Fat loss or weight loss? Know the difference and the do’s and don’ts

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Weight loss

Despite what most people believe, no. Weight loss and fat loss do not mean the same thing. It’s high time that we create awareness about the importance of fat loss rather than losing weight overall.

This is because we live in a world that judges us on our appearances. Be it a child or a full-grown adult, you will be a subject of criticism and sarcasm if you are overweight.

While as much as I would want this attitude to change (Trust me, I have had enough of it in my life!), I also want struggling ones to know that giving in to societal pressure is not the easy way out!

I am not imploring you to continue with your unhealthy lifestyle (That needs to change ASAP). All I am asking you is to not be hasty while on a weight loss journey. You need to stop focusing on the numbers on your scale and learn more about the difference between weight loss and fat loss and how to lose fat in your body. Read along to find everything you need to know!

Weight Loss VS Fat Loss

Weight loss is a misnomer when it comes to reducing the size of your body. Weight loss is linked to reducing the overall weight of your body, which includes fat as well as lean mass.

Note: Our body is composed of fat and lean or fat-free mass. This includes water, muscles, organs, etc.

Fat loss, on the other hand, refers to ONLY losing fat in your body.
It brings us to this…

What’s better of the two?

Well, judge it yourself.
Would it be better to lose muscle, water, and fat from your body or just that stubborn fat?

You guessed it right.
Fat loss is a much more reliable way to get your dream body, rather than focusing on overall weight loss.

Obesity, a common problem in our era, occurs when the fat proportion of the body is substantially higher than the lean body mass. And with obesity comes serious health risks such as diabetes, high cholesterol, gout, etc.
Therefore your focus should be only on reducing the fat deposits.

The health implications of losing lean body mass are not something that you can ignore. According to a 2018 review posted on PubMed, when you lose muscle and fluid density of your body, you are prone to experience:

  • Reduced metabolism
  • Constant fatigue
  • Weak muscle coordination (due to neuromuscular function decline)
  • Heightened risk of injury
  • Mental instability (psychological and emotional stress).

Ask yourself this: Is this what you want for your future?
Are you willing to lose weight at the expense of your health?
Because believe it or not, you will experience all of this sooner or later if you lose weight the unhealthy way.

And with the reduced metabolism, you are more at risk to gain all the weight back and that too with some harrowing changes in your body that will make it harder for you to lose weight!
Also, roll out of this risky trend of ‘who loses weight faster’. It’s not a competition, for God’s sake. Losing weight faster guarantees that you will lose your muscles too with the fat at all costs.

Now let’s come to the question of the day…

What should you do to lose fat in your body?

Your motto should be one thing:
‘Do everything to lose fat while retaining muscle as much as possible’

Having appropriate muscle mass ensures that you remain healthy and active. Our muscles have mitochondria. Mitochondria are the powerhouses that use fat to provide energy to the body.

Having more muscles means you burn more energy than the contrary. The fun part is mitochondria work 24 hours a day, which means you do not stop burning fat even when you sleep! (What more can anyone want?!)

But have you noticed why I keep focusing on the term ‘retain muscle’?
Well, this is because your body stops degenerating the muscles that are no longer in use. (Your body is literally wasting your muscles away. Be your own savior. Work those muscles while you can!)
This is why I am imploring you to save muscle mass as much as possible.

Note: Have you noticed that even coma patients have regular physiotherapy sessions? This is done to save some of their muscles while they are unable to move themselves.

The things you should do for weight loss are

Have an optimal calorie intake

Yup, there is no other way.
Eating an ideal amount of calories according to your body type and activity level EVERY DAY is the bare minimum for fat loss. (Hear me out: the perception of eating very less or omitting most of the essential nutrients will do more harm than good! It will traumatize your body and send you into fight or flight mode. This will make it increasingly difficult to lose weight!)

If you are consuming more calories than required, you need to reduce them gradually for fat loss. A decrease of 500 to 1000 calories will work wonders for you! (Trust me, bro, there is nothing like sweet victory!)

Also focus on having your calories come from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, tubers, legumes, dairy, and whole grains. You would not want to waste your calories on the things that are nutritionally depleted (take junk food as an example.)

Have balanced meals

This is something you are taught since childhood. But did you ever consider implementing it in your life?

Hell, no! (I am guilty of it too, fam).
Nevertheless, it’s high time you start taking meals more seriously than before.
If you want to lose fat and keep your body muscles intact, you need to go on a protein-rich diet.
Trust me, it’s not something I made up. The number of studies that back up this fact is mind-boggling! Having a protein-rich diet ensures that you lose fat and maintain lean body mass as well.

But does this mean you should eat meat all day every day?
Well, no. That would be a crazy thing to do.
You need to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of your lean body weight. But do not consume it in one sitting. Divide it among your 5 meals of the day i.e. three main courses and two snacks.

Eat carbohydrates too to assist your body in activities. Start from 150 grams and work your way up according to your needs. Also, don’t forget to include healthy fats and essential fatty acid sources in your diet.

Pro tip: Drink plenty of water before exercising and have a rich balanced meal 45 minutes after workout. Don’t forget to include carbohydrates! They are essential for your muscle recovery.

Exercise, exercise, and exercise

There is no escaping it.
Losing fat is not a miracle. You cannot just change your eating habits and expect everything to miraculously change. Losing fat requires hard work.

A 2018 study published on PubMed proves that endurance and resistance training exercises when combined with a specialized diet helped adults lose considerable fat without losing any muscle tissue.

All you need to do is get up and get going. It doesn’t matter how small you start, what matters more is how consistently you indulge in physical activities.

Set up a cardio routine

Aerobic exercise is a go-to option for efficient fat loss. This type of exercise gets your heart rate up and pushes your body to use its fat reservoirs for energy. The best thing is you can do cardio indoors as well as outdoors too. Consider brisk walking, running, stair climbing as outdoor cardio options and dancing to music, squat jumps, and running in place as indoor cardio. Also, there is no pressure to stick to one thing! You can combine either of the activities mentioned above and even more as per your preference.

Physical sports are also considered cardio. Say swimming, cycling and even sports such as volleyball, basketball all come under this category.
Make sure to set aside at least 2.5 hours every week for these moderate-intensity cardio workouts.

Indulge in HIIT workout

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. These types of workouts involve high-intensity exercises along with short intervals. HIIT workout helps you lose your body fat faster and makes your muscles strong too.

You can even consider HIIT cardio as a fat-burning powerhouse. It strengthens your glutes, thighs, and core tremendously. The resting period, which is usually 20 to 30 seconds at a time, revs up your metabolism and makes you burn more calories. This is the true definition of working smarter because you are burning calories even when you are just sitting around!

Some of the high-intensity workouts are jumping jacks, burpees, high knees, mountain climbers, etc. Doing a 30-minute session of HIIT cardio 3 times a week is more than enough.

Strength training is a must

Focusing only on cardio is a no-brainer. For a more rounded approach, you’ve gotta set up a combination of strength training and cardio exercises to preserve your muscles while losing fat. Lifting weight, resistance band exercises, and bodyweight exercises are the most common strength training methods. Remember, dumbbells are not for the one who wants to bulk up!
If you want to spice up your strength training routine, go for yoga, Pilates, or tai chi. These fun, unique yet acclaimed exercise routines are trending up among celebs and young people alike!

But, full disclosure here: resistance training burns considerably less fat than cardio. Regardless, the good thing is it builds up your muscles, which consequently help you burn stored fat. It’s a win-win situation, my friend.

Resting is important

Resting every alternate day or two days a week helps you to heal and recover from an intense workout. It will also refresh your mind and make you feel less agitated. You can do light exercise such as walking on such days.

Pro tip: Consider this day as the day of your mental healing, where you reflect on your behavior and attitude and try to avoid the things that harm you in any way. This is a part of the progress too!

Consider a supplement for weight loss

Supplements are not new in the market. Nowadays, a plethora of weight loss supplements is available that claim to work wonders for overweight people. Some supplements such as CLA, chromium picolinate, Glucomannan, guar gum, and many others can work effectively in reducing stored fat of your body. But remember, exercise and a balanced diet consisting of all macronutrients are a must.

The don’ts of healthy weight loss are

Steer clear of crash dieting

If only I could make you realize the ill effects of such weird trends!
There is nothing more detrimental to your health than losing substantial weight abruptly and starving your body of vital nutrients along the way. No matter how *lit* it is to rapidly lose weight RN, the dangers of it do not decrease, EVER! There was never a quick fix and will never be in the future too. The most reliable way of losing weight and keeping it at bay is by healthy eating and exercising only.

Over-exercising is not going to benefit you either

Doing high-intensity workouts every day will unarguably make you burnt out sooner or later. Not everyone is made for exercising day in and day out. (Do not be fooled by celebrities’ posts and fitness models’ claims. TBH it’s mostly a stunt to garner media attention. Moreover, nearly all of the famous people have personal nutritionists that set up their diet to help their body effortlessly cope with the exercise they are doing. You and I both know we cannot afford this. So better stay away from it.)

Over-exercising also increases your chances of losing muscle more often than not.

Do not consider recovery time as something trivial

Recovery time is an important part of fat loss. Continuous exercise will become too much of a stress for your body to handle. There is a chance you might start losing your lean body mass if you do not give yourself time to recover from exercise. Remember moderation is the key. To put it simply, going super hard every day will make you frustrated and insane (no kidding).

How to measure fat loss

The body fat percentage can be measured by various anthropometric devices. While health professionals use BMI as an index, inventions such as body fat scales also work to some extent.

However, you should know that the possibility of error is quite high in more or less all of the methods. Some of them are expensive, others are complicated while most of them are likely inaccurate.

Nevertheless, the methods you can use to measure fat loss are:

  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
    Doctors use this anthropometric method most of the time to classify people’s weight. It is a relative height to weight ratio, which is compared to the set standards to see if you are healthy or not. But be aware, a decrease in BMI does not tell you whether you lost fat or lean body mass.
  • Body fat scales
    These scales use bio-impedance to detect the percentage of stored fat in the body. With an error chance of almost 5%, it is a considerably more reliable and ultra-easy method to measure fat loss than others.
  • Waist circumference measurement
    Are you fat around the waist? In that case, the cheapest method would be simply using a measuring tape for your waist. It will help you see if you have lost any abdominal fat or not. But is it completely accurate? Eh, not so much. Body fat scales are much better than this in comparison.
  • Calipers
    Calipers measure the skinfold thickness at multiple parts of your body. They simply pinch your skin and give you a gross figure of fat content in the body. The downside of calipers is that they are not easy to use. Using them is surely a task in itself!
  • Tape measure
    You can use tape to measure all parts of your body before and after a month or longer. Sadly, it’s also not a reliable way to measure fat loss.

Some more reliable yet expensive methods are:

  • DEXA scans
  • Hydrodensitometry
  • 3D body scanner
  • Displacement plethysmography

However, for these, you need to go either to a doctor or a gym’s office. The information you get is a little too much unless you want to become a pro athlete (Huh, who am I kidding?!)
All in all, you can choose whatever method you want to measure your fat loss.
Just keep making efforts and you will reach your destined goal one day.


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