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Can you convert Fat into Muscle?

Fat into Muscle.  Myth or fact?

When a client says they want to turn their fat into muscle what they are really saying is that they want to lose fat and gain muscle!

Now, there are really two goals in that sentence;

1. Reduce fat

2. Gain muscle.
This is a great goal and losing fat and gaining muscle is the fastest way to improve your body composition. But can it be done at the same time? Well the question is what you need to do to:

1. Loose fat

2. Gain muscle

To lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit.

For muscle gain, you need to be in a caloric surplus.

Weight gain or weight loss is essentially calories in vs calories out. When we burn more than what we consume, we lose weight & when we consume more than what we burn, we gain weight!

So you can see that these two goals are in opposition to each other and after 7,500 DEXA scans we know that for long-term body composition changes it is best to lose fat first and then build muscle! So how many calories do I need to be consuming to lose fat, and how many calories do I need to gain muscle? Well, this is a very individualised and person-specific question.

Factors that affect your ability to lose fat and to gain muscle, include:

  • your age
  • amount of lean tissue mass
  • hormonal profile
  • gut health
  • visceral fat levels
  • current fitness levels and
  • your gender

The most accurate and reliable method to understand your metabolism is with a “Metabolic test”. This test takes the guesswork out! It measures your metabolism accurately, based on where you are at today! It’s quick and easy and the results are given to you on the spot.
To summarise. You cannot directly convert fat into muscle (or muscle to fat) and the best way to improve your body composition is to know exactly how many calories to eat for fat loss and how many calories to eat for muscle gain. The best way to know this is to come in and get a metabolic test, and have your results explained with one of our sports scientists at Body Measure.

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Are you exercising too much? Physical stress and fat stores

cortisol-overexercise-dexa-bodymeasure-crowsnestWe see it all the time: client comes in, they want to lose weight – ideally fat. In pursuit of that goal of fat loss, they’ve been watching what they eat and hitting the gym every day. Sometimes, even twice a day! But despite all that exercising, they’re just not getting the results and we can see the frustration radiating off them.

“Why aren’t I getting results?” we get asked. The answer a lot of the time is stress. When you are under stress, your body produces more cortisol and more cortisol means more fat stores. But we don’t just mean emotional stress, physical stress is a significant and often overlooked trigger for cortisol production – especially in our enthusiastic exerciser example.

As Chris Kresser says, “when a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a barrier to achieving those goals.” Extreme exercise produces an immediate increase in cortisol, and chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a range of health problems, such as sleep disturbance (which can also hinder fat loss – see our blog post on sleep and fat!), digestive issues, depression, weight gain and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, especially around the abdomen, and we know how dangerous that abdominal fat can be.

So how do you know if you are putting your body under too much stress when exercising? You can start by doing a simple exercise test. For example, you might be able to do five pull ups when you aren’t stressed. But two days later, you find you can only do three pull ups. Of course it doesn’t have to be pull ups- it can be any simple exercises, for example, a vertical leap or a chin up. That’s a big warning sign that your body hasn’t recovered and you will trigger the production of cortisol and store fat, rather than burn it.

To get the maximum benefit from your exercise regime, without promoting excessive cortisol production, try the following tips:overexercise-cortisol-dexascan-bodymeasure-crowsnest

  • Reduce the frequency: Limit high intensity, high stress exercise to only two or three times a week.
  • Get enough rest: It’s important to give your body time to recover and get enough sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping through the night, evaluate the intensity of your training schedule.
  • Have a break: Take a regular, planned break from intense training.
  • Get more variety: High intensity exercise can be great for reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass. But balance this with a form of exercise that helps to control your cortisol levels, such as a regular yoga practice.
  • Be smart about your carbohydrates: Low-carb eating is a good way to decrease body fat, but if you are doing high intensity training, it’s important to strike the right balance. Choose healthy, slow burning carbs such as those found in root vegetables.

Are you training hard but not seeing results? Or are you feeling rundown and exhausted? Come back for a follow up DEXA scan and we can assess the changes in your body composition and help to identify if you might be overtraining and placing your body under too much stress.