Does Building Muscle Burn Fat?

Quick Answer: Yes, but not much. Yet, there are other benefits of muscle growth that may lend themselves to your goal. 

When you hear a person talk about how ‘muscle burns fat’ s/he likely implies that the effect is significant. When it comes to the increase in calories burned when you carry more muscle, the effect is not significant. Estimates vary, but it’s safe to say that you will burn less than 20 calories per pound of muscle gained. When you consider the time and energy required to build a pound of muscle, it would be much easier to eat one less teaspoon of fat than gain a pound of muscle (when strictly viewing this from a caloric standpoint).

BUT, increases in muscle mass result in many other mechanistic changes that, over time, make a big difference in your fat loss potential.

  1. Increased insulin sensitivity and glucose disposal: the more muscle you have, the better you are at using sugar or storing it in the muscle rather than converting it to fat.
  2. Better fuel partitioning: When you overeat and need to store excess calories in your body, you have a better shot at storing all calories as muscle or other non-adipose (fat) tissue when you have a better muscle to fat ratio.
  3. Greater exercise output: the more muscle you have, the stronger you will be. The stronger you are, the more weight you can lift and the greater the effort you can sustain. This equates to more calories burned and more future muscle. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. 

Lastly, when you’re willing to invest, many pounds of muscle adds up when it comes to your metabolic rate (or calories burned). It could take you 1-2 years to build 10 lbs of muscle, but a few hundred extra calories burned per day is highly significant once you do. 

So while gaining a few pounds of muscle isn’t going to directly convert you into a ‘fat-burning machine,’ investing in muscle growth over a long-term period of time will.

The question you need to ask yourself is ‘can I wait that long for a return on my investment?’ For the vast majority of the population, the answer is no, and this is why most people rarely see long-lasting results.

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