These are things you may not know about you fat layer – how fat leaves your body, how it impacts your health, and how it plays into building muscle.
1. The majority of your fat leaves via respiration as carbon dioxide.
In other words, you breathe it out. You don’t sweat it out, and it doesn’t magically convert into muscle. Speaking of muscle, the one thing I wish everyone knew is that they have to eat a very specific amount of Calories each day from a balanced intake of carbs, fat, and protein to achieve fat loss without losing muscle mass.
Why is preserving muscle mass important? Scientists use the weight of muscle to estimate resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the number of Calories a person burns at rest. More muscle = a higher RMR! Don’t confuse RMR with total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which takes activity into consideration.
So as an EXTREMELY general rule, if you exercise, eat a balanced diet and your scale weight stays roughly the same, you probably did a small amount of good towards increasing your metabolic rate. There’s other stuff to take into consideration besides Calories though. Fat storage happens when you eat too many Calories – you go over your TDEE – but as an example, if throughout the day the majority of your Calories come from fats and carbs with very little protein, you aren’t giving the body enough “building blocks” to maintain and potentially add lean mass. Your scale weight can stay the same in that instance, but your resting metabolic rate will go down over time and you’ll look like a slimmer version of Jabba The Hutt.
2. A fit person with a good amount of fat on their body lives MUCH longer than an inactive person carrying a lot of fat.
Yes, we all want to have a six pack and get thousands of followers on Instagram for being sexy, but muscle is important for other reasons too! People with a lot of muscle substantially decrease their risk for diseases like Type 2 diabetes and cancer. People with a thicker “fat layer” can be and ARE healthier than people that are under fed, stressed out, and overworking themselves in both the gym and daily life.
The research of Dr. Steven Blair suggests that being physically active is more important than being lean as far as health is concerned. The reason why I think this is information is important is because it gives people the confidence to be more patient with their journey. People with a thicker fat layer often hear a lot of information that would point them in the direction of EXTREMES. Initially it’s important to do what you can and move, you can affect your life and longevity dramatically by simply making changes that you enjoy.
Same can be said for food really; eating well doesn’t need to taste horrible and with some planning you can also affect the level of convenience dramatically. Once you start your life headed in a more positive direction that momentum tends to lead you down a much better path as long as you don’t get too extreme too quickly.
3. Unless you’re a beginner, you can’t build a whole lot of muscle without adding a bit of fat in the process (and that’s OK!)
If your goal is to add muscle mass to your frame, you’re going to need to spend at least some time in a Calorie surplus every year. Through this process, you’re going to need to gain at least a little bit of weight. With every ounce of weight gain, some of it will be muscle but some of it will also be fat and that’s OK! By training with high enough volumes and dialing in your macros, you can skew the ratio of fat:muscle in your favor.
It’s important not to sabotage your muscle gain by worrying about a few extra ounces of body fat. Remember, we’re not talking about bulking up and getting super fluffy – we’re talking about gradually gaining 1-2 pounds a week to keep fat accumulation to a minimum. Whatever fat you DO put on during these building phases can be taken off later during a short period of performance-focused fat loss.
For more on this topic and tips on the basics that a lot of people get wrong we wrote “five reasons you aren’t losing body fat“. Also if you are looking for tips on how the leanest people on the planet stay lean check this article out.