PT on the Net Research

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss


I have only been training for a short time now, and the one glaring thing I run into time and time again is how clients get soooo caught up in weight loss and fail to realize the more important factor is burning fat and building lean body mass. When clients begin an exercise program, many times they end up gaining weight and don't realize this is o.k. Even when I explain this, they nod their heads and say they understand, but you know they aren't totally convinced. Do you have a good way of addressing this topic?


I know exactly how you feel. The client who believes weight is everything and body composition is irrelevant will not be swayed solely by your argument that body composition is all that really matters. Think about the first thing a new client says to you. It's rarely, "I want to get down to X percentage body fat." It's typically, "I want to lose X pounds" or "I want to weigh X."

One way around this is a tip I picked up at a conference years ago. A typical client who seems obsessed with the scale may listen when you start talking about "losing inches." What most of our weight loss clients really want is not a body that actually weighs less but a body that looks like it weighs less.

In order to show them they are losing fat and will eventually get a little smaller in addition to getting leaner, do both a skinfold measurement and a circumference measurement at the same spots. The typical three sites will do: triceps skinfold/arm circumference, umbilical/waist and thigh skinfold and circumference. Even as your new client gains muscle and possibly increases in circumference, the skinfold thickness at the sites will eventually get smaller. Also, do your best to reinforce the fact that a pound of muscle burns more calories all day long. (Although this type of client rarely listens to logic and science.)

Studies reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Journal of Applied Physiology showed that adding about four pounds of muscle weight through strength training can increase your metabolic rate by seven percent. That's about 90 calories a day for a woman with a metabolic rate of 1,300 calories/day. But you have to build the muscle first before you can maximize this calorie burning effect!