As a guy who has struggled with the skinny-fat body all my life, turning fat into muscle has been my life’s quest. This is easily the most common question you find on the internet when it comes to weight loss and gainzzzzzz.
I’m in my 30’s and I still feel like I’m not even close to where I want to be. All of my friends say I’m way bigger now than I was 5 years ago, but still… I don’t feel I’m anywhere near where I want to be.
This is because I still feel like I’m skinny-fat. I feel like there’s a lot of fat that needs to turn to muscle. This is the curse of the weightlifter, right? There’s always a new goal, it’s impossible to be where you truly want to be.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is this:
If you want to turn fat into muscle, you should spend your time building up as much muscle as you can before you think about burning off the fat.
The reason I suggest this is because you’ll be shocked at how little muscle you actually have when you decide to diet for a few months. All that fat is burning off your body, and the muscle left over isn’t nearly as big as you thought it would be.
It really sucks to lose 20 pounds and realize you need to lose another 10 pounds to be remotely shredded. And if you lose another 10 pounds, you’ll end up looking like a starving kid who doesn’t have the money to eat enough food.
Not a good place to be.
So trust me on this. If you want to turn your fat into muscle, spend a considerable amount of time building up your strength and adding lean muscle to your body.
I’m talking about a good year of bodybuilding. Hitting the weights week after week, getting stronger than you’ve ever been before. Focus on gaining just a couple of pounds per month and you will have a solid frame of muscle after a year of lifting.
Don’t fall into the trap of dieting for a couple of months, and then bulking for another two months, and then dieting once again. This yo-yo dieting will do nothing for you. It’s simply not enough time for your body to develop strength and muscle that lasts.
At the same time, don’t go on a dirty bulk where you’re gaining 1-2 pounds per week. That’s another terrible idea that will cause you to hate the way you look after a couple of months, resulting in you wanting to diet before giving your body enough time to build muscle mass.
Help Me Turn My Fat Into Muscle!
Unfortunately, I have to burst your bubble: fat cells cannot somehow “convert” into muscle cells. They are a physically different from each other. One cannot become the other.
Your body develops fat to store excess calories for energy. Muscle does not serve the same purpose. When our bodies build muscle, they do so in response to the stress you put them under.
Fat cells and muscle cells are two different things. You cannot magically turn a fat cell into a muscle cell so matter what anybody tells you. I feel like this is basic knowledge and you already know it, but I’m clarifying it just in case someone reading this isn’t aware of this fact.
When you learn the science behind body composition, you’ll realize that fat cells aren’t to be hated. You need fat on your body to survive! And, good fats are very healthy for you. The more muscle you have on your body, the more fat you can get away with.
The fat cells you have in your body will never go away. In fact, studies have shown that you are stuck with the amount of fat cells you have for your entire life. You are basically born with. They will always be with you, even if you lose a ton of weight and get lean.
Don’t feel alarmed. This is natural! All of those fit celebrities you see have a ton of fat cells in their bodies. Those cells just aren’t being “used” like they are in fatter people.
As you lean down, the cells will become “skinnier” and your body will start to take shape. The muscle that’s been hiding underneath these fat cells will begin to show itself.
Some people think that the fat cells have turned into muscle. But, this isn’t the case. You might even look “bigger” when you’re lean because of how cut and tone you are.
So I think it’s a good idea to change up your thinking behind the question of “How do you turn fat into muscle?”
Instead, start thinking how you can reduce the size of your fat tissue as much as possible. Obviously, the answer to this question is to burn fat and get lean. As you lean down week after week, your fat tissue will shrink and your lean muscle will begin to give shape.
Depending on how much body fat you had on your body, this process could take you several months. This is why you need to develop a strong mentality and be dedicated to the Lean Warrior lifestyle.
Burning Fat AND Gaining Muscle At The Same Time
Here you see a woman doing what most women fear: lifting heavy weight. Well, it’s not THAT heavy. But, it’s a start. And, focusing on progressive overload in the gym is exactly how you build muscle.
This is why, depending on your current body composition, your goal should be one of two things:
Are you considerably overweight and need to lose 20+ pounds of fat in order to get to a healthy level?
Or, do you have less than 20 pounds of weight to lose?
This is an important question because I do not recommend you go on a muscle building plan when you are significantly overweight. It’s important to lean down a bit and get your weight under control.
Once you have your weight under control, you are ready to jump into a weight lifting plan that focuses on increasing your strength so that your body will be set to develop lean muscle mass.
A lot of people want to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. If you have a significant amount of fat on your body, this is slightly possible. If you’re getting stronger week after week in your lifts, you may very well add some mass while leaning down.
Before a bunch of people call me out for “bro science” for saying this, the truth is that you can still gain strength on a cut.
I added 30 or so pounds to my incline bench press while cutting weight for a couple of months. Did my chest actually grow from any of this?
Hell yeah it did! I definitely notice some size gains from getting stronger. With that said, it’s not nearly as big as I would get if I was in a caloric surplus.
So, if your goal is to get lean, then focus on that and don’t worry about muscle growth for now. That can come later once you reach your weight loss goals.
When you hit the gym on a cut, your goal should be to push yourself as hard as you can. Keep progressing as much as possible but don’t feel bad if you stall at some point. It’s only natural to hit a plateau when you’re not feeding your body the calories it needs to grow.
Keep your protein intake high. At least as high as 1 gram per lean body weight. You might not know what this is exactly, so just take your current weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.75. That’s how many grams of protein you should consume per day when you’re only interested in losing weight.
A common issue you may run into is the fact that you don’t have a lot of lean muscle mass. You lose all this weight, but you’re still skinny-fat with a body that isn’t tone at all.
This is because you simply don’t have a lot of muscle development. Hence why I want you to focus on building lean mass once you’ve lost some weight. I don’t want you to keep cutting and cutting and cutting. Only diet for a max of 12 weeks.
Having a skinny body without some muscle development is not sexy. You’re just skinny. Marathon runners are not attractive to me and many others. It’s much sexier to have some meat on that body.
Therefore, once you’ve lost enough weight to where you’re healthy, shift gears into a muscle building plan for at least 6-9 months. Preferably a year. Then, you can diet again and you’ll have a much better looking body.
Muscle memory is also a very real thing. Your body will quickly “catch up” and regain size if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time out of the gym.
This is why you want to have at least one strength-based exercise every time you work out. The stronger you get, the more muscle you’ll build.
Check out my muscle building chest workout to learn how to build strength and size with the incline press.
So, whether you’re burning fat or gaining muscle, focus on one goal at a time. Stick to it. Dedicate yourself to this goal.
A big part of my book is about training your mind to execute. It’s one thing to want something, but if you can’t execute you’re dead before you began.
Does Muscle Turn Into Fat When You Take A Gym Break?
You’ve been spending several months in the gym. You’ve made some sweet gains. But you’re ready for a break. Afterall, your body needs some time off every now and then to fully recover and repair itself.
Yes, you should take a week or two off from the gym every once in awhile. I can’t stress this enough if you’ve been lifting in the heavier range like I recommend.
Every 8 weeks of training should be followed up by at least a week of no exercise. Give your body a complete break from anything fitness related. This means no cardio as well.
Your diet should remain the same during this break. Don’t cut back on your calories or do anything different. Stick to your diet like normal.
Here’s what happens when you take a week or so off from the gym:
Not only will you fully recover your muscles, but your mental state and nervous system will be back to optimum levels. The longer you lift week in and week out, the more you stress yourself out mentally. Your nervous system is also stressed to the point where it hinders your progress.
A simple break like I recommend is how you recover your body in all ways. You will also feel motivated to return to the gym to start your next 8 weeks of training.
If you’re worried about losing muscle during your gym break, let me put your fears to rest… As long as you’re eating fine, your muscles won’t go anywhere. You won’t lose your gains.
In fact, you’ll actually put on size during this week. Because your body doesn’t immediately grow after each lifting session, this break week will allow your muscles to fully recover and grow in response to all the hard training you’ve been putting them through.
Since muscle memory is a real thing, you don’t have to worry about losing the your strength or size that you’ve been building.
Once you start hitting the weights again, your muscles will “remember” where you once were. You’ll come back into the gym a week later stronger than you were before. Don’t be surprised if you end up hitting a new PR on this day. It happens to me all the time. That’s why I love breaks!
Remember: evidence suggests that muscles remember. Drop the fear that this week our of the gym will somehow stall all your progress and you’ll rapidly lose muscle. It won’t happen.
When you get back into the gym, I suggest you start with my mass building shoulder workout to get those muscles fired up once again. A good, hard shoulder workout is a great way to begin the week.
Your Diet Is Still Most Important
At the end of the day, it’s your diet that’s going to be the most important factor in your body composition goals. Therefore, focus on your goal going forward.
Do you want to burn fat or build some muscle mass?
That’s how you need to address this issue. It would be great to accomplish both, but it’s not nearly as easy as simply focusing on one goal at a time.
If you try to accomplish both goals at once, you’ll struggle because you’re thinking short-term.
Remember, this is a lifestyle that I teach. Accept that you’re in this for the long haul. You can easily have the body you want in a year or less if you stick with the program.
You’ll be surprised at how much weight you can lose in a short amount of time following the Lean Warrior diet. Stick to it and dedicate yourself.
Don’t let your brain talk you out of it. There will be days when you have zero motivation. That’s part of the process.
This is why life is about dedication and execution. It isn’t really about motivation. If your life depends solely on motivation, you’ll always fail.
So to answer the question once and for all:
Fat cells will never turn into muscle. And, muscle cells will never turn into fat.
What will happen is that as you gain fat, it will cover up the muscle and add mass. That’s really all that’s happening.
As you lean down and burn off your fat, the muscle will be revealed and your body will begin to take shape.
Now get out there and kick some ass, Warrior!
Please share your comments on this article. I’m sure it’s a bit controversial!