Weight Loss vs Fat Loss vs Fat Burn

Weight Loss vs Fat Loss vs Fat Burn

By Taylor Noriega, NSCA, Pn1, CPPC

Weight Loss vs Fatt Loss vs Fat Burn

It’s no joke that one of the main reasons nutrition information is so confusing on the internet is because of improper use or manipulation of terminology.  Yes, whether it’s done on purpose or not, certain keywords are used to establish nutrition claims as “Fact.”  A little education on terminology can aid in breaking through the myths and provide you with a better foundation to understanding or deciphering these claims.  

So, the purpose of today is to define the difference between weight loss, fat loss, and fat burn.  These three terms are “thrown around” and interchanged more than any others.  With the weight loss industry being worth around $7.1 billion, professionals in the health and fitness industry are going to use anything to try and catch your attention to convince you that they have the ‘magic potion’ to buy.  For example, when an “expert” is trying to sell their nutrition program, they might tell you how their program promotes fat burning.  To a person who has been trying to lose weight for a while with no success, this is going to sound great.  A diet that does all the fat burning for me?  Yes, please!  However, this person is looking for fat loss while the program promises fat burn.  Now, while they aren’t technically lying, s/he has successfully used terminology to sell a person on their program whether they lose fat or not.  Let’s get into it:

Weight loss: This is the loss of overall body weight.  No matter if it’s lean mass, water weight, or fat mass, if the scale weight goes down, you have weight loss.  If you put yourself in a calorie deficit, you are going to lose weight consistently over a period of time.  If you just focus on the calories, you have little control over what it is your body is losing.  This is often seen with crash diets.  Yes, you lose weight, but it comes from both muscle and fat mass.  Fighters, lifters, and other athletic competitors who have to make a certain weight before their competition will manipulate water weight in order to “make weight.” Certain practices are used to help these competitors release water, ultimately losing weight.  There’s little to no change in muscle or body fat, but they have lost total body weight. 

Fat loss: This is when weight loss is coming from body fat mass.  When you put yourself in a calorie deficit and consume sufficient protein, you’re going to see fat loss.  You could measure this with some kind of body composition machine or skinfold calipers.  This is what most people are seeking when looking for weight loss programs.  Many self-proclaimed experts will put together restrictive dietary guidelines or bland meal plans and assert their program is the ONLY way to lose “stubborn” body fat (or whatever other trigger words they like to use). In reality, calories, protein, and staying active are the key components to this.  While total body weight can fluctuate by several pounds overnight, fat loss takes time and relies heavily on energy balance.  

Fat burn: This is the most commonly used term and the most misunderstood.  I’m going to start with this: your body can be in a fat burning state and not lose any body fat mass at all.  Let me explain.  Body fat is stored in cells known as adipocytes.  When you eat a diet that’s higher in fats and lower in carbohydrates, your body turns to a fat burning state for energy.  Fat burning is just another way your body creates energy.  Since you’re eating more fats, your body has dietary fats to “run off of.”  It’s only when in a calorie deficit that your body can utilize adipose tissue (stored body fat mass) for energy.  This is when we see fat loss. Whether or not your body is in a fat burning state, a calorie deficit is the only thing that causes your body to tap into its fat stores.

Next time you’re looking into a nutrition program or trying to learn something new from the internet, read carefully and with caution.  Look up words you’re unsure of and do your due diligence to understand what someone is trying to sell or teach you.  Your most powerful weapon against succumbing to the saturation of information and misinformation in the health and fitness industry is your knowledge and ability to cut through the bullshit.  Check out our recent blogs to get the most up to date information, and if you still have questions, we offer free nutrition consultations with top notch coaches.  We also have an in-house InBody (non-invasive, multi-frequency, bioelectrical impedance analysis machine) to ensure you’re on track with fat loss or whatever your goal may be.