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Converting fat into muscle – fact or fiction?

"I want to convert my body fat into muscle". Who wouldn`t want to do that? Wouldn`t it be a dream to convert the excess tissue into muscle with the help of hard strength training? Unfortunately, it`s not as simple as that. I'll explain why.

Losing body fat

Let's start with the reduction of body fat. Every one of us burns a certain amount of energy per day, which is usually quantified in so called “kilocalories” (kcal). How many kcal we need per day depends on a variety of factors, including our bodyweight, the amount of muscle we have, how much we move and so on.

Let`s look at an example. Say, someone is expending 2000 kcal per day. Whether this person will gain or lose weight depends on how many kcal he or she consumes. If this person consumes a total of 2200 kcal daily, this will create an excess of 200 kcal, which will be stored in one form or another. On the other hand, if this person consumes 1800 kcal per day, this will create a 200 kcal energy deficit, which the body then has to compensate for with one of its own energy stores – assuming the person is eating enough protein and exercises regularly, then the body will probably use its body fat stores for that purpose.

Furthermore, if the person increases his/her daily activity level and/or works out more or more intense, this will add to the daily energy expenditure. Thus, the daily kcal requirement might now be 2500 kcal instead of 2000 kcal. Assuming the person consumes 1800 kcal per day, the energy deficit increases from 200 kcal to 700 kcal.

Thus, strength or cardio training can heighten our daily kcal expenditure and help to reduce body fat.

Building muscle

Building muscle primarily requires two things*. Firstly, training stimuli are required that signal the body to adapt. Because in order to better counteract the training stress in the long term, the body has to increase its strength and amount of muscle mass. Secondly, we need enough protein from food to build muscle. 1.6-2.7g per kg body weight are recommended to support the muscle building process in the best possible way (for a person with 70kg this would mean an intake of roughly 110-190g per day).

*Even though a caloric surplus isn`t essential to build muscle under certain circumstances, it can definitely help. So this could be viewed as a third requirement.


While it is – under certain circumstances - possible to lose body fat and build muscle at the same time, this is still no “conversion” of fat cells into muscle cells, because these are still two different types of cells. However, a calorie deficit, which is essential to lose body fat, can hinder the muscle building process. And a calorie surplus, which can aid in the muscle building process, hinders fat loss.

For more information please do not hesitate to get in contact with me directly.

Yours, Nils

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