This is by far one of the biggest questions asked within the fitness industry by amateurs and even some professionals who are interested in weight loss and muscle gain, like most people are. For all the attention a topic like this receives, there is still a lot of doubt out there. So, can I turn fat into muscle?
The short answer is no.
Now obviously, we all know someone who used to have a high body fat percentage and is now lean and muscular, so it's natural to think that they ‘turned their fat into muscle', but unfortunately that isn't possible. Here's why:
- Body fat is created when excess energy (from food) can't be used by the body and it needs to be stored. This energy can come in the form of carbohydrates, fat or protein, although protein is the least likely macronutrient to be stored as body fat. Body fat and dietary fats are not the same thing!
- Muscle is created by the human body as a response to stress such as lifting weights or sprinting. These (and many other exercises) cause microscopic tears in muscle fibres which the body needs to repair to be able to perform that movement successfully in future. This is why you get stronger, and why your muscles grow, from lifting weights. Muscles are rebuilt by breaking down amino acids, either from food or from protein stores in the body (most commonly in muscles). Without adequate protein from food, your body will break down the muscle it already has to rebuild the muscle - it eats itself!
The processes in the body that burn fat and build muscle are completely different, and it is very difficult for your body to do both at the same time.
So, the right question to ask is: How Can I Burn Fat and Build Muscle?
At the same time, burning fat and building muscle is extremely difficult. Only those who are ‘chemically-supported', who have muscle memory, who are naturally growing (teenagers) might find it easy to build muscle and burn fat. For everyone else, it's a very delicate struggle. But it certainly is possible, and here are a few tips to help you lose that fat and grow that lean tissue:
- Eat regular meals - this stops your body from cannibalising muscle
- Lift weights - growing muscle improves your metabolism which helps you lose body fat
- Don't forget cardio - it's important to boost your heart-rate to keep your metabolism burning
- Eat quality foods - unprocessed, natural foods are the best sources of fuel for your body
- Keep protein high - this supports muscle growth and helps you burn fat
- Sleep - resting releases several hormones, especially growth hormone, which helps you build muscle and lose fat
- Shoot for a slight calorie deficit - this will ensure you are burning body fat and increasing your lean muscle percentage. Try to eat 10% less calories than your maintenance level (for example eat 2700 calories if you need 3000 to maintain your weight).
So although we can't turn fat into muscle, there are steps we can take to make sure we reduce our body fat and increase our lean muscle. Keep these tips in mind and keep working hard to see some encouraging results!
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