Does Fat Turn into Muscle?

So, does fat turn into muscle or not?

If you take a peek into some of the advertising copy of “miracle” supplements, you may actually begin to believe that diet and exercise are no longer necessary if you want to become healthy and ripped. You just need to pop a pill, and your fat will magically turn into muscle.

But regardless of whether you believe the hype or not, you have to ask, does fat turn into muscle?

This is a good question, because turning fat into muscle has always been a standard claim in the fitness industry.

But if that’s the case…

Exactly how does fat turn into muscle?

The answer: it depends.

Fat vs. Muscle

If you mean literally turning fat into muscle, then the answer to the question is no. Fat does not turn into muscle, because they’re made from different types of cells. It is physiologically impossible to turn fat into muscle because fat doesn’t have nitrogen which is needed so it can turn into muscle and there’s no way to turn fatty tissue into amino acids.

It’s sort of like trying to turn straw into gold. It can only happen in fairy tales.

Less Fat, More Muscle

Now if we are talking about turning fat into muscle in a less literal sense, then it’s possible. It’s a figure of speech, just like when some advertising copy promises to turn you into Hercules. You don’t actually become the demigod son of Zeus—you just turn into a muscular dude.

But why do some chubby people turn into impressively muscled men in some pictures? You’ve probably seen them too. And then again, some people don’t seem to lose weight at all. They just become more fit and muscular while their flab disappears.

That’s because when you stick to eating right, supplementing with whole food nutrients (Zeal for Life recommended) and a good weightlifting routine, two things can happen:

You will lose weight. When you don’t consume enough calories for your weightlifting activities, your body is then forced to lose burn the fat stored in your body for energy. Exercise burns calories, and combined with a diet your calorie intake can become less than the number of calories you use up.

You will gain muscle. When you lift weights, what you really do is to stress and tear your muscles. Your body then responds to this by rebuilding the muscles, and because you have lots of protein in your diet you have the necessary raw material to build more massive muscle.

You can’t turn straw into gold, but in the real world you can sell straw and then use the money to buy gold. And when we put it this way, we did turn straw into gold.

It’s the same thing for turning fat into muscle. You have two separate results—muscle gain and fat loss—but both are the results of your diet and weightlifting regimen. And they happen generally at the same time.

So does fat turn into muscle? In a way it does, from a certain POV.

Benefits of Strength Training

These are just a few of the many benefits of strength training.

The popularity of strength training really grew when it was realized that great strength was an advantage in many types of sports. Many coaches in the collegiate and high school levels began to systematically incorporate weightlifting and other resistance exercises in their training programs when the benefits of strength training became apparent. It became obvious that greater strength allowed athletes to perform better.

For example, one of the benefits of strength training is that it allows baseball hitters to strike the ball harder with their bats, and this made more home runs possible. Greater strength also lessens the possibility of injuries, which is a crucial consideration in contact sports such as football, hockey, and basketball.

And obviously, it is also important in a lot of martial sports; being stronger is a definite advantage in boxing, wrestling, and judo. You probably won’t find any athlete in Mixed Martial Arts who doesn’t do any strength training.

In the military, strengthening exercises are mandatory. Pushups aren’t just meant for punishment among servicemen; they also function to make them stronger. Among military personnel, police officers, and firefighters, strength is important because part of their duties is to carry others to safety during emergencies.

But strengthening exercises aren’t just for athletes and emergency personnel. The benefits of strength training are for everyone. They’re for both men and women of all ages, and this includes those who aren’t in the most perfect of health. Actually, those with serious ailments such as arthritis and heart disease get the most benefits from these types of workouts.

Strengthening exercises prevent, minimize, or alleviate these health conditions:

  • Arthritis. A study by Tufts University revealed that these exercises, when performed by older people with arthritis, increased their strength and overall physical performance, lessened their disability, and improved the symptoms of the ailment. The exercises were even shown to be at least just as effective in easing the pain as medications.
  • Poor balance and lack of flexibility. In older people, these issues lead to falls that cause broken bones. Strengthening exercises can help restore some balance and flexibility. A study in New Zealand revealed that simple forms strengthening exercises for women considerably lessened the frequency and severity of falls.
  • Loss of bone density. Every year, post-menopausal women lose about a percentage or two of their bone mass. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report in 1994 which showed that strengthening exercises boost bone density and lessened the risk of bone fractures for older women.
  • Obesity. Strengthening exercises can help you lose weight. Developing greater muscle mass is a common side effect of strength training, and muscle is essentially a group of tissues that consumes calories. It’s been shown that these exercises can actually boost your metabolic rate by 15%.
  • Heart diseases. The American Heart Association recommends strengthening workouts to reduce the risk of heart disease, and also as therapy for patients rehabilitating from certain heart ailments.
  • Diabetes. One study showed that strengthening workouts result in improvements in glucose control that are similar to taking diabetes medication.
  • Anxiety and insomnia. It is also widely known that strengthening workouts fight depression and induce healthier sleep.

Here’s a little bonus: Strength training also makes you look attractive!

You can start getting the benefits of strength training very quickly using a workout program such as the ones found in our Dumbbell section and in our Kettlebell section at Go pickup one or both of these excellent methods for building muscle and get started enjoying the benefits of strength training today.

Strength Training with Muscle Groups

Ideas for strength training of different muscle groups.

What Order Should You Workout Your Muscle Groups?

When creating your routine or strength training sessions, have you ever thought about the order you do your exercises?

Does it even make a difference?

Yes it can. Most experts recommend exercising your larger muscle groups first and then work your smaller muscle groups next. Why? Your large muscle groups use up a lot of energy, so you want to get those exercises out of the way first while you are still fresh. Then you can use the rest of your energy to work the smaller muscle groups which require less energy in the first place.

But remember, this is just a recommendation. A good way to keep from hitting a plateau is to reorder the way you do your exercises. It keeps your body challenged and from becoming to comfortable with doing the same exercises in the same order.

Exercise Order

So with an upper body routine, what would that look like?

You would want to exercise your:

  • chest and back before your shoulders.
  • shoulders before your biceps and triceps.

In a lower body routine, exercise the quads and hamstrings before calves and abs.

Rest Between Strength Training Exercises

Rest is an important component when setting the order of your exercises. The rest we are talking about is the rest between sets. Rest too much or too little and your performance (and ultimately, your goal) will sacrifice.

However to help you figure out your rest cycles, consider these three factors:

1) Intensity

The rate at which you do an exercise is the intensity. So if you are doing less reps with more weight, your intensity is greater than if your do more reps with lighter weight. The more intensity at which you exercise, the more rest you need.

2) Demand

Demand, or how hard the exercise is on your body, also affects how much rest you need. The higher the demand, the longer the rest required. For example, when exercising the legs, chest and back, you need more rest than when working biceps and triceps.

3) Goal

And finally your goal affects rest cycles. If your goal is to build endurance, then usually a 20 to 60 second rest between sets is sufficient. However if your goal is to build muscle, then your rest cycle could be 3 to 5 minutes between sets. To get toned and “looking good”, a 1 to 3 minute rest is all you need.

As you complete one set of exercises and are ready to move into starting the first set of another exercise, take the same amount of rest between exercises as you did between sets.

Now you know how the order of your exercises and rest cycles can affect your performance. However, don’t be afraid to “shake things up” a little by changing the order occasionally.

Also to keep from hitting a plateau and to work your muscles differently, occasionally take out an exercise or two and replace with different ones that still target the same muscles.

How Much Rest Do Your Muscles Need In Between Strength Training Sessions?

Many people don’t know that rest is one of the most important parts of a strength training program. Weightlifting breaks down muscle by causing small tears in them. It is during the rest days that the body repairs these tears. Too little rest and you will start to suffer from the over-training syndrome which can take both a physical and mental toll on your body. Rest too much and you will not see progress toward your goal.

How much rest is enough?

So what is the right amount of rest? Actually there are two types of rest – one between sets and one between sessions. The rest between sets helps replenish the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your muscles, the primary source of energy. Rest between sets gives the muscle time to recuperate itself.

If you goal is to build up muscle endurance, then aim for a rest between sets of 30 to 90 seconds; allow at least a full day of rest before exercising the same muscle group again. To build muscle, allow for a 1 to 2 minute rest between sets and up to two days between sessions.

Many recreational weightlifters break down their sessions into an upper body routine one day, a lower body routine another day and back to the upper body (same or a different routine) the next day, or maybe throw in a cardio session somewhere during the week.

Hitting the wall

If you do over train, you will find yourself “hitting the wall”. You will know it because you will feel extremely fatigued or weak when training; you won’t be able to lift as much or do as many reps as you did the session before, so you will show a lack of progress. You may also suffer from a decreased appetite and a lack of enthusiasm to exercise. Over-training can also weaken your immune system, so you may even get sick more often.

If you start to show these symptoms, take a week off from weightlifting. Do other types of exercises that don’t work the same muscles as your routines, such as walking or yoga. To prevent it from happening again, identify the cause of over training – usually a lack of proper rest either with sets or sessions – make adjustments and continue training. You will come back both mentally and physically re-energized.

One of the best defenses to keep from over training is proper rest. Listen to your body; it will let you know when you are working it too hard. Be prepared to adjust your training, diet and sleep cycle accordingly to get you back on track.

Most of all keep learning and adjust your routine. As new strength training and fitness information becomes available you’ll find it at or by subscribing to the My Fitness Nut Newsletter that’s exclusive to valued readers like you.