Fat vs Muscle. I bet you’ve heard the saying muscle weighs more than fat, but is it true? Is one more dense than the other? Does it affect how you’ll look?
Weight is weight. The difference is the density. That’s why two things that weigh the same can look hugely different in size. A 1kg pile of feathers would look much bigger than a 1kg pile of rocks. Muscle is more dense than fat and so 1kg of fat will look much larger than 1kg of muscle. In fact the picture below shows exactly what 1kg of each looks like.
As you can see, the volume, or size, of 1kg of fat will take up much more space thank 1kg of muscle in your body, so of course you will look larger or ‘fatter’ with more fat than muscle. This is why you mustn’t become too obsessed with just losing weight. Fat is an essential part of our body and we need some but too much is not healthy. Fat helps to insulate the body and keep you warm. Muscle boosts metabolism, it needs more energy to keep it going. So, having more muscle means you burn off more calories while resting.
Don’t be obsessed with your weight
If you see a friend walking down the street, you don’t pick them up and say ‘ooh you’ve lost weight’ you notice what they look like and take in their shape. In fact, that friend may not have lost any weight at all. They may simply have started to lose body fat and gain muscle mass (otherwise know as toning) Weight should not be the only factor to being healthy.
In this picture, the women are all the same weight but all look different. (154lbs or 70kg) Weight isn’t everything. Body fat percentage is much more important.
Or how this fitness trainer’s weight and body changes. (Kelsey Wells)
Don’t get disheartened if you’re exercising and not losing weight
For some people starting out, just doing some light exercise and losing a few pounds is great and the best start. However as you progress, at some stage you will plateau. Don’t worry. Look at the big picture. Step back and look at yourself in the mirror. Maybe you see changes to your shape. Maybe you’re building muscle underneath some excess fat. It’s a slow process and will take weeks or months for you or other people to notice. Measure yourself, waist size is always the best place to start and record it. Record other areas as well to see where the fat starts to come off first. Depending on where you’re starting from or your body type, not losing weight shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing and total body weight is not always a true indicator of what someone looks like or how healthy they are.
You can’t chose where you’re body stores fat and neither can you chose where your body loses it from. However, you can decide which muscles you want to develop.
Lose fat not weight, that should be the saying.
(If you want to see what body fat % you should be for your age or gender the How Does The Body Store Fat – Men & Women page will give you a good idea)
BMI – It’s flawed
Body Mass Index, or BMI, is often mentioned as an indicator of how healthy or over/under weight someone is and while it is not a bad generic tool, it is flawed. According to health institutions, the higher your BMI the higher your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure as well as others.
It measures your weight in kg’s divided by the square of your height in metres. It does not differentiate between muscle and fat. Nor does it take into account gender, age, body types or fat distribution.
In Why Should Older Adults Exercise it explains how our muscle mass decreases as we age and we naturally store more fat. So, in theory, an elderly person with low muscle mass and higher body fat percentage could have a low BMI. This will imply less risk of diseases, and a fit, strong, athletic person can have a high BMI implying they are overweight or even obese and therefore at higher risk of these diseases.
You can generally look at someone and see if they are over or underweight. Even though BMI does have its limitations it is not bad for most people to get a starting point for their health, as long as it is used in conjunction with some other form of test or a doctors visit. It should not be used solely as an indicator of someone’s health and this is why some doctors are shying away from it. A better form of test is the waist to neck ratio.