I recently enjoyed Spring Break with a week off from my teaching job. It’s one of the few perks left for teachers in our current environment. We enjoyed time with our kids. We ate with friends. My wife and I went on 2 dates in a 10 day period. I ate some more and even better, I ate whatever I felt like instead of logging for nutrients.
Much of the chatter as we made it back to work this week has been about what we did over break. Someone told me, “Oh, you will just turn those extra calories into muscle this week” while chatting about how great it was to have time to eat lunch over break. I’ve heard and even thought the “muscle into fat” idea many times. On the surface, turning muscle into fat sounds great. But think about it a little further. How do we gain muscle?
Extra muscle is extra body mass. We can only gain muscle by increasing calorie intake above the calories we are burning. But our bodies turn extra calories into fat tissue. It is literally impossible to turn fat into muscle. It is probably impossible to lose fat at the same time as you gain muscle. Even if one could hit the sweet spot of consuming just enough extra calories so that the body builds a little bit of muscle and fat is consumed by the process, the time it would take in the gym to accomplish it isn’t worth it for you and I.
The process of building muscle is extremely complex. And it takes a lot of calories to build muscle which means it takes a lot of resistance training exercise. Take a look at this article from the University of New Mexico.
So where does that leave the average guy or gal like you and me? I don’t have time to spend hours a day in the gym. I don’t have time to organize my nutrition so that it guides my body into the perfect muscle building storm. Nutrition is so important in conjunction with exercise. Be careful of the protein push for muscle. How much protein is actually needed to build muscle? If you consume extra, what is your body going to do with it? Don’t forget; extra calories turn into body fat. Extra protein will do the same thing unless you are spending hours in the gym. I don’t have hours. I have about 2 40 minute lifts a week. It’s not a lot of time, but with a focus on core exercise and balanced whole food plant based nutrition I am making gains this past year beyond anything I’ve seen in my life. I’m seeing more results than when I was a 17 year old lifting for 2 hours 4 times a week in an attempt to get “big” for football. Ironically, I was super skinny at that point probably because I was lifting so much and burning so many calories without a balanced nutrition plan.
Don’t try to turn fat into muscle. Your body can’t do it. Instead, focus on whole plant foods and let go once and awhile. When you let go, hit the gym hard and turn some of that excess into muscle. The extra fat will go away when you return to whole plant foods after your “Spring Break” of fun eating.