I am asking this because I read a post jokingly titled, "Why fat people will hurt you."

It mentioned there that, because heavier or obese people tend to eat more, they tend to store more energy. With more energy stored they have "reserved" capabilities to unleash bigger bolts of strength, even without exercise.

I, myself, used to be quite obese, about 100 lbs. overweight. I never weight trained but felt random bolts of energy, and I ate anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000+ calories a day. I ate junk mostly, drank soda, etc. I basically never did any weight training or the related such.

I did notice peaks in energy and strength just from the excess of calories, and I slight urge to release the energy sometimes (run a little, climb up stuff, etc.).

Basically, is it true that heightened caloric intake stores more energy ... and this energy can be attributed to more strength in some heavier people (or anyone who just eats a lot), regardless of training?

If not, what can explain the "caloric surplus controversy" over eating more and having more strength/energy?


3 Answers 3


It's a fallacy that fat people unleash bigger bolts of strength. Can fat people hurt you? Absolutely! Why? Because Force = mass X acceleration and fat people have a higher mass; with a decent speed, the force generated can hurt you. It's the same reason why a fat person will injure you if they sit on you; the force (weight = mass X gravity) the weight exerts causes the hurt.

Strength comes from activity, plain and simple. If a fat person (which is a result of more calories consumption than expenditure) is active (due to work, lifestyle, etc.), they will be stronger than they seem. While such a person might not be fit, they'll be strong because they actively use the muscles. If a skinny/fit person doesn't lift weights (or heavy items, either in exercise or daily routine), such a person won't be physically capable of lifting a heavy load.

This is why people who were bedridden (or in a coma) need therapy to exercise the muscles before they could move about normally. The muscles simply became dormant due to lack of use.

In summary, your body size doesn't determine how strong you are, your level of activity/training does. And a heavier person will hurt you if all that body mass is aimed at you at a decent speed.

Of course, make yourself faster, more flexible, and stronger by performing the proper exercises and you can sidestep, parry, jump over, flip, jab, tap, punch (or whatever action your training tells you to perform) faster than they can move. :)

  • Its also worth pointing out that in general overweight untrained people will have stronger leg muscles than lighter untrained people as they are constantly lifting high weights.
    – user2861
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 0:27
  • 1
    @LegoStormtroopr Good point, which is why many develop knee problems as they grow older. Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 0:28
  • Also note that you can have big strong people and skinny weak ones. You can be huge and also muscular underneath, but in general very fat people are not stronger. See shareitfitness.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/… for an illustration, note how the amount of muscle is similar.
    – w00t
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 6:58

Calories in/calories out relates very well to the first law of thermodynamics. You consume calories, but they're never created or destroyed, they can only change forms. If you don't use that energy when its available, it gets stored as fat. At other times, it converts into the heat that each of our bodies give off. Think TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure. Your body needs energy to do the things it needs to survive and the main product is survival; a byproduct is heat.

The thing about eating over maintenance and not actually gaining muscular weight is that you're not using glycogen stored in your muscle for contractile force. When your bloodstream has too much glucose floating around in it from excess energy(macronutrients)is when it gets stored as fat. I highly doubt that there are any studies showing a positive correlation between untrained individuals that are highly overweight having excessive amounts of strength compared to leaner/trained individuals. But that's just my opinion.


Carlories are "energy", yes. They do NOT equate to strength; strength is a function of how well the muscles are converting that energy into force.

Stored calories do affect stamina, if you have trained your body to access the stored energy (eg, if you've learned to ignore the discomfort that comes from starting to relatively rapidly metabolize fat). Of course carrying fat also means more weight, which means you have to work harder to move, and there are limits to how much fat you can break down how quickly, so this very quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns, even if you're planning on running ultramarathons.

Athletes will sometimes "carb load" to make sure they have the required energy available to them for extended efforts -- but they're careful not to overdo it. They want the energy stored primarily in the most easily accessed forms, not as longterm fat.

There is a very-short-term effect of rapidly absorbed carbs. Sugar in particular starts being absorbed into the bloodstream long before it hits the gut -- which is why you get the immediate "sugar high" -- and it's possible to use that to briefly suppress some kinds of fatigue. But that doesn't last very long.

So: If you are already on the verge of falling over, a shot of sugar MAY get you back on your feet briefly. But they don't equate to strength in any other sense.

Pouring more fuel into a car will not make it go faster. Dragging a trailer full of gasoline will make it go slower.

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