Top Five Misconceptions About Body Fat
Body fat has been long demonized in modern culture. Just the mere words can make people squirm. For years we have tried to burn it, shred it, lose it, trim it and tone it. Yet many of us don’t really understand what it is and why it’s necessary.
The media has played a major role in shaping our misperception of body fat. Many myths and a ton of misguided information have arisen because of this. Here’s our list of the top five misconceptions about this much misunderstood tissue.
Muscle Turns To Fat
A classic and one of my personal favorites: The idea that one type of biological tissue (aka muscle) can miraculously turn into a completely different type of biological tissue (aka fat) is far-fetched to say the least. Nevertheless, many people still believe this to be true. Muscle does not turn to fat, nor does fat turn to muscle. However the saying “use it or lose it” is very true when it comes to muscle. If you are not engaging in some sort of physical activity, muscle can atrophy. Along with muscle atrophy, since you are not exercising, you will usually also gain some body fat. But one certainly does not turn into the other.
Fat Weights Less Than Muscle
You have probably heard this in one form or another; muscle weighs more than fat or fat weighs less than muscle. No matter which way you spin it, it’s not correct. Where this myth most likely came from is the fact that fat is less dense than muscle. This means by volume, muscle does weigh more; 1L of muscle is approximately 2.3lbs while 1L of fat is approximately 1.98lbs. Muscle takes up about 4/5 the space than fat does. But as any mathematician will point out, 1lb of fat weights the same as 1lb of muscle or 1lb of feathers.
Body Fat is Just Stored Dietary Fat
Dietary fat, or the fat in foods has been vilified as bad as body fat over the years. The idea that you get fat by eating fat has been cultivated again by the media and in particular the food industry. Excess body fat is a result of consuming more calories than you need. Whether these calories come from fatty foods or broccoli, it doesn’t matter. Since fat contains more calories than carbs or protein per gram (9cals/g vs 4cals/g), it can contribute more to weight gain if eaten in excess. There is a lot more to stored body fat than just excessive dietary fat calories. A certain amount of body fat is essential for a number of reasons: It’s a stored energy supply, it is an essential element in myelin, a fatty insulating sheath around all nerve fibers, it makes hormones that regulate many body functions, it protects vital organs and it is vital in the absorptions of many vitamins and minerals.
Fat Burning Zones
Jump on any piece of cardiovascular equipment and the first thing you will most likely see on the console is a list of programs you can perform. A standard choice has always been something called the “fat burning zone.” You may also see a diagram telling you the spectrum of intensity where your specific fat burning zone is, giving you the impression that fat is only burned when you are exercising in this magical zone. Truth is, you are burning fat all the time, even while your sitting watching TV. The concept behind these fat burning zones is that you will burn more fat calories by staying at a lower intensity – something these machines profess to help you carefully dial in. Although the principle might have some truth behind it, the part most people don’t understand is that the total number of calories is more important, even if a higher amount comes from carbs. Ultimately, you will burn both more calories in total and more calories from fat, with a higher intensity, and most likely this can happen in a shorter duration. So forget the fat burning zones and go for the great overall caloric burn.
Fat Spot Reduction
This post about body fat wouldn’t be complete without talking about the perpetual myth of spot reduction. Somehow, despite years of debunking, this idea that you can trim fat from a specific body part or area has managed to live on. The plain truth is there is no way to spot-reduce body fat from a specific area. Fat is burned from body areas in genetically pre-determined patterns that have no relationship to the exercises or muscles being used. So don’t listen to the infomercial, no matter how many crunches or triceps kickbacks you do, the excess body fat in your abdomen or upper arms may not budge.
Body fat is a lot more than just that extra little bit of jiggle you are so self-conscious about. It’s an important body tissue that performs many essential functions. It doesn’t just appear because you ate a cheeseburger and it won’t just vanish because you do a bunch of crunches.