I started working out on and off about 16 years ago. But it took me 7 years to actually figure out what is bad advice and what is real science. This topic has always been one that I have been skeptical of.
There are 2 trains of thought here. People think that fat can convert into muscle. Or they think that muscle turns into fat when you stop working out. Both are completely false, and this article is going to show you why.
The body is very complex. But the way that we lose weight or gain weight is very simple.
Why you cannot convert fat into muscle
Fat and muscle are 2 completely separate tissues in the body. Therefore, you simply cannot convert one to the other. What most people see as a conversion of fat into muscle is just the loss of fat and the building of muscle.
To the naked eye, it might look like someone has converted that fat into muscle. But in the next section, you will find that there is an exact science as to why this happens.
Fat AND muscle is built when a person eats at a caloric surplus. When that caloric surplus becomes too large, the extra calories go straight to fat stores. This is how people become overweight or obese.
For those that don’t know, a caloric surplus is when you eat more calories per day than your total daily energy expenditure. This is commonly known as your maintenance calories. A good place to start is by learning how to calculate your maintenance calories.
Fat is lost when you eat at a caloric deficit. You cannot lose belly fat in a caloric surplus. It’s as simple as that. The science behind this will never change.
Do not be fooled by the magic pills that the fitness industry will try to sell you. They are just going to leave you frustrated.
During my first 7 years of working out, I “quit” working out many times because I did exactly what the fitness industry was telling me. Drink protein shakes, workout, take this pill, etc…
None of that stuff worked until I figured out how to workout and eat properly. Are you still asking the question, can you convert fat into muscle? By now, that thought should be long gone.
What you can do to lose fat and build muscle
Once you understand it, the formula for weight gain and weight loss is so simple, that you will be surprised that you didn’t understand it earlier. The fitness industry is notorious for trying to make it sound complicated. In all reality, it is very simple.
The following 2 sections are going to cover exactly what it will take in order for you to either gain muscle or lose weight. It is up to you to decide which path you want to take first. Most will take the path of losing fat first.
Then, you can really dial in your body and start to build muscle.
Eating right to lose fat or build muscle
Eating right is the number one most important thing that you can do to work towards your goals. But I want to set something straight. Eating right doesn’t mean you have to eat boring foods. Eating right means that you know what you are eating and it fits your goals.
If you want to lose fat, you must eat at a caloric deficit. There is no way around that. You cannot workout enough to lose fat if you are not eating at a caloric deficit. Start by calculating your maintenance calories.
From there, you can start to understand what a caloric deficit is. The best place to start is by eating at 500 calories below your maintenance calories per day.
For example, my maintenance calorie number is 3,100. In order for me to eat at a caloric deficit, my target is 2,600.
It is VERY important to note that my maintenance calorie count is fairly high. For some of you, it might be 1,800. For some it might be 6,000.
This is why I do not support any blanket diet or advice for people. Everyone is different, which is why you must calculate YOUR maintenance calorie number.
If you want to build muscle, you have no choice but to eat at a caloric surplus. Again, I recommend 500 calories over your maintenance per day instead of 500 under.
The reason that we only want to go 500 over is because we want to give our body enough calories to just build muscle without excess fat.
The same thing goes for a caloric deficit. You don’t want to go too far below 500 calories under maintenance. Sure, you will lose weight rapidly, but that weight will include muscle mass, which you don’t want to lose.
Working out in conjunction with eating right
We now know that if we eat at a caloric deficit, we will lose weight. We also know that if we eat at a caloric surplus, we will gain weight. Simple concepts, right? Well, working out is going to guide us in the right direction towards where we want our body to be.
Do you want to be skinny and shredded? Eat at a caloric deficit and workout regularly. Do you want to be jacked and beefy? Eat at a caloric surplus and lift heavy weights.
Those statements embody this whole concept in a nutshell, but let’s dig deeper.
Losing weight is a science. All you have to do is eat at a caloric deficit. But we want to accelerate the fat loss while maintaining as much muscle as we can. That is why we want to workout. But what workouts should we do?
The absolute best thing to do for weight loss is high intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. If you combine this with a weight training routine 3-4 days per week, you will be unstoppable.
Building muscle requires a caloric surplus and weight training. For those who struggle to put on weight, I would avoid doing HIIT workouts. You should be focused on eating enough and lifting heavy weights.
When I was struggling to put on muscle, I created my own workout plan. At only 3 days per week, each day is very intense. But it will ensure that your muscles grow. If you are interested, the exact plan is called 3 DAY OVERLOAD, and it is available in our app.
Main Point: Can you convert fat into muscle?
If you have made it this far, you can now answer the age old question, can you convert fat into muscle. We now know that the answer is no, and will never be anything other than no.
The main thing that I want you to take away from this post is you have to make a choice of whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle. You cannot do both at the same time.
If you are overweight, the logical choice is probably to lose weight first, and then focus on building muscle. If you are underweight, the best choice is probably to go right into building muscle.
Remember, you cannot convert fat into muscle, so don’t even think about that concept. Just focus on choosing which one you want FIRST. After a few months of working towards your goal, you can always switch things up.
To lose fat, you absolutely must eat at a caloric deficit. In fact, working out is optional, but highly recommended. As long as you are eating at a caloric deficit, there is no doubt that you will lose fat. But when you combine that caloric deficit with some HIIT workouts, you will be unstoppable.
To gain muscle, you have to eat at a caloric surplus. But there is one thing that differs from weight loss. You have to do weight training if you want to build muscle. If you don’t workout at all, those surplus calories will go towards fat stores instead of muscle.
As you can see, the concepts here are very simple. The hard part is making the choice every single day to stick to your plan and achieve your goals.
So what do you think? Can you convert muscle into fat? We would love to hear from you below!