One of the biggest misconceptions in orlandoweekly in bodybuilding and weight training is that fat turns into muscle and that muscle turns into fat.
Many people, on seeing a very well-muscled person, will often comment “But what happens when you stop training; won’t all that muscle turn to fat?”
The answer to this question is a resounding “NO” but what happens in the body when a heavily muscled person gives up training makes it look like that is exactly what happens.
Some programs and supplements even promise to turn fat turn into muscle faster. Turning fat into muscle is actually impossible but it’s easy to see why so many people think that it can be done.
Muscle and Fat are Very Different Types of Tissue…
One of the reasons that you can’t turn fat into muscle is that, as tissues go, they are both very different and highly specialized. Like water and wine, skin and hair, wood and steel, they have very different physical traits. In biology, form follows function and as fat and muscle do very different things in your body, they are constructed very differently.
Muscle has a good blood supply, is contractile, extensible, activated by nerves, rarely broken down for energy, requires energy to sustain it and is best thought of as “active” tissue. Muscle is predominately made of protein.
Fat has a poor blood supply, does not contract, has very few nerves, is frequently and easily broken down for energy, is created when there is an excess of energy and is best thought of as a “passive” tissue. Fat is predominately made of adipose tissue.
In a nutshell, muscle and fat are so dissimilar it’s like comparing apples and automobiles!
Why the Confusion?
So why does the fat-into-muscle-legend refuse to die? Good question!
When a well-muscled person stops training, his or her muscles will start to get smaller through a process called atrophy. Atrophy happens gradually but as the weeks and months go by, the muscles will diminish in size.
Training and building muscle require a lot of food. Many exercisers who stop training often fail to moderate their food intake to reflect their reduction in activity. Those calories, that previously supported muscle growth and fueled exercise, are now surplus to requirements and subsequently, as the muscles atrophy, the size of the fat stores increases.
Rather than muscle turning into fat, muscle has been REPLACED by fat.
The Turn Fat Into Muscle When You Work Out and Lift Weights Myth
So, can turn fat into muscle when you work out? Again, the answer is no.
Exercise uses a mixture of energy sources. Low intensity cardio uses predominately fat for fuel while activities like sprinting and strength training use predominately carbohydrates in the form of glucose. Although each type of activity favours one fuel source, a little carbohydrate is always burnt with fat and a little fat is always burnt with carbohydrate and both types of activity burn calories.
If you exercise, your calorific expenditure will go up and if you aren’t eating enough, any energy shortfall will be met by your fat stores. The exercise you are doing, especially strength training, will causes your muscles to grow, a process called hypertrophy while, simultaneously, your fat stores get smaller.
Again, it appears that fat is turning into muscle but, in reality, fat is being REPLACED by muscle. To summarize, you cannot turn fat into muscle when you lift weights although your fat stores will decrease and your muscle size will increase.
Avoiding Fat Gain if You Take a Break from Training
If you are forced to take a break from exercise, due to illness, injury or a vacation for example, there are several things you can do to avoid gaining fat…
- Reduce your food intake. Training and building muscle requires plenty of food but the less active you are, the fewer calories you need. Reduce your food intake to mirror your reduction in activity.
- Try and stay reasonably active. The less physical activity you do, the faster your muscles will atrophy and the more likely you are to gain fat. Try and stay physically active even if you aren’t training. Muscle works on the “use it or lose it” principle so if you want to minimize atrophy, you need to keep moving. Walking, gardening and playing recreational sports are all good non-training activities that may help preserve muscle.
- Don’t quit training in the first place! Although it can be tempting to give up training altogether because of an injury or because of advanced age, unless you are seriously debilitated, there are always other forms of exercise you can do. If you have a lower body injury, you can still work your upper body and vice versa. Seek out activities to replace the ones you are no longer able to do rather than become completely sedentary.
So can you turn fat into muscle when you work out? No – but that doesn’t mean you cannot lose fat while gaining muscle. Train hard and smart and follow a healthy diet and you can completely transform your body from fat and soft to lean and muscular.
These are natural substances in food that might help protect you from some diseases. Here are some common sources of antioxidants that you should be sure to include in your diet: Beta-carotene -Fruits and vegetables that are either dark green or dark orange. Selenium-Seafood, liver, meat, and grains. Vitamin C-Citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes, and berries. Vitamin E-Wheat germ, nuts, sesame seeds, and canola, olive, and peanut oils.