You may have wondered why both differ. Knowing the difference between weight loss and fat loss helps you to achieve your fitness goals in a healthy way. 

Do you want to lose weight?


Do you want to lose fat from your belly, butt, lower back, chest, arms?

Most people use the term weight loss, but what they mean is fat loss. 

If fat loss is your goal, then tracking only body weight is not a good option.

So instead of confusing between weight loss and fat loss, let’s find out the difference between weight loss and fat loss.

# Fat loss vs weight loss

Let’s see what can cause fat loss and weight loss. After we will look into how to track each.

What causes weight loss?

Your body weight comprises of bones, muscle, fat, vital fluids and organs and other connective tissues. So while weighting you are taking the weight of the whole body.

The scale shows you the combined weight of your muscles, tissues, bones, vital fluids and fat. If you see a loss in weight, that can be due to a loss in muscle, bone, vital fluids, and fat. The scale can’t differentiate between your muscle and fat.

So when you are on a planning a healthy weight loss aka fat loss journey, relying only on the scale is not a good option. 

is scales reliable to measure body fat loss

When your body is in a calorie deficit state, it will start to use your muscles and fat for energy.  

If you are not lifting weights and follows a crash diet; then you have a higher chance of losing muscle.

You can have a rapid weight loss of around 10 pounds in a week if you follow some crash diets,  (low carb diet you can have this initial weight loss) mainly due to the water lost from your body. 

Carbs hold more water than fat in the body. 

In simple math 1g of carbs holds 3 g of water in the body. Shifting to a low carb diet ends up in a rapid weight loss(water weight). 

When you use a scale to measure your progress, you will be happy with weight loss. But this can reverse when you change your diet to a high carb, even if you keep the calories low. 

How to lose fat instead of water weight?

Losing water weight is common if you are trying a low carb diet. It can also happen if you reduce your salt intake. Both can cause your body to flush water. Follow a balanced diet to avoid this situation. 

So now you understand that weight loss has many factors to look into. 

So its good to start weight training of you want to lose fat or simply weight loss. This will help to prevent muscle loss to a great extend. 

Eat more protein foods, like meat, beans, fish in your diet. 

If you are following a low carb diet don’t get fooled by the initial weight loss. Give it some time and then start the tracking. 

What causes Fat loss?

So now you understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Even though we didn’t have a sentence on the fat loss mechanism. 

As mentioned above, your body will start using the stored glycogen, fats or muscles when its in short of energy. 

If you are taking enough protein and lifting weights, then your muscles will be preserved. Due to exercise, your body will add more muscles. 

In this case, the reading of scales may not change but your body will start losing inches of stored fat. 

If you track only weight loss you will be demotivated at this stage. 

Your body stores the surplus energy in the form of fat in the fat cells(adipocyte cells). So fat is the trapped energy stored in fat cells. 

By following a calorie deficit diet your body will use this trapped energy. Now  due to  the lifestyle changes people are getting fatter then ever

But you need a certain amount of fat to survive. For men, it’s about 7% to 24% and for women, it’s about 12% to 24%. Athletic and fit people tend to have a lower body fat percentage. 

Fat gets stored under your skin (as subcutaneous) and around your organs(visceral fat).

You have to make an environment that helps your body to choose fat over muscle as a fuel source. 

  • You can increase your protein intake
  • Start strength training

You can read our previous article on the fat-storing mechanism

I think you understand the difference between weight loss and fat loss. Its time to know the advanced techniques that help to lose fat

Read both articles, which can bring more clarity to the weight loss vs fat loss topic. 

Tips for your fat loss journey.

  • Start lifting weights
  • Reduce the time on steady-state cardio
  • Start HIIT cardio

You can read about them in detail in our fat loss research article. 

You have seen the limitations of scale. 

Then how do you measure fat loss? 

How do you measure body fat percentage?

You can use these methods to measure your body fat percentage. 

using skin fold caliper to measure fat loss
  1. DEXA scan - Gold standard
  2. Air Displacement Plethysmography — Bod Pod 
  3. Hydrostatic underwater weighing - accurate but not convenient, as you have to immerse under water to measure body fat percentage. 
  4. Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis-BIA - its not that accurate, but convenient and don’t take too much space. You can find this in most health clubs. You have to step on the platform barefoot and hold a joystick-like device to measure your body fat percentage. 
  5. Skinfold measurement- it takes some time to get used to measuring using skinfold callipers. At first, it feels difficult. If you want to strictly track your progress, you can take skinfold measurements of thighs, belly, arms, chest hip. But only measuring belly, chest and arms are ok. You can track the weekly or monthly change in skinfold size to analyze your progress.
  6. Then comes the picture- You can take a picture of your self, week after week and compare pics and can find your progress. Always try to take a pic in the same settings every week. 

Let’s conclude the war over weight loss and fat loss

People think of weight loss when they really mean fat loss. We are used to weighing scales that make it difficult to focus on fat loss. 

You have to fix, whether you want to have a fat loss goal or weight loss goal. When its fixed chose a method to track your progress. 

Note down everything on a journal. As studies have shown that keeping a journal helps to stick with your goals( fat loss or strength training)

I have good improvements in lifting weights when had a lifting journal. 

FAQ: Difference between weight loss and fat loss?

Is it better to lose weight or body fat?

Its always better to lose body fat. Your body weight consists of your lean muscle, vital fluids, organs and fats. So the lean mass is needed for your proper functioning. So we have to keep them. 

Why am I losing body fat but not weight?

It’s a good indication of your body preserving your muscles. Lifting weights, following a balanced diet with enough protein will help you to gain muscle and burn fat. 

Is losing weight and burning fat the same?

No both are different. 

Weight loss can come from muscle loss, water weight loss, or bone density loss. It’s not that beneficial. 

But fat burning means you are using your fat storage to fuel your daily activities. This, in the long run, helps you to reveal your 6 pack abs. 

How am I losing weight but not body fat?

The weight loss can be due to the loss of muscle or water from your body. If you are on a calorie deficit diet and not lifting weights. Your body will use the muscles as fuel, and as a building material to recycle essential units of your body. This can cause you to lose weight but not body fat.

 If you cur your carbohydrate (low carb diet)then it will cause a rapid weight loss(water weight) without any fat loss. 

Can you lose inches without losing weight?

Yes, you can lose inches ( of fat) without losing weight. If you follow a strength training routine. Your body will add muscles. This will help you to lose fat without losing weight.

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