If you suddenly abandon your strength-training program, will your muscles turn to fat? Muscle doesn't turn to fat, but we do lose muscle tissue as we age and often tend to add fat. There is a science to understanding muscle loss that happens with age, especially after the age of 35.
The term ‘use it or lose it’ remains an important mantra. After 35, we lose approximately ½ pound of unused muscle per year if you are not actively replacing it. Fat cells gradually begin to replace the lean muscle tissue. The body contains more than 600 muscles that maneuver each and every move. When these muscles are neglected, your hard-earned muscle definition turns into body fat. What does this mean? Strength training should be part of your regular workout in order to continually replace the muscles. It stimulates muscle cell growth as well as stimulates the production of enzymes that help use and store energy.
Understanding your body composition is also important. If you maintain a higher proportion of fat-free mass compared to a low-proportion of body fat, you have a healthy body composition. Your body is composed of lean mass and fat mass. While the goal is to achieve a higher level of lean mass compared to fat mass, both types serve a purpose. Lean mass includes organs, bones and muscles. Muscles support the back, and allow you to stand upright. They also protect your
organs, help regulate body temperature and provide cushioning. Men’s lean mass should be at least 80 percent, while women should shoot for 75 percent lean mass.
Fat mass includes both essential and storage fat. Women require 12 percent fat mass of their body composition and men require three percent. Once you reach that percentage, any excess calories become excess fat that can be used for energy, but otherwise should be avoided. Increased fat mass means lost muscles and increased health risks, such as diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
When you develop more muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is higher, which equal more calories burned while you body is at rest. The reverse is also true, meaning your RMR will decrease when muscles aren’t exercised. (People who try crash diets often lower their metabolic rate and gain lost fat back more quickly because muscle was lost.)
It’s time to get serious and take care of the muscles you’ve worked hard to develop. Eat a balanced diet, strength train and include regular cardio into your daily life.