It’s common to question the difference between fat and muscle, especially when you’re so fixated on the number that flashes up on your scales every morning. And that makes perfect sense. The scale gives you a single number to measure yourself against day after day. But it’s also far too simplistic. To transform yourself into a fitter, healthier dad, you need to learn what really separates fat vs muscle.

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 – What’s the Difference?

Fitness GuideFirst 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 will stay the same.

That’s because fat takes up more volume and is less dense than muscle.

 

Stop Looking at the Scale

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.

person standing on scale

 

Ideal Body Fat Percentage for Men

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 you should strive for.

For men, the ideal muscle to fat ratio is somewhere between 12-20%. A “normal” range is 18-24% muscle to fat, while to be classed as “fit” the range would be 12-17%.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that weight is important, but waist size, muscle-to-fat ratio, 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:

Read next: How Developing a Fitness Habit Can Change Your Life