"Fat Loss? I Think you meant Weight..." I get this question posed to me at lest 5 times a week from clients and colleagues. To some the difference is quite obvious, however, late night television infomercials and periodical type magazines stick to the "Lose Weight" buzzword as it seems to be more widely recognized.
The term weight loss can apply to many things. Are you seeking to lose weight via water loss (Temporary)? Muscle loss (Not recommended, Muscle is important to bodily function)? or are you looking for fat loss (Highly recommended)?
Water loss will occur when you partake in strenuous exercise and sweat out the pounds. Some fad diets recommend an individual drink only fluids for 3-4 days and lose 12 pounds, of water they fail to tell you. Only to gain back 14 when normal food consumption is resumed. These crackpot diets actually work, but only temporary. These companies prey on the individual only paying attention to the weight on the scale, not the image in the mirror. This type of dieting often leads to what is referred to as "Yo-Yo Dieting", where by the individual constantly fluctuates in weight due to the ineffectiveness of these poor approaches.
Another way to lose weight is via muscle loss (though the individual doesn't usually realize its muscle weight they are losing). This will usually occur on diets where carbohydrate restriction is the name of the game. While these diets, when performed correctly, can be beneficial to obtaining your dream body, caution must be observed. Carbohydrates are a very important part to maintaining a fit and lean body. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source the body uses for strenuous exercise. If you restrict this fuel source, the body will actually start burning muscle for fuel. This will definitely make the scale weight go down, but along with it goes any muscle mass you may desire or have acquired.
The third, and what I deem the best method for body composition management is fat loss. Fat loss is achieved through a proper combination of diet and exercise. When your nutrition is dialed in, and your exercise is of the interval type training (Think sprinting, hill climbing, interval training for three 10 minute intervals, 3-4 days per week, the fat will seem to melt off.
A simple interval circuit could be 10 minutes on the bike with varying intensities, 10 minutes on the stair climber with varying intensities, ended with 10 minutes on the elliptical, also varying intensities. These bursts keep the body in flux so it will not adapt and start burning Carbohydrate stores solely. Guess what the body taps into for energy? You guessed it, the fat stores? Say good bye to those love handles and saddle bags folks!!!
This is the key. Short durations of intense exercise will help burn the fat and help you attain your fat loss goals. This style of training coupled with a sound nutrition program such as Dr John Berardi's Precision Nutrition will ensure you get ripped quickly and permanently. These short duration type exercises cause the body to mobilize and burn fat cells.
A common rebuttal to my interval take on fat loss I is this, "well I just watched the Boston marathon and those guys were thin, yet your telling me that in order to get lean I don't want to do long distance running?"
While long distance running will in fact help you achieve great levels of fat loss, you also lose a lot of muscle. Remember, carbohydrates are used during long bouts of exercise and fat is burned during short intense bouts of exercise. After around 10-15 minutes of straight, intense exercise the body swaps over from using the fat store to using the carbohydrate stores. When those are gone, what do you think they start tapping into? Thats right, the muscle stores. These people aren't necessarily skinny, they just lack the body mass due to years of running.
An interesting side note is that it takes twice as many calories to achieve and maintain lean muscle mass, this simply means that the more muscle your body contains, the more calories you will burn at rest. No need to be Arnold here, but just something to think about.
Hopefully you can see the picture I am drawing here. Fat loss is in a way much easier to accomplish with short intense workouts as opposed to hours on the treadmill. The benefits are two-fold. Not only do you cut down on your workout time, you achieve your fat loss goals quicker. It is my hope this short article has helped you to think about weight loss and fat loss differently. Good luck in your goals, I hope you achieve all you set out to do. Take Care.