As bodybuilding and fitness athletes, we all make great efforts to get our body fat levels low. The lower body fat the better, if you want to show off the muscles, for which you worked and trained so hard. Many athletes, when they want get cut, make one big mistake: They focus too much on weight loss, while fat loss should be the main goal.
Weight loss vs fat loss – are they the same thing ?
You see, weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. Getting rid of excess weight, is, in fact, very simple. If you want to lose weight, all you need to do is to consume slightly less calories than your body needs.
If your body burns 2,500 calories every day, you simply limit the number of calories to 2000 and you will gradually lose weight. If those calories you consume don’t contain the desired amount of macro nutrients, weight loss can occur in the form of loss of muscle tissue, water and possibly even bone mass!
Let’s consider the following three diet examples:
This example of a diet is based on the well-known chocolate/twinkie diet. So when you start consuming fewer calories than the body needs, you will lose weight. However, this will not be loss of fat only.
Most of the mass from which you will manage to get rid of, will be muscle, some water and bone mass. Such a diet can not provide the body with all the necessary nutrients (protein, quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats) to maintain muscle mass.
The end result – a little thinner, but flabby old you. In addition, your metabolism will be crippled because the loss of muscle tissue, which serves to maintain a high metabolism.
Here we have an athlete who trains hard and wants to achieve their goal of losing fat and getting cut at all costs. Because of their excessive enthusiasm, they follow a hostile bodybuilding diet that consists of 1,500 calories coming mainly from protein and some good fats. The routine also contains aggressive cardio exercise for 45 minutes a day and intense strength training.
For about 10-15 days the body of the athlete will react normally. Then, because of the low calorie consumption and high stress, cortisol levels will increase significantly, fat loss will slow down and the body will start breaking down muscle tissue in order to cover the highly increased energy needs.
In addition, the thyroid hormones ( that stimulate growth and development, and growth and differentiation of cells), will also drop to reduce the metabolic rate and stop the weight loss.
This program will definitely make you lose weight, but the best that you can hope for is 50% fat loss. The rest of the mass lost will be muscle tissue as well as water. The end result will be more defined, but significantly smaller version of yourself with crippled metabolism.
Now imagine that you follow a diet that creates a small calorie deficit. If your body burns 2,500 calories each day to sustain itself, your diet will consist of 2200 – 2300 calories.
Also, imagine that you follow a good nutrition program consisting of about 40% carbohydrates, 40% protein and 20% fat, and once a week, you consume a slightly greater amount of food and more calories (eg 2700-3000 kcal) than the other days of the week (which equals a cheat day) in order to prevent the decrease of your metabolism.
In addition, with 45-60 minutes of your strength training and 30 minutes of cardio exercise, you will create an even greater calorie deficit. In this scenario, bone and muscle tissue are preserved and even enhanced, while the loss of fat and water are maximized. This is exactly what we are trying to achieve.
In conclusion – when comparing weight loss vs fat loss we see that they are two completely different animals. Train smart, follow a healthy diet and be consistent, because fat loss takes more time and work.