Can fat be turned into muscle? Myth debunked + Tips to build muscle

Heather Campbell
 min read

Can fat be turned into muscle?

Can fat be turned into muscle? Myth debunked + Tips to build muscleOf course, it would be great if that were possible, but unfortunately, it is not the case unless you have a lot of weight to lose.

Turning fat into muscle is wishful thinking. Losing weight and building muscle mass are two very different processes working against each other. One needs an energy deficit, while the other needs an energy surplus. Unfortunately, body fat can’t become fuel for muscle.

Read on to learn why these two processes need to be approached differently and how you can do both after all.

Can fat be turned into muscle? Introduction

It is actually because of advertisements that many people get the wrong idea about what is possible in terms of losing weight and gaining stronger muscles.

You see those pictures of someone who lost their beer gut in ten weeks and developed a washboard and solid biceps.

Well, it’s not to say you can’t get one, but it’s questionable whether it can be done so quickly.

Losing weight and building muscle are different processes

It can’t be done so quickly because losing weight and building muscle are two different processes that actually work against each other.

To lose weight, you need an energy deficit, and to build muscle, you need an energy surplus.

And body fat cannot simply be converted into fuel for muscle.

So no, you can’t convert fat to muscle because they are two very different processes.

What happens when you lose weight?

If you want to lose weight, the most important thing is eating less and exercising more.

If you take in too many calories, the body stores them as fat. So if you want to lose body fat, you will need to encourage your body to burn fat.

This can be done by eating less and exercising more. An energy shortage then occurs, after which your body will proceed to burn fat.

Most people know and understand this principle, given that it is also the basis of many diets.

But the question is: can you convert fat into muscle to get stronger and build more muscle simultaneously? To find out, you need to know what muscles need to grow.

What happens during muscle growth?

Muscles use protein to grow.

When you eat protein products (such as meat, dairy, dairy substitutes, eggs, and beans), these proteins are broken down into smaller particles called amino acids. This is protein synthesis.

These amino acids are carried to the muscle cells, where they are rebuilt into proteins. And that translates into muscles growth.

Convert fat to protein?

It would be helpful if your body could use fat to build muscle. But fat cannot be converted into amino acids or proteins.

So your body cannot transform it or otherwise use your fat reserves to grow your muscles. So the processes of losing weight and of muscle growth are very different.

Losing fat and building muscle: Can they go hand in hand?

Despite being two separate processes, it would be helpful if you could lose weight and build muscle simultaneously.

But this still turns out to be tricky:

  • If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and create a calorie deficit.
  • However, if you want to grow your muscles, you need more fuel.

Because these are incompatible, they don’t go together easily.

Compare it to a piggy bank: if one person wants to save and the other wants to spend money, neither will reach their goal. One comes at the expense of the other.

Someone who is in the process of losing weight and starts working out will lose fat, fluid, and sometimes muscle mass.

At the same time, you are creating a shortage of fuel, which prevents the body from building muscle due to a lack of building materials.

You will have to be very precise to build muscle mass and lose weight simultaneously.

Beginners and overweight people have it easier. When they just start training can lose weight and promote muscle growth at the same time:

Beginners can lose fat and build muscle

By doing strength training, you stimulate your muscles to grow and become stronger.

During a workout, you strain your muscles, and if that strain is heavy enough, small tears (on a microscopic level) will form.

These need to be repaired, and this requires proteins. Therefore, your body must have that extra energy to build this new body tissue.

For beginners, you are not yet used to working out, so your muscles don’t need that many stimuli to grow yet.

In addition, digestion works better, and the absorption of nutrients is faster. As a result, your body has more building blocks at its disposal.

So in this way, beginners can lose weight and develop more muscle mass at the same time.

For beginners, fat percentage could decrease by 5 to 10%, while muscle mass could increase by 10 to 25 pounds within a year. This, of course, is motivating.

Here’s how to lose weight and build muscle as a beginner

How can you ensure more muscle growth and lose weight simultaneously?

With these tips, you can lose fat mass and build muscle if you don’t have much experience yet, but also if your fat percentage is higher:

  • Start strength training and train a particular muscle group more often than once a week.
  • Try to use heavy weights.
  • Use a training schedule to get an overview of your performance and keep moving forward. Work with goals.
  • Do your exercises regularly to failure until you really can’t do any more repetitions.
  • Watch your protein intake: women may take 0.91 grams of protein per pound (2 grams per kilogram) of body weight per day. For men, this is 1.14 grams of protein per pound (2.5 grams per kilogram) of body weight. You can also use protein supplements if necessary.

What about the more advanced?

If you have been strength training for a long time, losing weight and building muscle will no longer go together as easily as they can with beginners.

Therefore, experienced strength trainers apply the principles of bulking and cutting:

  • One period they are building muscle (bulking), where you eat just enough to grow.
  • This is followed by a period of cutting, trying to get the fat percentage down without the muscles suffering.

This is how you try to get to your desired outcome, but it is vital to find the right balance between not gaining too much fat and not losing too much weight by losing muscle mass.

If you are trying to gain or maintain a healthy weight in this way, you can use the following tips:

Focus more on strength training than cardio training

Doing more endurance sports can cause your body to break down your muscles.

Strength training animates your muscles and stimulates the body to produce more muscle mass.

In addition, muscles consume more energy than fat even after exercise, promoting weight loss.

Try interval training

HIIT training is also suitable for promoting muscle growth and burning fat. and research shows that it gives better results than cardio in this area.

Eat enough proteins

If you do strength training while losing weight, make sure you eat plenty of protein.

It is good to limit your fat and carbohydrate intake. Still, by keeping your protein intake high, you can ensure that your muscle mass is maintained.

Aim for roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to get enough nutrients for your muscles.

Do not lose weight too quickly

It is crucial to get enough nutrients.

If you create too great a calorie deficit, the body will proceed to break down muscle and that’s not what you want.

Losing weight gradually is better for your body, which will keep you feeling fit and healthy.

Combine exercises

The best exercises are compound exercises (for example, deadlift, pull-ups, squats, and bench press).

You put maximum load on your muscles with this, so muscle growth is stimulated.

Can fat be turned into muscle? Conclusion

The straight answer is no, unless you have a high fat-to-muscle ratio and are seeking to lose a lot of weight.

However, this is only temporary. The leaner you become, the less weight you’ll have to lose. Thus, you will need to eat more to build muscle.

It is important to monitor and adapt your nutrition along your fitness journey so as not to sabotage your best efforts.

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About Heather Campbell

As a dietitian, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More