What's the Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss?

It’s no secret that losing weight is hard. From changing your diet to ramping up your workouts to battling cravings, weight loss requires some serious lifestyle changes. Even when the effort is all there, things can sometimes turn south. If you’re seeing changes on the scale, but not in your body composition, you might be losing muscle instead of fat. 

Dr. Talal Khan and Dr. Nidah Khan of Personal Primary Care explain the difference between weight loss and fat loss, plus tips on how to eat and exercise for optimal fat loss. 

Fat loss vs. weight loss

There are three explanations for weight loss: muscle loss, water loss, and fat loss. You definitely don’t want to lose muscle or water — so that just leaves fat. Here’s a rundown of what it means to lose each type of weight. 

Muscle loss: You may be overdoing cardio or under-doing nutrition if you start to lose muscle. Your muscles need adequate protein, along with many different micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), each day to maintain their size and strength. 

Water loss: Your body is about two-thirds water. Losing just a little bit of your body water can result in significant weight loss, up to a few pounds in just a day. Look out for signs of dehydration, such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness. 

Fat loss: Ideally, you’ll lose mostly fat and maintain almost all of your muscle while you work toward your goal weight. Losing body fat requires a careful balance between food, exercise, sleep, stress, and other factors. 

How to eat to lose fat

A healthy diet for fat loss consists of moderate portions of:

To lose body fat, you must burn more calories than you consume. Eating the foods listed above makes you feel fuller for longer and helps you stave off cravings for sugary and fatty foods. To maintain muscle, focus on eating lots of lean protein. 

How to exercise to lose fat

Remember that you want to lose fat, not muscle. Resistance training is essential for maintaining and building muscle, so you should incorporate at least two days of moderate resistance training each week. Try these kinds of movements: 

In addition to your resistance training, you should incorporate at least two days of cardio exercise per week. This can be as simple as walking or running a couple of miles, or as complex as a full-body cross-training circuit. 

How to tell if you’re losing fat

The best way to determine whether you’re losing weight (muscle, water, and possibly some fat) or just fat is to get your body composition tested regularly. Body composition scanners can analyze the types of materials in your body, including muscle, fat, bone, and water. 

At Personal Primary Care, Dr. Talal and Dr. Nidah use a medical Body Composition Analyzer (mBCA) that gives you an in-depth look at your body composition in less than 20 seconds. The mBCA scale at Personal Primary Care measures your fat mass, fat-free mass, total body water, intra- and extracellular water, visceral fat, and skeletal muscle.

There are other ways to measure fat loss, including body measurements (e.g., your waist to hip ratio) and body mass index (BMI). The experts at Personal Primary Care help you determine which measurements will most effectively help you track your fat loss progress. 

If you’re ready to get started on your fat loss journey, call Personal Primary Care today or request an appointment through our online scheduling tool


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