Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
One of the most commonly asked questions is "What is the difference between losing fat and losing weight?" Many people believe that simply reducing caloric intake will cause weight loss and favorably alter body composition. When people say their fitness goal is "weight loss," we explain that if you reduce caloric intake, you will certainly lose weight but only for a short time.
More calories are needed to build more muscle -
When the body experiences a decrease in caloric intake, it sheds both fat and muscle. As a result, the number on the scale will drop quickly, satisfying the client but not the body or the ultimate goal. However, muscle comprises the machinery necessary to burn fat. If you lose this fat burning machinery, you will not be able to maintain the weight loss (unless you are able to survive on an exceptionally low caloric intake). Remaining on a low calorie diet will become extremely difficult because your food cravings will continually increase.
In light of these facts, it is easy to understand why an overwhelming majority of people who lose weight gain it back - plus more! By reducing the caloric intake you will certainly lose weight, including the muscle necessary to burn calories. Additionally, food cravings will increase. If the number of daily calories is increased (even slightly) in order to satisfy your new hunger, you will begin to regain the weight you have lost. This is the result of losing muscle during weight loss (less muscle=fewer calories burned). In this case, the weight that is regained will be fat tissue, which leaves you in worse circumstances than when you first began dieting.
When attempting to lose "weight," the primary goal is to retain or increase lean muscle tissue, which enables you to burn more fat and eat more food. At first, people in search of weight loss will say they will not be able to eat the amount of food recommended. However, it does not take long for most people to become accustomed to and enjoy the quantity of food. Most were never cognizant of their caloric intake and eating habits. Healthy low-calorie foods often come in greater volume than equal caloric amounts of higher calorie foods (i.e.: bowl of vegetables can be less calories than a tablespoon of oil). Adequate calories are necessary to increase lean muscle mass. As stated previously, increasing your lean muscle tissue will increase your ability to burn fat.
If you are interested in changing your body composition, it is vital to understand the importance of focusing on fat loss as opposed to weight loss. It is only necessary to determine your weight because this information is needed to measure fat loss against weight loss, to insure you are not losing muscle.
For example, a person initially weighs 170 pounds and is 20 percent body fat. After six weeks of dieting and exercise, he weighs 160 pounds but his body fat is still 20 percent. What has occurred is a loss of approximately 10 pounds of muscle. Essentially, he has become a smaller version of his former self. He has retained the same amount of fat and has not increased his ability to burn fat. In fact, by losing muscle tissue, he has decreased his ability to burn fat and will need to continually decrease his caloric intake to maintain his current weight.
Conversely, a person may begin a program at 170 pounds with 20 percent body fat. After six weeks on the program he weighs 164 pounds and has 16 percent body fat. He has lost 8 pounds of body fat and gained two pounds of muscle. The increase in muscle tissue produces a different body shape and increases fat burning machinery. Furthermore, he can continue to progress toward his fitness goals without decreasing his caloric intake.
The bottom line is this:
More working muscle burns more fat -
More muscle and less fat = more calories burned and a new look!
It is certainly understandable that some people may not wish to gain muscle. However, it is important that they retain their present lean muscle tissue. Current research states that 98 percent of those who diet and lose fat and muscle will eventually regain the weight they have lost.
When considering weight loss versus fat loss, fat loss should be the objective. A scale should be used only to determine the amount of fat loss and muscle gain. Understand that progress cannot be gauged by the scale alone. If you feed your muscle to burn more fat, you will eat your way to your ideal body!
Excerpt from National Academy of Sports Medicine Training Literature