If you want to lose weight, you are often advised to convert body fat into muscles. But is that even possible? A sports and health expert knows the answer and explains why the muscle is a natural fat enemy.
Almost everyone dreams of a perfect body – but the reality is different: more than half of Germans are overweight, and one in four men and one in five women in Germany is still obese. The vernacular says: In order to become slim and slim again, one simply has to “convert fat into muscles”. But is that even possible?
“The hope is of course wonderful, but unfortunately that is not possible,” says Ingo Froböse, professor for prevention and rehabilitation in sport at the German Sport University in Cologne. “All people have fat cells, including the slim ones. However, they are not filled to the brim,” explains the expert. A very slim person can also have as many fat cells as an overweight or obese person. And: “Fat cells never disappear.”
Fat cells always remain fat cells, they cannot be converted into muscle cells by training. Under certain circumstances, new muscle cells can form or disappear in the body, says Froböse. The build-up of musculature through movement happens primarily because the existing muscle cells grow.
“One of the most important building materials for muscle cells is protein,” says Froböse. The body needs amino acids to produce this building material for the muscle cells. However, he cannot produce eight of these alone, they have to be on the menu “every day,” says the sports scientist. In any case, the muscles cannot be built up from the fat in the fat cells.
Muscles devour the fat
However, there is a connection between building muscle and body fat, says Froböse. Because in order for muscle cells to grow, people have to move – and that requires energy. The body’s best energy store is its fat cells. As the muscles work, the fat cells empty like the petrol tanks of cars.
If a person trains a lot and regularly, his muscles even develop into a real nightmare of body fat. The muscle cells are not only bigger, but are also equipped with additional small power plants, the mitochondria, explains the expert. “Muscles have to be supplied with blood and nourished constantly, so they really cost energy and that comes from the fat cells.” The grown muscles keep the fat cells at bay in this way.
Incidentally, sporting activity does not necessarily lead to a decrease in body fat. “If someone trains and consumes too many calories at the same time, the body’s fat mass does not decrease,” explains Froböse. Because then there are enough free fatty acids in the blood, which the muscle cells can use as a source of energy. In this way, people would build muscle, but the “storage fat” would remain.
“Unfortunately, converting fat into muscles is like eating soup with a fork – you can try, but unfortunately it won’t be possible!”
Many athletes, or those who want to become one, often ask: “Can I convert excess fat into muscle tissue?” And of course there is a lot of speculation and opinion on this topic. “If you already have mass, you can build muscle better!” or “You should first put weight on it and then make it muscle!” are common tips and advice for beginners. But what is really there about these statements and where do these statements come from?
Can you convert fat to muscle? Before we get that straight, we need to take a closer look at body fat and muscle tissue.
What is body fat?
Body fat is a type of human connective tissue and consists solely of fat cells. In medicine, these fat cells are called adipocytes. The part of body fat that often disturbs us is so-called depot fat. The other types of body fat are not visible or have a function and are therefore not so important for our topic. As the name suggests, the fat cells are filled with fat that the body produces from the fatty acids found in the blood. There is a conversion process there, but only one type of fat is used to make another type of fat. In this case, fat always remains fat.
What is muscle tissue?
The skeletal muscles that we mean in this case consist of muscle fibers that consist of muscle fibrils. Protein, also called protein, is essential for the production of muscle tissue, so it is absolutely necessary. Without protein from the outside, the body is unable to build additional muscle tissue. Fat plays only a subordinate role in the production of this tissue, namely to provide certain metabolic processes with energy.
Without much ado, we can assure you that your body is unfortunately not able to convert body fat into muscles.
But then why do so many say it would work?
How is this widespread misconception that fat can simply be converted into muscles?
The largest part is probably because beginners, or very overweight athletes, can build muscle and reduce their body fat percentage for a limited period of time.
He is able to reduce body fat during this time and still build new muscle tissue with the appropriate protein intake. Since both processes take place at the same time, this can give the exerciser and outsiders the impression that body fat is being converted into new muscles. However, it must be emphasized once again that this process only takes place under certain circumstances and that advanced athletes can no longer expect much from this process.
Conclusion on: converting fat into muscles
So although the body has mastered a wide variety of conversion processes and can, for example, convert carbohydrates into fat or protein into carbohydrates, it is not possible to convert fat into muscles, i.e. protein. Even if this process would of course be a great thing for us as athletes, it is beyond the feasibility of our body.
The fat easily turns into muscle mass
Yes, exactly, it would be nice. The typical advertising slogan on a classic fat burner, which is actually completely useless, could look something like this heading .
Unfortunately, we have to state one thing right at the beginning: It is not possible to convert fat into muscles. Because these are two completely different tissues and the human body is ingenious, but unfortunately it cannot.
Adipose tissue mainly consists of triglycerides and muscle tissue from so-called myofibrils . The myofibrils consist of numerous sarcomeres , which mainly consist of protein. Therefore, fat and muscle tissue are two different pairs of shoes and cannot be converted into each other.
What you can do, however, is to lose fat while building muscle. While this is not a conversion, the end result is the same. After that, we have more muscle mass and less body fat and therefore look better.
In addition, a little more musculature is of course also healthy, since it can prevent back pain, for example, and strongly counteracts the aging process. More muscle is also beneficial when losing weight, because this tissue consumes significantly more energy than fat tissue.
Since this project is not easy and requires some planning, I will now explain what you have to pay attention to and who is most likely to make this change.
What is the easiest to achieve?
Simultaneous fat loss and muscle building can be most easily accomplished by people who have little or no strength training experience. Because the more advanced you become, the more difficult this project becomes. In addition to this, it appears that overweight people have a slightly easier time, since they also have larger energy stores due to the increased fat mass. Despite everything, elite athletes still manage to achieve something like this and with a little know-how and perseverance it is definitely possible for you too. Unless you have many years of experience with strength training and can hardly make any progress because you have already reached your maximum genetic potential.
However, one more thing should be said. It is definitely the case that you can get rid of your fat faster if you drive a larger calorie deficit. However, building muscle is almost impossible. Consequently, it is also logical that the muscle building itself works faster if you are in excess calories than if you try to do both at the same time.
Now we look at the points of training and nutrition together, because of course you have to manage them pretty well to achieve a recomposition.
The right diet to lose fat and build muscle
In addition to training, nutrition also plays an extremely important role for this project. Because if it’s not right, even the best training plan in the world won’t help you and you won’t lose any body fat. So you can say that the most important thing here is nutrition. As you may already know, you absolutely need a calorie deficit to lose body fat. So that means you have to eat fewer calories than you consume. In order to lose fat and gain muscle mass, the calorie deficit must not be too high. Because otherwise you will hardly make any progress in training and ultimately only lose body fat without building muscle.
A good guideline for the amount of the deficit is about 10 to 15 percent below the total turnover. If your daily energy consumption is 2000 kcal, you would take in about 1700 to 1800 kcal per day as part of this so-called recomposition.
Achieving such a deficit should be easy for everyone to do. Because you don’t really have to restrict yourself too much. To make sure that you really only have a small calorie deficit, you should check your calorie consumption with an exact fitness wristband * . In addition to this small calorie deficit, several other factors are also crucial when it comes to nutrition. Above all, this includes the adequate intake of protein.
The importance of protein
Protein is the absolutely most important macronutrient for building muscle. Because in order to grow, our muscles naturally need amino acids in addition to a training stimulus. And you get this by consuming sufficient amounts of protein.
Generally, if you want to build muscle while losing fat, you should take in at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This applies at least as long as you are healthy and do not have any illnesses.
If you can do it and your calorie deficit is well set, then you have almost gained nutritionally. Nevertheless, let’s talk briefly about carbohydrates and fats so that this is also clarified.
How important are carbohydrates during a recomposition?
Since you have to train quite intensively to build muscle, I recommend that you split the remaining calories into carbohydrates and fats relatively equally. This is because during intensive strength training, you mainly use carbohydrates as an energy source.
If you were barely getting this nutrient now, it would likely have an impact on your performance in training and your end result would probably be a little worse.
Since you are in a calorie deficit, you should pay even more attention to the fact that the majority of the carbohydrates come from high-quality and unprocessed sources. So you make sure that you have also covered all micronutrients. Recommended carbohydrate sources in this regard are, for example, oatmeal, fruit, whole grains and legumes, such as red lentils.
The fat intake
When it comes to fat intake, there are always two things that need to be emphasized when losing weight: 1.) A low fat intake almost always leads to hormonal disorders. And since this is of course unhealthy and can have far-reaching consequences, you want to avoid it as much as possible. 2.) There are essential fatty acids. These include the so-called Omega 3 fatty acids and the so-called Omega 6 fatty acids. These must be supplied in sufficient quantities, otherwise you will get a deficiency and of course this is also unhealthy.
The adequate intake of fat is therefore mainly of a health nature. It should therefore be ensured that the fatty acids just mentioned are always incorporated into the diet in the appropriate amounts. Today, however, we mostly consume omega 6 fatty acids in more than sufficient quantities.
Crank muscle building through proper training
To build muscle while losing fat, strength training is of course also necessary. Here, particular care should be taken to ensure that progression is achieved.
Because, as we already know from the muscle building guide , our body needs ever greater stimuli in order to react to the training by building muscle mass. The best way to achieve progression is to use more weight or do more reps with the same weight.
If you really want to make sure that you are building muscle, then you should even check this parameter regularly. The best way to do this is to write down the weights used, as well as the completed sets and repetitions during or after each training session. Either you do the whole thing the old-fashioned way with pen and paper or you write it down as a note or in an app on your smartphone.
This is really one of the most helpful things you can do to measure your progress in training. In addition, it hardly takes more than 2 minutes per registered training session.
The most important factor in building muscle while losing fat
The most important factor in a recomposition is definitely time. Because with a larger calorie deficit, you logically lose fat faster.
In such a phase, you should never get impatient, but always think about the end result. This can be great if your approach is correct.
In order to check whether you are really making new progress, it is also very beneficial to take honest comparison photos on a regular basis and to document the weight course. If you want pretty accurate results, you can also consider doing a so-called DEXA scan .
With the DEXA Scan, the percentage of fat and muscle is very precisely determined in comparison to other methods, such as the extremely inaccurate body fat scale. The only disadvantage is that the whole thing almost always costs something and is not covered by the health insurance. Of course, this is not really necessary, but interesting indeed.
You shouldn’t put too much on the classic scale during a recomposition, but still use it intelligently. Because if you have built up two kilograms of muscle and lost two kilograms of fat at the end of this phase, you will look much better, but weigh exactly the same. As long as your weight goes down slightly or stays roughly the same, that’s fine.
Unfortunately, converting fat into muscles is not possible. However, the reduction of body fat while building muscle is definitely feasible.
To achieve this goal, you have to design your diet accordingly and also do strength training. All in all, the whole thing takes a little longer than pure fat loss or muscle building, but the procedure still makes sense for certain people.
Have you ever tried to build muscle and lose fat at the same time? If so, did you do it or ultimately opt for a somewhat faster weight loss phase?
If you have any questions about the topic, please leave a comment as always. Until then I say goodbye. See you soon and best regards.
P.S. Did you like what you read? Then I highly suggest to take a look at my book SHATTERED you can get it on Amazon.
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