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The Truth about Weight Loss VS Fat Loss

Article date: | Author: Mark Bone | Category: Tips & Tricks

Here’s The “Make or Break” Difference Between “Weight Loss” and “Fat Loss” on Your Metabolism & Importantly What To Do About It!

Research studies show that when dieting without resistance training, up to 40% of that weight can actually come from muscle! Not Good!!

Focusing solely on the scales is “weight loss”, where only a percentage of that weight actually comes from body fat. Rather than focusing on solely on “weight loss” we need to be focusing on what that weight is coming from because it’s body fat that you really want gone.

Your body prefers to burn stored or consumed carbohydrates and fats for fuel, but when you’re in a large calorie deficit, your body will also inevitably break your muscle down into amino acids and use them for energy.

The major problem with this, is that your muscles demand a lot of fuel when using them. Therefore muscle is “metabolically active” and can help you burn more calories around the clock.

Losing your muscle mass, will slow your metabolism down and the other major problem with losing muscle is that your skin will become more flabby and you will look and feel even less “toned!”

Weight loss vs fat loss blog - Phoenix Gym Norwich

Why Dieting Gets Harder, The Harder You Diet! 

The longer you diet for the more muscle you can lose, so the slower your metabolism will keep getting, meaning that you then need to eat less and less calories to try to keep losing “weight”.

Then, the less food you eat the more muscle you burn through and the cycle continues…

Think “Weight Loss” = “Muscle Loss” = “Less Food” = “Slower Metabolism = “Even Weight Gain when you go back to normal eating!” 

Also, as you drop body fat, this too will also actually slow your metabolism down because you are carrying around less “total weight” and as a result, this becomes less effort for you to move.

On average, this amounts to about 5.8 calories per pound (12.8 calories per kg) of lost body weight.


When you lose a lot of weight, your body also starts trying to conserve energy by reducing the number of calories it burns, also slowing your metabolism.

It then attempts to prevent further weight loss by making you feel hungrier, lazier, and increasing food cravings.

These hormonal effects can cause you to stop losing weight and may make you feel so miserable that you abandon your weight loss efforts and then regain the weight, plus more.

Weight loss blog phoenix gym norwich

This phenomenon, which is your brain’s natural mechanism to protect you from starvation, is often referred to as “starvation mode”  and the fancy name for it is “adaptive thermogenesis.”

Your body and brain basically respond by making you hungrier, by lowering the hormone leptin and increasing the hormone ghrelin.

Leptin makes you feel full and satisfied and Ghrelin (think Gremlins) make you want to eat more.

leptin and ghrelin – The truth about weight loss vs fat loss

This way, by feeling lethargic and tired, you will likely skip workouts, rest more and generally move less.

This is what your body wants.


So a reduction in calories can cause starvation mode which is a natural response to dieting.

This has a combination effect of slowing your metabolism (less energy out) making you want to move less (even less energy out) PLUS eat more (more energy in) and this then leads to quitting your diet.

When you combine “starvation mode” with losing both muscle mass and fat weight, then this can lead to a much slower metabolism, whilst trying to diet alone.

After you quit your diet, you will most likely then gain more weight back than before you started your diet. This is Yo Yo dieting at it’s best! 

weight loss vs fat loss blog - gyms in norwich
Feet on a bathroom scale.

One simple strategy to combat “starvation mode” is to eat a bit more (or have a smaller calorie deficit) to keep your hormones happy (Leptin levels higher and “gremlins” lower) and include resistance training (and other activity you enjoy) to then further increase the caloric deficit instead.

This way you will not only maintain your muscle, but also build your metabolism and energy levels, instead of decrease them. 

These two key factors will both help you maintain your motivation for long term results and maintenance.


It’s quite common to comfortably lose more than 1kg of weight (water and excess digestion weight) within your first week or two/three, but this should not be consistent for long periods of time.

If you are losing more than 1kg per week then this should be an alarm bell that you may be losing “weight” too quickly and burning through your muscle.

This may not be what you want to hear, as you may have been conditioned to expect super fast results by ridiculous weight loss promotions and advertising, but it’s the truth in most cases and if you don’t get your head around that then you could keep yo yo dieting.

Losing a steady amount of “fat only” over a longer period of time can mean long term success but more importantly maintenance.

Think the tortoise and the hare. Someone losing weight too quickly will look like they are ahead on the deceitful scales, but over the next 6 to 12 months, you will very likely over take them and leave them for dust.

weight loss principle, phoenix gym norwich blog

Some people like to try to mentally dodge this fact by saying “I will first drop the weight and then tone up afterwards.”

And the problem with this is…

  1. You may not make it that far.
  2. You will then have work really hard in the gym to re-gain that lost muscle, which could take a long time.
  3. Your over all ‘shape’ will likely be worse than before you started.

It’s actually quicker to lose “all your excess body fat” by maintaining your muscle, especially if you include the right training, because it’s the end goal you want to achieve and not just the short term quick fix! Isn’t it? 

If you’re very overweight (maybe 5-10 stone) then you could lose a bit more than 1kg for a bit longer, but make sure you are including regular resistance training to maintain your muscle, shape and monitor your body composition (muscle and fat) regularly.

Think “am I still getting stronger or am I actually getting weaker” or “out of breath faster”, “have less energy” or need “shorter workouts” consistently as a result?

These can be good clues that you’re not eating enough and or losing muscle.

Any diet or exercise plan that is promoting that you lose a lot more than 1kg per week is preying on your emotions to sell you a pretend quick fix product, they know most likely won’t last. 

A marketing message of “you can lose 1kg a week over 6 months whilst including regular weight training” is not as sexy as “Lose 7lb in 7 days, quickly and easily!”

And just because someone loses a stone of weight in a month, it’s very likely that they will just “yo yo” and put that weight right back on again, plus a bit more for their troubles, when their hormones and willpower give out.

gaining more weight than you lost? Weight loss vs fat loss - Phoenix Gym Norwich!


Numerous studies have shown that for every pound of muscle that you gain or maintain, that’s an extra 11+ calories per day extra you will burn, depending on how active you are.

Extra muscle burns extra glucose and fat when you’re physically active and also during recovery from certain types of exercise.

The reverse is true also. If you actually lose 10lb of muscle when dieting (which is quite easy) you then need to consume 110 “fewer” calories per day than before you started your diet.

And if you gain 10lb of muscle instead, then that would mean a faster metabolism burning an “extra” 110 calories per day. This amount is then higher if you are using that muscle and exercising. Some studies say each extra pound of muscle can burn up to 50 calories extra per day, as a result of strenuous exercise.

This is obviously fantastic for long term weight management.


 So, if you at least preserve your muscle whilst dieting and then build some more to “tone up” the wobbly bits, improving your bodies over all shape, then you are actually increasing your metabolism instead of reducing it, through dieting alone.

Plus, you will have way more energy, strength and fitness to put into your workouts (and life) and burn even more calories within the same amount of time.

weight loss vs fat loss blog – phoenix gyms in norwich

It’s a win win all round, especially when you have less loose skin, where your muscle is filling the space between your bone and your skin more. Nice! 

This explains why clinically supervised weight loss programs emphasise the maintenance of lean mass.

Losses of lean mass during the “dieting” process reduces the caloric contribution of muscle and just 10 kcals/day (one pound of muscle) equates to the metabolic equivalent of gaining one pound of fat in a year, thereafter! Hmmm…

So losing 10lbs of muscle could potentially lead to gaining 10lbs of Fat during the following year afterwards.

And this doesn’t account for emotionally eating from feeling miserable and defeated.


So, dieting without resistance training to maintain muscle can lead to reduced daily calorie burning, a slower metabolism, less toned muscles/looser skin and a flat shape as a result.

The biggest initial benefits of resistance training come from maintaining muscle mass, increasing energy/calories burned as well a bonus EPOC (excess post oxygen exercise consumption) speeding up your metabolic rate after working out.

Dieting without resistance training can also mean that you will have to keep reducing your calories over time to compensate for the muscle, weight and metabolism loss. Oh dear…

weight loss vs fat loss blog- Phoenix Gym Norwich

These effects are actually worsened by “rapid weight loss” and lessened by a slower, more gradual weight loss.

More Muscle = More Fat Burning

So, an increase of 10lb of muscle vs a loss of 10lb of muscle means that you can then eat 220 more calories per day rather than less. More is you exercise regularly.

Let’s look at some simple figures and include some exercise.

If a resistance training workout burns 750 calories (as an example) with an EPOC of an extra 112.50 calories (up to 15%) then you are now up by 220 + 750 + 112.50 = 1082.50 calories!

There are 3500 calories in 1lb of fat, so that’s almost 1lb of fat gone in just 3 days with 3 resistance training sessions and maintaining more muscle.

So you are burning fat, maintaining or increasing muscle, increasing your metabolism, improving your health and feeling amazing.

And by using exercise to increase your calorie deficit rather than just trying to eat less, you are also avoiding “Starvation Mode” and preventing your hormones from fighting against you.

Another way to think about those extra calories burned from that extra 10lb of muscle, rather than a loss of 10lbs, is to multiply the 220 daily calorie difference over 365 days of the year.

That an impressive 80,300 calories for the year!

If we then divide that figure by 3500 (1lb of fat) then that’s a 22.9lb difference.

That’s the power of your muscle and metabolism!


Once you achieve your target body fat % and shape, you can then increase your calories further to maintain your new shape and gain a little more muscle to work on “Toning Up” any desired area’s. (we just saw that more muscle means you can get away with eating more1)

And don’t worry, any ladies reading this, you wouldn’t look like a body builder, we are talking about just a healthy, physically fit, natural Shape.

As you can see from the picture below, muscle is much smaller than fat, so if you lost 30lbs of fat and gained 10lbs of muscle, then you will be much much smaller, slimmer and firmer!

Check out this Muscle & Fat Comparison: 

So, how can you monitor your Body Fat and Muscle Mass as you lose “Weight” to make sure you’re on track?

The two most common ways are calliper testing or Bioelectrical impedance machines, but both of these methods can be highly inaccurate, intrusive and only provide rough figures to work with.

Our preferred method is a 3D Body Scanner because not only is it more accurate, but way more motivational that any other method currently on the market.


Our Fit3D Body Scanner takes just 40 seconds to complete in a private room (just you) and gives you accurate, comprehensive, body composition feedback, so that you know if you need to make important changes to your diet, training or both.

The results include body fat and lean mass along with full body measurements, health comparisons such as trunk to leg volume ratio and a detailed postural assessment.

fit3d scanner at phoenix gym norwich

The greatest benefit of the FIT3D Body Scanner though, is that it has 3 infrared HD cameras that capture 1200 images and creates a highly accurate avatar of you in 3D. This allows you to actually see what you look like from every angle!

There is no hiding from the 3D Body Scanner, so it’s incredibly motivational…

You simply create an online account and the detailed report is emailed to you within just a few minutes.

Your account is completely private but you can also share your report with a personal trainer if you choose to.

Subsequent scans provide a comprehensive before and after comparison, so that you can accurately track your progress.


Phoenix Gym has the largest range of resistance and functional training equipment in Norwich, to prevent exercise boredom, provide equipment for all ages and abilities and to avoid long queuing times.

All new DD and Annual members receive 2 x Free (60 minute) personal training sessions to design you a personalised programme and all memberships provide free guest passes for you to train with a friend or family member.

Phoenix also has Norwich’s most experienced team of Personal Trainers to help you not only get started but most importantly progress your exercise programmes, help with tailored dietary advice and provide feedback on your FIT3D scan results.


You can Book a Gym Tour or you can simply Join Online Now.

If you would like to book a free consultation with one of our experienced personal trainers then you can find their profile information here.

You can learn more on how to specifically use exercise to burn fat and maintain muscle by reading:  “The Ultimate Fat Loss Guide!”

See you soon and “Raise Your Game!”

Mark Bone

About the author

Mark Bone is the Managing Director of Phoenix Gym Norwich and has been a Master level personal trainer and sports therapist since 1998. Mark has an extensive background and experience in all aspects of personal training and lifestyle coaching, from fat loss, general health improvement, motivation, strength and conditioning with professional athletes and currently specialises in corrective exercise.

Mark has written articles for magazines, assisted Channel 4 for a short weight loss series, done interviews for Norwich Radio (and most local and some national new outlets including the BBC) and taught weight loss programmes. Mark now uses his skills and experience to train Personal Trainers within Phoenix Gym to ensure that the trainers, clients and gym members all get the best results and most enjoyable experience possible.