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!
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.