Weight Loss v. Fat Loss & Caloric Deficits

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

Before digging into the topic of weight loss vs. fat loss, we first have to make a differentiation between the two concepts that are often mistakenly interchanged. Weight is a measure of your body’s gravitational pull to the earth, AKA mass. This measures the total mass of a multitude of body composition variables including your body water and muscle mass. Both body water and muscle mass are things that can drastically affect your weight. Fat loss, however, is the reduction of body fat which is what most populations aim for while claiming to want to “lose weight.” Preferably, weight loss should be achieved via fat loss while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. 

So how do you lose fat? 

Fat loss is achieved only through being in a caloric deficit. All food contains calories and calories are units of energy. Being in a caloric deficit means that you are burning more calories than you consume typically through exercising more (burning calories) and/or eating less (consuming < calories). This process can be simplified by using tracking apps and/or reputable online calculators to determine how much energy your body needs daily and creating a deficit based on those calculations.  It is recommended to start with a shallow-moderate caloric deficit to reduce intense feelings of hunger that can lead to food overconsumption (binge episodes) and, ultimately, weight gain. Shallow-moderate caloric deficits will result in less rapid fat loss but are far more realistic when adherence overtime is considered. It is far more difficult to adhere to a program that includes a dramatic caloric deficit because intense feelings of hunger are likely to occur in this state and motivation/willpower, being temporary sources, will eventually cease. Consistent adherence to a shallow-moderate caloric deficit will ensure that fat loss is achieved and maintained overtime. 

So how do you know how many calories to consume?

A great online calculator to use to determine how many calories to consume daily is TDEE calculator (tdeecalculator.net). This calculator uses variables such as: gender, age, height, weight, and activity level to estimate how many calories you burn daily. Based on this estimation, you would subtract a given amount of calories daily to total the number of calories you need to burn to lose a given amount of weight per week. These daily caloric deficit amounts do not have to be equal as these amounts can be cycled up and down throughout the week (i.e. 500-calorie deficit on Monday’s and 200-calorie deficit on Thursday’s, etc.) as long as the caloric deficit equals the amount of calories needed to lose (X) amount of body fat by the end of the week. One pound of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories so to lose 1 pound of body fat per week, you would need to create a deficit of ~500 calories per day. Remember, this deficit can be created via both less food consumption and more physical activity. It is, however, recommended to lose no more than 1-2% of your body weight per week to create a maintainable caloric deficit. 


Adherence to these principles will be the number one determinant for long-term fat loss success. Being very reasonable, patient, and consistent with your fat loss goals will help you achieve them without unnecessary added stress and anxiety. Keep these goals in mind throughout the process and be flexible enough to adjust them as needed throughout. Fat loss does not have to be complicated when approached with a scientific scope in mind. Calories in < Calories out. 

Article’s MVPs – Most Valuable Points:

  • Fat loss is only achieved through a caloric deficit. 
  • Determine your needed daily/weekly caloric deficit via an online calculator.
  • 1 lb of body fat is approximately 3,500 calories.
  • Fat loss should be no more than approximately 1-2% of your body weight per week for a more manageable/sustainable lifestyle. 
  • Use physical activity to complement your efforts towards losing body fat. 



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