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Losing weight can be a daunting task if you don’t know what you’re losing is, whether fat or just weight in the form of muscle or water. Depending on what approach you take to your weight-loss journey. You can easily end up not losing fat at all or gaining weight back faster than you lost. Today we will be covering the actual difference between losing weight vs losing fat and how you can make sure the weight you are losing is from fat.

The Key Difference

The key difference between losing weight vs losing fat is that one of them is temporary and your body will put it back on in just a day or two. The other one is that we are all aiming for fat loss that stays that way. Depending on what kind of diet you are on, you can either lose fat or lose water weight. Your choice not to train your muscles can  contribute to fat gain as well.

Weight loss in the form of water weight

Weight loss in the form of water weight

When talking about losing weight vs losing fat. The most common mistake that we all have made or still do is think a drastic weight drop on the scale is fat loss. A drastic weight loss in your first week is likely from water weight. It’s when you suddenly cut out carbs from your diet and your body loses the water it is holding on to. However, this gives people the illusion that the diet they are on is working due to the rapid weight  drop on the scale. When, in fact, your diet is not working or has anything to do with this weight loss. It’s carb restriction that has wiped out the glycogen stores from your body and muscles. Hence, temporarily reducing your weight.

The moment you do consume a carb, your body will start storing the water weight back as the glycogen in your muscles fills up. This can happen within a day or two. Manipulating water weight is a tactic used by celebrities to look leaner for a role, such as Henry Cavil in The Witcher or Superman, Hugh Jackman in Wolverine etc. This allows your body to let go of the water and makes you look leaner, but its not weight loss. Its just “Look nice for a picture strategy”. If you have fat to lose, this wont help you.

Weight loss from loss in Muscle mass

The other weight loss is from loss of muscle. As muscle is denser than fat, it weights heavier. So when you go on an extreme diet and lose both water weight and muscle. The numbers on the scale can be deceiving, making you think it’s from losing fat. Because losing muscle will make your numbers on the scale drop as well. What you need to know is that. Yes, losing muscles will help you lose overall weight, but it  promotes fat gain where there was muscle. Your body has additional space to store fat, because if your body thinks you do not need the muscle it will store fat as its goal is to primarily have energy (fat) for later.

The body’s primary goal is to survive and to do that it keeps reserves of fat (energy) in various parts of your body to use when you end up in a situation where you cannot find food. When your body sees, there is no stimulus being provided to your muscles. Meaning you are not resistance training to keep or build your muscles. Your body will target your muscles for nutrition, since your diet isn’t providing enough and instead of losing fat, you lose muscle.

Because the body wants to store fat, it’s the last thing it will target unless there is a need for your muscles. Your body doesn’t know you’re working out. It sees the stress your muscles are put through thinking, it’s a part of your daily survival and then allots calories that you eat to repair the muscle. Further, allowing you to have fewer calories for your body to store as fat. Muscles act as a deterrent to fat gain. Conversely, not training them allows your body more places to store fat.

So let’s say you had toned biceps, if you do not keep training them. You will now have arm fat. The same goes with your thighs, abs, back, triceps etc. Basically, anywhere you can build proper muscles can be a place for your body to store fat provided you give it the chance to. You cannot fight your body but you can surely maneuver it. That’s what weight loss is about.

Trust your eyes

Trust your eyes not the scale

This is one of the most crucial things you can do if you want to differentiate between losing weight vs losing fat.  You need to understand that the reading on the scale can be deceptive even if it says you have gained weight. Because this doesn’t necessarily mean you have gotten fat, It can just be additional water weight or muscle.

For example, let’s say you workout with weights and build muscle overtime. Your numbers on the scale may or may not go up depending on your muscle mass. This does not mean you will look bulkier. In fact,  quite the opposite, you will look more slim, more lean, more toned than you did before provided your diet is in check.

A pound of muscle vs fat are not the same

Muscle is denser than fat. That does not mean it weights more, so if you look at a pound of muscle vs a pound of fat. The pound of fat will look heavier and be bigger in comparison, even though the weight is the same. That’s because muscle takes up less space and is less in volume than fat. If you compare a person who is 60kg’s (132 pounds) with toned muscles on their frame with a person who is 60 kg’s (132 pounds) but has underdeveloped muscles. The one with the muscles will look more slimmer and lean visually despite their weights being the same.

benefits of training muscles

Benefits of training muscles.

Training your muscles comes with additional benefits, like  a faster metabolism, which allows you to burn more calories doing day-to-day things like walking, jogging. Your body will start targeting your fat cells to supply energy to itself as your muscles have been deemed a necessity due to you constantly working out.  Also the fact, muscles burn calories just to exist on you. All of these  benefits contribute to overall weight loss, which is sustainable, meaning you won’t be putting the weight back on.

This makes you look leaner and more toned, even when let’s say you are 1 kg extra on the scale. Visually, you will look better and leaner. So, if you want to tone your muscles and lose fat, train your muscles at home or at the gym. You don’t need to do anything extremely moderate weight that you can do 8 reps with is enough. A pair of dumbbells is all you need. If you need some of the top exercises that can help you do that, whether at home or at the gym. Read top-exercises-for-building-muscle-at-the-gym-or-home/


Cardio, its benefits and reality

You can lose fat with cardio as well. Any low intensity steady state cardio like biking, hiking, jogging, walking, power walking etc. It can help you burn fat daily. However, the only downside to that is the moment you stop cardio, your benefits stop. Cardio is like a daily transaction. Whereas, muscles are an investment that prolongs fat loss, strength as well as a toned physique. That doesn’t mean cardio is useless. If you have an inch or two to lose still after having some muscle on your frame, doing some cardio can help you achieve that. However, if your someone who is willing to go the extra mile everyday with cardio because you love it. That can help you with burning fat as well, provided you do it every day.

For a detailed guide on LISS cardio. Read what-kind-of-cardio-is-better-for-weight-loss/


  • Understanding the difference between losing weight or losing fat can be extremely helpful before getting on a scale.
  • Losing water weight does not mean fat loss. It’s just glycogen that will be replenished the moment you eat carbs.
  • Do not underestimate the effects loss of muscle can have on fat gain.
  • A pound of muscle vs a pound of fat do not look the same despite being the same weight.
  • Both cardio and training muscles have benefits. Cardio being the short term fat burner, while muscles being long-term.

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