Can Muscle Turn to Fat?
The myth of muscle turning into fat when one stops exercising seems to have occupied a permanent spot in the fitness myths of all time. Muscles and fat are two different types of entities. Apples can’t become oranges, nor oranges - apples. Today we're helping you lay this myth to rest once and for all. Muscle cannot and does not turn into fat once you stop working out, simply because human physiology does not allow it. Here's why.
If you stop exercising and shift into couch potato mode, your muscles might shrink, but won’t change to fat. On the other hand, all that excessive eating and zero exercising will lead to fresh fat accumulation and before you know it, you'll be heavier and wider. Note that it still isn't the muscle that is suddenly changing into fat.
When one stops exercising, muscles return to the size they were before one started exercising. And the longer you take a break from exercising, the smaller your muscles will become. Muscle change happens, with no exercise, regardless of the fat cells.
This myth probably became popular because when people stop exercising, they tend to slacken in their eating habits too. No wonder they are more certain to gain weight, giving an illusion of muscle turning into fat.
Strength and fitness coach Arnav Sarkar: One needs to understand that a muscle tissue and adipose tissue (fat tissue) are two entirely different types of tissues that can never change into the other, just like you would never expect your hair to turn into your skin! Yes, when you stop working out your muscle mass will decrease and your fat tissues will get bigger, but it is not a case of the muscles turning into fat. The good news is that once you resume working out your body will once again increase the muscle mass and reduce the fat stores, so it is not a permanent effect.
Fitness expert Wanitha Ashok: It is a complete myth! Muscles and fat are two different tissues and have no connection what so ever. Within four weeks of detraining the muscles lose their firmness and toning and get wobbly and they tend to look shabby and fat. As exercise offers health benefits it is therefore an ongoing activity that cannot be missed from our lifestyle. And also one has to manage calories in the absence of exercise.
The Bottom Line: Muscles might reduce in size if you are not exercising anymore, but they never turn into fat. We would strongly advise you to continue exercising in order to avoid facing such a situation. Infact, if because of whatever reason you are unable to join a gym, go for simple at-home or outdoor cardio exercises in order to stop your fat tissues from building up.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images