Does Muscle Turn into Fat?
You’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it at one time in our lives, that “muscle will turn to fat” if we don’t use them.
But is that true?
Well, not technically. But muscles are continuously broken down and rebuilt. Proteolysis, or the breakdown of muscle protein, even happens during working out!
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, rebuild them via muscle protein synthesis.
So, when you stop exercising, your muscles will break down more because they aren’t being rebuilt through muscle protein synthesis when you work out.
If you use your muscles less and don’t even less (or eat even more) you eventually have more fat and less muscle, but not because muscle magically turned into fat.
But fat plays a role in how much muscle you have.
Fat Impacts Muscle Growth
Eating a diet in high fat is linked to lack of muscle growth. So, more fat in the diet can mean more fat in the body and less muscle.
In studies, muscle to fat interaction have been linked. Large adipose tissue mass and high fat diets impact the ability of muscles to grow or respond to exercise.
This is referenced as impaired muscle hypertrophy, or reduced muscle growth. The logic behind fat’s role in preventing muscle growth is that fatty tissues are inflamed which hinders muscle protein synthesis.
In fact, systemic inflammation is linked to a lot of problems associated with being overweight.
An additional hypothesis surrounding the link between fat and muscle growth is that saturated fatty acids specifically interfere with protein synthesis and cause inflammation and insulin resistance in muscle. Because insulin signals what cells need fuel, if muscle cells are not responding, they will not be fed and excess fuel will be stored as additional weight.
Thus, if you have a high fat diet, specifically saturated fat, you’re creating a difficult environment for your muscles to grow.
So, you know that your muscles don’t turn into fat, that fat kind of smothers them to death. You may have also already guessed that you can’t turn fat into muscle. You’re not David Blain and science is science.
But did you know that as you age, you do lose muscle?
You are fighting more than one battle here—diet and age.
You Lose Muscle as you Age
The list of things about getting older is rarely balanced with good and bad. The ‘not so exciting’ side is usually much heavier. One of those things is muscle loss.
Yep, you start losing small amounts of muscle beginning at 30, but more notably after 40. Even with exercise, you can’t prevent it completely. But using your muscles can reduce the loss.
There are a number of reasons why you lose muscle including hormones, protein deficiency, nutrition, stress and not moving enough.
After 40, type 2 muscle fibers decrease, protein turnover is reduced, and muscle protein synthesis goes slow in the fast lane.
If you don’t start moving, as you age, you’ll lose more. In fact, one study showed aging subjects with visceral fat suffer an aggravated relationship between sarcopenia (age-induced muscle loss) and fat-induced muscle loss. The conclusions showed excess fat promotes an aggravated decrease in muscle loss in those over 50.
How to Prevent Muscle Loss
While you cannot completely prevent muscle loss due to age, you can reduce that loss and prevent muscle loss associated with fat. How?
You could easily call your mom and get the answer…..
It’s good ol’ fashioned exercise.
Exercise increases muscle protein synthesis. It’s your biggest weapon against it. Get in 30 minutes a day to combat muscle loss.
Supplements can also aid in muscle loss. If your muscle loss is because of protein or nutritional deficiencies, supplementing with branched-chain amino acids—you know the things that BUILD muscle? Supplement with those to arm your muscles with more ammo to build rather than breakdown. Get them here.