Fat vs Muscle: The Weight Differences
It’s pretty common to question the difference of fat vs muscle, when looking at your health and fitness goals and fixated on the number that flashes up on the scales. And that makes perfect sense. The scale gives you a single number to measure yourself against day after day. But it’s also a little too simplistic. To be the right type of fitter, healthier dad, it won’t do you much good to be so lean that it’s tiring to do stuff around the yard or lift the kids.
So here are some ways to make weight just one part of your “scorecard” as you are working towards your goals, whether that’s getting abs over 40 or just looking for some more general health and fitness in your life.
Fat vs Muscle
First things first, muscle does not weigh more than fat. Think about that old riddle: what weighs more, a kilogram of bricks or a kilogram of feathers? The correct answer, of course, is that it’s the same. But muscle is more dense than fat. That means that if you lose a stack of fat, and replace it with muscle, your body composition and dimensions change quite a lot, but your weight might not. So you might lose size from your waistline or stomach, but the scales might stay the same.
That’s because fat takes up more space (volume) than muscle. Muscle is much more dense, meaning it takes up less space.
The fact that muscle is more dense than fat is a good reason not to be too focused on the number that pops up on the scale. At the very least, it’s a good idea to take some additional measurements and save them in the notes app of your phone or write them in your diary. Waist size in inches and chest circumference are two good places to start. That’s because men typically hold more fat deposits, known as visceral fat, in their stomach and waist area. In comparison, women are more likely to hold visceral fat in their legs and buttocks. Men also find it easier to put on muscle in their chest area.
So, measuring your waist and chest once you start your full body workout plan are good ways to get some additional numbers to track your progress.
It’s not possible to know your muscle-to-fat ratio without the help of a high tech piece of equipment called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scanner. But more gyms and doctor’s surgeries are using these or having them brought in once a month as the cost falls, so it’s helpful to know the ideal ratios.
For men, the ideal muscle to fat ratio is somewhere between 14-24%. A “normal” range is 18-24% muscle to fat, while to be classed as “fit” the range would be 14-17%.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that weight is important, but waist size, muscle-to-fat, and aerobic capacity are all equally useful measures when tracking the progress of your health and fitness goals.
It doesn’t matter if you are looking to lose weight or build muscle, you should be aware that muscle is extremely beneficial to your body and your overall health:
- Muscle burns more calories. Because it is denser than fat it requires more calories even when resting. The more muscle you have the more calories you will burn. Providing you stick to a sensible diet it will be difficult for you to gain fat.
- Improves Bone Mass. Muscle works to strengthen the bones it surrounds and supports; making them denser and reducing your risk of injury. This is an obvious benefit of muscle. If you complete compound exercises you will improve the strength of several muscles at the same time. The added benefit of this is an improvement in your core strength and balance.
- The war of fat vs. muscle means you will have better body definition. This will inspire confidence in yourself in a wide variety of everyday situations. You may surprise yourself at what you can achieve.
- Muscle Strength. The stronger your muscles and the more calories they require the harder your body will need to work to maintain its resting level. This will result in improvements to your circulation, digestive system and the health of all your organs; reducing the risk of illness.