Fat into muscle... or chalk into cheese?
First of all we need to dispel a misconception. There is a widespread belief (mainly amongst beginners with higher body fat ratios) that they will transform their existing doughyness to muscle. The very idea has failure hard-coded into it. These people want to keep their weight steady, and turn X kilograms of fat into muscle (and X is usually determined by some astro-level maths). So fat turns into muscle. The fat will give way to muscle. Read it again: fat will give way to muscle. Let’s see the point in that, and try not to cry when the brain starts to melt.
OK, this is where I give up... Let’s prevent the shock of pain, and try to find something worthy in this nonsense. We’ll take a somewhat scientific approach, so that the response will actually contain facts, and no-one will feel left out of some secret wisdom.
A bit of biology
Adipose tissue (body fat) is a special (but pretty basic) kind of connective tissue. It contains a high number of adipocytes (fat cells), and is heavily vascularized – meaning it has a dense network of veins in it (mostly capillaries). It represents a relatively high percent of our body weight. It has two main functions:
- Energy storage. This function is hard to utilize as adipose tissues are hard to activate as energy warehouses. You need certain ambient temperatures (that’s why swimming in cool waters of a swimming pool will not work for fat burning), and you need certain oxidative processes that can be initiated most easily by aerobic exercises. So the body is reluctant to use it as direct source of energy – our built-in protective mechanisms start using up muscle tissues first as a fast way of gaining energy, adipose tissues are burned afterwards. This is why it is pretty hard to lose fat, while losing muscle mass can be fast.
- Mechanical protection. The fat beneath our skin (subcutaneous fat) protect the body against cold and various physical impacts (e.g. knocks, contusions), while the fat around internal organs (visceral fat) protect, and fix our organs.
This is a brief and concise summary with bits left out. So we can see that adipose tissues are not devilish, unnecessary tissues that we don’t even need; the heart of the problem can be found in our diet, and the quality of food we take, plus the lack of physical activity. So we do need adipose tissues, but the actual amount and its form is probably not what we perceive as ideal. A low body fat ratio is usually a beneficial thing, but do not think in extremes: a competition physique (shredded to dust) is far from being healthy, and is impossible to maintain on the long run. Keeping the body fat ratio low makes our muscles more spectacular, our figure looks more defined, and that is a nice thing from an aesthetic point of view.
Oh, yes! Those muscles. We fight for them quite a lot, some would even dine from a cesspool if it would surely make them grow. Muscles are organs specialized for contraction, and their role is to make the body, and its innards move.
They can burn a huge amount of energy when used, so it takes quite a lot of nutrients to build them up, or just to maintain them
(while adipose tissues can embrace us in a calm and silent manner, and even if we would follow diets time and time again, the fat would not disappear, but would grow.) Muscles are more complex organs:
the basic building blocks of muscle tissues are amino acids, and the tissue is made up mostly of muscle cells, motor nerves, and sensory nerves – a dense vascular network provides them with blood, and the so called fascia divides them into units. Their metabolism at cellular level is also more complex, and they are capable of storing energy in the form of glycogen (that is replenished by our body mainly from carbohydrates consumed), and that is used up during activities. The other source of energy is an „energy backup storage” molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) – ( whose repleneshing requires the consumption of creatine by the athlete).
So it is clear that both types of tissues are essential, and we need both to stay alive. Body fat accumulated under the skin creates a look that is not really pleasing for a body-builder/athlete (or for an everyday person either), while a well muscled, nice physique looks aesthetic, and is functional too (even though the amount of muscle that is said to look good can vary a lot). Being fat and chubby makes us look unappealing, plus we tend to get slower, more depressed, and inert. Being lean means a higher power level, and our body can do physical work in a more effective way. So there is no question about which state is better.
Since muscle tissues and adipose tissues have fundamental differences between them, and their functions are different too, it is obvious that they cannot turn into one another, and they cannot back up the other in their functions. Fat will never ever turn into muscle, and vice versa: muscle will never transform into fat. It is biochemically impossible. Fat will turn into muscle metaphorically, when you lose it, and then you build muscle instead. And same goes for the opposite direction: muscle will turn into fat, when your lose muscle tissues, and start accumulating fat.
Thanks for the science lessons, that’s enough. I’m a newbie, where should I start?
First of all, look in the mirror. It is important to know where we start from – you need to decide what program to follow based on your current physical state.
1) In case you are definitely obese:
The higher your body fat ratio (the fatter you are), the worse your body’s ability to utilize nutrients. Your metabolism is slow, and your muscle mass is relatively low when compared to your body fat. Bulking will only make you fatter, as the amount of nutrients that would be ideal for you to build muscles is much higher than the amount required by your muscles, and used up by your body. Let’s see an example: You weigh 120 kilos, and look fat. You start bulking at 5 g / kg bw carbohydrates – adding up to 600 grams of carbohydrates a day. That’s literally adding fuel to the fire. This is a vast amount, and it would take very long to see any results, but you can’t achieve an aesthetic figure even in years – you’ll look like a keen butcher who always gobbles sausages, and bread. You’ll be fat musclar. This looks dumb, and shredding that with a diet will be a nightmare. Actually you’ll look crap for the better part of the year. It is best to start a well-planned diet that complements your workouts, and create a calorie-deficit – meaning that you take less energy than what is used up by your activities. All in all: you need to start losing fat. The end result will be rather dumb: if everything works well, you will not be that fat, but you won’t be muscular either. On the other hand this transitional state will be a good basis for doing a spectacular bulking.
Recommendation on food supplements: you should choose some pure whey protein products (like the 100% Whey Protein Professional) – you can take that anytime during the day even to replace a meal, you can make a breakfast of it if combined with quality carbohydrates, or you can take it post-workout with a maximum of about 30 grams of fast absorbing carbohydrates like Carb-S. We recommend to use VitarGO! (over Carb-S) as this carbohydrate has special absorbing properties so that the body is less likely to turn it into fat storage, and it is easier to produce glycogen from it.
2) If you are skinny:
It is the easiest decision to make. Even so, many fail the same way thinking: less body fat (and probably a visible six-pack) makes them muscular, so they aim for a super shredded state – burning off each and every fat molecules. Well, this is the best way not to be muscular ever. You should start bulking, and compose a nice weight-gaining diet – use a 5 g / kg bw carbohydrate + 2 g / kg bw protein daily dosage. You can increase or decrease the carbohydrates intake during bulking, and the amount of fats consumed is almost irrelevant, the main thing is to use quality sources. If you are skinny, then it’s high time to do bulking: you can expect to gain some fat (depending on your body type), but you can see spectacular results relatively fast if everything works fine in your diet, and in your workout program, and if you provide your body with enough time to regenerate.
Recommendation on food supplements: your ideal post-workout product is a high carb + high protein weight-gaining supplement. Depending on your properties Jumbo, or Jumbo Professional will be perfect to rejuvenate fast after workouts. Add some basic whey protein, like Basic Whey that is a definitely effective bulking protein product (ideal for a breakfast mixed with oatmeal, or on any occasions and in any quantities throughout the day).
3) If you have an “average” figure:
You are not skinny, but you are not fat either, and you have some muscles on you too that is enough to move around, and do some basic physical work too. All clear. In this case you might want to be cautious. If you take on bulking to the max, you might end up being fat. That would be the way to a physique that hides the effort from most people. They would think: ‘Oh, probably a former athlete who gave up trying, and gained some weight.’ It is not obvious whether to care about the opinion of some ordinary people (normally WE don’t give a damn), but still, it might be an unpleasant thing after investing so much effort. If it makes you feel all right, keep doing it: you can always cut your blubber, and be as handsome and lean as Mitch Buchannon. ;)
Or you can start shredding that fat without any delays. We can’t really recommend this method as turning a relatively low muscle mass into a tiny one sounds bad, with this you would simply hold yourself back from your goals. The other method (with some perspective in it) is a combination of bulking and dieting – that is a shift in body composition in the right direction.
This is actually a process of heedful bulking that requires a pure diet with precisely defined and consumed nutrient content, so that we can start building muscles with minimal fat gain. It is a slow process but in time we would gain muscle mass while our body fat ratio will not go up at all. This means that we’ll get more muscles while maintaining the initial amount of body fat – and that leads to a lower body fat rate.
Better fat ratios make the body look leaner and more muscular, moreover in this scenario we really are more muscular. We still could not achieve the impossible (a misbelief that we can burn fat AND build muscle); we were simply smart, patient, and persistent. The longer you follow this method the more effective it gets.
Recommendations on food supplements: using the combination of whey protein + fast absorbing carbs would work well (as mentioned above). The amount of carbohydrates should be about 0,5 g / kg bw in your post-workout shake, or if you decide to use ready-made products, MyoMax Hardcore, and MyoMax Professional have optimum ratio of nutrients in them: sufficient protein, and moderate amount of carbohydrates per dose. If you choose to change the composition of your body, the Lean Boss might help you reach a leaner physique while it can also boost your performance by delaying muscle fatigue. It is certainly part of this program too.
All three cases share the first and most important supplement: a basic multivitamin product
like Mega Daily One Plus
, or a more solid vitamin package like Multi-Pro Plus
If you’ve reached a certain level, but you are not sure...
...still don’t let the scale decide the next directions for you. The best of scale is always the mirror.
No matter how hard it is to define our own physiques, you should never do all-out bulking with a body fat ratio already over the limit, and you should never follow a low calorie diet if you don’t have a sufficient muscle mass already. It is very simple:
If you feel a bit on the fatty side, but you still don’t have the muscles, do bulking. Even if you are on the verge becoming a blob, you still don’t need to rush with a diet that would decompose some of your muscles – the end result might be worse than the initial setup. You should simply change your regimen according to your goals, or start shifting your body composition as described above. It is a game of patience, but you’ve already made some moves.
It does not matter whether you are a beginner or not, the most important thing is to think in a logical way, and avoid becoming a fat factory just because you don’t feel muscular enough, or vice versa: do not waste your hard-earned muscles for a bit of leanness. If you follow this path, you’ll surely get to your finish line.