It can be difficult to know whether you’re losing weight from fat or muscle.

Ways tell whether you’re losing fat

It’s common practice to track your weight loss progress using a scale.

While this can be helpful, most scales don’t differentiate between fat loss and muscle loss.

For that reason, tracking only your weight isn’t a reliable way to determine whether you’re losing fat or muscle and in what amounts.

Conversely, a body fat scale can provide a more accurate picture of your body composition by measuring the percentage of fat and muscle you have.

You can also use skinfold calipers to estimate your body fat percentage, but this takes practice to ensure accuracy.

Focus on fat loss, not weight loss

Many weight loss programs claim to help you lose weight quickly and easily.

However, it’s important to realize that a significant amount of this weight may include water and muscle losses.

Losing muscle can be detrimental, as muscle is a crucial component of your overall health.

Maintaining a healthy percentage of muscle has several benefits, such as regulating healthy blood sugar levels, maintaining healthy fat levels — like triglycerides and cholesterol — in the blood, and controlling inflammation.

Indeed, several studies have linked a higher fat-to-muscle ratio to chronic diseases like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and diabetes.

Maintaining your muscle mass may also reduce your risk of age-related muscle loss, which results in frailty and potentially disability.

Additionally, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This is the main reason why men generally have higher calorie needs than women.

Consequently, losing weight in the form of muscle can decrease the number of calories you burn at rest, making it easier to regain any weight you lost in the form of fat.

The bottom line

Weight loss refers to a decrease in your overall body weight, whereas fat loss refers to weight loss that occurs specifically from losses in fat mass.

A body fat scale or skinfold caliper is more useful for monitoring fat loss than tracking your body weight alone.

Other simple ways to access fat loss include measuring inches or centimeters lost from your waist and hips and noting any changes in how your clothes fit around your waist.

Losing weight in the form of fat rather than muscle should be the priority given how important your fat-to-muscle ratio is to your overall health.

You can prioritize fat loss by eating plenty of protein, exercising, and moderately restricting your calories.

Medical reference: Healthline