Does Muscle Turn Into Fat When You Stop Exercising?

It’s False! Body fat and muscle are two completely different body tissues and one cannot turn into the other. It’s a myth — so here’s the real story.

Facts about Body Fat:

A fat cell can do only three things: grow, shrink or stay the same size.

  • If you eat consume more calories than you body expends, the fat cells grow.
  • If you consume less calories than your body needs, the fat cell shrink as it uses up the contents to provide energy.
  • If you consume exactly what your body needs to maintain itself and for the energy you expend, then your fat cells will stay the same size.

Fat cells cannot be targeted individually (ie the ‘muffin top’ or the booty). In fact, spot reduction is one of the biggest fitness myths there is.

Facts About Muscle:

A muscle is made up of thousands of cells called muscle fiber. Muscle reacts to physical stress such as strength training and general body activity — stairs, lifting groceries, raking the leaves etc. When a muscle fibers are stimulated, they can do three things:

  • Increase in size.
  • Increase in density.
  • Increase in efficiency.

The majority of our “visible” body fat sits just below our skin, with our muscles underneath our body fat. When you work your muscles, they tear, and when you rest, they repair themselves, becoming stronger, denser and ready for your next workout.

Muscle is a like a tiny furnace in your body which burns calories all day and night to maintain itself — and the more it burns through body activity, the more calories it needs. And the great thing about muscles (as opposed to fat) is that you can specifically target them, whether you want to work your quadriceps or your triceps or your glutes.

When you stop using a muscle (ie. stop exercising), your muscles will decrease in size, density and efficiency. And when muscle decreases, your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories) slows down. The excess calories previously used to maintain muscle are now likely to be stored as fat.

Hope that helps clear things up for you!

Sarah Brown is a very healthy woman. She is not only a fitness instructor at Goodlife where she teaches Body Pump, Body Flow and yoga but she is also a registered holistic nutritionist.

A Quick Review of the Editor:

I always believed in this myth. I am going through a very hectic and busy phase at my work that I had to freeze one of my gym memberships. Unfortunately I gained back the 10 pounds that I lost with the help of my nutritionist. Reading the article, is giving me incentive to get back, try again, and never lose hope!!