The Difference Between Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

For bodybuilding, having low body fat levels is essential if you want to display the muscles that you have worked so hard for. A big mistake however that many bodybuilders make is that when they want to get ripped, they focus too much on losing weight instead of just focusing on losing fat.You see, weight loss and fat loss are not necessarily the same thing. Weight loss is very easy to accomplish actually. All you have to do is take in less calories than what your body burns on any given day. So if your body burns 2,500 calories, and you just take in 2,000 calories, weight loss will occur. The problem is that if those calories that you take in do not have the right amount of nutrients, the weight loss may come in the form of muscle tissue loss, water weight, and perhaps even some bone mass! With that being said, let’s consider the three examples below:

Bodybuilding Diet Example #1

An example of a diet that can have a negative impact of this nature is a fad diet like eating just chocolate for example (let’s call this “The Miraculous Chocolate Diet”. In a case like this, because you are taking in less calories than what your body burns, you will lose weight. However, at least 50% of the weight loss will not come from fat. It will come instead from muscle tissue and bone tissue as a diet like this does not provide enough good nutrition to maintain (or slightly increase) muscle mass. The end results will be a smaller but still flabby version of yourself, Furthermore, your metabolism will be crippled by the fact that you have lost lean muscle which is one of the tissues that serves to maintain a high metabolism!

Bodybuilding Diet Example #2

In this example, the bodybuilder is a hardcore athlete who wants to work hard for his/her goals. This bodybuilder is willing to pay the price in order to achieve the bodybuilding goals. However because of his over-enthusiasm, logic is thrown out of the window and a bodybuilding diet consisting of 1500 calories, mostly coming from proteins and some good fats is implemented, in conjunction with an aggressive cardiovascular workout of twice a day 45 minute sessions and killer bodybuilding workouts.

While initially the body will respond well for about ten days, because the calories are so low and the stress on the body so high, cortisol levels will skyrocket, halt fat loss and start cannibalizing muscle tissue in order to cover the energy demand. In addition thyroid levels begin to shut down as well in order to lower the body’s metabolism and halt weight loss.

So even though tons of weight will be lost from a program like this, again, the best you can hope for is a 50% split between muscle loss and fat loss (so if you lose 20 pounds, 10 pounds are from fat/water and 10 pounds are from muscle; not good). Thus, the end result will be a more defined but much smaller version of you with a crippled metabolism.

Bodybuilding Diet Example #3

Now imagine that you follow a diet that creates a slight caloric deficit. So if you burn 2500 calories every day, your diet will consist of 2300 (a 200 calorie deficit). Also, imagine that you are following a good nutrition program consisting of 40% good carbs, 40% proteins and 20% fats, and that once a week you consume slightly more calories than the other day (around 2700) in order to prevent a metabolic slowdown. Furthermore, you create an even bigger caloric deficit through your 45-60 minute bodybuilding routines and a cardiovascular program consisting of 30 minutes or so every day. In this case, bone and muscle tissue are preserved (or even improved upon) while fat loss and the release of extra water retention are maximized. This is obviously what we are trying to accomplish.


While any calorie restriction will bring about weight loss it is very important to distinguish between weight loss and fat loss. Regardless of whether a person is interested in bodybuilding competition or simply looking fit, this principle applies to everyone. So always remember, train and diet hard but also be smart.

About the Author

Hugo Rivera is an International best selling fitness author certified in personal training and nutrition with a computer engineering degree from the University of South Florida. Hugo is owner of, an informational, free fitness and nutrition website. He is author of over 10 fitness books (with over a million copies sold) including his best sellers: Body Re-Engineering, The Body Sculpting Bible for Men, The Body Sculpting Bible for Women, the Weight Training Diary, and the Hardgainers Handbook of Bodybuilding. Today via his website, numerous articles, book publications, TV and radio appearances Hugo continues to educate the public on how to achieve the body of their dreams via the use of weight training exercise, good nutrition and correct supplementation.  You can follow Hugo at his YouTube channel here:

One Response for The Difference Between Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss

  1. Chelsie Vera


    July 6, 2010 12:48 pm

    Hello,Thank you for the cool post, there are many useful insight that I bet a huge number of guys do not know.