Fitness Training: a lifelong commitment

Can Muscles Turn to Fat ?

We often observe that former professional athletes and sports idols put on quite some bodyfat after concluding their sports careers. This may have contributed to the myth that muscles will turn to fat once regular training is stopped which may discourage some people from taking up a physical fitness program. However, there is nothing to worry about: Muscle and fat are entirely different tissues and it is therefore physiologically impossible that one can become the other, same as steel can not become paper, or wood can not become metal. Fat is the way our body stores excess calories, while muscle is metabolically active tissue with a high importance for our general health and well being.

One thing is certain: fitness training is definitely not an activity which is intended to be performed just temporarily. It is based on the human body's capability to continuously adapt to any stress imposed on it. As long as training stress is applied sensibly, regularly and progressively, allowing for adequate recuperation time between exercise sessions, your body will gradually get stronger and look better. Fitness training is in fact one of the most fair and rewarding activities that exist: the more determination and honest effort you put into it the greater are the benefits you gather.

It is, however, important to realize that your body can not store strength and fitness gains; once you have achieved your physical fitness goals, you may be able to somewhat reduce your previous training efforts, but you still need to maintain a certain level of regular physical exercise in order to maintain what you have achieved. If you stop exercising completely, your body soon forfeits all the gains you have previously made: your once shapely, well conditioned muscles become deconditioned and shrink again, the efficiency of your cardiovascular system decreases again, you lose all the acquired health benefits of your exercise program and your appearance soon suffers as well.

Yet, as long as you take into account that your lifestyle has become less active and reduce your daily calorie intake accordingly, you will not get fat once you stop working out. With the gradual degeneration of muscle tissue, accompanying your backslide into inactivity, your caloric requirements become even lower; after all, your basal metabolic rate is directly proportional to the amount of muscle you possess. This calls for further adjustments of your diet and further gradual reduction of your caloric intake.

There is however no point to work hard in order to improve your fitness and health for just a certain period of time just to let all your gains slip away once again upon giving up your fitness lifestyle. This means that all the time, effort and hard work you have put into improving your physical fitness and health would go to waste.

Most certainly, this can not be the purpose of engaging in a fitness program. Therefore it is important to first carefully consider all aspects before making the decision to take up a fitness program as fitness training is by its nature not a temporary activity but actually requires a lifelong commitment of time and effort. Exercise must become as much part of your life as bathing and brushing your teeth. Unless you are convinced of the advantages of being fit and the risks of being unfit, you will not succeed to make regular fitness training part of your lifestyle and enjoy its long term benefits.

Christoph Klueppel


Master of Fitness Sciences
Specialist in Performance Nutrition