There have been numerous myths floating around in the fitness industry today. One in particular is the idea that it is possible to convert fat to muscle. I’m sure you’ve seen them – those misleading fitness magazines bearing a model with the perfect body claiming they have the secret to convert ‘unwanted fat’ to ‘desirable muscle’.
There is no doubt many of us would want this to be true but the reality is that it is biologically impossible to convert fat to muscles. They advertise these alluring messages for the same reasons tabloids publicize fake stories on your favorite celebs – it sells extra copies.
Many who’ve fallen victim to these myths have ended up inflicting more damage to their bodies. Before you fall for any of these myths, analyze the facts so that you can make informed decisions as to how to go about achieving your fitness goals. Building muscle and inducing fat loss are two separate results; one does not lead to the other.
Like Mars and Venus
The most important distinction is that fat and muscle are not interchangeable. Fat is from triglycerides, while muscle is from amino acids. No diet or exercise can literally convert one into the other. Another point of differentiation is the behavior of fat tissue as opposed to muscle tissue. Fat tissue is an excess energy store that just sits around until you use it. Muscle tissue, on the other hand, is active – burning calories around the clock whether you are awake or asleep.
You can take comfort in the knowledge that with a little stick-to-it philosophy, proper diet and exercise you will be able to lose the unwanted fat tissue and develop the muscle mass you have longed for. Stick-to-it comes from realizing that the transformation will not take place overnight. It also calls for you to be committed to keeping track of your diet, activity level and overall progress whether by a journal or some other tracking method.
Get Down to Business
In terms of your diet, you will need to ensure that you include plenty of protein – after all it is the stuff muscle is made from. Also to be included are complex carbohydrates which provide a long lasting store of energy, and are fiber rich. Healthy fats (yes there is such a thing!) should also be an integral part of your diet. The fact is that your body does need a certain amount of fat to function properly. Just ensure that your intake is from the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat categories, while you avoid saturated and trans fats.
Lastly, try to reduce your sugar intake. Some sources suggest that sugars should not make up more than 3% of your energy intake – that’s a lot less than a soda a day. Just to be clear here, naturally occurring sugars are an important part of a healthy diet. Get these from fruits and vegetables, or other sources such as low-fat dairy and whole grains. It’s the added sugars that you are to be wary of. These include table sugar added to products such as breads and high-fructose corn syrup among others.
When it comes to exercise, you will need to incorporate both cardiovascular and resistance training into your routine. Here’s why: your body needs the right stimuli to burn fat and to build muscle. To cut the fat you will have to engage in aerobic exercise. The cardiovascular workout forces your body to dip into the fat stores to give you the energy necessary to complete the exercise.Your muscles, on the other hand, need weight-bearing exercises in order to develop, and resistance training provides this.
Suggested Workout Schedule
So what might a workout routine look like for you if you are trying to do the fat to muscle ‘conversion’? You will need a blend of weight training, high-intensity and low-intensity exercise to reap the best results. The high-intensity variety will have a higher fat burning rate; but since you are able to do more of the low-intensity exercise, it will have the superior overall ability to produce weight loss. Let’s take a 5-day exercise routine into consideration.
Give yourself two days to devote to lifting heavy weights at low repetitions. Don’t overdo it – four to six sets maximum. This will help you to build dense, lean muscle. Assign one of these two days to focus on the muscles in the upper body and the other day to zero in on the lower body muscle groups.
Two of the remaining three days should be for intense, circuit training for the entire body. Unlike the previous two days, you will be using lighter weights and doing more repetitions. Incorporate activities that see you switching the focus from one muscle group to the next, with little or no rest between sets.
As you go through this routine you will be stimulating your body to release a growth hormone that helps to build muscle from protein and convert fat into energy.
The fifth day is for endurance training; but you should try to make it long and easy. This definitely means low-intensity.‘Long’ here suggests roughly an hour, whereas ‘easy’ may find you cycling, swimming, walking or doing a stretching routine.
My last piece of advice to help you go from flabby to trim is to be wary of your bathroom scale. Better yet, ditch it for the time being. Constantly weighing yourself may lead you to thinking that you are not making any progress. Why? As you lose the fat and replace it with muscle, you may not actually lose weight. In fact your weight may actually increase.
The best indicators of your progress are:
What you see in the mirror;
Feedback from individuals around you.
Your increased energy levels;
How your clothes feel on you.
By following the guidelines above, after a few months you will be pleased with the results – shedding 10-15 lbs. of fat you will not miss. In addition, if you play your cards right you can maintain your new figure and bid a permanent goodbye to unnerving belly fat. Ta-da! Take all the time you need to work towards your goals individually – to lose fat and build muscles. Remember, if you chase two rabbits at once both will escape.