All of us at one time or another has seen the adverts that promise to turn your fat into muscle, and many people believe that muscle turns to fat if you stop training. Let me ask you a question. If I put a potato in the oven, will it turn into a pizza?
Of course not, they are two different things, as are muscle and fat cells.
Muscles are living structures with the ability to grow, expand repair and shrink. They perform a vital task of skeletal support and movement. Fats are dormant cells, they cannot reproduce or grow and any excess fat has no real function in the body. I know we’ve all seen the, once Bodybuilder guy, who within a few years of stopping exercise, turned into the Michelin man (see my before & after photos). It’s not because he’s stopped exercising that he looks fat, it’s because he’s stopped training but not reduced the intake of food.
When in training, we have a high intake of calories which is burned because of exercise. A high level of training promotes hypertrophy ( muscle growth) If we take in the same amount of calories and do not burn them, the fat will stay in the body. Turning fat into muscle or vice versa is a physical and biological impossibility. The only thing that happens if you suddenly stop training is that your muscles will shrink (atrophy) and fat will start to settle if you don’t reduce the calorie intake. If however you do watch how much you eat, then you will only get the shrinkage, however the downside to this is that it takes time for the excess skin which initially stretched to accommodate the muscle expansion to contract to a normal shape. It’s like when someone overweight suddenly loses the pounds, though they become thin, the skin remains flabby for many months or years, depending on the initial size. Luckily muscle shrinkage take a long time so in most cases the skin gets time to recoup.
The only time you will see a significant change, and what is often mistaken for fat, is if the body was forced to grow at a rapid rate using illegal supplements. In these cases the shrinkage will be far more rapid and the skin appears saggy around the muscle, making it look like fat.
Should you wish to stop training, not that you should, it needs to be done gradually as when you first started training. Your food intake needs to reduce at the same time. There are many old time bodybuilders out there who have done just that, and look amazing, smaller in size than they used to look, but still amazing. For a long and healthy life, you must eat well and exercise regularly and both should be balanced to compliment each other.