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Weight Loss vs Fat Loss: What’s the Difference?
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Weight Loss vs Fat Loss: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to fitness goals, there are many different terms which you’ll hear on a regular basis. From ‘dropping a dress size’ or ‘losing a few pounds’, to ‘toning up’ and ‘bulking’, there are some fundamental differences, but do people really know the difference?

What’s the difference between weight loss and fat loss?

Weight loss is the decrease in body weight. That's it, a decrease in overall weight, so your body as a whole, will weigh less than it previously did. Whereas fat loss refers specifically to the decrease in fat mass in the body, meaning it's possible to lose body weight without losing any fat.

Matt Durkin, sports and nutrition expert at SCI-MX, comments: “It’s also important to remember that water content affects weight to a large degree. Hydration status, salt intake, muscle glycogen content and creatine levels all affect how much water we have in our bodies. The more salt, glycogen and creatine we store the more water we will have.

“Muscle and fat loss is gradual and there is very little day-to-day fluctuation, whereas water content can make the scales change massively day to day, often a couple of pounds or more.”

Standard household scales don’t typically differentiate between fat loss and weight loss. This means that even though you’re losing weight, you might not actually be losing fat – you could be losing muscle, which you’ve worked hard to gain! For this reason, basing your results purely on the number on the scales may not mean you’re achieving your desired results.

Using the scale as your only indicator of fat loss can also be detrimental to long-term health. Losing muscle mass can lead to complications like reduced blood sugar regulation, struggling to maintain a healthy fat level and controlling muscle inflammation.

Plus, more calories are burnt during rest when you have a higher level of muscle! So, how can you lose fat, without losing muscle?

Losing fat, but not muscle.

A lot of diets are positioned as ways to lose weight, although this could include other types of weight – including muscle and water, rather than just fat. Even if you’re not looking to tone up or bulk, muscle is important as it helps the body to function properly.

With that in mind, if you want to lose fat but maintain (or even gain) muscle, then there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. Exercise: it should go without saying that increasing exercise will help you to lose fat, while retaining muscle. There are simple changes that people can make to their lifestyle that will help increase exercise without signing up for the gym – such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, walking/cycling to work, or even parking a few streets further away! However, if you want to lose fat quickly while gaining or retaining muscle mass, then you’ll need to increase your exercise levels. Resistance training is really important for muscle maintenance during a fat-loss phase, so as well as increasing the amount you exercise, you also need to increase the intensity!
  1. Increase protein intake: protein is one of the three important macronutrients the body needs. Protein rich foods help enhance muscle growth, repair and stimulate the muscle-building process. By combining a high-protein diet and increased exercise levels, you’re more likely to increase muscle growth while losing fat. As a general benchmark for those looking to lose body fat, a protein intake ranging from 1.6g – 2.0g per kg is ideal. Although, in some cases, the recommendation would be even higher!
  1. Calorie deficit: It’s recommended that men eat 2,500 kcals per day, and women eat 2,000 kcals per day. However, if you want to lose overall weight, it’s often recommended that you look to reduce calorie intake. This will mean you’re in a calorie deficit - your body is burning more calories than you’re consuming. Alternatively, rather than reducing the number of calories you’re eating, try increasing your exercise levels, as that will also help you achieve a calorie deficit while also maintaining muscle mass.

Whether you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, or you’re a gym pro, it’s important to keep your overall health in mind before making any lifestyle changes. For more insights and top tips, make sure you join our 24KME club.



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