similar, then ignore this, but for the average person I recommend 3-5 days per week of 20-45 minutes. If you are able to, I highly recommend doing HIIT.
3. Nutrition: Need I say more? We all know that you can’t out train a bad diet. Follow a plan that you can stick to whether that is IIFYM, Clean Eating, Paleo or Veganism. Make sure you are eating enough and choosing foods that will fuel your body and your workouts. Make good choices.
What is wrong with ‘losing weight’ as apposed ‘losing fat’?
I wish I could say there was nothing wrong with ‘losing weight’, but I want to save you from more problems in the long run. The problem with losing weight is that a lot of people who do it cut calories too low and increase their cardio too much, burning muscle and slowing their metabolism. I have so many girls who email me on a daily basis who have messed up their metabolisms from falling into the weight loss trap – lots of cardio and/or very low calories. They are frustrated because they have hit a wall and no matter what they try they can’t seem to lose any more weight. If I can save someone from having to go down that path then I will.
If you want lasting sustained results then choosing to lose body fat in the ways I listed above is far superior to exsessive cardio and low calories. That is all.
Note: If you are eating enough calories and doing cardio because you are unable to lift weights then you should be okay. Just be sure not to fall in to the very-low-calorie-diet-too-much-cardio trap.
Will I still lose scale weight while losing body fat?
Yes you will because you are losing body fat, less body fat = less scale weight. Unless of course you are bulking or reverse dieting, then you will either maintain or gain.
What about BMI?
BMI (Body Mass Index) is somewhat flawed as it doesn’t take into account your body fat.
Both females in the picture below have the same BMI, but the lady on the right has a lower body fat percentage. BMI in my opinion is definitely not the best tool to measure weight loss.
So if I’m not using the scale, then what?
You can still weigh yourself! I would just limit it to once a week or once a fortnight. Another great way to track fat loss is measurements. If you aren’t already doing so – start now! This is an awesome way to track progress.
To sum this all up, if you want to stop yo-yo dieting and get lasting results then you have to focus on fat loss. If you are okay with eating low calories and doing lots of cardio, then by all means continue to do so. Just know that there will eventually come a time when you will struggle to lose anymore weight. If and when that day comes I hope that you will read this blog post and it will help in some way.