When it comes to getting in shape, the majority of people are looking for 2 specific types of changes.
They want to lose some degree of fat, and add some degree of muscle.
And while everyone will have different priorities and goals, the fact remains that these are the 2 main things that most of us are concerned with.
Now, as a trainer, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been asked many times for the best approaches to turn fat into muscle.
Unfortunately, this very question belies a false impression of how the whole muscle building, fat loss thing actually works.
You see, many guys believe that with the right combination of diet, exercise – and possibly some special supplement – they can effectively transform their body fat into rock hard muscle.
Well, I want to be clear about this: you can’t turn fat into muscle.
It is literally impossible.
And no combination of training and eating right can change this.
In this article, I’m going to quickly go through why it is impossible to turn fat into muscle, and what you should be focusing on instead.
Why It Is Biologically Impossible To Turn Fat Into Muscle
Fat cells and muscle cells are fundamentally very different from one another.
Fat is primarily made up of triglycerides, which are a type of fatty acid chain – and each of these chains consists mainly of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.
The main function of fat is to store energy. In this respect, fat cells are not active cells; they just sit there, waiting to be burned when your body requires additional energy.
In addition, fat can help to provide insulation, and also offers a layer of protection for your internal organs.
Muscle, on the other hand, is primarily made up of muscle tissue, glycogen, and water.
The muscle tissues themselves are comprised of strings of amino acids, which contain nitrogen.
Unlike fat, muscle tissue is active, which means that it actually requires energy to sustain itself, and therefore burns energy throughout the day.
This is one of the reasons that, pound for pound, muscle burns more calories than fat, as I’ve discussed in one of my previous articles.
Now back to the topic at hand, when you understand the differences in the underlying composition of both fat and muscle tissue, you’ll see why it is impossible for one to simply transform and become the other.
This is primarily because fat doesn’t contain nitrogen, a vital component of muscle tissue, and there is no known biological process that allows for your body to synthesize nitrogen; instead, like other amino acids, the protein in your diet is the only significant source of nitrogen.
For this reason alone, it is fair to say that it is impossible for fat to turn into muscle.
The bottom line is that they are fundamentally different types of tissue, and there is no way for your body to magically transform one into the other.
Focus On Losing Fat And Building Muscle
Now you’d be forgiven if you asked this question, since even though it is impossible to directly turn fat into muscle, this is somewhat an issue of semantics.
That is, when someone goes from being fat and weak to lean and strong, it looks like their body fat has indeed become muscle.
However, when we look at what has actually happened, this isn’t a conversion process, where one thing transforms into something else; instead, it is a replacement process.
This means that while you can certainly lose fat and build muscle, you need to recognize that they are 2 completely separate processes.
What’s more, your body isn’t terribly good at doing both of these things effectively at the same time.
This is why it is often preferable to focus on them as 2 separate goals, which is where ‘cutting’ and ‘bulking’ come in.
When you’re cutting, everything in your fitness plan will be based around losing fat.
When you’re bulking, everything in your fitness plan will be based around building muscle.
So, in the end, while it is technically impossible to actually turn fat into muscle, you can still achieve the same end result.
This means figuring out which of these goals matters most to you right now, and then optimizing your training around that goal.
Then, in the future, when you’ve lost a lot of fat or built a lot of muscle, you can switch gears and focus on the other side of the equation.