Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
HI FOLKS, it’s Adam. This is a topic that someone asked about in a suggestion box I posted on my social media a few weeks ago (@AdamWrightPT). “Not really sure what the difference is?” A great question! So let’s talk about it.
Your body is made up of fat mass (your body fat) and fat free mass (your organs, bones, muscle and water). In most cases when people talk about weight loss they actually mean fat loss. Some of you might exclaim, “I don’t care where I lose it from just once I get smaller and the number on the scales goes down”, but weight loss from fat free mass isn’t optimal for health.
Most people don’t have enough muscle to make losing muscle beneficial to their health and as we get older it becomes harder and harder to maintain muscle mass (it’s called Sarcopenia with aging and can result in up to 5% muscle mass loss per decade after the age of 30) so losing any on purpose isn’t really a great idea.
HOW TO LOSE
Weight loss can be achieved by consuming less calories than you burn. This is averaged per day, over a prolonged period of time, and is called a calorie deficit. The first question asked at this point is often, “Well how many calories should I eat then?” This is also a valid question. There are numerous formulae that exist to estimate this so either exercise your googling fingers or ask someone with the experience you need (like me) to get a starting estimate. That is, however, all it ever is: an estimate. You have to try it out for a while and then make adjustments and try again, because we’re all different. There is no way to guarantee a correct value the first time.
Fat loss is achieved the same way… but while consuming adequate protein to help maintain muscle mass as part of (not on top of) the calories you consume daily and providing adequate stimulus to maintain muscle mass. Adequate protein is around 1.6-2.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day (*1, 2). Adequate stimulus means actively training to get stronger. Getting stronger is something you can actually demonstrate, quantifiably, and that you can improve in some way almost every time you train. “Getting toned” is not and losing fat is not something you directly control.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU’RE LOSING WEIGHT?
The number on the scales is going down. How can you tell if you’re losing fat? This isn’t as clear cut without complex equipment but some indicators can be: Your scale weight is going down (or in some cases staying the same) and 1) You’re getting verifiably stronger, 2) You’re losing inches (long term) around hips and waist but less so around the rest of your body, 3) You look more “toned”, 4) You feel less “soft” (over time these last two will be the result of losing fat and getting stronger).
SO, IN REVIEW
Weight loss and fat loss are different. To lose fat create a small calorie deficit, consume adequate protein and strength train. Tracking fat loss is harder than tracking weight loss. Collect scale data. Track strength gains. Track inches. Take pictures. Track how you feel.
I hope this was useful, never hurts to reinforce these basics. If you have further questions, message me on social media, Instagram or Facebook @AdamWrightPT. I want to help. The Kingfisher Club is running live video classes, featuring myself and other instructors, for its members. Check out the club’s Socials for details. Have a great week!
*REFERENCES: (1) Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. PMID: 26817506; (2) Effects of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. PMID: 23739654