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What Happens to Unused Muscle? Does It Turn into Fat?

unused-muscle-585We’ve heard a lot of readers ask—and read a lot of misinformation on the web—about the fate of unused muscle. Does unused muscle turn to fat? Does it just go away? Does it leave weaker or stronger than before? Well, we recently got this good info from the fitness experts at Life Fitness. Read on to learn what really happens to unused muscle and how you can stay strong with a metabolism that’s pumped up!

Does Unused Muscle Turn into Fat?

If you abandon your strength-training program, will your muscles turn to fat? The answer is no: muscle doesn’t turn to fat, but we do tend to lose muscle tissue and add fat as we age. The “use it or lose it” concept remains an important mantra when it comes to weight-training. If you’re not actively replacing muscle after the age of 35, approximately half of a pound of unused muscle is lost per year.

As your activity levels decrease, fat cells gradually begin to replace the lean muscle tissue—the key word here is replace. The body contains more than 600 muscles that maneuver each and every move. When these muscles are neglected, your muscle definition deteriorates and your fat content increases.What does this mean? Strength training should be part of your regular workout in order to maintain or gain muscle. It stimulates muscle cell growth and the production of enzymes that help use and store energy.

Your body is composed of lean mass and fat mass. While the goal is to achieve a higher level of lean mass than fat mass, both types do serve a purpose. Lean mass includes muscles, bones, organs and blood. Fat mass protects organs like the heart, liver and kidneys. It acts as insulation to keep us warm and helps regulate hormones. Men’s lean mass should be at least 80 percent of total body composition, while women should shoot for 75 percent lean mass.

So while unused muscle doesn’t “turn into fat,” it certainly isn’t a good thing to lose it. A big thanks to Life Fitness for the facts! If you’re ready to build those muscles (which are totally sexy, we think!), check out these strength-training workout DVDs and these workouts. Here’s to healthy and strong FBGs! —Jenn

FTC disclosure: We often receive products from companies to review. All thoughts and opinions are always entirely our own. Unless otherwise stated, we have received no compensation for our review and the content is purely editorial. Affiliate links may be included. If you purchase something through one of those links we may receive a small commission. Thanks for your support!