Monday, December 24, 2012

Article # 144. What is the difference between muscle and fat?

What is the difference between muscle and fat?
Contrary to what is sometimes stated, muscles cannot “turn into flab” any more than fat can turn into muscle. The two are entirely different tissue.
So what is the difference between muscle and fat? Plenty! But I’ll list those that matter to you and me. Keep in mind I am not making a statement about preference for muscle or fat, just offering several physiological facts:

§  Muscle is dense and shapely
§  Fat is bulky and shapeless
§  You can actively contract muscle
§  Fat jiggles
§  After genetics, muscle is 100% determined by activity (type, severity, and frequency of the stimulus)
§  After genetics, fat is 100% determined by long-term fuel balance (fuel absorbed – fuel expended)
§  After puberty and initial training growth, muscles do not increase or decrease dramatically in a short period. The exceptions are injury or steroid use.
§  Fat can increase or decrease dramatically in a short period
§  Muscle burns around 5-6 calories per pound
§  Fat burns around 2-3 calories per pound
§  Muscle contains a high percentage of water
§  Fat contains very little of its weight in water
§  Muscle gives you power
§  Fat is dead weight
§  Muscle is proportionately distributed throughout the body if you’re following a balanced training program
§  Fat is stored mostly around the middle
§  Muscle makes physical labor easier
§  Fat makes physical labor harder
§  You can isolate and train specific areas of muscle
§  You cannot isolate specific areas of fat (i.e. spot reducing)

Here are four additional myths dispelled:
1. Muscle doesn’t “weigh more than fat” (does a pound of bricks weigh more than a pound of feathers?). Muscle is denser than fat, but not by much.
2. Muscle doesn’t fluctuate as much as fat. Muscle atrophy (loss) or hypertrophy (gain) is not easy to achieve on large levels; however it is possible to lose a lot of fat in a short time (though not easy) or gain a lot of fat (easy). What fluctuates more wildly than both? Water.
3. Excess calories do not build muscle. Excess calories do build fat.
4. Exercise is very important, but even if you slept all day, all the major organs of your body would still need fuel. However, exercise contributes to your energy deficit, increases functional capacity, improves your shape, enhances your mood and makes dieting easier.

We can safely say that a large majority of people out there really are not sure what they are losing when they lose weight. This is the one reason that most weight loss is not sustainable. When it comes to weight loss, you could be losing any one or a combination of the following 3;
  • body fat
  • lean tissue (i.e. muscles)
  • water
A loss of any one of the above would give you weight loss. But going after blind weight loss without understanding what you are losing is a recipe for rebound weight gain sooner or later. Research has shown over and over that losing weight is not the challenge, keeping it off is!
Sustainable weight loss or successful weight loss is where one loses body fat while maintaining or actually increasing lean body tissue. Why should you only want to lose fat, preserve muscle while avoiding water loss? Read on..

Fat is your body’s way of storing unused energy for some future use. Bear in mind that your body is always overly paranoid that you are going to starve to death. This programing may have been valuable for our pre-historic ancestors where food was scarce. But have you heard of anyone dying of starvation?
Fat cells store energy in the form of triglycerides. This energy is not burnt or used up in the fat cell but has to be liberated via an external stimulus. The liberated energy is converted to Free Fatty Acids (FFAs) that are then carried to the tissue that requires the energy. Off course there are more complicated bodily functions involved but this is the simple explanation for the process.
In simple terms, often the stimulus for release of FFAs for burning is a caloric deficit. That means you consume less energy than you expand. The energy shortage is made up from your fat stores.
A 185 lb man carrying an average of 18% body fat has about 115,00 calories of fat storage. This could most probably sustain that man for about 55 days.
It was once thought that fat cells could not increase in quantity after puberty but research has now shown that fat cells can increase in quantity as well as in size. Factors that can affect size/quantity of fat cells include pregnancy and piling on excess weight(fat). The increase of fat cells in quantity and size during pregnancy is nature’s way of ensuring our continuous pro-creation and protection of the off-spring.
While an infant could have 7-8 billion fat cells, a lean adult could have up to 35 billion fat cells. An overweight person could have up to 80 billion fat cells and an obese person could carry up to 300 billion fat cells.

Muscles allow the human body to achieve movement. It allows the body to do useful work. If stress is placed onto the muscles, they adapt by becoming larger for men and denser for women. The one huge myth with women is that they are afraid of building large muscles when undergoing weight resistance training. This is an over-rated myth. Please read Why Women Who Lift Weights Don’t Build Large Muscles.
It is the sleek & slender shape of muscles that give women the coveted hour-glass shape and men the coveted V-shaped body.
See the physical difference between fat/muscle replicas in the picture on the left. Muscle is about 18% more dense than fat. This means that for the same weight, muscles occupies less space than fat.
Correct Weight Loss is when the weight loss is due to the loss of only fat while preserving muscles (women) / building muscles (men). In future articles, we will explain just how this can be achieved.  So until then, once and for all, do it right!


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