How Many Calories does Muscle Really Burn? Not as Many as You Think...

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you strength train? No?! Well, you know, muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does, so you should build more muscle to boost your metabolism and help you lose weight.

How many times have you heard (or said) something similar yourself? I've heard it (and even said it) hundreds of times myself, mainly because that little fact can motivate people to start (and stick with) strength training—especially women who fear "bulking up" or cardio bunnies who only exercise to burn as many calories as possible. Raise your hand if YOU want to burn more calories while at rest. (I'm right there with you.)

Well, exactly how many calories does that newly sculpted muscle really burn? Not as much as you'd think, according to an article written by fitness expert, Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, the Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The common stat experts and laypeople alike tend to cite is that a single pound of muscle can burn 30-50 calories per day—so the more muscle you build, the more calories your body will burn all day long. But Dr. Bryant writes that research indicates otherwise. According to an article he wrote for the ACE FitnessMatters newsletter:

"[M]uscle tissue has been observed to burn roughly seven to 10 calories per pound per day, compared to two to three calories per pound per day for fat. Therefore, if you replace a pound of fat with a pound of muscle, you can expect to burn only approximately four to six more calories a day. Given the fact that the average person who strength trains typically gains approximately 3 to 5 pounds of muscle mass over a period of three to four months, the net caloric effect of such a training regimen is very modest—only 15 to 30 calories per day (the equivalent of a few potato chips)."

Hmm...that doesn't sound too motivating. But then again, every little bit helps, right? If you were to decide to either burn 15-30 more calories per day or NOT, wouldn't you still choose to burn it? I would. Over time, it adds up. That's 450-900 more calories burned per month, or 5,400-10,800 more calories burned in a year—that's about a 3-pound weight loss, simply by building and preserving your muscle mass. That sounds pretty good to me!

But remember, strength training offers your body many more benefits than just increased calorie burn! If you're cutting calories to lose weight, it will help reduce the amount of muscle you lose in the process, which could be significant. Plus it helps you improve your appearance, remain strong and independent, decrease joint pain, strengthen your bones and improve your athletic performance. Those all sound like valuable reasons to keep lifting weights to me.

To read Dr. Cedric X. Bryant's full article, click here.

Are you surprised by the modest calorie-burn of muscles? Will you keep (or start) strength training anyway?