Weight Loss, Fat Loss and Body Composition - What’s Best?
Updated: Mar 2
Having the ability to carry a heavy load up and down the stairs sure is empowering, isn’t it? Strength training reaps lots more health benefits than that came from including injury prevention, improved bone density, a lower risk for type 2 diabetes and other diseases, plus significant Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) improvement. Wait, Basal what? Let’s explain.
Your BMR is the number of calories you burn as your body performs basic or basal, life-sustaining functions. As we get older, our muscle mass slowly decreases which also decreases our BMR over time, however, we do have some control over that. Although we can’t control genetics and age, we do have control over maintaining a healthy metabolism, body weight, and increasing our muscle mass through strength training which can in fact increase our BMR or at least maintain. So yes, not all is lost.
But before you take off, you must know this - if you are focused solely on weight loss rather than gaining strength, when you lose weight, you also lose both fat and muscle, unless you are doing something to preserve the muscle mass. Losing calorie-burning lean muscle mass will actually slow your metabolism down. So the question is, which is best - losing weight or losing fat? Let’s break it down.
Weight loss refers to a decrease in your overall body weight from muscle, water and bad losses. Simply put, it refers to the overall drop in the overall kilo weight. There are many things which can affect weight fluctuations on a daily basis, such as hormonal imbalance, varying sodium intake, different amounts of dietary fiber and food. So weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than you burn, and by following a workout regimen. Weight loss is an arbitrary term and can mean anything that causes you to weigh less, such as: water, muscles, glycogen and fat.
Fat loss refers to weight loss from fat and it’s a more specific and healthful goal than weight loss. A percentile and specific drop in body fat level is fat loss. In fact, fat loss consists of losing weight while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible, which will allow you to look more toned and get that fit look. But how do you lose body fat? To primarily lose fat, strength or resistance training need to be prioritized (aim for at least 2 - 3 times per week) so you don’t put on muscle, you build muscles, but all with proper nutrition intact, of course.
How do you know if you are actually losing fat? The best way to find out is by using a body fat scale or skinfold caliper. These are more useful ways to monitor fat loss rather than tracking your body weight alone.
So does losing body fat increase your BMR? Here’s what it comes down to - resistance and strength training will help increase your BMR because it promotes an increase in lean body mass or muscle tissue. Muscle is highly metabolically active which means that it requires more calories than fat to be maintained. The more muscle you support, the more calories you will burn. End of story.
When considering overall health, body composition is a more accurate way to judge progress. Even though overall weight may remain constant, positive results are seen when fat percentage decreases and muscle, or fat-free mass, increases. Your body composition is made up of fat mass and fat-free mass. You can improve it by decreasing body fat (as mentioned about) increasing muscle or both. Making any of these changes can lead to a decrease in your body fat percentage, which is viewed as a single number that describes your body composition.
The takeaway? Losing body fat is generally healthier than losing weight overall, since weight includes lean body mass. To make it happen, aim for a total weight loss of just a pound or so per week by trimming your calories, not crash dieting, eating plenty of protein and prioritizing strength training.
Trainers Spot has an InBody scan in-house to help you to get started and keep focused on your strength training goals. $39.99 for InBody Testing at Trainers Spot; ask your trainer to get the scan!