One Pound Of Fat Vs One Pound Of Muscle: Clearing Up The Misconceptions
Two of the most popular fitness statements that do the rounds revolve around the difference between muscle and fat. One is incorrect. The other is overstated. The first is ‘muscle is heavier than fat’ and the second is ‘muscle burns more calories than fat’. Let’s now investigate which one is total porkies and which one is often exaggerated.
‘Muscle is heavier than fat’
This one always makes me smile because if you sit back and think about it, unless the metric system has recently changed, it is in fact impossible. Remember the trick question, “what’s lighter a tonne of feathers or a tonne of bricks?”. People would say feathers because they associate them as being lighter. However, they both weigh the same. A tonne is tonne, regardless of what it’s made up of. A pound of muscle will always weigh the same as a pound of fat because a pound is a pound.
The confusion lies within the density between the two, i.e. how much space the two take up. The reality of this is a little less dramatic than many think. Muscle only takes up around 20% less space than fat. So, if measured in proportional size, then yes muscle does weigh may more than fat.
One litre of muscle weighs 2.3lbs, while one litre of fat weighs 1.98lbs. This may vary due to numerous factors including race, being extremely lean, or being extremely obese.
‘Muscle burns more calories than fat’
This statement is true, but it’s often exaggerated. Word on the gym floor, from the loud guy with his nipples poking out either side of his vest, is that 1lb of muscle burns up to 50 calories a day, compared to fat which burns zero calories.
The truth however, according to studies done by the American Council on Exercise, is that muscle will burn around 7-10 calories per pound per day, whilst fat burns around 2-3 calories daily per pound. Therefore, replacing a pound of fat with a pound of muscle can lead to you burn an extra 4-6 calories a day.
The average newbie lifter can expect to gain around 3-5 pounds of muscle in the first three to four months if on a well-structured, progressive, weight-based routine. Meaning you’ll be burning around 15-30 calories more per day. So a lot less than many think!
Take Home Points
Whilst muscle may not be heavier than fat, it does in fact take up around a fifth less space. So it’s a wise idea to judge your progression in the gym by how you look in the mirror instead of on the scales.
That accumulation of the extra calorie burn year on year from an increase in muscle mass does make a difference, just not as much as you previously thought. Increasing muscle mass should be our main priority (male and female). Besides reducing the risk of many major diseases, it is also what gives us the defined body shape we all desire.
If you’d like to start burning body fat and promoting muscle then why not head over to my membership page and become an online client!
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All the love,
Sam Jones Fitness