Does Muscle REALLY Weigh More Than Fat?


Ever start a workout program and find that after a few weeks of exercise the scale doesn’t budge or actually goes up? Don’t stress, this is a common occurrence and brings up the question if muscle weighs more than fat.


One pound equals 16 ounces no matter what the substance, so one pound of fat is equal to one pound of muscle.

Muscle tissue is more dense than fat , not heavier, so think about what a pound of apples would look like next to a pound of marshmallows, the marshmallows will take up much more space. Because a pound of muscle is smaller in size than a pound of fat fat takes up about four times the space of muscle tissue, it’s possible to look and feel trimmer even if weight remains the same.  And on the flip side, it’s possible to weigh the same but look and feel fatter, especially with age.


Not only can more muscle be better for appearances, it’s also better for the body. Whereas excess body fat can contribute to serious health conditions like stroke, coronary disease, and diabetes, extra muscle mass can contribute to good health and a longer life.


While it’s a myth that muscle weighs more than fat, understanding the muscle to fat ratio and the differences in density is important to looking and feeling great.


Does This Fat Make Me Look Fat?

So how can 150 pounds be a size 8 and a size 12? A person weighing 150 pounds with 20% fat will look smaller than a person at 150 pounds with 35% fat. They weigh the same, yet the composition is different. Because muscle is denser than fat, the person with less fat and more muscle will look smaller. So after spending quality time bonding with the treadmill, don’t break off the relationship if the scale isn’t moving in the right direction.


The pounds might not be changing but the oh-so important ratio of muscle to fat may. With this in mind, it might be time to put the scale aside and measure weight loss and fitness with a glance in the mirror, or the fit of those skinny jeans. Just remember the best way to a healthy and fit body is a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a well- balanced nutritional plan.

[1] The paradox of low body mass index and high body fat percentage among Chinese, Malays and Indians in Singapore Deurenberg-Yap M., Schmidt G., van Staveren WA., et al. Department of Nutrition, Ministry of Health, Singapore International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders. 2000 Aug;24(8):1011-7.


[2] Evaluation of anthropometric equations to assess body-composition changes in young women Friedl KE., Westphal KA., Marchitelli LJ., et al. Occupational Physiology Division, US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, MA, USA. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001 Feb;73(2):268-75.


[3] Sensitivity and specificity of the body mass index for the diagnosis of overweight/obesity in elderly. Vasconcelos Fde A., Cordeiro BA., Rech CR., et al. Departamento de Nutrição, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brasil. Cadernos Saude Publica. 2010 Aug;26(8):1519-27.

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