Can The Human Body Use Stored Fat to Build Muscle?
Trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time is a common goal for many gym goers.
One of the most said myths in the fitness world is the idea that you can turn fat to muscle.
The process of directly turning fat to muscle fat loss and muscle building isn’t possible.
This is because muscle and fat are made up of different cells and are therefore two completely separate things.
We have something called visceral fat (the fat around your organs), then a layer of muscle, and then subcutaneous fat (fat right under the skin, but above your muscle).
When we think of ‘losing weight’, it’s the fat right under the skin that we are referring too – yes, the one that you can usually pinch with your fingers!
However, it’s the fat around your organs (the visceral) that can have a detrimental effect on your overall health.
Your organs won’t be able to function properly if they are covered by huge amounts of fat, and this can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
So, many of us want to lose fat to look and feel healthier – but unfortunately, it’s not possible to turn it directly into muscle.
In fact, your muscle is already there, it’s just covered by a layer of fat. So, as you lose body fat, you will slowly uncover the muscle and the definition will increase because there is less fat covering the muscle.
What changes during weight loss?
Weight loss is usually the process of losing fat, muscle, and glycogen stores (water weight).
If you’re aim is for a more toned physique, then your aim should be for most of your weight loss to be from fat.
The easiest way to lose weight is to be in a calorie deficit. Meaning you consume fewer calories than your body needs and increase your body’s physical activity in order to burn off more.
Be careful not to overdo your calorie deficit though, as too much can result in rapid muscle mass loss, because your body will start breaking down your muscles as a way of fuelling itself. Aim for a deficit of around 500 calories, or 10–20% of your required calories each day. (1,2)
How to Build Muscle
Essentially, muscles are built when they are broken down. When you place stress son your muscles (e.g., weightlifting) they will grow more.
The heavier weight you lift, for example, the more damage you’re causing to your muscle fibres. This then triggers the brain to send satellite cells which will repair them. It’s important to make sure you adjust your workouts accordingly if you want to see a consistent muscle growth, ensuring that you are eating a diet focused on macronutrients, rich in protein and carbs, will build muscle mass.
Eating protein is recommend for bodybuilders trying to gain muscle, because your muscles will use it as a source of energy straight after your workout session.
How to Burn Fat
Burning fat is a completely different process and done (well, mainly) in the kitchen.
Burning fat comes down to being in a calorie deficit.
Think about it like this, if your body is using more calories for energy than you are consuming, your body has to find this energy from somewhere else – stored fat. This usually means your body is burning fat for fuel!
Ways to create a calorie deficit include cutting calories from your regular diet, increasing exercise to burn more calories, or just even eating slightly less calories everyday whilst burning more at the same time.
How can I lose fat and gain muscle?
Well, as you now know you can’t directly tun fat into muscle. But you can certainly lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.
This process is called body recompostition.
When you start making significant changes to your overall lifestyle, you can expect to see a difference in your body composition within a couple of months.
A ‘body recomposition’ is the process of maintaining your body weight whilst losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
So, although you can’t turn body fat directly into muscle, you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time!
The body recomposition raises a lot of confusion amongst many athletes, because essentially you are trying to achieve two opposing aims.
The best way to get round this is to cycle your calorie intake, also known as ‘calorie cycling’
Calorie cycling is a process that alternates a high intake of calories and a lower intake depending on your level of activity each day.
Typically, on ‘high calorie’ days, you should try and eat more calories than you will burn that day. Whereas on low calorie days, it’s the opposite: you should consume less calories than you burn.