Q: I haven't worked out in a year, so I think some of my muscle has turned to fat. I want to lose the fat before I start building muscle again. How do I do that?

A: Your muscles may have atrophied, but they haven't turned to fat. "Muscle and fat are two separate and distinct types of tissue," says Cedric X. Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "Muscle can't turn into fat any more than wood can turn into metal. But as muscles shrink because of inactivity, fat can fill the space where the muscles used to be, giving the mistaken impression that the muscles have turned to fat."

Start your new program with both cardiovascular exercise and weight training, Bryant advises. As you develop more muscle relative to fat, you'll notice more tone and definition, he says. "A pound of muscle will take up far less area than a pound of fat. So you'll look better even though your weight may not necessarily change."

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