Imagine if you could take half of the fat on your body and turn it into muscle.
Life would be glorious, wouldn’t it?
You’d relish what you saw in the mirror every day and delight in every opportunity to show some skin and flaunt your rippling abs.
Well, I have good news…
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Just kidding. 🙂
I won’t charge you any money. This one is on the house. Because I like you. And because I hope you like my advice enough to buy a book or supplement or something.
And so let’s talk about why you’re here.
You probably feel too fat–or maybe “skinny fat”–and wish you could just transmogrify some of that bouncing blubber into rock-hard muscle.
Well, I hate to break it to you but…you can’t. It’s physically impossible.
Fat simply can’t “turn into” muscle and muscle can’t turn into fat, and no amount of “clean eating,” fancy exercise routines, or pills or powders can change that.
What you can do, though, is lose fat and gain muscle, producing the same end result. And I’m going to break it all down in this article.
Let’s get to it.
Table of Contents
Why You Can’t Turn Fat Into Muscle
The reason you can’t turn fat into muscle is simple — they’re different tissues with very different makeups and jobs.
Muscle tissue is mostly made up of protein, water, and glycogen (a form of carbohydrate), whereas body fat is mostly comprised of triglycerides (bundles of fatty acids).
Furthermore, muscle’s primary role is powering movement, while fat is primarily an energy store to be tapped into when the need arises. These tissues wear other hats as well, including the storage of carbohydrate for energy (muscle) and the production of hormones (fat).
As you can see, muscle and fat have very little in common, and the body has no way to transform one into the other. Fatty acids simply can’t turn into proteins and vice versa.
Why do so many people believe they can, then?
Well, a lot of the confusion stems from radical before-and-after transformations that give the appearance that fat has simply been “traded in” for muscle.
For example, check out these success stories from people that have followed my diet and weightlifting programs for men and women:
As you can see, these people are considerably leaner and more muscular in their “after” shots, but it’s not because they turned fat into muscle.
Instead, they lost fat and gained muscle at the same time, otherwise known as “body recomposition.”
Technically speaking, what happened is their fat cells shrunk and muscle tissues grew, producing a dramatic change in their body composition.
So, while muscle and fat can grow or shrink at the same time, they never transform into one another.
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How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time
You came here wanting to know how to turn fat into muscle.
You now know that what you really want to know how to do is build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
And you’re in luck because it’s actually quite simple.
If you’re new to weightlifting, you can easily lose 10 to 15 pounds of fat and gain the same amount of muscle in just your first year in the gym…if you follow the advice I’m about to give you.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced weightlifter, however, then you’re going to have to pick one or the other — ”cutting” or “bulking” — because your “recomp” days are behind you.
My guess is you’re in the former camp, though, so here’s what you need to do:
Maintain a moderately aggressive caloric deficit.
The only way to lose a significant amount of fat is to eat less energy than you burn.
Yes, calories in vs. calories out matters. A lot.
When you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’re creating an energy deficit that must be filled, and your body turns primarily to its fat stores to accomplish this.
Keep your body in this state for long enough, and your fat stores get smaller and smaller.
This is why the first prerequisite of a successful of body recomposition is a caloric deficit. This is what drives fat loss.
No caloric deficit = no fat loss to speak of, period.
You don’t want to be in too large of a deficit, though, as it can inhibit muscle growth and lead to mood disturbances, binge eating, and a host of other problems.
That’s why I recommend an aggressive, but not reckless, caloric deficit of about 25%.
In other words, I recommend that you eat about 75% of the energy that you burn every day because studies show that this is large enough to keep you losing fat at a rapid clip, but not so large that you’ll suffer unwanted side-effects.
Want to know how many calories you should eat? Check out this article.
Eat enough protein.
Research shows that when restricting calories, a high-protein diet results in more fat loss, muscle preservation, and fullness (which means less hunger and cravings).
Thus, if you want to lose fat and not muscle and generally have an easier time of it, then you need to make sure you’re eating enough protein.
The RDI for intake protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, but studies show that double and even triple that amount isn’t enough to preserve lean mass while dieting.
That’s why I recommend that you eat around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day when cutting.
If you’re very overweight (25%+ body fat in men and 30%+ in women), then this can be reduced to 40% of your total daily calories.
Want to know more about how much protein you should eat? Check out this article.
Do a lot of heavy, compound weightlifting.
Compound exercises are those that use multiple major muscle groups, like the squat, bench press, military press, and deadlift.
If you want to gain muscle and strength as quickly as possible, then you want to emphasize these exercises in your training, and particularly with heavy loads (75%+ of your one-rep max).
There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one has to do with progressive tension overload.
This refers to increasing tension levels in your muscles over time, and it’s the primary driver of muscle growth.
The best way to progressively overload your muscles is adding weight to the bar over time, which is why increasing whole-body strength is critical as a natural weightlifter.
And the style of training most conducive to that goal is…you guessed it…heavy, compound weightlifting.
Want to know how to build an effective weightlifting routine? Check out this article.
Strategically use cardio to burn fat faster.
The best way to include cardio in a weight loss regimen is to do as little as needed to reach your desired rate of weight loss and stay fit, and no more.
For best results do . . .
- At least two low- to moderate-intensity cardio workouts per week of 20-to-40 minutes each.
- One HIIT workout per week if you enjoy it.
- No more than 2-to-3 hours of cardio per week.
- Cardio and weightlifting on separate days. If that isn’t possible, lift weights first and try to separate the two workouts by at least 6 hours.
Although you’ll often hear fitness gurus tout HIIT as the most effective kind of cardio for fat loss, this isn’t true. Moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio is just as good at fat-burning, easier to recover from, and doesn’t sap your motivation or energy as much as HIIT, which is why I recommend you do it for the majority of your cardio workouts.
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Take the right supplements.
I saved this for last because it’s the least important.
The truth is most supplements for building muscle and losing fat are worthless.
Unfortunately, no amount of pills and powders are going to make you muscular and lean.
That said, if you know how to drive your body recomposition with proper dieting and exercise, certain supplements can accelerate the process.
Here are the ones I use and recommend:
RECHARGE Post-Workout Supplement
RECHARGE is a 100% natural post-workout supplement that helps you gain muscle and strength faster, and recover better from your workouts.
Once it’s had time to accumulate in your muscles (about a week of use), the first thing you’re going to notice is increased strength and anaerobic endurance, less muscle soreness, and faster post workout muscle recovery.
And the harder you can train in your workouts and the faster you can recover from them, the more muscle and strength you’re going to build over time.
Furthermore, RECHARGE doesn’t need to be cycled, which means it’s safe for long-term use, and its effects don’t diminish over time.
It’s also naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk.
So, if you want to be able to push harder in the gym, train more frequently, and get more out of your workouts, then you want to try RECHARGE today.
Whey protein powder is a staple in most athletes’ diets for good reason.
It’s digested quickly, it’s absorbed well, it has a fantastic amino acid profile, and it’s easy on the taste buds.
Not all whey proteins are created equal, though.
Whey concentrate protein powder, for example, can be as low as 30% protein by weight, and can also contain a considerable amount of fat and carbs.
And the more fat and carbs you’re drinking, the less you can actually enjoy in your food.
Whey isolate protein powder, on the other hand, is the purest whey protein you can buy. It’s 90%+ protein by weight and has almost no fat or carbs.
Another benefit of whey isolate is it contains no lactose, which means better digestibility and fewer upset stomachs.
Well, WHEY+ is a 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate protein powder made from exceptionally high-quality milk from small dairy farms in Ireland.
It contains no GMOs, hormones, antibiotics, artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk, and it tastes delicious and mixes great.
So, if you want a clean, all-natural, and great tasting whey protein supplement that’s low in calories, carbs, and fat, then you want to try WHEY+ today.
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And without upset stomachs, jitters, nausea, or the dreaded post-workout crash?
Well, PHOENIX is a 100% natural and caffeine-free fat burner that helps you lose fat faster in three ways:
- It increases your metabolic rate.
- It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
- It increases the feeling of fullness from food.
In short, it speeds up your metabolism, helps your body burn fat more efficiently, and helps you control hunger and cravings and maintain high energy levels.
It also contains no artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk.
So, if you want to burn more fat every day and have an easier time sticking to your diet without having to pump yourself full of harsh stimulants or potentially harmful chemicals, then you want to try PHOENIX today.
Is your pre-workout simply not working anymore?
Are you sick and tired of pre-workout drinks that make you sick and tired?
Have you had enough of upset stomachs, jitters, nausea, and the dreaded post-workout crash?
Do you wish your pre-workout supplement gave you sustained energy and more focus and motivation to train? Do you wish it gave you noticeably better workouts and helped you hit PRs?
If you’re nodding your head, then you’re going to love PULSE.
It increases energy, improves mood, sharpens mental focus, increases strength and endurance, and reduces fatigue…without unwanted side effects or the dreaded post-workout crash.
It’s also naturally sweetened and flavored and contains no artificial food dyes, fillers, or other unnecessary junk.
Lastly, it contains no proprietary blends and each serving delivers nearly 20 grams of active ingredients scientifically proven to improve performance.
So, if you want to feel focused, tireless, and powerful in your workouts…and if you want to say goodbye to the pre-workout jitters, upset stomachs, and crashes for good…then you want to try PULSE today.
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The Bottom Line on Turning Fat Into Muscle
Trying to turn fat into muscle is a fool’s errand.
It simply can’t be done because they’re two completely different tissues and the body has no way to transform one into the other.
What you can do, though, is “replace” body fat with muscle (so to speak) by losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.
It’s not hard, either. Here’s the recap:
- Maintain an aggressive (but not reckless) caloric deficit of 25%
- Eat enough protein
- Do a lot of heavy, compound weightlifting
- Strategically use cardio to burn fat faster.
- Take the right supplements
Follow that simple formula and before long, you’ll be well on your way to your best body ever.
What’s your take on turning fat into muscle? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
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- Wang, X., Hu, Z., Hu, J., Du, J., & Mitch, W. E. (2006). Insulin resistance accelerates muscle protein degradation: Activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway by defects in muscle cell signaling. Endocrinology, 147(9), 4160–4168. https://doi.org/10.1210/en.2006-0251
- Boutcher, S. H. (2011). High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. In Journal of Obesity (Vol. 2011). Hindawi Publishing Corporation. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/868305
- Gergley, J. C. (2009). Comparison of two lower-body modes of endurance training on lower-body strength development while concurrently training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(3), 979–987. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181a0629d
- Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. In Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Vol. 24, Issue 10, pp. 2857–2872). J Strength Cond Res. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3
- Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., & Tipton, K. D. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(2), 326–337. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181b2ef8e
- Layman, D. K., Boileau, R. A., Erickson, D. J., Painter, J. E., Shiue, H., Sather, C., & Christou, D. D. (2003). A reduced ratio of dietary carbohydrate to protein improves body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. Journal of Nutrition, 133(2), 411–417. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/133.2.411
- Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: A critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 373–385. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719381
- Krieger, J. W., Sitren, H. S., Daniels, M. J., & Langkamp-Henken, B. (2006). Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: A meta-regression. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(2), 260–274. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/83.2.260
- Evans, E. M., Mojtahedi, M. C., Thorpe, M. P., Valentine, R. J., Kris-Etherton, P. M., & Layman, D. K. (2012). Effects of protein intake and gender on body composition changes: A randomized clinical weight loss trial. Nutrition and Metabolism, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-9-55
- Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: A case for higher intakes. In International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (Vol. 24, Issue 2, pp. 127–138). Human Kinetics Publishers Inc. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2013-0054
- Huovinen, H. T., Hulmi, J. J., Isolehto, J., Kyröläinen, H., Puurtinen, R., Karila, T., Mackala, K., & Mero, A. A. (2015). Body composition and power performance improved after weight reduction in male athletes without hampering hormonal balance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(1), 29–36. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000000619
- Hill, J. O., Wyatt, H. R., & Peters, J. C. (2012). Energy balance and obesity. Circulation, 126(1), 126–132. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.111.087213
- Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P. E., Koivisto, A., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2011). Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21(2), 97–104. https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.21.2.97
- Demling, R. H., & DeSanti, L. (2000). Effect of a hypocaloric diet, increased protein intake and resistance training on lean mass gains and fat mass loss in overweight police officers. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 44(1), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1159/000012817
- Coelho, M., Oliveira, T., & Fernandes, R. (2013). Biochemistry of adipose tissue: An endocrine organ. In Archives of Medical Science (Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 191–200). Termedia Publishing. https://doi.org/10.5114/aoms.2013.33181
- Acheson, K. J., Schutz, Y., Bessard, T., Anantharaman, K., Flatt, J. P., & Jequier, E. (1988). Glycoprotein storage capacity and de novo lipogenesis during massive carbohydrate overfeeding in man. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48(2), 240–247. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/48.2.240