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Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss: Which is Better?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year, everyone was forced to stay indoors to prevent the spread of the disease. In turn, everyone’s daily routine was disrupted. Schools were shut down. Employees started working from home. And the result: people started living more sedentary lifestyles. 

Staying cooped up indoors for a prolonged period could lead to weight gain, however. But as restrictions get lifted and the world is slowly opening up again, people are looking for ways to shed some of the extra pounds.

But even though their heart’s in the right place about wanting to stay fit and healthy, a lot of these people might not know the difference between losing weight and losing fat.

And it begs the question: is it better to lose weight or body fat? In this article, we’ll be discussing the age-old debate of fat loss vs. weight loss so you can achieve the ideal body composition.

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

Weight Loss

When trying to lose weight, chances are your regimen will involve exercise (such as cardio exercises or strength training) and a healthy diet. If you can stick to both, you can surely achieve the right level of fitness.

Whatever your approach to weight loss is, you usually measure your results whenever you step on your weighing scale. After all, a lower weight means you’ve achieved your goal of reducing your total body mass, right?

But take heart: even though you’re losing weight, a significant amount of the weight you could be losing could be related to water and muscle losses.

Losing muscle, for instance, can be detrimental to your overall health. Maintaining a healthy percentage of muscle mass can, after all, help regulate the body’s sugar levels. It can also help burn more calories while at rest. Moreover, when you lose muscle, you’re also decreasing your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories your body needs to keep functioning at rest. 

So if you’re focusing on losing weight alone, you’ll have a hard time finding out if you’re losing weight from fat or muscle.

Fat Loss

By focusing your attention on fat loss rather than weight loss, you’re making sure that you’re decreasing possible health risks, such as chronic disease, age-related muscle loss, and fat regain. 

Fat loss requires you to pay extra focus on your macronutrient intake, specifically protein, carbohydrates, and fats. But just remind yourself that losing too many calories will lead to muscle loss, which would then lead to reduced BMR.

To avoid this, try to reach a caloric deficit of 500 per day. First, you need to determine your maintenance calories, or the amount of calories you need for energy expenditure throughout the day. You can use the Body Weight Planner from the National Institute of Health to measure it.

So let’s say you have a maintenance calorie count of 2,500. Your goal would be to reduce that by 500, bringing your new requirement to 2,000 for effective fat loss.

There aren’t any prescribed guidelines on how many calories you should consume in a day. After all, it will depend on factors such as your age, metabolism, and amount of physical exercise. Just make sure your body has enough calories for proper maintenance and nutrition.

Of course, you’ll need to adjust your calorie intake until you finally achieve your ideal body composition. Track your progress by measuring your weight regularly and using a calorie tracking app to ensure you’re keeping score of your goals. 

Losing fat can’t be achieved by a diet alone, however — you’ll need to develop a good resistance program that can help you build and preserve muscle.

What’s the Ideal Body Fat Percentage?

Calculating your body fat percentage can be tricky. This is due to the different factors involved in the calculation including age, sex, weight, and more.

Moreover, some of the processes or equipment used for the calculation aren’t widely available, like hydrostatic weighing or 3-D body scanners. You can also calculate your body fat with a skinfold test but make sure it’s performed by a competent tester to ensure its accuracy.

You can also use a soft tape measure to calculate your body fat percentage and determine the circumference of your waist, wrist, hip and forearm. You may use the YMCA Body Fat Formula Calculator or the US Navy Body Fat Calculator to get your body fat percentage. 

Burning Fat through Exercise

There are a lot of exercises designed to help you lose fat. We recommend that you focus on bodyweight exercises because they can help you build more muscle. You can also perform them anywhere without equipment. 

If you’re a beginner, you can focus on your core to engage all the muscles in your body and speed up your metabolism. Most bodyweight exercises don’t even require that you use weights because you can melt fat, revitalize tight muscles, and layer on the strength with these simple exercises:

  • Push ups
  • Plank jacks
  • Forward alternating lunges
  • Planking
  • Squat jumps
  • Bird dog stretches
  • Single leg glute bridges

Aim for Fat Loss Instead of Weight Loss

Fat loss is a more specific and healthy goal than weight loss. Losing fat doesn’t only help you shed excess pounds, it decreases health complications like heart disease and helps maintain your sugar levels. To top that off, you’re getting a more toned body so you can improve your confidence.

Of course, you’ll need to consult your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet and exercise routine. But once you’ve clearly defined what your diet and exercise plan should look like, you can start monitoring your weight and fat percentage to achieve a healthy body composition.

For more tips on how to stay fit and healthy, check out the LifeClinic blog.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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