I’m sure we’ve all seen huge guys in the gym lifting crazy amounts of weight. What you’ve probably noticed is that the guys with more body fat on their frame are usually stronger than the ones with shredded arms and abs.
Does Body Fat Make You Stronger?
People who have more body fat also tend to have more muscle which is why they are stronger. To gain a lot of fat you have to eat a lot of calories which is also going to build muscle, allow you to workout harder, and recover quicker. Larger people have muscle hidden under their fat. They are also stronger from constantly supporting and holding up the added body weight.
Muscle Is Hidden Under Fat
If you see a person who appears to have a lot of body fat and not much muscle you may be wondering how they are so strong.
Most often it is because there is a lot of muscle hidden under their fat. As your body fat gets to a certain percentage, the muscle is no longer visible.
This is why it is so difficult to have visible abs. Many people can develop and build their ab muscles. However, you need a very low body fat percentage to actually see them.
People who are overweight tend to have more fat mass as well as more fat-free mass on their frame. This results in them being stronger than those who are not overweight.
Strength exercises are easier for those who have more body fat. This means that they are lifting more weight, breaking down more muscle tissues and thus rebuilding bigger muscles. This is why many bigger people are very strong.
Just because you can’t visibly see the muscle, doesn’t mean that they do not have any. Muscle sits right above our organs and bones, while fat is layered above muscle. The more fat you have, the less visible the muscles will be.
When You Gain Fat, You Also Gain Muscle
In order to gain body fat, you have to be eating a lot of food. All of that food will also contain protein which builds muscle.
So, even if someone is becoming overweight, there body is still putting on muscle. This happens even if they are not working out. This is also more true for men because of testosterone.
The opposite is also true. When you cut down weight and try to lose fat, it’s inevitable that you’ll also be losing some strength and muscle.
This is why many power lifters hold onto body fat. They have to be as strong as possible for their sport, so cutting the fat would result in strength loss. They are not judged on the look of their physique, but rather their power. So having some extra body fat only benefits them.
Another important takeaway is that since bigger people are eating a lot more calories, they can train harder, recover faster, and build more muscle.
This is because all the extra carbs provide extra energy in the gym, and the extra protein will rebuild their muscles. While gaining fat, they also are gaining a lot of extra protein and carbs.
They’re Supporting More Weight
The more you weigh, the more weight you are constantly having to lift. Each time you get out of bed or stand up, your muscles are supporting all of that weight.
This actually strengthens them. A leaner person doesn’t have the extra weight to hold up all day. It’s similar to wearing a weighted belt or bag everyday.
This is not a positive thing though as it can eventually wear on your hips and knees.
Another point of consideration is the range of motion for larger people. Take the incline bench press. Place an obese person and a lean person and have them each perform a rep with full range of motion.
The lean guy has very little body fat and brings the bar all the way down against his chest and back up again. Now, the obese person has a lot of body fat on his upper chest meaning he does not bring the bar down as far. His arms also do not stretch as far meaning he has a shorter range of motion.
This may make lifts easier for larger people, technically making them stronger.
Negatives Of Having Too Much Body Fat
The main types of body fat that we store are white, brown, and beige cells.
White is made up of cells that are stored under the skin or around the organs in our arms, stomachs, buttocks, thighs. The body stores these to use them later as energy.
They also play a part in the function of the hormone’s estrogen, leptin, insulin, cortisol, and growth hormone. It’s important to note that some fat is required for good health. But too much body fat can become dangerous.
The American Council on Exercise suggests that men should be in the 14-24 body fat percentage range and women in the 21 to 31 percent range. Anything above starts to come with varying negative effects.
These include higher risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney and liver disease, and even cancer.
What about brown fat cells? These are mainly found in babies, while adults still have some.
They burn fatty acids which help keep your body warm. When your body gets cold, they produce heat to maintain your body temperature.
Beige fat cells appear to be a mix of both white and brown cells. They burn fat rather than store it. Certain hormone’s and enzymes release when you are stressed or when you exercise to help convert white cells into beige fat cells.
Extra body fat causes cholesterol to build up, increasing your blood pressure and clogging your arteries. This also makes it difficult for your blood to clot, which is what increases risk of stroke.
Overweight people also suffer from sleep disorders and have issues breathing during the night which lowers oxygen levels, affecting the heart and blood vessels.
Holding up all the weight is also very taxing on the hips and knees. Your joints are continually worn down if you are obese.
Being regularly active and eating in a calories deficit will help prevent obesity and fight against heart disease. Consider nutrient dense foods such as fish, fruits, veggies, and potatoes rather than junk foods.
Muscle Vs Fat – Which Is Stronger
Muscle is always going to make you stronger than fat. A 200 pound person who regularly lifts with 10% body fat will be stronger than someone who is 200 pounds with 20% body fat.
Let’s take a look at power lifting as an example where there are weight classes. It would be more beneficial for you to fit into your weight class with the lowest amount of body fat possible. This is because you would have the most muscle and least amount of fat, meaning you would be as strong as possible.
While a pound of fat and muscle weigh the exact same, muscle is denser. Fat takes up more space as it is fluffier, which is why obese people appear bigger than those with muscle.
Muscle has more of a hard look whereas fat has a softer appearance. Those with more muscle will always be stronger than those with more fat.
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