Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss

Dumbbells made of tape measure (path/see also)

(DGIwire) — It seems almost everyone wants to lose a few pounds. There are many diets to choose from which promise rapid weight loss. Usually these diets drastically reduce carbs, calories or both. Indeed, many report a weight loss of 5-10 pounds in the first week, which can be very enticing and motivating. However, it can also be very deceptive.

Weight is really just a number on your scale. When you see that number go down, what exactly have you lost?

“When people say that they want to lose weight. What they really mean is that they want to lose excess fat. Many assume that a lower number on the scale equates to fat loss, which is rarely the case especially with that initial 5-10 pounds. For simplicity, consider that your body consists of just two parts, fat and everything else. Your real goal is to lose the fat, keep everything else and hopefully become healthier at the same time,” according to Tom Griesel, co-author of Turbocharged:  Accelerate your Fat Burning Metabolism, Get Lean Fast and Leave Diet and Exercise Rules in the Dust.

Carbohydrates are stored in the body along with water. When employing a very low carb or very low calorie diet people will lose weight rapidly in the initial weeks because they are using up stored carbohydrates, which also releases the stored water. This water is either used or excreted. The end result: the big initial weight drop is almost exclusively from water loss.

Many studies that evaluate body composition during dieting confirm that if you are losing more than 2 pounds per week, it is either water loss from low carb or too few calories causing loss of both fat and muscle. Neither scenario supports your actual goal and health.

Excess carbohydrates in the diet are either stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. When these reserves are full, they get converted to fat and stored. A low carb diet will correct this, the ideal however is to eat enough carbohydrates to satisfy an individual’s actual daily requirement. This amount depends almost entirely on daily activity levels.

Eliminating excess carbs can shift the metabolism to burn more fat. In the process, initially most people also reduce their overall caloric intake. So even when fat burning is increased, the ongoing weight loss comes from a simple reduction in overall calorie intake.

Griesel adds, “Theoretically, this should be good for fat loss. However, extreme and unnatural diets often cause stress, releasing the hormone cortisol, turning fat burning off. This also creates anxiety and often hunger that is counterproductive to maintaining your willpower to maintain your diet. “

In the end, a reduced calorie, balanced diet that contains adequate but not excess natural, unprocessed carbohydrates, protein and fat is your best bet for healthy long-term weight loss and maintenance.