Clearing Up the Misconceptions

In the health and 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, that statement does not hold much weight. It just does not make sense because one pound is one pound.

Technically, the statement is false. 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 percent 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.

This means that if you were to build 5 lbs. of muscle and lose 5 lbs. of fat, you would weigh exactly the same, but look smaller and firmer.

So imagine if it were 25 lbs. or 50 lbs. of lost fat vs. muscle gained. This is why it’s possible for you to lose fat inches when exercising, yet show no change in scale weight. And can you see how firm the muscle looks compared to the lumpy, tapioca pudding consistency of fat?

Some people get nervous to increase muscle within their bodies, but having more muscle can be a great thing! Besides being more compact in the body, there are lots of health advantages to having more muscle mass.

Having more muscle mass in your body will:

• Boost your metabolic efficiency

• Better your balance and mobility

• Build a leaner physique

• Create metabolic reserve in times of traumas such as (car accidents and burns)

• Enhance strength, stability, power and endurance

• Improve insulin sensitivity and blood glucose control

• Increase energy and vitality

• Raise your confidence

• Reduce your risk of injury

• Strengthen athletic performance

Health and fitness professionals across the world put a lot of emphasis on the “muscle is a high-octane calorie incinerator” concept and even exaggerate (sometimes unknowingly) the actual amount of calories muscles burn while at rest.

Fitness magazines and health experts like, Dr. Mehmet Oz and personal trainers across the country happily report that one pound of muscle burns an extra 50-100 calories per day than fat. However, recent scientific research has proven this number to be inflated.

As a fitness professional, I do not like to over-emphasize the point that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. I feel it is an important fact to know, and can be used as a motivator when getting started with a fitness program, but I do not think it should be the primary driving force behind gaining muscle mass.

In my opinion, knowing that muscle can help balance insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels within the body is of greater interest than one pound of muscle burning an extra few calories more than one pound of fat. When the body’s endocrine system is working properly, it is much easier to maintain a healthy weight. When insulin sensitivity and glucose management is screwed up, weight management (and loss) becomes a very difficult task. Combine healthy insulin and glucose control with an increased resting metabolic rate (RMR), and you have a win-win situation.

Ultimately, building muscle mass is a good thing. So, find some enjoyable exercises and get lifting.