Fat vs. muscle: these are their main differences

The fat and muscle present in the human body are part of the different tissues that exist. Now, do you know what the main differences are?

Based on this, it is not that one is better than the other, because ultimately both are necessary for a healthy body. Thus, these tissues fulfill specific functions in the body, so the balance of the two is what really counts. Find out more about this topic below.

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The importance of body weight

The concrete weight is a measure to evaluate overweight, but the body mass index is more accurate.

Body weight is made up of the sum of water, fat, muscle and, to a lesser degree, bones, viscera and nervesIn fact, this is what determines the balance. However, this number does not allow to identify what corresponds to each tissue except that it is a scale such as the one used by nutrition professionals, in which this is specified in detail.

However, Based on this value obtained after weighing, the body mass index can be calculated. When it is equal to or greater than 25 kilograms per square meter, it indicates overweight, which, according to vast scientific evidence, is an indicator that is associated with the development of obesity and metabolic dysfunctions.

It should be noted that it is the excess of adiposity that brings complications to healthFor this reason, the mass index does not apply to people who are overtrained, such as bodybuilders, in whom this indicator is usually greater than 25 kilograms per square meter.

What is fat and what does it do?

Now, this does not mean that body fat is harmful, since this is the main energy reserve of the body. This macronutrient, which it is composed of fatty acids and glycerol, provides 9 calories per gram. However, adipose tissue also fulfills structural and metabolic functions. Some of these are as follows:

  • It covers the organs of the body (visceral tissue).
  • It acts as a thermal insulator.
  • Lipids are precursors of hormonal steroids, bile acids, and vitamin D.
  • They carry fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K and carotenoids).
  • They provide essential fatty acids for the body.

Types of fats

To be clear, there are different dietary sources of fat. Based on this, they can be grouped into "bad" and "good" fats for health . The former are chemically saturated, generally of animal origin, and solid at room temperature. Examples of these are pork fat, lard, milk fat, meat fats, and chicken skin.

On the other hand, those that are healthy are generally of plant origin, with the exception of fats from sea fish and are usually liquid at room temperature.

This type of lipid can help protect the body against coronary heart disease because it lowers blood cholesterol levels. Among these, we can mention chia seeds, flax seeds, soybeans, olives, their oils, mackerel, tuna, among others.

What is muscle and what is its function?

The muscle It is a tissue that is made up of grouped muscle fibers. These have the ability to contract and relax. In the body there are 3 types:

  1. The cardiac, which is found exclusively in the heart.
  2. Smooth muscle, which lines the wall of the digestive system, bronchi, blood vessels, urinary bladder, and uterus.
  3. The striated or skeletal tissue that is known as the "muscle itself".

The latter fulfills different functions in the body:

  • Allows movement, because the fibrils that compose it contract and relax to achieve displacement.
  • It generates mechanical energy from the use of the glucose it stores.
  • Produces stability in the joints.
  • It serves as protection.
  • Maintains posture.
  • They provide heat, due to the irrigation they have, due to the friction they generate and because they consume energy constantly.
  • They stimulate the action of the lymphatic and blood vessels because muscle contraction helps the blood pump (known as venous return).

Main differences between fat and muscle

It is evident that they are different tissues and that for this reason, their functions are not similar. In addition to this, other differential aspects can also be mentioned.


Fat tissue occupies more volume than muscle tissue, therefore two people who weigh the same can have a different appearance. This explains that whoever has a greater amount of adipose tissue will occupy a larger surface, while a person in whom the muscle predominates will look toned and with a slimmer appearance.

Metabolic effect

The muscular system has the ability to consume energy, therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolism. This concept means that in a state of rest, that is, when no type of movement is made, the minimum energy that cells use to function is greater.

Why is it necessary to have a balance between muscle and fat?

The balance between tissues is key to a proper state of health.

As mentioned, both tissues have important actions, therefore, there has to be a balance between the two. Being totally lean is not something compatible with life; In fact, it can pose a serious health risk, but having excess fat also carries significant risks.

  • Arterial hypertension.
  • Cardiovascular diseases.
  • Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
  • Dysfunction of the blood vessels.
  • Atherogenic dyslipidemia (including high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, and excess triglycerides).
  • Risk of thrombosis.

Likewise, having minimal muscle mass is also not optimal. In this sense, increasing the content of this tissue is beneficial to enhance the actions of the muscle and to contribute to health.

There are clear differences between muscle and fat, but both tissues are important

To keep fat tissue within optimal values ​​and, in turn, to build muscle mass, it is necessary to follow a healthy diet and do physical activity daily. These pillars are essential for both tissues to function properly.