A very popular myth in the world of ‘broscience’ and ‘gym rats’ is the idea that for every pound of muscle you have your body burns 50+ calories. So, if you put on 5lbs of lean muscle then your daily RMR (resting metabolic rate) will be 250 calories higher. This is absolutely FALSE. One of the leading researchers on the musculoskeletal system is Dr. Claude Bouchard. His studies* have shown the average calorie expenditure per pound of lean muscle is….FIVE calories. Waaawaaa. So, why the big myth? The answer could lie in sedentary muscle vs. active muscle.
The research Dr. Bouchard performed was on calorie expenditure of resting muscle. This is important because resting (sedentary) muscle does not require as much energy ‘turn over’ of protein as active muscle. In other words, active muscle burns more calories than resting muscle. Strength expert and researcher Dr. Wayne Wescott states that strength training translates into an increase of energy (calories) burned by all muscles in your body. This increases your RMR by 7% throughout the day.
Lost yet? Let’s do a little math to simplify this explanation.
Before you began a resistance-training (strength training aka lifting weights) program your RMR was 2,000 kcal per day (meaning your body burns 2,000 calories per day at rest). After 12 weeks of weight training your daily RMR will be 2,140 (2000 x .07 = 140). Now, let’s add in 5 pounds of lean muscle you’ve added over that time frame. Remember, 1 pound of muscle burns 5 calories (5 x 5 = 25). You now have a total of 2155 calories burned each day. Burning an extra 155 calories per day may not seem like much, but your body is now burning an extra 1,085 kcal per week! (155kcal x 7 days = 1,085). Every month your body is going to burn an extra 4,340 calories. 4,340 is the equivalent of 9.5 double cheeseburgers! That’s a lot of calories from STRENGTH training!
Want to burn an extra 1,000+ kcal a week? You need to put on lean muscle, and lots of it. For all the ladies who are worried about putting on too much muscle take a look at the picture below.
This is Beth (RKC), owner of MBT (Maximum Body Training) in Cartersville, GA. She has been training with kettlebells and bodyweight for over 7 years. We won’t say her age but she has 1 teen in high school and the other going to college this year. This is what 130lbs of lean muscle looks like. Because of her training (and diet!) Beth burns an extra 1,000 kcal a week with very little cardio. Swings, presses, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and handstands comprise the majority of her training to build lean muscle. See? You can burn plenty of fat with weight training over a period of time and be toned with more muscle.
In conclusion, ‘broscience’ got it wrong, mostly. One pound of muscle does not burn 50 calories. What they got right was that more muscle helps lean you up. Period. However, the muscle isn’t going to grow itself. It needs to be fed. Plenty of protein and vegetables to start. You can play around with the amount of carbs and fats your body needs for fuel. But that topic is for another time. In the interim lift weights 3-4x a week, eat TONS of protein and vegetables daily, and moderate cardio 2x a week.