Getting rid of our fat and gaining muscle is the goal of almost every man in the gym. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was asked how to turn fat into muscle.
It would be great if you could just magically turn your excess fat into nice lean muscle.
Can you scientifically make that happen? Well, no… but you can work at burning fat and building muscle simultaneously. It’s hard, but possible, unlike turning fat into muscle.
The anatomy of muscle vs fat
Saying that you want to turn fat into muscle is like saying you want to take a dog and make it a cat. It just can’t be done because they aren’t the same species.
The same is true of the difference in the type of tissue fat and muscle are. You just can’t turn one into another.
Muscle is comprised of tissue that is always active. Every time you move, your muscles are using energy and contributing to the movement of the body itself.
Fat, on the other hand, is stored and waits. It does no work.
It just waits until the body needs extra energy, then it is converted into glucose that can be used by the muscle to do more activity.
Sure, science has proven that fat, or adipose tissue, does perform some functions while it waits, but for the most part, fat is just a backup battery.
So, to turn one into another is just a ridiculous notion.
I think that the popular chase of turning fat into muscle is really just the desire to transform their body.
There are two parts to this transformation:
- Burning off stored fat
- Building muscle mass
This two-step transformation can have the steps overlapping, where you are burning off fat while you are gaining muscle.
How to burn fat and build muscle through your diet?
The tricky part about this formula is not finding out how to lose fat, that’s an easy formula.
Simply eat fewer calories than you burn, and you’ll have weight loss. This is a scientifically proven fact. Anyone that tells you that calories don’t count is a fool.
What is difficult is trying to burn fat without losing any of your muscle mass.
For the most part, when you are in a caloric deficit, meaning that your body isn’t ingesting enough calories to provide the energy necessary to perform its duties, it will turn to your stored fat cells to get that energy.
This is how fat is burned and you have that happy results of less jelly belly.
However, this has to be done at a moderate rate, or you risk seeing some muscle waste, or at the very least, no muscle gain.
This is because your body needs specific nutrients in order to build muscle.
Have you heard of the term “eat your macros ratio” yet? If not… I don’t know where you’ve been hiding but here’s a short breakdown of macros.
There are three of them; protein, carbohydrates, and fat, and in terms of muscle building they are listed in order of importance.
Remember just a few sentences ago I cautioned that too strict of a calorie-restriction could cause muscle wasting?
Well, the answer to that was not only to lose weight slowly, but to fuel your muscles right.
This study shows that sufficient protein intake is crucial to maintaining muscle mass while on a calorie-restricted diet.
Higher protein intake was also proven to increase fat burning and keep you feeling full and reduce cravings.
Aside from high-quality protein, carbohydrates will help you have energy, but you need to keep them low in order to encourage continued fat stores be used for energy.
Carbs are an immediate energy source and will derail any energy being taken from elsewhere.
This is due to the insulin spike that comes after eating carbohydrates. Insulin is helpful in creating muscle growth but detrimental to burning fat.
So that is why totally cutting out carbs is a bad idea but keeping the intake moderate is wise.
How to burn fat and build muscle through your workout?
Another important part of ensuring that you continue to gain muscle mass, even while in a caloric deficit is to engage in a progressive overload on your muscles through a heavy weightlifting regimen.
Most people would say that a high rep, moderate weight lifting regimen would make you gain the most mass but studies prove otherwise.
Start with about 80% of your maximum weight for 5-6 reps of compound moves and continue to add weight little by little. Or if you’re beginner, follow a beginner-friendly routine instead.
This takes care of muscle growth, now what about fat burning?
Well, you have a choice here.
With a calorie restricting diet and more and more muscle mass gains, your metabolism will increase, and you won’t need to do any cardio to burn fat. It will happen on its own.
But, if you don’t have that much fat to lose and you want to get rid of that last stubborn few pounds holding on, it might be a good idea to include some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your weekly training schedule.
Why HIIT and not the traditional cardio of trudging away on the treadmill for hours?
Well, that traditional cardio is a sure-fire way to see some of that precious muscle tissue you worked so hard for just waste away.
High-intensity training is short and efficient. In fact, it’s proven to burn more fat than traditional cardio and preserves muscle mass.
One more thing before I leave you with this to ponder over.
In order for you body to build muscle and recover from your weekly workouts as well as burn fat efficiently, it needs at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Sufficient sleep also helps you keep your testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin levels all in check, which all play a role in your goals.
So, there is good news. Even though you can’t turn fat into muscle, you can still have less fat and more muscle.
It’s really just a matter of calling things what they are, the end product is still what you were aiming for.
Stick to the above plan and you’ll be sure to see a lot more muscle and a lot less fat on your body.