Understanding Fat Loss Vs Weight Loss : Why The Scales Only Tell Part Of The Story


You hear it all the time, I’ve been training really hard and eating all the right things but I’M STILL NOT LOSING WEIGHT! It can be rather soul destroying that despite your best efforts, discipline and implementation of the advice you received…you’re still not losing weight. But should it be… or are you actually going in exactly the right direction, losing fat, improving tone and definition, but gaining muscle in the process?

Muscle is a pretty useful side- effect of your fat loss efforts

Losing fat without toning your muscle would make for a pretty weak and shapeless looking body. Gaining muscle seems to be a common concern for females when it comes to exercise, but the fact is that resistance training isn’t going to turn you into Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the small amount of lean mass you do get will certainly promote further fat loss. Fat loss is the goal, and it is prudent to remember that fat loss and weight loss are distinct from one another.

You can lose ‘fat’ without losing ‘weight’…

Weight is defined as ‘a body’s relative mass or the quantity of matter contained by it, giving rise to a downward force’. So with this in mind, consider the ‘weight’ of fat when placed on the balancing scales with the same amount of muscle (mass). Note that ‘mass’ refers to the measure of how much matter an object has, whereas ‘weight’ is a measure of how strongly gravity pulls on that matter (Physlink.com). So should you compared fat and muscle of the same mass, you would find that the muscle weighed more than the fat. So when we exercise, eat well and fail to see ‘weight’ loss per se, that could simply mean that you are burning off 3kg of fat mass, but gaining 1kg of muscle over several months. Yes this doesn’t give much reward via the numbers on the scales, but try measuring your waist circumference or your mid-upper arm circumference, or maybe take some skin fold measurements or perform a bio-electrical impedance analysis to see if you have in fact lost fat, but also gained a little muscle. It is also worth remembering that bone mineral density is directly proportional to exercise, in other words, the more you exercise the greater ones bone mineral density becomes, and this contributes to a rise in weight… but for all the right reasons!

Losing fat and increasing muscle improves body composition

Body composition is what it’s all about, this is where your attention should be when trying to lose weight or tone. The process of burning fat means that you are left with a more fat free mass, which is basically anything in the body that contributes to your total mass, but minus the fat. A better body composition is one that has more muscle (as well as bone, organs and water) compared to fat, and this lends itself to a more healthy and better looking body. Of course I am not saying that bodyfat is bad for health per se, but rather our bodies are designed to carry more lean mass than fat (in relative terms). There is a real difference between losing body fat at the expense of body mass, and simply losing a little excess baggage.




About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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