My goal is to get as lean as possible. I’m currently on a fat loss plan and want to know how important weight training is for reaching my goals. For every pound of muscle you build, how many extra calories does your body burn a day?
There is an old myth that many people still hold true and it states that for every pound of muscle you gain, your body will burn an extra 50-60 calories per day, even at rest. This means that if you pack on 10 pounds of brand new muscle, you will burn an extra 500-600 calories every day. That’s like burning off a cheeseburger and fries without even working out! Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is a misconception that we only wish were true! It is a fact that muscle does increase the number of calories you burn, however, realistically you only burn an extra six calories for every pound of muscle gained, per day at rest, while one pound of fat burns about two calories per day at rest.
The theory is that the human body works harder to maintain a pound of muscle than it does to maintain a pound of fat. Even at rest, our bodies need energy to continue to work and burn calories. This is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR has a large part in determining how many calories you should consume each day and according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the RMR is highly dependent on several different aspects like physical activity, gender, genetics, lean body mass and other factors. No two people in this world are the same, therefore everyone’s RMR is always going to be a little different.
However, you can positively affect your RMR by increasing your body’s physical activity or lean body mass. You can get a rough estimate of your RMR so that you can determine how many calories you need in order to maintain your current weight by multiplying your weight, in pounds, by 10 if you’re female, or by 11 if you’re a male. You can also use our calories per day calculator to get a more precise calculation (select “sedentary” under activity level for RMR).
Now, the only way to ensure that your muscles are burning more calories is by using them. So, why is it that there are so many different answers to this question? It’s because there are so many different mechanisms involved that we may never really know how much exercise influences the metabolism. Whether you believe that muscle burns 6 extra calories or even 50 extra calories per pound doesn’t change the fact that building muscle is important for a strong and healthy body. There are numerous benefits you will gain from strength training and building lean muscle tissue. These benefits include strengthening your bones and connective tissues, improving your coordination, preventing loss of lean body mass and, of course, burning calories, just to name a few.
In terms of fat loss, strength training is the best way to increase your lean muscle mass and burn calories. Muscle works harder than fat, and calories are used to activate, contract and repair your muscles after use. Most forms of resistance exercise will increase your calorie expenditure, even in the hours post exercise. In one study, researchers found that regular weight training boosts basal metabolic rate by about 15%. This is because muscle is “metabolically active” and burns more calories than other body tissue even when you’re not moving. Adding muscle is just as important as working the muscles you already have on the body. Loss of lean mass can reduce the amount of calories you burn when dieting and working out.
Last but not least, set realistic goals for yourself. A well-balanced exercise regimen consists of eating the right foods, getting plenty of physical activity (strength training and cardio) and most importantly getting plenty of rest. Losing about one to two pounds per week and maintaining your lean body mass will ensure you are losing body fat and you’re on the way to transforming your body to achieve a lean, more muscular physique!