#05 – Is it better to lose weight than lose body fat?

Show notes –


In this episode, we will look at the difference between a “weight loss” goal and a “fat loss goal”. Are they the same thing? Should you be looking to lose body fat or should you be looking to lose weight? What’s the right mind-set to take? And what’s best course of action?

When it comes to health and fitness, many new starters will start off with a goal and this goal will be to “lose weight and get fit”. The term “fitness” isn’t just the measure of your body weight. There are many ways to measure your fitness – Flexibility, cardio stamina, muscle strength, muscle stamina and the list goes on, you get the picture.

From my experience as a personal trainer 8/10 new clients would be looking for a PT to help them “lose weight” and the measure of their success is judged mainly by the scales. My approach is different – I advise that if you are over weight, meaning you have a high percentage body fat, you should look at the best way to lose “body fat”. Body fat is however weight, so if you shift your focus to losing “body fat” then actual weight loss becomes a byproduct of your efforts, and this is the way it should be.

What’s the difference between weight loss and fat loss? – Well the main difference in weight loss and fat loss is that if you focus solely on weight loss, this means you’re not fussy about where this weight goes from as long as it is lost or goes. This is a problem for me as this means that to the weight loss aspirant, any body weight lost, be it from muscle, fat, water or even a good hair cut can technically be considered a win.

Weight loss is actually something that is less useful to someone who has a high body percent of fat than it is to someone involved in competitive sports, for example, a bodybuilder or boxer might need to drop to a certain weight to be able to compete in a certain category, this is useful weight loss.

Why is this a problem – I believe that it is possible to lose a lot of weight but keep the same amount of body fat. To the uninformed, this would be considered as mentioned earlier – “A win”. And let’s be honest, when most people say they want to “lose weight”, they really mean they want to “lose fat”.

From my personal experience in my own training and education on the diet side of things, I’ve seen and heard of many people who set out to “lose weight” with a certain diet… We all know the ones, without naming any, the diets that you eat pre prepared meal replacements, zero carb diets and basically some form of “nutrition deficiency, if you like… But I don’t think people should be sold on the idea that “carbs are bad” or “fat is bad” because if you are looking at the long term lifestyle choice, you need these types of nutrition. But without going down that rabbit hole – if you run these types of diets without exercise, several things will happen. Two points spring to mind right away.

  • One- Yes! You will lose weight, but this will probably be in the form of water and muscle mass.
  • Two- Because of this loss in water and muscle mass, you may become weaker and more frail than you were before, not to mention that your body will not have lost the percentage in Body fat that you were expecting. This means that you probably also lose energy and even put your posture at risk by leaving bones and joints open to injury… Yeah this sounds extreme but it is a very real side effect of a starvation diet.

Another thing that is worth mention at this point is the fact that your body will always try to adapt to how you condition it, weather this is through exercise or diet, if you go for long periods of starvation for example, your body will learn to store the food that you give it for longer when you do decide to eat, so you effectively slow your metabolism down, meaning you become less efficient at functioning. This ncludes burning fat. This is just a simple example but there are actually ways to burn more fat through intermittent fasting but for the purpose of this point, Ill not get into that yet. I don’t want to get too scientific at this stage.

So the take away for this point is that you should aim to fuel your body in a sustainable way that will allow it to function optimally, this does not mean that you cut out useful forms of nutrition such as complex carbohydrates for example.

Work on building lean muscle

I believe that the more lean muscle that you have, the more efficient you will become at burning fat. The term “More lean muscle” can put some people off BUT. This doesn’t mean be you need to be like Mr universe, it means in the simplest terms, that you should aim to build muscle and keep it, whilst also aiming to burn the fat stores. This way, you will be “reducing your body fat percentage, whilst strengthening your muscles and developing a good strong posture whilst also training your body to become more efficient.”

This is where the whole “lose weight” and “lose fat” thing starts to show clear lines and this is how I understand it – Muscle is denser than fat, so pound for pound, you get a lot more fat for your money. Muscle is also hungrier, so it needs feeding more to keep functioning, so more muscle mass means more energy used, more energy used means more calories used and this means more fat burned, there are also bonuses to metabolism with a higher muscle mass. So having more lean muscle when fat loss is your goal is a very nice bonus.

If you do use the scales to measure your success with “weight loss” and you are training with resistance to build those muscles as part of your plan and you see that you haven’t lost weight on some weeks, even though you have been training hard, eating right etc, it might be that you have just gained lean muscle, you are more hydrated than you were, there are plenty of reasons for this, so it’s not a fail that week, you may have actually changed your body composition, so it’s not a failed week at all!

Body composition

Body composition is basically what you are made up of, would you rather be would you rather be 50% fat or 50% muscle? Going back to the hair on your head, you could grow loads of that and gain weight and I suppose as a whole, you would have a higher percentage of hair that made up your body weight BMI, why do I think it is a massive waste of time and not really helpful to someone who really wants to change their body composition? you can look at someone and discern whether they are overweight for their height and maybe the whole BMI thing is only really of any use when measuring someone who is super obese and measuring their progress on their fat loss goals.

I remember a few years ago, there was a TV Show called the biggest loser on and I watched this and felt so bad for one of the contestants – He was a naturally big guy, over six foot tall and thick set… He worked so hard on the training and it was clear that he was one of the most committed but he lost the least weight one week and was set home! I was devastated for him, shouting at the TV and everything, To me it was clear that his body composition had just started to change and it was a massive injustice to this guy, and he really deserved to get the help and recognition but he was made to feel like a failure. I get that this makes good TV but as this is a passion of mine, it really made me angry to see this kind of hard work and motivation be unrewarded.

Ok, this guy was naturally big and while were here, I think its worth mentioning something about genetics –Everyone is different and Genetics do play a part in the whole body composition thing and the hand that you are dealt from the beginning does have a sway on your potential. I have heard professional bodybuilders say that genetics has nothing to do with it but all you have to do to help make up your mind is look at the variation of height from person to person. As far as I know, you can’t go into a gym and work on making yourself a foot taller so some people aren’t genetically gifted.

With that said though, I believe 100% that there is no reason that anyone cant maximise their potential and achieve impressive fitness results including fat loss.

Going back to the weight loss/ Fat loss thing and genetics, I believe it’s true that some people will have a harder time than others when it comes to fat loss because they are born with a different body composition, but still, if you are in this position, and you understand how your body works, adopt the right mind-set, there is no reason why you can’t smash it with fat loss.

Mindset for fat loss / weight loss

So onto mind-set – First thing to do is to ditch your scales! As we said, this can be a bit demotivating. If you must use your scales, try to limit this to once per week. One of my best tips for testing your fat loss is looking in the mirror but one thing that has worked well with a client in the past was a pair of jeans that they wanted to fit into. you could try this – Try these on once per week, its a great feeling when you can finally fit back into an old pair of jeans or other item of clothing, and you may not have lost that much weight, it will be the result of a body composition change.

A point on targeted fat loss – You can’t choose where to lose fat from, it is a “percentage body fat” This means that you have to treat it as such… fat stores in different places – Women normally around their bums and hips while men normally around their abs, but everyone’s different, this is just a general rule of thumb based on a different set of hormones and body set up between genders.

So if you are starting out on a “weight loss goal”. What should you do? How do you put this in to action


  • – First of all, understand that the actual “weight loss” is not half as important as you may have believed at first, understand the Aim to lose “FAT” not “WEIGHT”


  • – Aim to build and tone muscle, you don’t have to be a bodybuilder for this, but remember that more lean muscle means more efficient fat burning


  • – Muscle is denser than fat so if you don’t lose weight one week even though you have put in the work, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are failing, you may be doing better than you think. – Don’t take the scales too seriously, use them as a guide but doing measure your success by them


  • – Get an item of clothing as a measure and try this on every week at the same time, you may be surprised to see that it fits better on a week where you didn’t actually lose any weight.


  • – Its body composition that you are looking to change, more muscle, less fat. Genetics may hold you back, BUT you can still win in the fat loss game, just understand how your body works, you might have to research or change your mindset but you CAN get awesome results!

SO if you are looking for advice on “weight loss” or you are even planning to go to a personal trainer and ask them for help “losing weight”, when they ask you – What are your goals”, you should say –

Yes, well I’m looking to reduce my body fat percentage, whilst strengthening my muscles and developing a good strong posture whilst also training my body to become more efficient.

Because I think this is what most people mean when they say “I want to lose weight”

Thanks for listening, hope it all helps! Please remember to visit the AudioFit Test .com for more episodes if this was useful and also my other site – Jims health and muscle.com, there’s plenty of advice here for beginners… Also It means the world to me if you do buy any of my guides over on audible or Amazon if you leave reviews, These honest reviews are mega important for me, not just for visibility but for my own development.

So anyway, thanks again, hope this helps in some way and I hope to chat to you again soon,

Cheers and all the best

Jim – out


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