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Does fat weigh more than muscle or does muscle weigh more than fat?

Updated on December 30, 2010

Interesting question....

So here's the correct answer, along with some tips and a common sense explanation.

Firstly, muscle is more dense than fat. Density plays a role in weight in comparison to size, but a pound (16 ounces, 454 grams) of fat weighs exactly the same as a pound of muscle- or a pound of anything else for that matter! Muscle tissue is more compact (more dense) than fatty tissue. Therefore, one cubic inch of muscle weighs more than one cubic inch of fat. This is mostly due to the water content of muscle. Fat cells are stored in adipose tissue, and fat is oil. Water naturally weighs more than oil (relative to this article). So a gallon of water (8.3 pounds) would weigh more than a gallon of oil.

Muscles contain intramuscular fat deposits, even in very lean persons. But speaking only of the two types of tissue, a person of the same height and girth etc. who was very muscular would weigh more than someone who had a much higher bodyfat percentage of the exact same dimensions.

Does that mean those trying to lose weight shouldn't strive to build muscle? Um, NO, that's NOT what that means. Generally when someone says that they're "trying to lose weight", what they mean is they're trying to improve their appearance. Sometimes people are actually cutting weight for athletic endeavors etc., but most are only trying to lose fat.

I'm making this assertion because muscle is far more metabolic than fat. Metabolism is the conversion of nutrients to energy. So, if one desires to use more calories simply by being alive, then muscle is your friend. Muscle raises your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and helps you to burn more calories. This does not imply one has to look physically imposing, or alter one's physical self drastically. It's a trade! Luckily, you can somewhat predict where you'll deposit muscle. No, you cannot predict where you'll metabolize fat. That usually happens on a "last deposited, first metabolized" basis. Spot reduction is an overly publicized myth!

Conversely, if you want to add a little muscle to your biceps, exercise your biceps! Naturally a diet rich in protein would better enable the deposition of muscle. For you dieters, protein is your friend in another way (several actually). Protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient. This lends itself to heightened metabolism, too.

Many of the ladies reading this think that they'll develop large muscles and be less feminine when strength training (yes, I mean lifting weights). Well, not usually. Being a personal trainer myself, I've heard this many times. This is the subject of another one of my articles.

With any fitness routine it's necessary to set and adhere to goals. If your goal is to improve your appearance, then concentrate on just that. Your appearance has more to do with body composition than it does weight. In some cases, certain ailments such as those of the feet, knees and back do require one to lose weight. I assure you though, adding muscle won't as significantly impact your actual weight as it does your bodyfat and total body composition.

Effectively setting and defining goals is another one of my subjects here. Bear in mind, the same tenets for getting back into an exercise program apply to starting one.

Hopefully this clears up some closely held misconceptions.


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    • profile image

      Hapeuk 3 years ago

      First , man THANK YOU so so much, i glad if i can be help to anoyne or make anoyne laugh along w/encourage them, Second, dont worry about the name lol, people mess it up all the time, but you pretty much got it, and to let u know something, you actually inspired to me start making video to answer my own question i ask every week and i want to thank you for that .btw, post this as a response to my video so more people will see it and hopefully itll encourage with to make video responses as well

    • christryon profile image

      christryon 8 years ago

      Hi Joe, so your article essentially explains that when I lost 35 pounds a few years ago, I actually weighed about 10 pounds more than I did when I got married, yet I was a size smaller.

      Very informative. I am enjoying reading your blogs tonight.

    • donotfear profile image

      donotfear 8 years ago from The Boondocks

      Joe, I've found the Curves workout circuit to be perfect for me. I feel so much better when I work out regularly, can move freely, climb gates, go over fences, up steps. It has to be the best cardio/strength combination for women ever. I just cannot handle those huge machines in a regular gym. The Curves equipment seems to give just enough resistance to make it feel good. Thanks for this article!

    • ehern33 profile image

      ehern33 8 years ago

      I hear ya. I use to prepare these high calorie shakes which contained about 3000 calories, plus what I ate. I never reached 7000 calories but maybe 4500-5000. Man, I miss those days. Then something happened, I got old... ;o)

    • joecseko profile image

      Joe Cseko jr 8 years ago from New York, USA, Earth

      You're making sense. You just described me when started lifting. Truth be told, I didn't start gaining significantly 'til I started taking in 7,000 calories per day. Really, that's no exaggeration. I counted every calorie!

    • ehern33 profile image

      ehern33 8 years ago

      Great info. I remember back in my days, I was relatively skinny and could never gain weight. I startted weight lifting every day, played racket ball for 2 hours 3 times a week, ran 3 miles daily and I started to loose more weight. Apparently my caloric intake was not enough to gain with all this activity. But finally I reached a point where I was balancing everything out and started to gain muscle, proving your point that I was the same weight but it was distributed differently, making me look fit and heavier than I was before. Then the pounds started to creep up but it was muscle buld-up. The minute I started to consume less calories, I declined in weight, when I increased my calories I gained but it felt like a different kind of weight (if that makes any sense) as I felt bulkier than what my weight actually was. Hope I am making sense here.