Tony Ferguson - From Flab to Fab: The Ultimate Guide to Turning Fat into Muscle

Is it possible to turn fat into muscle?

The very short answer is no. It is a little bit like trying to turn butter into a steak.. it just can’t be done because they are made up of different building blocks. Fat is stored in your body as fatty acids and muscles are made up of completely different tissues and cell structures. 

So if one can’t be turned into the other, is it possible to build muscle at the same time as losing fat?  This situation contradicts itself as well. To shed fat, you must consume less calories than you require, whereas to gain muscle, you must consume more energy and protein than you require. 

The best case scenario if you are trying to lose weight is to hold onto the muscles that you have through regular exercise (5-7 times a week and including some weight bearing exercises) and ensuring you are eating sufficient protein.

Maintaining muscle mass is beneficial for weight loss since it keeps your metabolic rate elevated. Normally, as you lose weight (and get smaller), your energy needs fall as well, thus you may need to alter your food and cut another 100-200kcals to keep your weight continually declining. Your weight will plateau when your calorie intake meets your metabolism. 

If you lose weight too quickly (more than 0.5 - 1kg per week depending on your starting weight), you are more likely to lose both fat and muscle. A higher rate of weight loss is caused by a large energy deficit that your body is unable to fulfil with energy from fat breakdown. It must also seek additional energy from your muscles. As a result, you lose both fat and muscle. This is terrible news for weight reduction because muscle loss lowers metabolic rate. This may slow down your weight loss, and you may also notice that you have less energy in general, which means you may not feel like exercising at all, or if you do, you will exert less effort than usual.

The optimum time to work on muscle building is after you've finished with fat loss. Make sure you're getting enough protein and energy to keep up with your exercise routine. In addition to the amount of protein consumed, it is critical to consider when the protein is consumed. The body can only use a limited amount of protein at any given time.  As a result, it is preferable to spread out your protein intake throughout the day. Limit meat (beef, chicken, fish) to palm-sized amounts and include 3 servings of dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese) every day.  Eggs, seeds and almonds, tofu, legumes/lentils (even baked beans! ), high protein pasta (e.g. pulse pasta, Vetta pasta), and high protein wholegrains (e.g. wraps, breads) are all fantastic sources of protein.

Most of the time, if you eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of unprocessed protein-rich meals spread throughout the day, you won't need additional protein supplements or shakes. Your protein intake will progressively increase as you increase your calories from a diverse range of foods.  If you find it difficult to eat more food, a protein shake (or just a home-made smoothie with some hempseeds or LSA included) will help make up the difference.