• Anatomy Of Fitness

What is the difference between FAT and MUSCLE?

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

We require healthy levels of both, Fat and Muscle to survive and perform. The problem arises if our fat stores keep increasing or muscle stores keep decreasing. Ageing, by nature, forces the body to lose muscle and gain fat. Excess fat is linked to lifestyle-related diseases like type2 diabetes, heart trouble, fatty liver, cancer, respiratory infections etc. Excess fat is also linked to reduced physical and mental performance. What is muscle? What is fat? Is fat required for survival? What is the difference between fat and muscle? Nature has a clear distinction between fat and muscle. This article helps understand the same.

What is MUSCLE?

Muscle can be defined as a tissue composed of cells or fibres, the contraction of which moves the body. Muscles are metabolically active tissue. They are dense and compact, occupying lesser space than fat. Muscles are beneficial for the body and help boost metabolism, increase bone density, reduce the risk of injury & disease, improve core strength & balance, improve mental & physical performance etc.

What is FAT?

Fat can be defined as a connective tissue consisting of lipid-rich cells called adipocytes. Fat is a metabolically inactive tissue and is meant to provide energy to the body when food sources are scarce. It is fluffy, wobbly, and jiggly occupying a lot of space compared to muscle.

Is Fat REQUIRED for Survival?

Yes, some amount of fat is required for survival. For men, the essential fat necessary for survival is between 2% to 5% of the total body weight, and a fat percentage of more than 25 is classified as obese.

For women, the essential fat required for survival is between 10% to 13% of the total body weight, and a fat percentage of more than 32 is classified as obese.

Fat doesn’t weigh more than muscle but occupies a lot of volume, making us look obese.
Body fat percentage for women.
Body fat percentage chart for Women.
Body fat percentage for men.
Body fat percentage chart for Men.

WHAT is the DIFFERENCE between FAT and MUSCLE?

Fat and muscle are an integral part of our body. Too little fat or too much fat can create problems. Similarly, too little muscle can also develop problems. Let us try to understand the comparison with an example of body image. Consider two 30-year-old women, each weighing 84kg (185.188 pounds) and having a height of 5 feet 5 inches. On paper, their BMI is 30.8 kg/m2 meaning both are obese but, the fat that each woman is carrying on her body is not even considered. However, the first woman may have a fat percentage of 45% and low muscle mass and the second woman may have a fat percentage of 13% and very high muscle mass. Although both women weigh the same, the first woman will look obese because of the properties of fat, and the second woman will look compact and dense because of the properties of muscle.

Fat and muscle are very different from each other. The following table summarises the key differences between fat and muscle.

The differences between Fat and Muscle.
The differences between Fat and Muscle.
Contrary to popular belief, muscles cannot convert to fat, and fat cannot convert to muscle.

Key takeaways:

  1. Muscle makes us appear compact & dense. Fat makes us appear obese.

  2. Fat is essential and valuable, but excess fat is dangerous and the cause of several lifestyle-related diseases.

  3. For men, the essential fat required for survival is between 2% to 5% of the total body weight, and a fat percentage of more than 25 is classified as obese.

  4. For women, the essential fat required for survival is between 10% to 13% of the total body weight, and a fat percentage of more than 32 is classified as obese.

Now we understand what muscle is, what fat is and the differences between the two.

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