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What’s the difference between Weight Loss vs Fat Loss & Toning?

Q: What’s the difference between fat loss/toning and weight loss, and which should be my goal?

A: Weight loss is exactly that – losing weight. Most people who have weight loss as a goal just want to feel better in their clothes and have a healthier BMI. This can be achieved by being in a sensible calorie deficit for a period of time. Your bodyweight will come down and you’ll fit into smaller clothes but your “shape” may not change as you lose muscle as well as fat.

In theory, you can lose weight by chopping one of your legs off, or going on hunger strike, but to be “toned” we want the weight loss to come from body fat, and preserve as much muscle as possible.

Toning and Fat Loss is more specific. “Toning” means changing the shape of your body. For most of us, this means reducing body fat and creating a bit of definition. Think of it more as focusing on how you look on the beach, or naked, than how you look in clothes. In order to achieve this, we need to retain or build as much muscle as possible, whilst losing body fat. So, in addition to being in a calorie deficit, we need to add resistance training and ensure we get a reasonable amount of protein each day. 

Your goal can (and does) have an impact on how you structure your nutrition and training. The majority of my clients have one of these two goals:

  1. Weight Loss (Being happy with how you look in clothing). This is achieved be creating a caloric deficit.
  2. Toning Up (Being happy with how you look naked, in swimwear). This achieved by manipulating the muscle to body fat ratio via nutrition (calories and protein) and resistance training.

Basically, you can achieve weight loss without resistance training and a decent protein intake, but it’s difficult to  tone up without this. However, the benefits of a higher protein diet and resistance training are so numerous (improved health, reduced risk of osteoporosis, decreased abdominal fat, lowers risk of injury, increased confidence, carry-over into daily activities such as walking, carrying, climbing, improved heart health, lowers risk of type 2 diabetes, improves mood and mindset…the list goes on) that I recommend this for most people, regardless of your goal – we just shift the emphasis and importance of protein intake, according to the individual client and their goal.

Example: Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss / Toning

You can see from the example above, both had a 5 stone weight loss, both went from 14 stone to 9 stone, but the look and strength you get from toning is a completely different look to a pure weight loss plan. That’s why I often hear clients comment, “I was this weight a few years ago but my body didn’t look as good as this!”. Same body-weight, different body composition.

It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you are doing the right things for YOUR goal!

In summary:

Weight Loss = Look Good In Clothes 

Considerations: Weight Loss
Focus: Energy Balance

Toning = Look Good Naked

Considerations: Fat Loss | Muscle Gain
Focus: Energy Balance | Protein Intake | Resistance Training