12 Min AMRAP:
12 Sumo Deadlift High Pull @ 115/75
12 Shoulder to Overhead @ 115/75
One Pound of Fat Versus One Pound of Muscle: Clearing up the Misconceptions
A Pound is a Pound
Many people say that muscle weighs more than fat, but in reality, a pound is a pound. 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. The difference is, muscle and fat differ in density. Muscle is about 18% more dense than fat. One pound of muscle occupies less space (volume) within the body than one pound of fat.
Cross Section Across Skeletal Muscle
Cross Section Across Fat Tissue
Five Pounds of Muscle Compared to Five Pounds of Fat
By looking at the photo below, you can see that five pounds of muscle (pictured on right) is going to take up less space in the body and be a lot less “lumpy” under your skin and in between your organs than the same weight in fat (shown on left). In fact, the difference can be quite dramatic. I would much rather have five pounds of smooth, lean, dense muscle tissue inside of my body than five pounds of amorphous, bulky, gelatinous fat, and I am guessing you would too! Besides being more compact in the body, there are also many health advantages to increased muscle mass.
Having more muscle mass in your body will:
- Create a leaner physique
- Reduce your risk of injury
- Increase strength, stability, power and endurance
- Improve balance and mobility
- Improve the way you feel about yourself
- Increase energy and vitality
- Improve athletic performance
- Create metabolic reserve in times of traumas such as (car accidents and burns)
- Increase your metabolic efficiency
- Improve insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control
These are just some of the many advantages of having more lean muscle mass. Let’s focus on the last two benefits listed: “Increase your metabolic efficiency” and “Improve insulin sensitivity and improve glucose control.”
Increase Your Metabolic Efficiency
Each pound of fat that your body stores represents 3,500 calories of unused energy. In order to lose one pound, you have to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories by either consuming 3,500 less calories over a period of time than your body needs or by doing 3,500 calories worth of exercise.
By increasing your lean muscle mass through resistance and body weight training, you will help your body burn more calories. One pound of muscle will burn slightly more calories at rest than one pound of fat tissue at rest.
Focus on all of the Health Benefits of Having More Muscle Mass, Not Just on the Calorie Burning Abilities of Muscle
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, 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. One such study was led by Claude Bouchard, an obesity researcher from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. His collected data over the years has revealed that one pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories a day while one pound of fat burns about two calories per day. Six is a lot different than the 50-100 calories that is often stated by others in the health and medical fields.
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. Yes, muscle is three times (not 50 times) more metabolically active at rest than fat, but the actual amount of calories that is burned is not a grand amount. Granted, at the end of the day, any extra calories burned is a great thing, and when you eat healthfully (and mindfully) and engage in a proper resistance training program, you will increase the amount of muscle in your body. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn while at rest and this is exciting. However, it is pertinent for individuals not to become too crazed (or comfortable) with the notion that their resting metabolisms (rate at which one burns calories while at rest) are going to skyrocket once they begin weight lifting and gaining muscle. I have seen that often, when an individual puts too much focus on the calorie burning capabilities of muscle, it becomes very easy for that person to become:
- Relaxed about what needs to be done to get the results wanted and in return, becomes sedentary and may even neglect sound nutritional habits by overeating. If muscle is burning calories at rest, then there is room for overconsumption and inactivity, right? Wrong.
- Overly obsessed with calorie burning through long bouts of cardio, weight training sessions and starvation. The main focus becomes all about decreasing fat, increasing muscle, and expanding the amount of calories muscle will burn at rest. With this extreme approach, overtraining and poor health are often results. More is better, right? Wrong.
The above behaviors are unhealthy, unbalanced, and unsustainable. I want people to get away from calorie obsession and start training with a balanced approach and with common sense. It is important to look at all of the health benefits of muscle mass, not just one. 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 four 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.
Improve Insulin Sensitivity and Better Glucose Control
In 2011, researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that muscle mass strongly correlates with improved insulin sensitivity within the body. It has been noted that with a 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (a measure of how much muscle is on the body), HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance) saw a relative reduction of 11%. People with a higher insulin sensitivity have better glucose control and ultimately, lower rates of diabetes. This is great stuff because when a person is insulin sensitive, he/she can handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose will turn into body fat and less insulin is necessary to keep body systems operating optimally. The result? A healthy functioning of the body’s systems. This will create balance within the body as well as long-term and even permanent results, especially when it comes to battling the bulge.
Are You Setting Yourself up for Failure? Step Away From the Body Weight Scale
While participating in a “weight loss” program, solely depending on a standard body weight scale to track your progress can cause frustration and may even set you up for failure. Although you have been busting your buns in the gym and eating healthy foods, the scale may still display your weight as being the same as when you started, even after a few weeks of exercising. This can create extreme disappointment and ultimately cause you to quit your program.
I can confidently assume that many of you reading this article know exactly what I am talking about. We have all been there at some point. It is that all too familiar feeling of anticipation you experience while you are standing on top of the scale, looking down, waiting to see what the wonderful magical number will read, anxious for it to be lower than the last time you stood in the very same position. The number flashes in front of your eyes, it reads the same, as if the scale was frozen in time. You shake the scale, reset it, step on and do the whole process over, only to find the end result is the same. The number has not shifted, not even a fraction of a pound. If you are experiencing this type of despair, I suggest that you step far away from the scale (put the scale out of sight) and shake off the dissatisfaction you are feeling and think for a minute. Assess all that you have been doing and consider all of the other methods you have used and should be using to track your weight loss journey and progress. Have you used other markers to track your progress?
The Scale does not Represent Everything that is Happening Within the Body
When the number on the scale does not budge, it is important to remind yourself that the scale only shows you a snippet of what is happening. It is only expressing your total body weight – which includes fat, muscle, bones, organs, skin, etc. and not the composition of that weight within your body.
Your total body weight represented on the scale may be the same as when you started your weight loss program, BUT if you are building muscle mass and losing fat tissue, your body composition will be much different. Remember, as mentioned before, muscle and fat differ in density. One pound of muscle is going to occupy less space (volume) within the body than one pound of fat. When you have more muscle and less fat, you become more firm and will lose inches from places such as your waist, hips, buttocks, thighs, etc. Seeing the same number on the scale is not always negative. Again, we need to set our minds on other indicators of health and wellness.
5 x max second L hold
*Rest 1 full minute between sets.
EMOM for 10 min
2 reps @ 50-65% of 1rm
Seated Box Jump
Work to a max height holding 8#db in each hand