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Can You Turn Leg Fat Into Lean Muscle?

author image Warren Rosenberg
A professor of allied health science and member of the American College of Sports Medicine, Warren Rosenberg has been writing since 1979 on topics including health and fitness. His works include the college textbooks "Exercise Science" and "Integrated Science." As a professional photographer, he provides photographs to textbook publishers, magazines and websites. He holds a Ph.D. from New York University.
Can You Turn Leg Fat Into Lean Muscle?
A young woman doing lunges. Photo Credit Vicheslav/iStock/Getty Images

Although you may wish you could turn the body fat in your legs into muscle, the truth is that you simply cannot turn fat into lean muscle anywhere in your body. Fat and muscle are completely different tissues, and it is not possible for one to turn into the other. You can, however, replace fat with lean muscle tissue anywhere in your body through a properly designed program of exercise and diet.

Reducing the Fat in Your Legs

Step 1

Start a program of dietary modification to begin reducing your body fat percentage. There are no proven ways to achieve spot fat reduction, so you'll have to reduce your overall body fat level if you want to eliminate the fat accumulation in your legs.

Step 2

Avoid high-glycemic index foods, which are those high in processed carbohydrates and simple sugars, such as white bread, white flour pasta, white rice, cakes, and candies. High-glycemic index foods will cause insulin spikes and shift your metabolism into fat-storing mode. Increase the amount of complex carbohydrates and protein in your diet. Complex carbohydrates can be found in whole-grain bread, vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts. These foods, which take longer to digest, will help curb your appetite and raise your metabolism during the digestion process.

Step 3

Reduce the total number of calories you consume each day. The key to losing body fat is to put yourself in the position of having a negative calorie balance, meaning you'll need to consume fewer calories each day than you burn through your daily activities and/or increase the number of calories you burn each day. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, reducing your food intake by 250 calories a day is a safe and effective way to begin.

Step 4

Engage in a program of regular aerobic exercise to increase the number of calories you burn each day. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests combining a dietary reduction of 250 calories per day with an increase of 250 additional calories burned each day through exercise can result in a loss of 1 pound of fat per week. Running, cycling, aerobic dance and cardio kickboxing are aerobic exercises that work your legs and burn calories.

Build Lean Muscle in Your Legs

Step 1

Develop the musculature in your upper legs by performing exercises such as the step-up, front squat and deadlift with barbells or dumbbells. If you have access to resistance-training machines, perform exercises such as the leg press, leg extensions and leg curls. If you have access to neither free weights nor resistance training machines, try exercises such as the lunge and squats.

Step 2

Develop the muscles in your lower legs with exercises such as the alternate leg push-off, jump and reach and calf raises with or without weights. For example, to perform the jump and reach, begin with your feet flat on the floor and about shoulder width apart. Squat and then forcefully jump, raising your arms over your head and pushing forcefully with your leg muscles. Allow your knees to bend to help absorb the shock of landing. Repeat for four to six repetitions.

Step 3

Perform each exercise with enough weight or resistance to be able to complete only 10 to 12 repetitions. Perform four to six sets of each exercise. Using heavier weights and fewer repetitions will build strength but minimize your increase in muscle mass.

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