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Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss: Which Is Better And Why?

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Weight loss is a significant decrease in your body weight from fat, muscle, and water losses. Water, fat, and muscle have a significant role in weight loss.

However, it might also occur because of factors, like glycogen stores or bone minerals. Fat loss generally refers to the loss of weight from fat.

It is a more healthful and specific target for losing weight. However, it might be difficult to understand whether a person is losing weight from muscle or fat.

When people are trying to lose weight, they might usually weigh themselves on a weighing scale. However, this only lets them know the amount of weight they have lost and not the amount of fat.

Losing fat is considered more beneficial than losing muscle or water. It might be helpful for a person to be aware of their body composition and how body composition might affect their health.

This article will explain why fat loss is more beneficial than weight loss, how you could tell the difference between them, and provide tips for maintaining muscle and losing fat.

What Is Weight Loss?

Weight loss refers to a loss of your overall body weight from bad losses, muscle, and water. To put it simply, it refers to the overall drop in your overall kilo weight.

There are a variety of factors that might affect weight fluctuations regularly, such as food, varying sodium intake, hormonal imbalance, and different quantities of dietary fiber.

Weight loss could happen when you consume fewer calories than you burn by following a workout regimen[1]. Weight loss is often an arbitrary term that might mean anything that causes you to weigh lesser, such as:

  • Muscles.
  • Water.
  • Fat.
  • Glycogen.

To put simply: Weight loss = Loss of Muscles + Water + Fat + Glycogen.

What Is Fat Loss?

Fat loss usually refers to weight loss from fat. It is healthier than weight loss. A specific and percentile drop in your body fat level is regarded as fat loss.

The loss of fat consists of losing weight while being able to maintain as much muscle as possible, which could give you that fit look and allow you to look much more toned.

To primarily lose body fat, you need to prioritize resistance or strength training so that you do not put on muscle. You rather build muscles, but with proper nutrition.

So, to put it simply: Fat loss = Burning or reduction of stored body fat.

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss: What Is The Difference?

Weight loss includes muscle loss and water loss which could be detrimental to your overall health.

While fat loss might help in decreasing the risks[2] associated with inflammation, and chronic diseases. It also helps in reducing loss of muscle mass and helps you to maintain muscle loss as well.

Besides, a person could lose body fat by simply reducing calories but the quality of food that one consumes for fat loss is quite important.

It is not possible to achieve fat loss by diet alone, however weight loss happens mostly because of changes in diet alone. Also, fat loss cannot be mapped by the use of a weighing scale, unlike weight loss.

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss: Which Is Better

Losing fat is usually considered healthier than losing overall weight as weight includes our lean body mass.

For making it happen, aim for an overall weight loss of only one pound or so in a week by eating plenty of protein, not crash dieting, prioritizing strength training at the time of workout, and trimming your calories.

Sometimes people while losing their weight decrease their fluid and muscle density as well as their fat levels. This might result in a decrease in lean body mass. It might also have adverse health effects.

According to a 2019 research, the negative health effects[3] of a loss in lean body mass could be:

  • Increased injury risks.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lowered metabolism.
  • Potential effects on psychological and emotional states.
  • The decline of neuromuscular function.

Moreover, the researchers also note that the metabolic decline which occurs following the loss in lean body mass might regain fat body mass which might cause unfavorable changes in the overall body composition.

The team advises that a sustainable way to lose fat mass while maintaining a lean body mass is much more important than the overall loss in weight.

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss: What Could Be Healthier?

The answer is that it often depends.

Both fat loss and weight loss help you to drop kilos. However, compared from a health perspective, fat loss is way far better than weight loss.

Healthy weight loss is possible with a healthy body and a healthy mind. Fat loss is considered healthy weight loss because the higher the percentage of visceral fats, the higher the chances of comorbidities, such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

An ideal BFP (Body Fat Percentage) is 12-18 percent in males and 19-26 percent in females.

Therefore, maintaining a percentage of healthy body fat could help to reduce your risk of diseases and improve your overall well-being and mental health.

Your doctor might suggest following a protein-rich, low-fat, and adequate fiber intake diet[4] to gain muscles and lose fat.

Many weight loss programs claim that they could help to lose weight easily and quickly. However, it is important to realize that a huge amount of this weight might include muscle losses and water losses.

Losing muscle could be detrimental to your overall health, as muscle is an important component of your body.

Maintaining a healthy muscle percentage has several benefits[5] like controlling inflammation, maintaining fat levels like cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and regulating blood sugar levels.

Indeed, many studies have often linked a higher muscle-to-fat ratio to chronic diseases, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.

Maintaining your muscle mass could also reduce the risk of age-related loss of muscle, which might result in potential disability and frailty.

Additionally, the more calories that you burn while at rest, the more muscle mass you have. This is one of the main reasons why men usually have higher calorie requirements than women.

Consequently, losing body weight in the form of muscle might decrease the number of calories that you burn while at rest, which makes it easier for regaining any weight you have lost in the form of fat.

Weight Loss Vs Fat Loss: How To Distinguish

Health professionals could measure a person’s body fat by using anthropometric devices.

However, a 2019 study indicated that not any single method is sufficiently efficient. Also, most of the measuring methods are either inaccurate, expensive, or complicated.

There are several ways to measure fat loss:

  • Hip-to-waist ratio or waist circumference are measurements that a person could obtain with a tape measure and might help to monitor fat.
  • Calipers measure body fat in certain areas, like the abdomen, by pinching the skin. However, they could be challenging for accurate use.
  • Fat scales use bioimpedance. They tell a person what their fat percentage is, and people might also use the scales for tracking their body fat loss.
  • Body mass index is a measurement that health professionals often recognize to classify a person’s weight. If body mass index reduces, a person might be losing lean body mass and body fat.
  • A tape measure might track the body portion from where a person is losing weight. However, it does not show if the lost inches are fat mass.

How To Gain Or Maintain Muscle And Lose Fat?

There are some simple ways to ensure you could either gain or maintain muscle mass and lose weight in the form of fat.

These include following a reduced-calorie diet, eating an adequate amount of protein, and exercising regularly.

  1. Follow a calorie deficit diet

    To lose weight, you have to reduce your calorie intake. You might create a calorie deficit by exercising, eating fewer calories, or preferably both.

    However, decreasing[6] your calories too much could lead to a greater muscle loss rather than fat. You should, instead, aim to slowly reduce the number of calories that you consume by 400-500 per day to minimize loss of muscle while facilitating fat loss.

    You might reduce the number of calories that you consume by eating more vegetables, fruits, lean protein foods, low-fat dairy, whole grains, less sugary beverages and products, fried foods, and processed meats.

  2. Eat a lot of protein

    Protein is a vital nutrient for several bodily functions. It is necessary to make different enzymes that help in energy production and digestion, support immune health, and regulate fluid balance.

    Protein is also essential[7] for maintaining the body muscle you have and also supporting new muscle growth, particularly when you are losing weight.

    While eating a lot of protein and a reduced-calorie diet without exercising would not help you to gain muscle, it might help you to increase fat loss while maintaining body muscle.

  3. Exercise

    Exercise is the most efficient[1] way to encourage body fat loss rather than body muscle loss.

    A review of 5 studies found that adults with obesity who were engaged in weight and cardio training 2 times per week while eating a low-calorie diet retained 95% more of their muscle mass than those who did not work out.

    Certainly, exercising alone is an effective way to maintain body muscle mass, but combining exercise with a low calorie and high protein intake might help in optimizing your results.

    Additionally, several people also take help from diet pills and supplements as well. Their reviews show that these substances help them feel full for longer and suppress other cravings.

Conclusion

Weight loss is a decrease of your overall body weight, whereas fat loss is a weight loss that occurs from losses in body fat mass. You might prioritize fat loss by restricting your calories, eating a lot of protein, and exercising.

A skinfold caliper or body fat scale is quite useful for monitoring body fat loss than tracking your weight alone. Another way to assess fat loss might include measuring centimeters or inches lost from your hips and waist.

Losing weight in fat form rather than muscle should be the priority of a person given how important the muscle-to-fat ratio is to the overall health.

+7 References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed research, academic, and medical institution studies.

  1. Carla E. Cox Role of Physical Activity for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug; 30(3): 157–160. doi: 10.2337/ds17-0013
  2. Mohammed S. Ellulu, Ismail Patimah, Huzwah Khaza’ai, et al. Obesity and inflammation: the linking mechanism and the complications Arch Med Sci. 2017 Jun; 13(4): 851–863. Published online 2016 Mar 31. doi: 10.5114/aoms.2016.58928
  3. Zhenhua Xing, Liang Tang, Jian Chen, et al. Association of predicted lean body mass and fat mass with cardiovascular events in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus CMAJ. 2019 Sep 23; 191(38): E1042–E1048. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190124
  4. Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight Page last reviewed: June 3, 2022 Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html
  5. Edda Cava, Nai Chien Yeat, and Bettina Mittendorfer Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss Adv Nutr. 2017 May; 8(3): 511–519.
    Published online 2017 May 5. doi: 10.3945/an.116.014506
  6. Chrysi Koliaki, Theodoros Spinos, Μarianna Spinou, et al. Defining the Optimal Dietary Approach for Safe, Effective and Sustainable Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adults Healthcare (Basel). 2018 Sep; 6(3): 73. Published online 2018 Jun 28. doi: 10.3390/healthcare6030073
  7. Jaecheol Moon and Gwanpyo Koh Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30; 29(3): 166–173. Published online 2020 Jul 23. doi: 10.7570/jomes20028

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