The Holi festivities are over. And with all that thandai, gujiya, biriyani, pizza sitting gloriously in my stomach, I stepped on to my weighing scale…the rest can remain unsaid.
I have lost a considerable amount of weight in the last one year, which made me quite happy. Until the point that my gym opened and I realized that I could hardly lift the weights that I could easily before. And this made me wonder; had I lost just fat in the past year, then my strength would have been more or less the same. What I learnt is that losing fat and losing weight are not the same things. The term “weight loss” that we read about, can be misleading. Let me explain why exactly the two are different.
“Weight loss refers to an overall reduction in body weight due to loss of water weight, muscles and fat or any of them together. Fat loss, on the other hand, means a reduction in body fat, which is always the healthier approach,” says Jitendra Chouksey, founder and CEO of online health and fitness platform Fittr. Weight loss largely means loss of water weight and muscle and losing muscle is unhealthy and undesirable. It can make us weak over a period of time and even negatively impact our metabolism.
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So these are the things that you should not do: overstressing your body, starving, focusing only on a calorie deficit diet, ignoring a good nutrition plan and indulging in mindless cardio workouts. Doing all this might make you lose plenty of weight, but in the process, you will also lose muscle mass.
Fat loss is a more specific and healthy goal to aim for than weight loss. But can you lose fat and weigh the same? Or can you lose weight but retain fat?
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The odd thing about slimming down is that it doesn't always mean losing actual weight off the scale. “When you combine a good nutrition plan with a healthy workout routine that’s when your body starts entering a recomposition process. That’s when you start losing in inches, but your weight might remain the same. Muscle is more dense than fat, Even though your muscle mass is heavier than your fat, it takes up less space, which is why you look leaner and more toned. This is a sign that you're moving in the right direction in achieving your fitness goals,” says celebrity fitness trainer Samiksha Shetty.
On the other hand it is possible to lose weight on the scale without actually changing the composition of your body. You might end up losing muscle or water weight but not fat. You might notice your body circumference shrinking but your body won’t actually change shape the way you want, as the pinch-able fat remains the same.
Fat loss has many known health benefits. It can decrease the risk of several chronic diseases, help reduce the risk of age-related muscle loss, and reduce the chances of regaining fat, thus creating a higher metabolic rate. One needs to maintain a healthy percentage of muscles, not just to lift heavy weights but for other benefits including healthy blood sugar levels, maintaining healthy fat levels like triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood, and controlling inflammation.
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“On the other hand, when you lose muscles it can decrease the number of calories you burn at rest, making it easier to regain any weight you lost in the form of fat thus slowing down your metabolism,” adds Shetty.
What we eat certainly makes a difference in our weight loss and fat loss journey. While being in a calorie deficit can help you lose weight, for fat loss you need to also focus on the nutrition value of the foods being consumed.
“Nutrition plays an important role in our overall fitness journey. If we focus on substantially reducing calorie intake and eliminating certain foods or food categories, we are likely to lose muscle mass and may even miss out on important nutrients required by body. The healthier way is to adopt quantified nutrition, with a focus on including sufficient amounts of both macronutrients and micronutrients. This should be supplemented with resistance training,” adds Chouksey.