Ester Marsh column: How does muscle weigh more than fat?
You hear the statement that muscle weighs more than fat — of course a pound of muscle “weighs” as much as a pound of fat! The difference is that one pound of muscle is a lot smaller and smoother than one pound of fat. Fat is lumpy and soft and takes up a lot more space at one pound than a pound of muscle does. Another huge difference is fat can be used as energy, but it does not burn energy. It literally “sits” there (or jiggles…). Muscles on the other hand use energy while you are sitting on a chair resting. Muscles can be used as energy too but you don’t want that. For example, while idling a car, a V-8 engine uses a lot more gas than a four cylinder. That is kind of how your body works — the more muscle you have, the more energy you burn. The less muscle you have, the lower energy you burn.
Quick weight loss plans burn a lot of muscle which we know is not good. One to two pounds a week is a good weight loss plan where most of the weight comes from fat and excess water weight.
How fast you can build muscle depends initially on what your body type is, and how hard you are working to gain muscle.
There are three body types that are typically used to describe someone’s genetics:
• Ectomorph — light build with small joints and lean muscle. Usually ectomorphs have long limbs with stringy muscles. Their shoulders tend to be thin with little width.
• Mesomorph — has a large bone structure with large muscles and a naturally athletic body. It is quite easy to gain muscles and they are naturally strong.
• Endomorph — A generally soft build, and usually of shorter build with thick arms and legs. Endomorphs gain fat very easily. Endomorphs are naturally strong in leg exercises.
Typical traits for the Ectomorph are
• Small and delicate frame and bone structure
• Classic “hard gainer”
• Flat chest
• Small shoulders
• Lean muscle mass
• Finds it hard to gain weight
Typical traits for the Mesomorph:
• Hard body with well-defined muscles
• Rectangular shaped body
• Gains muscle easy
• Gains fat more easy than ectomorphs
Typical traits for the Endomorph:
• Soft and round body
• Gains muscle and fat easy
• Is generally short and stocky
• Round physique
• Finds it hard to lose weight
• Has a slow metabolism
With this information. you should be able to find your body type with not too much trouble. I am definitely the mesomorph type. So what body type are you, how hard are you working and are you on a muscle building program? Any certified personal trainer should be able to assist you in finding what body type you are and what workout would be best for you. Of course not all body types can be exactly put into these three body type categories. A lot of people can have a combination body type. It is not uncommon to find an mesomorph who can gain body fat easily like an endomorph for example.
For certain body types, it takes longer to gain muscle weight and the workouts look very different from others but it is absolutely doable. Lets turn your softer “lumpier” body into a smaller and smooth “hard” body!
Ester Marsh is health & fitness director of JF Hurley Family YMCA