Weight loss vs. fat loss: Difference, tips, and more – Medical News Today

Weight loss

Weight loss is the overall drop in weight due to any body component, including fat, muscle, water, and more. Fat, muscle, and water can play a role in weight loss. However, it can also occur due to other factors, such as bone mineral or glycogen stores.
Glycogen stores may be particularly relevant for people following low-carb diets. Sometimes, people use the terms weight loss and fat loss interchangeably. However, they have different effects on the body and health.
When people are trying to lose weight, they might typically weigh themselves on a scale. However, this only tells them how much weight they have lost — not how much fat. Losing fat is more beneficial than losing water or muscle, so it is helpful to be aware of body composition and how it affects health.
This article explains the difference between weight loss and fat loss and their effects on health. It explains how to measure fat loss and gives tips to maintain muscle and lean body mass. Read on to find out how to lose weight and fat safely without compromising health.
When someone loses weight, they may lose water and muscle, not just fat. Fat loss refers to losing only excess fat from the body.
To understand this concept further, here is an explanation of body composition:
On average, water can account for 50-60% of a person’s total body weight. The term “water weight” refers to any extra water the body is holding.
However, drinking less water will not cause a person to lose water weight safely. Conversely, drinking more water can help a person lose weight more effectively.
Water also helps transport carbohydrates and proteins in the bloodstream so the body can metabolize them.
The first step to losing water weight involves reducing sodium intake. Excess sodium can make the body hold on to too much water in order to keep the correct salt-water ratio.
Learn more ways to reduce water weight here.
Sometimes when people lose weight, they decrease their muscle and fluid density as well as fat levels. This could result in a reduction in lean body mass and adverse health implications.
According to a 2018 review, the negative health implications of a loss of lean body mass are as follows:
Moreover, the authors note that the metabolic decline that occurs following a loss of lean body mass can regain fat mass and cause unfavorable changes in body composition.
The researchers advise that sustainably losing fat mass while maintaining lean body mass is even more important than overall weight loss.
Health professionals can measure someone’s body fat using anthropometric devices. Still, a 2021 review indicates that no single method is sufficiently adequate, and many measuring methods are either expensive, complicated, or inaccurate.
There are several ways to measure fat loss:
Learn more about different ways to measure body fat.
Losing weight and fat can help a person to avoid obesity and its related adverse health effects. However, it is essential to maintain lean body mass and muscle mass for the body to function correctly.
According to a 2018 review, popular diets such as low carbohydrate, ketogenic, and high-fiber diets result in weight loss — as well as a reduction in lean body mass. However, a high-protein diet resulted in more fat loss and less lean mass loss.
The same review indicated that some dietary supplements, including chromium picolinate and green tea catechin, might preserve lean mass while losing fat.
However, the authors concluded that the best approach includes a comprehensive strategy of evidence-guided calorie and macronutrient intake and resistance exercise.
A person should include adequate protein, and do strength and resistance training, to maintain muscle mass while losing weight.

Losing fat and maintaining muscle can be particularly challenging as a person ages.
Research suggests that as we get older, body fat increases, and lean mass and bone density decrease. In addition, older adults may develop sarcopenia, which is muscle loss due to aging.
Moreover, these changes in body composition put someone at more risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
The following factors can help a person reduce muscle loss as they age:
Losing weight can help someone avoid obesity and the risk of chronic diseases. However, losing fat can also mean losing fluid and muscle, and reducing lean body mass.
People must maintain their lean body mass for health, strength, and overall vitality. This can be particularly challenging for older adults, who are more at risk of sarcopenia or muscle loss.
Eating adequate amounts of protein, paying attention to macronutrients and calories, and strength training can help lose fat and maintain muscle. People can also consult a nutritionist or exercise professional for individual advice and recommendations.
Last medically reviewed on August 30, 2021
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