Fat Loss vs Weight Loss
Understanding the difference between fat loss and weight loss is a critical component in any fitness program. Many people confuse the number on the scale with their fitness level, although this can be quite misleading at times.
It is more important to monitor body fat percentage during the course of a fitness program, in order to best determine the ratio of muscle to fat in the body, or fat free mass to fat mass. By shifting the ratio of muscle:fat, it is possible to shift one’s metabolism. Once a metabolic shift has occurred, weight loss just happens.
It is all too often that prospective clients come to me upset about the number they see on the scale. The truth is, there is a such thing as “skinny fat people,” and “thin, heavy people.” The American Heart Association continues to emphasize the importance of BMI (body mass index), and this is important for heart health, as well as stress attenuation for the human body. However, the body’s ability to function optimally also lies in its ability to maneuver effortlessly.
When a body is imbalanced, or has too much fat mass, it is constantly in a state of hardship. Every time a muscle is recruited for a task that requires endurance, the heart is left overworking and undernourished. Through improved lower extremity strength, the venous system does not have to work as hard. This is called a ‘muscle pump system,’ meaning that the muscles in your lower and upper leg work together to help squeeze blood back to the heart, thereby decreasing stress on the cardiovascular system as a whole.
For this reason, many diets can be misleading. By depriving your body of essential nutrients it needs to build muscle, like protein, it is difficult to sustain any level of permanent weight loss. Naturally, as muscle wastes away and the amount of fat free mass in the body dissipates, a person’s metabolism will decrease. Over time, this results in rebound weight gain, and a feeling of depression.
Through the proper nourishment and a guided exercise program, this is not necessary. It’s important to speak with your doctor, physical therapist, or personal trainer to discuss the correct ratios of nutrients, as well as the appropriate exercise prescription before trying to lose weight. It may turn out that you have set yourself up for failure if you’re not careful.
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By Kareem Samhouri, DPT