Muscle vs. Fat: Debunking some myths

August 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm 1 comment

I’ve heard countless times, as I’m sure you have, that muscle weighs more than fat.  A pound is a pound is a pound, so a pound of muscles is indeed, equal in weight to a pound of fat.  Why does this myth persist?  Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., for MSN Health & Fitness describes it this way.

“This commonly cited gym cliché is somewhat misunderstood and misused. The rationale that muscle weighs more than fat is often cited as an explanation for why a person might find that they aren’t losing weight, or are gaining weight, when they kick off an exercise regimen. The idea seems to be that if you are exercising—and theoretically losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time—the effects cancel each other out. So, in theory, you won’t see desired weight loss as measured by pounds on the scale, even though you may be improving how you look. You certainly can improve your appearance with exercise without always seeing a change in your body weight—by becoming firmer, more sculpted and sometimes leaner. But that doesn’t mean that you are gaining massive amounts of muscle, or losing lots of fat.”

Another common myth is that muscle turns to fat.  Not so.  The two are entirely different; one does not “turn into” the other.

“You can gain muscle or lose weight, and you can gain or lose more body fat, but they don’t convert into each other. Both gaining and losing muscle and/or fat can both affect your body weight on the scale, depending upon the magnitude of the body fat or body muscle increase or decrease.”

More to the point is why exercise doesn’t have the impact on body weight that we expect.  Well, a lot depends on the type and quantity of exercise. 

“Weight loss boils down to burning more calories than you normally use in a day. Cardio exercise burns more calories than muscle-toning or the average resistance-training workout. So dialing down the stretching and core work to just once or twice a week, and replacing it with more cardio should produce more weight loss. And the more minutes the better when it comes to weight loss: An hour to 90 minutes of aerobic activity per day on most days of the week will affect body weight.”

My personal experience is that exercise is crucial to the shape and tone of your body but has relatively little impact on your weight, unless you’re doing extremely long bouts of cardio.  In fact, when I calculate my daily calorie totals, I never, ever include an estimate of calories burned from exercise.  It just doesn’t make enough difference, and I don’t want to overeat, thinking that 30 minutes on the treadmill is going to take care of that 500-calorie chocolate shake. 

It’s always good to know what the facts are, though, so I’m glad to have stumbled across this article on MSN and learned more about muscle vs. fat.


Entry filed under: burn more calories, exercise equipment, science, tips & techniques, Weight Loss Philosophy.

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