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Three facts that explain the roles of muscle and fat in weight management

Our bodies need both fat and muscle to function, but many people misunderstand the vital roles these two types of tissue play in our bodies. Whilst it is often demonised by the weight loss industry, fat is an essential part of human health – so long as we keep our overall body fat percentage right. Here, we explore three facts that help explain the roles of muscle and fat in weight management.

Weight gain can be healthy

Putting on weight is typically seen as a negative thing – especially when you’re actively trying to get fitter. However, this depends entirely on your long-term health goals. If you’re looking to lose body fat, then seeing the numbers go up on the scale is indeed an undesired outcome, and suggests you might need to rethink your lifestyle or exercise routine. But, if you want to build muscle to improve your physique, mobility, physical performance, or general fitness levels, you can expect to gain weight in the process – and that’s a sign of progress.

This doesn’t happen overnight, and there are so many factors at play – including genetics and metabolism – that will affect how much weight you gain (and over what period of time) when training to build muscle. That’s why two people on an identical diet and workout plan are unlikely to see exactly the same results. Ultimately, if you’re doing regular weight training and are in a calorie surplus, you will eventually gain weight.

Muscle is denser than fat

You’re probably familiar with the sentiment that muscle weighs more than fat, and this is true – a metaphorical handful of muscle will be heavier. Muscle tissue is far denser than fat, meaning it takes up a lot less room in the body – this is the reason why you’re likely to put on weight when training to build muscle. This means that a person who appears skinnier and leaner could actually weigh more than a person with a higher fat mass.

There’s no ignoring the fact that the numbers on the scale are important in determining health outcomes. However, this fact demonstrates that a healthy body is about far more than just that. Don’t be disheartened if the results on the scale don’t correlate with where you think you should be at; there are plenty more ways to measure improvements, from progress pictures to tracking your physical performance. In fact, you might notice results in the mirror before you do on the scales, in that you could start to look leaner while actually having gained weight.

Fat doesn’t turn into muscle

It’s a common misconception that fat turns into muscle when training and muscle turns into fat when you stop. They are two separate types of body tissues with different chemical makeups, so they cannot physically convert into each other. Successfully losing weight occurs thanks to a combination of factors, including fat loss and a small amount of muscle loss, but generally, you’ll want to prioritise fat loss as much as possible, as this is much better for your overall health.

To lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit – this forces your body to use its fat stores for energy. However, extreme diets where you consume very small amounts of food can cause you to lose both muscle and fat weight, which is not ideal. When working toward fat loss, you should make sure you’re eating enough protein to help maintain your muscle weight as you lose fat.

Seek professional advice

Before making any changes to your diet or exercise regimes, you should always seek the advice of your doctor. But with these facts about fat and muscle under your belt, you’ll be one step closer to your body goals.

 

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