Being an exercise devotee (aka “gym rat”) I’m pleased to see that exercise and weight training seem to be hot topics of late. I’ve read a few posts and responses in the past few days that prompted this post.
First, a simple lesson in human anatomy: muscle and fat are two different types of tissue found within the body. They serve completely different purposes. I’m fairly certain that since we’re all obese (or formerly obese) people here, we all understand how fat and muscle operated differently and serve different functions in our bodies. The simple fact is that we need both types of tissue to survive. Easy enough.
Fallacy: Muscle turns to fat when exercise lessons or stops. Folks, this is impossible. Muscle will atrophy from lack of use. That is all.
Muscle can be marbled with fat, sure, you see it in the cuts of beef that you buy at the market. Our muscles can be marbled as well. A muscle can also be covered, surrounded or encased in fat. That does not mean your muscle is turning to fat. It means that your muscles are being invaded by fat cells. Those tiny fat cells are just pushing their way in and around the muscle tissue. This happens when we consume more calories than we burn.
So here’s a scenario: 25 year old male works out 5 days a week. He is a “hard body”. As he hits 30, he is married, has more responsibilities at home and at work and time that once was devoted to being a hard body is now being dedicated to other aspects of his life, e.g. wife, kids, work, mowing the lawn, etc.... Most likely he still eats the same amount he did when he was working out heavily, but he’s not expending nearly the same energy, nor is he tearing down and repairing his muscles regularly. His muscles begin to atrophy and he begins to looks soft. His weight has not changed, but his pant size is one, maybe two sizes larger. How can this be?
This fellow’s muscles have atrophied, gotten smaller, over time. Because he is still eating the same number of calories, but using far fewer calories than he did when he was working out with regularity, he is banking calories, which means storing the extra as fat. So, far less muscle and added fat. Looks like muscle has turned to fat, but in reality the muscle has simply receded and allowed the fat to move in. This is an avoidable outcome.
Fat is far less dense than muscle tissue. A pound of fat takes a lot more room in the body than a pound of muscle. Thus, the popular, yet highly inaccurate statement, “Muscle weighs more than fat.” has come into being. Personally, that saying drives me nuts! A pound is a pound. IMO the saying ought to be, “A pound of fat takes up a whole lot more room than a pound of muscle.” I can personally attest to the accuracy of that statement!
So those of you worried that your muscle will turn to fat if life gets in the way and you stop exercising may stop your worrying. It’s not true. What is true is that you will have to adjust your calorie intake accordingly to match your new activity level. If you don’t, you are bound to gain fat pounds while your muscles atrophy. Not a good thing for us after all our hard work.
Also consider the following tidbits of info when considering exercise:
*It is a very rare woman that can bulk up without chemical intervention (steroids).
*A pound of muscle requires almost twice the energy to maintain than a pound of fat.
*It is virtually impossible to gain muscle during calorie deprivation. (rapid weight loss)
*Because muscle uses more energy than fat to exist, your metabolism will be higher the more lean muscle you carry on your body.
*Toning or adding muscle does not mean you will gain weight. As you tone and build, you will also lose fat. Most of us lose the fat faster than we build muscle. Take me, while on program I lost an inch and a half off my waist last month, and lost 5 pounds. That was a lot of fat loss with no muscle loss, but no muscle gain either.
*Remember, exercise includes walking and hiking and dancing, anything that gets you out moving and elevating your heart rate. You don’t have to be a “gym rat” like me. LOL!
Gail, aka Loverofcats, introduced me to a saying I think is great and one to live by:
Strong is the new Skinny.
I’m not out to get anyone to become a body builder. But I’d love for a lot of you to get on the strength building bandwagon. Isn’t eating clean and getting lean what this journey is all about?