Picture this: you’re sticking to your workout plan, eating right, and pumped about your health and fitness journey. A few weeks in, you step on the scale—and the number hasn’t budged! What gives?
Today we’re discussing the difference between muscle and fat. Does one really weigh more? Can you turn fat into muscle? And, most importantly—is there a better way to track progress than stepping on the scale?
What’s the difference between a pound of fat and a pound of muscle?
Think back to that old riddle: “Which weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead?” We all know that a pound is a pound—so where did we get the idea that muscle weighs more than fat?
Muscle and fat actually differ in density, meaning a pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle. Muscle, which is much denser than fat, takes up four-fifths as much space as fat does. Because of this, even if two people are the same height and weight, their bodies may look very different depending on their body fat percentages.
Is muscle better than fat?
There are many additional benefits to having a higher lean body mass besides the most popular reason—having a leaner physique.
Briana Radar, client experience manager for In-Shape, details a few of these reasons. “Having a higher lean body mass can increase stamina, boost vitality and improve your metabolic efficiency. Muscle even helps burn calories when your body is at rest.”
While sources disagree on the exact numbers, this much is clear: muscle burns more calories than fat throughout the day (this is called your “daily metabolic rate”) even when you aren’t working out. Because you’re able to burn more calories during rest, adding muscle may help you lose fat.
How do I turn fat into muscle?
Simply put, there’s no way to change fat into muscle—they’re different kinds of tissue. Instead, you can either lose fat or gain muscle.
The best way to maximize muscle gain is to incorporate resistance training into your workout, such as bodyweight training (when you use the weight of your own body as resistance), lifting weights, or using resistance machines.
“As long as you are going above and beyond what you normally do, you will see results,” said Briana. “Make sure you are conducting progressive resistance training. Continue to challenge yourself.”
When you train hard enough to fatigue your muscles, you teach your body to expect more work in the future – and your muscles adapt by getting stronger. As a bonus, resistance training helps keep your bones strong and may help reduce anxiety.
What’s the best way to track my progress?
Let us be the first to invite you to STEP AWAY FROM THE SCALE. While it can sometimes provide you with an idea of how your body is changing, it can also be misleading. Shift your focus from “weight loss” to “fat loss”. A great way to track your progress is taking your measurements or using a body impedance scale like the InBody. Have you signed up for your free biannual Kickstart? An InBody test is included and will give you an estimate of your body fat percentage.
Another way to track your progress that’s not all about the scale but instead shows your hard work paying off, is to take photos of yourself so you can compare over time. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, too. These are sometimes better indicators of your progress.
Improving your fitness shouldn’t just be about a number on the scale, so do your best to focus on how you feel, what you can achieve and how beneficial it is for overall wellness.
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