Muscle vs Fat: Which Really Weighs More….

Here’s why you shouldn’t obsess over the number on the scale this month — or any other time.


BY EMILY ABBATE |

No matter what or where you’re celebrating, the festive season is a magical time of year. The food is extra delicious and usually a touch sentimental (Grandma’s cookie recipe, #FTW), runs are usually less regular, but everyone’s in the spirit of giving.

Then, once January rolls around, many people make New Year’s resolutions to ramp up their health and wellness. For some, that may mean losing weight. But even when you start focusing on eating healthier and adding more intentional workouts to your routine, the number on the scale may not reflect how you feel.

Not to worry—there are loads of reasons that number on the scale could be on the rise. So as a friendly yearly reminder, here are some expert-backed reasons why you can’t obsess over what the scale says this season.

1. Muscle is more dense than fat.

Working out on a regular basis builds muscle. So, does muscle weigh more than fat? Not exactly—a kilogram is a kilogram. But muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue, which means it takes up less space at the same weight. Make an effort to think about the bigger picture. How do you feel? Sluggish? Speedy? That should be the first indicator when deciding how to modify your diet or activity.

…muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue…

It’s also worth noting that runners need increased glycogen stores to fuel for longer runs. These “stores,” which are essentially carbohydrates stored as energy in our muscles, can mean extra kilos, both because of the extra water required to break down and store those carbs—and the carbs themselves. The upside is that you can simply view the fuel (or carbs) you consume during the holidays as prepping for that next weekend long run, when your body really needs them. Take advantage of time off from work/school/life and squeeze in a few extra kays or a set of squats, lunges, and push-ups. No matter what the scale says, you’ll feel better.

2. Salt makes you retain water.

I challenge you to think of a savoury or sweet holiday treat that doesn’t involve a hearty dose of salt. That’s right, even most of your favourite cookie recipes call for the white stuff. When you eat salt, it’s absorbed into the cells and brings along excess water with it. “The holidays are also a big time for eating out,” says Dennis Cardone, chief of primary care sports medicine at NYU Langone Health. This means you may suddenly have a much higher salt intake than when you cook at home, he says. That excess water can show up on the scale as kilos, but it’s much easier to shed excess water than it is fat.

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