muscle to fat ratio

The weight on the scale is just a number

Have you ever heard the saying, “Muscle weighs more than fat?” Perhaps at some point in your life you were working your butt off in the gym in an attempt to lose weight. During this time, you hopped onto the scale weekly, sometimes even daily. Some days were better than others. Sometimes the numbers on the scale decreased, but to your dismay, this wasn’t always the case. Some weigh-ins showed that the scale read higher than your starting weight. Other days the scale wouldn’t budge.

Depression and sadness would creep into your life causing you to want to quit working so hard. To soothe your worries and soften the blow of the scale, perhaps a family member, friend, personal trainer, or doctor told you that you shouldn’t freak out because the scale is showing that there has been a gain in muscle and that “muscle weighs more than fat.” Maybe you relaxed after hearing this. Maybe you were skeptical of this comment.

 

In the fitness world, the statement, “muscle weighs more than fat” is habitually tossed back and forth. In the context of fitness and recording body weight numbers on scales, the statement “muscle weighs more than fat” does not hold much weight. It just does not make sense because one pound is one pound.

The truth is that when placed on a scale, one pound of fat is going to weigh the same as one pound of muscle – just like one pound of bricks is going to weigh the same as one pound of feathers. Where the confusion comes in is that muscle and fat differ in density (muscle is about 18% more dense than fat) and one pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) than one pound of fat.

So yes, muscle seems to weigh more because there is a difference in the volume between the two. When a cubic inch of muscle and a cubic inch of fat are measured, the cubic inch of muscle will weigh more. As you add compact muscle mass to the body, body weight may increase. However, pound for pound, muscle and fat weigh the same and when tracking progress of a fitness program, it is very important to look at all markers of improvement, and not just the numbers on the scale.

 

By looking at the photo, you can see that five pounds of muscle (pictured on right) is going to take up less space in the body and be a lot less “lumpy” under your skin and in between your organs than the same weight in fat (shown on left).  In fact, the difference can be quite dramatic. I would much rather have five pounds of smooth, lean, dense muscle tissue inside of my body than five pounds of amorphous, bulky, gelatinous fat, and I am guessing you would too!  Besides being more compact in the body, there are also many health advantages to increased muscle mass.

Benefits of having more lean muscle mass   

Having more muscle mass in your body will:

  • Create a leaner physique
  • Reduce your risk of injury
  • Increase strength, stability, power and endurance
  • Improve balance and mobility
  • Improve the way you feel about yourself
  • Increase energy and vitality
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Create metabolic reserve in times of traumas such as (car accidents and burns)
  • Increase your metabolic efficiency
  • Improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control

These are just some of the many advantages of having more lean muscle mass.  Let’s focus on the last two benefits listed:  “Increase your metabolic efficiency” and “Improve insulin sensitivity and improve glucose control.”

Increase your metabolic efficiency

Each pound of fat that your body stores represents 3,500 calories of unused energy. In order to lose one pound, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories by either consuming 3,500 less calories over a period of time than your body needs or by doing 3,500 calories worth of exercise.

By increasing your lean muscle mass through resistance and body weight training, you will help your body burn more calories.  One pound of muscle will burn slightly more calories at rest than one pound of fat tissue at rest.

Make sure to fit those resistance training work outs in!!!

 

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