If I stop working out will all my muscle turn into fat? How do I turn my fat into muscle? These are just a few of the questions I get on a regular basis from clients looking to build muscle, decrease body fat, and/or loose weight. An end needs to be put to this myth right now, due to the single fact that fat can physiologically not turn into muscle and muscle can never turn into fat! The reason for this is simple.
Body fat and muscle are made up of very different cell structure that can never been converted into each other, think of them like wood and metal, the chemistry of each will not allow a change of one to the other. Someone who strength trains on a regular basis and then stops may begin to see the muscle tone in their body diminish or begin to feel more “squishy”, portraying the image that some of their muscle has turned to fat. This is a misconception and entirely false. Muscles shrink because of inactivity (also known as atrophy) and fat then fills the space where the muscles used to be. This would give the impression that muscle has turned to fat; however, if one were to stop strength training and not continue to workout at all or alter their eating habits, some of the food they consume could turn to fat.
Muscles are attached to our bones via tendons and are very active tissue, as they are responsible for creating movement across our joints by relaxing and contracting. Body fat on the other hand sits between the muscle layer and the skin on its own and is more of an insulating layer keeping the body warm or providing energy when needed. Both fat cells and muscle cells have the ability to inflate and deflate; therefore, the goal of a fat loss program would be to decrease the size of the fat cells and increase the size of muscle cells.
I feel it is very important to understand this simple fact in order know what is going on with your body when beginning or “taking a break” from a regular fitness regimen. So although it may feel as though your body composition is changing and that your muscle is turning to fat when you stop strength training, it is actually your muscle cells decreasing in size and your fat cells increasing. This means the best way improve body composition and body image is to perform strength training exercises to increase muscle cell size and perform cardiovascular exercise to decrease fat cell size. Eventually, in combination with a healthy eating regimen, the increase in muscle cell size and decrease in fat cell size meet in the middle and accomplish a toned, fit, muscular, and healthy body image.