Believe it or not, urban myths also apply to fitness and fat loss. There is a misconceived notion that muscle that remains unused or never stimulated is simply converted to fat.
You worked so hard to build up your metabolism and tone your body and now you fear it is all going to turn into a big ball of unflattering fat.
This is one of the biggest fat loss and fat gain misconceptions. Over the years we have been conditioned to believe that muscle can be transformed into fat, and that fat can be turned into muscle. It is fairly easy to imagine the genesis of this myth.
Consistent resistance training leads to the addition of metabolically active lean muscle mass and a decrease in fat stores. Cessation of training often leads to soft muscles, and an accumulation of body fat.
Your legs are no longer toned, your belly seems to flow over your belt and your strength just isn't the same. Has your body converted muscle to fat?
Fat loss fact
It is physiologically impossible to convert muscle to fat and fat to muscle. Muscle and fat are two distinct biological tissues with different roles.
Muscle is metabolically active and consists of many fibers that contract to perform movement. When a muscle is forced to overcome a resistance it is unaccustomed to, it responds by increasing in size.
The increase in muscle growth substantially increases your metabolic rate. We all have an individualised net balance of muscle growth and muscle breakdown that occurs on a daily basis. This is referred to as the 'metabolic set-point'.
Performing daily activities such as going to work, walking the dog and moving around provides enough stimuli to maintain your muscle mass and the strength you need to perform your tasks.
The true test of muscle balance can be seen when someone has to wear a cast or lay in bed for a certain amount of time. Within a few weeks of immobility, the body quickly favours muscle breakdown or atrophy over muscle building, also known as hypertrophy.
The skinny on body fat
Body fat is not metabolically active but is useful for energy, to provide body heat and as a source of protection to the vital organs. Body fat is essential for living, but excess levels not only hurt your body image but also threaten your health.
For instance, excess abdominal fat predisposes people to higher incidences of type 2 diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Unlike muscle, body fat does not consist of protein and accumulates when excess calories cannot be used by the body. Fat loss cannot occur overnight.
Carbohydrate depleting diets help you lose a large amount of water which decreases your body weight, but does very little to help with fat loss.
The same holds true for starvation diets which force your body to breakdown its own protein supply (you guessed it; muscle) in order to survive and function.
With every kilogram of muscle you lose, your metabolic rate decreases substantially. Losing muscle is not conducive to fat loss but fat gain.
How do you gain the muscle and lose the fat?
Resistance training is integral for stimulating muscle growth to increase metabolism and also to combat the age-related decline in muscle mass.
Exposing the body to the different methods of training stimulates an increase in protein content which inevitably elevates the body's 'metabolic set-point'.
Change your workout every week by altering the number of sets you perform, the amount of weight you lift, or how much rest you take in between sets. Plan your workouts and then work your plan.
Cardiovascular training is also important for burning calories and improving the function of the heart and lungs.
Also eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in fibre and low glycemic carbohydrates, lean protein such as chicken and fish and limit your intake of refined sugar that is found in most breads and cereals. Treat yourself to plenty of fruits and vegetables. Leave the peel on!
The key to maintaining an elevated metabolism is the consistency of your workouts.
When you stop training, your body will return to its original 'metabolic set-point' and continue to breakdown muscle as you age. The excess protein or muscle your body accumulated dissolves and the concomitant decrease in your metabolic rate causes an increase in body fat.
Muscle does not become fat. Since cessation of training rarely follows with an adjustment in the amount that people eat, our bodies seem to lose muscle and gain body fat almost simultaneously.
This paradox of change has probably led to the misconception that muscle can turn into fat.
Fortunately, this misconception does not affect the type of exercise people engage in. Unfortunately, this myth may deter many people from starting a training program with the fear that if they stop training their muscles will inevitably turn into fat.