Does Muscle Really Weigh More Than Fat?

Jessica Smith
by Jessica Smith
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Does Muscle Really Weigh More Than Fat?

It’s one of those common fitness misconceptions you hear all the time when it comes to weight loss and working out: “Muscle weighs more than fat.” Bad news. It’s not true. A pound is a pound — both a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same. The good news? One takes up significantly less space.

Think of it this way: If you have a pound of feathers and a pound of gold, both will weigh the same. But the pound of feathers will take up more space on the scale, right? That’s kind of how muscle and fat compare inside your body.

Muscle, by design, is denser and more fibrous in nature, as it serves to help support and move your entire body. Since dense muscle tissue takes up less space than fat, it’s possible you may weigh the same (or even more) yet appear slimmer than another person with the same weight and a similar height and frame because of the difference in your body composition.

Another bonus to adding more muscle to your frame? Not only will your body be stronger, more compact and tighter, but regular resistance training can also help prevent the muscle loss that often occurs while losing weight with calorie restriction. And, muscle tissue is slightly more metabolically active than fat. (It’s been estimated that you can burn anywhere between an extra 10–15 calories per pound of muscle per day.) That isn’t a huge amount, but as most MyFitnessPal users know, every little bit counts!


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Then there’s the fat. While it usually gets a bad rap, we do need an adequate amount of it to stay healthy. A beneficial amount of body fat is a good thing, since it helps our body function, regulates our body temperature, serves as our extra energy stores, produces sex hormones, acts as a shock absorber for our bones and even cushions our organs and tissues.

What’s a healthy body fat range to aim for? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a body fat percentage of 10–22% for men, and 20–32% for women.

The takeaway here? Don’t put too much stock in your scale weight alone. Pay attention to how your clothes fit and your body composition measurements in addition to your weight in order to truly measure the progress and positive changes you are creating in your body with your healthy eating habits and regular fitness routine.

About the Author

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith

As someone who struggled to lose weight for years, Jessica found that the key to her own 40-pound weight loss was making small, healthy lifestyle changes that led to big, lasting results. Now, as a certified wellcoach, fitness instructor and personal trainer, she has spent the last 15 years helping students and clients reach their goals in New York City, Los Angeles and Miami. She now reaches millions online through her YouTube Channel and home exercise DVD series. Please visit walkonwalkstrong.com to learn more about her fun, results-driven programs for all levels of exercisers.

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54 responses to “Does Muscle Really Weigh More Than Fat?”

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    Surely when somebody says “muscle weighs more than fat” it is implied that they mean “per unit volume.” Unless you really think that people don’t understand that 1 pound equals 1 pound.

    • Avatar Jenni Brush says:

      THANK YOU for saying this already! Obviously a pound of one substance is going to weigh the same as a pound of any other substance. I understand what this article was intended to accomplish, but the premise it uses is ridiculous.

    • Avatar Moni says:

      Muscle when on a body is more compact and dense, whereas fat is the opposite. As someone who has trained for over 20 years, especially with weights, my body is dense and firm, but heavy as I’ve gained quite a bit of weight since having my son, (I’m now a work in progress). My current weight is 85kg (189 pounds). I’m a US 10-12, height 5′. 6″. In comparison a woman of the same height and weight who has never worked out would likely look a lot bigger than me, carrying more fat and less dense muscles and probably be a size US 14 plus. So I believe, had it not been for my dense musculature, burning the amount of food I used to eat, I would be on the way to super obesity. I would implore everyone to use weights.

      • Avatar Christin says:

        True. I myself am an inch taller than you and 160 pounds. But because of muscle, I’m a size 14. I do workout and lift weights.

    • Avatar Isignedupjusttopostthis says:

      lol yeah this is the most ridiculous article I’ve ever seen

    • I was thinking this same thing as soon as I started reading the article…

    • Avatar Jeff Daly says:

      I looked at the headline and thought that they were writing a story about some new discovery that the density of fat and muscle are different than what we were previously told. Nope…just click bait.

    • Actually there are people out there that are that dumb. Because when you explain it to them this way you can see the light come on that they get it.

    • Avatar Mike says:

      totally agree. When someone says “Iron weighs more than feathers” it is the density that they are talking about. They wan’t to know HOW MUCH of something they will need in order to have a pound of it. so, it 5 pounds of fat could fill 5 empty bottles, while 5 pounds of muscle fills only 4 bottles, then you can conclude you need more fat to hit a particular weight… so, muscle weighs more than fat!

  2. Avatar Frank says:

    Nobody thinks a pound of fat weighs more or less than a pound of muscle or a pound of steel for that matter. Some of these articles make me wonder how dumb you think mfp users are…

    • Avatar Alice says:

      People DON’T understand that. When I tried to use that logic I got a big lecture about how uninformed I am because I believe this “myth”. When I said it was meant per cubic inch/centimetre I was berated even further until I could only shake my head and walk away…

    • Avatar RobSolf says:

      Well, there’s this vid on youtube of a girl who says she can’t eat a whole pizza if it’s cut into 8 slices but can it it’s cut into 4…

  3. Avatar Cyrus Parker says:

    Stop posting these blogs. They’re useless at everything except cluttering up my feed.

  4. Avatar Fourester says:

    Really want to know your body fat percentage? Get DEXA scan at your local university that has a human performance lab. I paid $40 for mine. Took leas than 15 minutes. You get other data too, like bone density. Worth the money.

  5. Avatar Chilling At Home says:

    Thank you for the article because I have tried to explain this to many people over the years.

  6. Avatar Kaiser says:

    How do you measure body fat?

  7. Avatar Honey Bunny Badger says:

    I’m sorry but this is one of the silliest blog posts I have read. Of course one pound of x is the same weight as one pound of y. When people say that one substance is heavier than another substance they are keeping another variable (such as volume) constant.
    So yes, muscle DOES weigh more than fat. Yes it is true.

    If that is standard that MFP accepts, a blog entry like this is enough to make me think that all the other blog posts on this site are filled with unverified drivel.

  8. Avatar Adam says:

    A pound of feathers weighs more than a pound of gold.
    Precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, and palladium) are weighed in Troy. Troy is a 12 ounce pound, not 16 ounces per common standard.
    One pound of gold therefore weighs 12 ounces and your pound of feathers weighs 16 ounces.

  9. Avatar RobSolf says:

    of course, a pound of anything weighs as much as a pound of anything else. But as others have said, a pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle.

    Where this comes up in context of fitness is when someone is obese, starts working out(often for the first time), and finds themselves physically shrinking in girth, but their actual weight doesn’t seem to decrease proportionally.

    This is because they are building muscle mass while the fat is burning away. In this case, even 20 pounds of weight loss can make them look dramatically different.

  10. Avatar Scott Gillespie says:

    *Facepalm* I’m just going to chalk this up as, “Some people who work out a lot and focus on their body, forget to focus on their brain.” and leave it at that.

    Or I could look at it that 100 is the *average* IQ, meaning the other half of the world is either brilliant or idiots and even idiots need to lose weight.

    Anyone who thinks a pound of muscle doesn’t weigh the same as a pound of fat is a moron. Sorry, but them’s the breaks. These are the same people who fail the idiot test of “What weighs more, a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?”

    I have heard “Muscle weighs more than fat” for decades and never ONCE did I go, “Wait, how can that be? One pound of muscle should weigh the SAME as a pound of fat!!!”

    Some of us just naturally assume you’re referring to a volumetric comparison and not a weight comparison when you’re saying one thing weighs MORE than another.

    Any other assumption is ridiculous. If you fall into the camp who made the ridiculous assumption, I’m sorry…but you’re not too bright.

    But look at the good side, evolution dictates that if you’re not very bright, you’re most likely highly attractive, so you’ll have no trouble finding a mate who’s also probably not too bright either and neither of you will notice!

  11. Avatar RobSolf says:

    “It’s one of those common fitness misconceptions you hear all the time
    when it comes to weight loss and working out: “Muscle weighs more than
    fat.” Bad news. It’s not true. A pound is a pound — both a pound of
    muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same. The good news? One takes up
    significantly less space.”

    Cut this bit out, and you’ve got a perfectly wonderful post. If people have the misconception that a pound of one thing doesn’t weigh the same as a pound of another, it’s NOT a common one.

    The rest of the post does a good job of providing detail to the common understanding that fat weighs less than muscle.

  12. Avatar Elia Stupka says:

    And then there is also brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is metabolically active (burns calories), and is increased both in people who are more fit and have lower BMIs and generally increases with exposure to cold, even just a few degrees less than normal (for example wearing light clothes at 16 degrees instead of 20)

  13. Avatar Willy says:

    This is just pure click-bait b.s. I’ll admit, I got sucked in by it. I thought, “how on earth is someone going to explain this?” Bravo, author. You traded perception of your intellect or credibility for click-bait garbage. I hope it made you millions of dollars……

  14. Avatar Dina says:

    Yes, a pound is a pound. But in the same volume, muscle does weigh more than fat. When I started working out, I gained 5 pounds, but people thought I had lost 15 pounds. I felt guilty accepting their compliments on my weight loss. However, two body scans showed I had lost 7% body fat and gained 20 pounds of muscle. The net result was a leaner, smaller body but a net weight gain. 3 years later, I’ve lost 30 pounds overall, but 50 pounds of fat & my muscle actually shows through the fat. So yes, by volume on my 5 foot 9 body, muscle does weigh more than fat.

  15. Avatar Charlie Don't Surf says:

    Oops I meant Gold instead of Lead of course, since that was the comparison in this article. I usually hear this comparison as feathers vs. lead, since lead is used for deadweights. But in any case, Gold is a precious metal and is always measured in Troy Ounces and Pounds.

  16. Avatar Sean says:

    What an utterly nonsensical premise! Normally I wouldn’t post, and so many others have rightly berated the bizarre word game the author plays, but I just can’t resist.

    Muscle weighs more than fat. When we hold two things in our hands that happen to take up the same amount of space in the world and one has greater mass (ie: it pulls our arm down more or makes the dial on our scale go higher) we may correctly conclude that it is HEAVIER.

    Therefore muscle weighs more than fat.

    This is why a body builder can be totally ripped and look slender and have a BMI in the obesity range.

    So, dear author, the reason this is such a “common misconception” is because it’s simply the truth. I can’t conceive of the kind of pretzel I would have to contort my brain into to see it otherwise.

  17. Avatar truble135 says:

    Thanks for talking to us like we’re stupid. We know a pound weighs a pound. When people say muscle weighs more than fat they are talking about weight by volume comparison between the two. Maybe your next article should be about which is sweeter, granulated or powdered sugar.

    • Avatar Darren says:

      I agree. Can’t we move past this already? 8th graders don’t understand this but we are adults here. Come on mfp!

    • Avatar rjc1008 says:

      I’d guess powdered because its larger surface area per mass means it will dissolve in your mouth faster and react faster with your taste buds. Just a guess. Also some granulated sugar has molasses which must affect things. 😉

  18. Avatar Joe Halstead says:

    This is the most retarded thing I’ve ever read. So what you are click baiting with is ‘everything weighs the same if you weigh 1 pound of it’.

  19. Avatar rodgerM says:

    I agree with the negative comments on “click bait.” ( And the comment about Troy ounces is silly…10 Troy ounces of feathers weighs the same as 10 Troy ounces of feathers…or foam peanuts…or…well, you get the idea.)

    Here’s my take on weight: it’s only ONE of biometric data. Just important (if not more so) are one’s measurements, from a simple tape-measure of the waist to an accurate measurement of body fat %.

    I step on the scale no more than once a week and rely more on measurements of upper arms, waist, thighs, and calves to judge progress (and those measurements are done at 2-3 week intervals).

  20. Avatar Steven Mazzacane says:

    What a stupid article. nice job getting the click.

  21. Avatar Somdon says:

    What an incredible stupid article. Holly sh.t. Please don’t ever write something again for people out of primary school.

  22. Avatar Santiago Draco says:

    Why not just state the obviously correct way to say this? “Muscle is denser than fat.” Nuff said.

  23. Avatar Vanessa Rae says:

    so this article does a bad job of explaining that muscle is more DENSE than fat, so if you stay the same size but convert your fat into muscle you will weigh more. i hate bad explanations so much, especially when they are flat out wrong.

  24. Avatar dtj says:

    Clickbait crap! This article sullies an otherwise useful blog. In other news, people with cancer have more cancer cells than people who don’t have cancer. Other news, tall people have some bones that are above average in length.

    Bring back the varsity team!

  25. Avatar Jeff Daly says:

    This may have put me over the limit. The MFP articles are really just about baiting clicks now. I’m blocking the emails now.

  26. Avatar diamondbarguy2011 says:

    seriously? I believe the idea is the same amount/volume of fat versus muscle.
    this was a cheap way to get people’s attention to read this article… and you wasted my time.

  27. Avatar Rich says:

    What an ignorant thing to say

  28. Avatar Ed says:

    Is the author in grade school. Surprised your organization would even publish this ridiculous and waste-of-time article.

  29. Avatar rodgerM says:

    What….??? This crap AGAIN????

    Apparently MyFitnessPal has run out of helpful, worthwile articles.

  30. Avatar Glenn Kathan says:

    Yeah, I didn’t know a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle. Duh!?!? I also thought this was going to shed light on some knew discovery.

  31. Avatar Max Roberts says:

    This article’s IRRESPONSIBLY MISLEADING headline puts it in the category of sensational distortion.

    Yes a pound is a pound, but noting that muscle weighs more than fat says something different from ‘a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat’ which would mislead to be sure.

    As the article later notes muscle takes up less space–meaning a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. That simply says a cubic measure of muscle outweighs an equal cubic measure of fat.

    So a human skeleton of, say, 5-ft length draped in 80 pounds of fat will be roly-poly unlike an equally long human skeleton with 80 pounds of muscle. For comparison’s sake assume both skeletons were equally slender.

    Any swimming coach will tell you that unlike lard-asses, muscular people float with difficulty.

  32. Avatar zysmith says:

    It’s a volume thing. 1 cubit inch of fat weighs less than a cubic inch of muscle. It’s not a myth it’s a misunderstanding.

  33. Avatar Lytrigian says:

    Idiotic clickbait title. That muscle is denser than fat is exactly what “muscle weighs more than fat” means.

  34. Avatar TSgt Ciz says:

    So by the authors argument, feathers weigh as much as lead.
    A pound of feathers weigh the same as a pound of lead, right?
    I suppose wood weighs the same as steel and air weighs the same as rock? One can have a pound of any of these you know.

    No, muscle weighs more than fat because “of equal volume” is implicit to any comparison of materials weight, otherwise as you attempt to argue, the statement would be nonsensical.

  35. Avatar bengine says:

    I am getting more depressed by the day at the level of stupidity I encounter in the world. The opening paragraph of this article was probably the stupidest thing I have seen in a long time. What idiot comes up with this stuff. What weighs more gold or cotton wool it is not a difficult question. The question is asking for the same volume what has the greater density and therefore the greatest weight. That is what people want to know – coming back with a pound is pound is just as stupid as someone calling the pound of gold heavier than the pound of feathers.

  36. Avatar maomao22 says:

    is there a way to downvote an article? because this one is pretty bad!

  37. Avatar FiachSidhe says:

    Not how the comparison works, dumbass. Take a 1x1x1 cube of muscle mass and weight it against the same amount of fat. Or course a pound of fat equals a pound of muscle you halfwit, that’s the answer to an old RIDDLE, not science. Muscle is more dense than fat, so it will weight more.

  38. Avatar Jeff says:

    Holy crap this is dumb. Why do these articles say “a pound is a pound”? People are talking about density and volume when they say muscle weighs more than fat. Like, if you gain a small amount of muscle and lose a bit of fat, you might weigh the same in the end.

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