Home / Nutrition / Differences between weight loss and muscle definition

Differences between weight loss and muscle definition

Cutting phase”, have you heard of it?

The “Cutting phase” is part of the process of muscle definition, more than lose weight.

If you are part of the fitness world, surely this concept is not new to you, but do you understand what is the level of changes in body composition?

You probably associate some cut in food, which is not necessarily incorrect, but unspecific.

If we “cut” in our diet, obviously our body weight will decrease, but the interesting issue will not be a general loss, but rather, just a decrease in fat mass and maintenance or continuous increase in muscle mass.

For “muscle definition” it is intended to at least maintain the muscle mass and generate a decrease of the fat mass through the calories and macronutrients consumed.

This way it is important to make clear that: losing fat and define is different from losing weight!

Not that losing weight may not be a consequence of fat loss, but that is not the goal at this stage.

See the main differences between weight loss and muscle definition and some tips on what you can do to succeed during the cutting phase!

Losing weight

losing weight

In a diet planned with the sole purpose of losing weight, the body response can also go through the loss of muscle mass (which in certain situations will make sense).

But that we will not be able to call “Cutting” because we allow the body to lose in general -both muscle mass and fat mass, something that does not fall into the goal of the cutting phase, which is to improve the muscle definition and eliminate fat excess.

In a diet of weight loss, it is estimated that caloric spending is always higher than calorie consumption, and thus allowing the body to use the reserves of fat as a source of energy, thus being able to reduce these reserves to the desired values.

Muscle Definition (and consequent fat loss)

lose fat and define

During the cutting phase, the goal will then be to improve muscle definition by reducing body fat and maintaining or increasing muscle mass.

When the goal is to improve the muscle definition, it is usually intended to reach a more defined body with more evidenced muscles, since the goal is to reduce to the maximum the layer of fat overlapping.

Often, when the goal is to improve the muscle definition, the body volume decreases, therefore, the muscle mass has less volume, even weighing the same as the fat mass.

However, the muscle mass is denser and more compact, something that will favor the physical appearance.

At this stage, the calories consumed may or might not be lower than the caloric expenditure. This depends on the body composition, the lifestyle and the goal of each person.

However, the macronutrients are consumed in different percentages.

Check here how the diet can be during the cutting phase and the recommended percentages of macronutrients.

Attention! Normally, the cutting phase happens later to the bulking phase in which the goal is to increase the body mass and where some fat accumulation may occur which should therefore be eliminated in the cutting phase to make the muscles built in the phase of bulking become visible.

What to do in the Cutting phase?

As we explained the objectives of this phase, it is interesting to understand now what to do at this stage to achieve them.

At this stage, we have three very important points: food, exercise and rest. If any of these points fail, the rest of them will not be efficient enough to achieve great results.

For food, the amount of protein and the amount of fats consumed may be maintained or possibly increased or decreased, depending on each individual.

However, the normal is to reinforce the amount of protein, because protein is the essential macronutrient for maintaining or building muscle mass.

As a rule, the amount of carbohydrates is decreased, giving the body the opportunity to metabolize (use) body fat as a source of energy.

It is also interesting to maintain a consumption of fiber-rich foods, to decrease the speed of gastric emptiness and to avoid feeling hungry quickly when there is a reduction in carbohydrate consumption, something that will be critical to help control the appetite.

The number of calories can be decreased or maintained if the carbohydrate reduction of the food plan is compensated with the increase of protein and/or fat.

However, all macronutrients remain important and should be part of the whole process, regardless of the goal in question.

Only the percentages consumed daily are changed gradually.

In addition to food, there are more suitable exercises for this phase. See some examples in this article

The rest is also very important at this stage in order to achieve greater income during the exercise and to enhance the muscular growth that happens precisely when our body is in recovery.

Sometimes, in order to have more control over what is consumed, and to enhance better results, some food supplements are used when and if it makes sense.

Proteins, L-Carnitine, Thermogenics, CLA, BCAAs, are some of the suggestions and some of the most consumed supplements during this phase.

Learn more about each of them here.  

Tips to succeed in the “Cutting phase”:


  • Find a nutritionist who will help you during this process. This is a phase that requires focus and success depends on balance. Consuming more or less calories than those recommended can prevent you from achieving the desired results.
  • Find someone to advise you on the frequency and intensity of training during this time. Too much training may not bring the benefits you think.
  • Sleep 7 to 8 hours a day. A quality sleep is one of the determinant factors, even because it is during the recovery that muscle growth happens.
  • Wait for your body to respond within its rhythm. Do not expect fast results, expect efficient results and which are possible to maintain.

In conclusion

When you plan to lose weight, what usually happens is that, in addition to lose weight, you will consequently lose fat, but also muscle.

So, what can happen is you get a slimmer, but flabby and weaker body.

On the other hand, when the goal is to define the body, the important thing is to lose the excess fat without losing muscle.

So, and by fulfilling some of the tips I’ve given you and taking into consideration the diet, rest, exercise and supplementation, you may be on the right track to get a lean, yet toned, and stronger body. This is the new definition of sexy.

When you seek to define the body, even if you do not notice large reductions in weight measured by the scales, your appearance will be much better, because the volume will be smaller, and the shape of the body will be more defined.

This way, if you’re thinking of moving on to a “Cutting phase”, find the best specialists who can keep up with you and stay focused!


The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Ângela Ferreira

Ângela Ferreira
Ângela Ferreira is a nutritionist. She has a degree in Nutrition Sciences and she is doing a Master's degree in Consumer Sciences and Nutrition. She currently works in Sports Nutrition and Clinic Nutrition. Her goal is to actively participate in changing the population's eating habits and to demonstrate that healthy eating can be simple and practical.

Check Also

The Packed Lunch Science

A healthy lifestyle depends on many factors, such as determination, motivation, choices, knowledge, but also ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *