Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Turning Fat to Muscle Conundrum

Besides leading we seniors in vigorous workouts, our trainer is good about encouraging us to stretch our minds as well by reading about fitness. She recommends the latest books (such as Time's recent "The Science of Exercise") and often brings us photo-copies of inspirational and informative magazine articles on fitness. This is another part of Sarah's Challenge: Keep exercising your brain, not just your body.

Usually she's pretty gentle about correcting us when our exuberance causes us to slip into an alternate reality. Once I spoke of chowing down after a road race, and she said something like, "you carbo-load before a race, silly!" (Hope I didn't misquote her, but I'm pretty sure she didn't call me a lamebrain or a knucklehead or somesuch.)

Then in my last blogpost, I really got carried away and transported myself to a fantastical world in declaring that I must have lost more weight than my cardiologist's scales recorded because by working out I surely must have replaced some fat with muscle, and, after all, "muscle weighs more than fat."

Actually, excess fat in my brain must have caused me to make that assertion. However, rather than making that diagnosis, Sarah sent me an assortment of "Fun Facts" compiled from Shape Magazine, one being that it is a myth that muscle weighs more than fat. Actually a pound of muscle and a pound of fat and a pound of steel and a pound of downy feathers all weigh the same -- one pound.  Furthermore, fat doesn't just morph into muscle, because the two are entirely different masses of tissues.

The good news, though, is that "the volume of muscle is denser and more compact" than fat; therefore, "it would take four pounds of muscle to fill the space of one pound of fat," according to Auburn University exercise scientist Michelle Olson. So apparently it is possible to become slimmer without seeing your weight on the scales dropping. (And yes maybe we pay too much attention to scales.)

There is much, much more, including whether it is possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. Eating more protein may be the way to avoid losing muscle mass while you shed fatty weight. (Hence, I would hasten to tell Sarah, the giant "Mad Love" burger I consumed at Red Robin yesterday was actually a smart move. Lots of protein. LOL.) Okay, there is much more, including maybe some disagreement about the extent to which you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. I am going to do a lot more reading before I "weigh in" on that and other subjects.

Ultimately, reading about fitness is a fine -- and challenging -- supplement to doing a series of one-minute planks. Exercise both body and brain.

                                  © Robert Gray Holland   2018

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