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What happens to muscle with no exercise?

Muscle and Fat

Can our bodies really transform muscle into fat and fat into muscle?

The short answer is “no.”. They are two fundamentally different types of tissue, so muscle never degenerates into fat, and fat cannot be transformed into muscle.


The components your body uses to make each are not the same. While it can appear that one is morphing into the other, there are actually two processes at work.


What is actually happening when we witness dramatic changes in our body composition over time?


Fat Cells: How Fat is Gained and Lost

Think about fat and muscle within the framework of two broad categories that are already relatively familiar—diet and exercise.

The prime factor in how much, or how little fat you have is food. The determining factor in the amount of muscle you have is stress (like exercise) on your body.


Much more than excess tissue around your waist or thighs, fat is made of thousands of unique cells that have the ability to hold onto fluid. Fat cells respond to conditions in the body in three ways:

  • shrink, when there is less energy available,

  • stay the same when there are adequate calories, or

  • grow if there is excess.

Food energy does not have to begin as fat to be stored as fat. Your body has to break everything down when you eat. Sizeable enough to get into individual cells. Carbohydrates go through multiple processes to become glucose. Protein ultimately gets broken into amino acids. Fat will wind up as fatty acids.


Your body does not typically lose fat cells unless they are surgically removed. Your body will not usually make more individual cells past puberty. Although if you gain a tremendous amount of weight as an adult, your body will adapt by encouraging cells to divide.


Muscle Cells: How Muscle is Gained and Lost

Hundreds of muscle fibres work together to form each muscle cell, where the quantity of fibres is fixed. Each individual fibre is capable of getting bigger as well as packing more material into the same space.

Muscle cells also become more efficient through improved signalling and coordination in the body. This happens in response to challenges that force the muscle beyond its “comfort zone.” Muscles hypertrophy (growing bigger) by experiencing stress: only the muscles being used which undergo this growth. Muscles atrophy (become smaller) when they’re no longer subjected to the same demands under which they were built. This means that muscle-building can be location-specific, whereas fat storage and loss are systemic in nature.


Your body will not physically transform one into the other. It's your choices and habits that dictate how much fat or muscle you build, lose or maintain. Remember that your decisions have the most impact on your fitness and health goals: be strategic and live actively!


Want to burn the fat, build the muscle or do both?


Contact the Discipline Fitness Coach today!

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