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Busting the Myth About Muscle Weight

Myth: Muscle weighs more than fat

Fact: One pound of muscle actually weighs the same as one pound of fat: they each weigh one pound! There are, however, two important differences between muscle tissue and fat tissue.

For one, fat tissue is bulkier than muscle tissue, so it occupies more space under the skin. Thus, one pound of fat tissue actually has more volume (and will appear larger) than one pound of muscle tissue, which is denser and more compact.

For this reason, a 170 lb. woman whose body is composed of 25% fat tissue will appear much leaner than a woman who weighs the same 170 lbs., but whose body fat percentage is 45%.

This truth underlies the need for individuals to assess their weight management efforts with a wide variety of body measurements and health parameters. Focusing solely on the number on the scale can conceal real and important improvements in body composition.

Pay attention to the look and the feel, not just the number.

Secondly, muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. What does that mean?  Let’s consider the two 170 lb. women who were mentioned above:

  • The woman with 25% bodyfat has more muscle tissue, so she will burn more calories at rest than the woman with 45% bodyfat will burn.
  • Thus, the woman with 25% bodyfat can maintain her weight while eating more calories each day than her 45% bodyfat counterpart can.

So, you want to appear leaner and be able to consume more calories without gaining weight?  Then be sure to incorporate regular strength training into your exercise program to promote muscle development.

About Katie Rickel, PhD

Dr. Katie Rickel graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Florida. She completed an APA-accredited clinical internship in health psychology at Duke University Medical Center, with advanced training in behavioral and bariatric obesity treatment as well as the psychological management of chronic pain and illness. Dr. Rickel also has expertise in treating anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias. Her research has been presented at various professional conferences and published in scientific journals. Dr. Rickel has also appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and has been quoted in several popular media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Health magazine, Yahoo! Health, Women’s Health magazine, Weight Watchers magazine, and abcnews.com.

View all posts by Katie Rickel, PhD