Does muscle really burn more calories than fat? | (2023)

Does muscle really burn more calories than fat? | (1)

When it comes to fat vs muscle, there are a few important differences to know.

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If you've ever tried to change your body, you've probably heard (or rather read on the internet) that muscle weighs more than fat. It's something many of us have accepted as fact, but is it really true? And does muscle really burn more calories than flab?


Here we explain the weight of it (pun intended!), including the impact of muscle and fat on your metabolism and physique, and how you can easily trade extra inches for being slim.

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Fat vs. Muscle: The Basics

Comparing fat to muscle is like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, both are metabolically active and necessary for your body, but too much of one can be detrimental to your health while the other is very beneficial.


body fat 101

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The fat contained in your fat cells is in the form of triglycerides, which serve as fuel.body fatcan be stored in different ways. One is subcutaneous or just under the skin (the soft kind you can pinch), and it dependsHarvard Health Publishing, this type makes up 90 percent of your body fat. Subcutaneous fat serves as insulation and a source of energy. It also produces beneficial molecules that help regulate hunger and your weight. But you know what they say about too much of a good thing...


If you have a lot of soft fat and you are overweight, then in most cases you probably have a lot of itvisceral fat - the hard kindthat's deep down in your abdomen, wrapped around your organs and the more dangerous of the two. It produces a greater number of molecules associated with potential adverse health effects such as:insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Continue reading:The 6 Big Health Risks of Too Much Belly Fat


Muscle 101

Then we have skeletal muscle, the type of muscle around your bones that provides strength and stability. It's the largest tissue in the body, accounting for up to 40 percent of your body weight, according to researchersUniversity of New Mexico.

Like fat, it is influenced by genetics, hormones, physical activity and diet. It also contains 50 to 75 percent of all protein in your body, making it the main tissue that metabolizes amino acids, which is linked to muscle building and growth — and muscle building and growth is associated with a higher metabolic rate (yay for the calorie burning) . !). But more on that in a moment.



Does muscle really burn more calories than fat? | (2)

Someone with a lower body fat percentage may appear more muscular.

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(Video) Weight Training VS Low Intensity Cardio - Best Way to Burn Fat?

A pound is a pound...

There's this common myth: a pound of muscle weighs more than a pound of fat. But a pound is a pound — whether you're talking 16 ounces of bricks, pennies, or feathers, they all weigh the same. Interestingly, while this is true, muscle ‌tut‌ take up less space than fat.


"People say that a lot, probably because you can have more muscle and actually look smaller than someone who's the same weight and has more fat on their body," she saysAmanda Mancini, a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer, weight loss specialist, and corrective exercise specialist.

Wondering if your body fat percentage is in a healthy range? Use body fat calculatoreasy to find out.

...but it's a matter of space

Sometimes the number on the scale isn't the best proxy for your size or even your underlying health risks. Here's why: muscle is denser than fatThe Social and Health Research Center, which means it takes up less space (think the difference between a pound of rocks and a pound of swollen marshmallows). In fact, muscle takes up about four-fifths as much space as fat.


OK, so the difference is probably not as big as you thought, but still, two people can be the same height and weight, but the person with a higher onepercentage of body fatwill wear a larger dress size and potentially have more inches to pinch than the smaller, more toned physique of someone with leaner muscles, Mancini says. Muscle: 1, Fat: 0.

But to be honest, since muscle is denser, it actually weighs a little more than fat. On average, fat density is 0.9 g/ml while muscle density is 1.1 g/ml.


(Video) 9 Steps to Burn Fat Without Losing Muscle


Does muscle really burn more calories than fat? | (3)

Muscle is denser than fat, which means it weighs more.

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Muscle vs. Fat and Your Metabolism

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), perAmerican Council on Exercise, represents the minimum amount of energy (calories) needed to keep your body functioning. In other words, it's an approximation of the number of calories you would burn if you did nothing for 24 hours except rest. BMR accounts for 60 to 75 percent of total calories consumed each day.

Common gym lore says that 1 pound of resting muscle burns 30 to 50 calories a day compared to fat, which does not burn calories. The truth afterNational Strength and Fitness Councilis that muscle tissue — at rest — burns about 6 calories per pound daily, while fat burns 2 to 3 calories per pound daily. Muscle: 2, Fat: 0.

Continue reading:Your ultimate guide to building lean muscle

It's also important to remember that strengthening the muscles you already have is just as important as building new muscles. The bad news after theASis that the amount of muscle mass you have decreases as you age, especially if you're not weight training, so you'll end up with a fatter body composition.

But there's good news: If you stick to a regular strength-training program, you can expect to gain about 2 to 4.5 pounds of muscle mass and boost your resting metabolism by up to about 30 calories a day over the course of several months. Muscle: 3...OK, you get the point.

Of course, this depends on body composition, diet and exercise frequency. "It's very difficult to actually measure this for the average person unless they were given a body fat reading," says Mancini. Regardless, the best way to take advantage of your muscles' calorie-burning potential is to actually use them.


(Video) What Happens Inside Your Body When You Burn Fat

Does muscle really burn more calories than fat? | (4)

Aim for at least two strength training sessions per week.

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Build muscle, lose fat

While swapping fat for muscle may not increase your BMR as much as you hoped, it's still a good idea to pick up these weights. One in April 2014 in ‌Journal of Sport Science‌, which involved 139 obese teenagers, concluded that cardio and resistance training had better outcomes in terms of decreased body fat mass (both soft fat and hard belly fat) and increased lean body mass.

And remember – high body fat is linked to an increased risk of obesityobesity-related diseasessuch as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems, gallstones and cancer. But a review published in March 2012 inobesity reviewsfound that resistance training changes body fat distribution and can be of great help in reducing abdominal obesity and metabolic diseases.

So how often should you train your muscles? ThePhysical Activity Guidelines for Americansrecommend training your major muscle groups at least twice a week to reap the health benefits. And indeed, a review published in ‌ in November 2016sports medicine‌ found that this frequency was effective for building lean muscle mass.

If you are new to strength training, theMayo Clinicsuggests starting with 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps for all major muscle groups with weights that tire your muscles by the end of reps. Just be patient, keep at it, and you'll eventually be able to increase the weight or resistance.

Continue reading:The ultimate workout to start strength training at home




Does muscle consume more calories than fat? ›

When you exercise, you use muscle. This helps build muscle mass, and muscle tissue burns more calories -- even when you're at rest -- than body fat. According to Wharton, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories.

Does muscle actually burn fat? ›

Does Muscle Burn Fat? Muscle doesn't burn fat directly, but having more muscle mass means you burn more calories at the same body weight than if you had less muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active tissue that requires energy to maintain, where as fat tissue is not.

Why does muscle burn more calories than fat at rest? ›

Additionally, muscle tissue is metabolically more active and burns more calories than fat tissue. The more muscles you have, the bigger your resting energy expenditure, which means that your body burns more calories “while doing nothing”.

Do muscles burn calories even when the body is at rest? ›

Muscle mass is the main factor in basal metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rate also depends on: Body size and composition. People who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.

How many calories does 1 pound of muscle burn? ›

One pound of muscle will burn slightly more calories at rest than one pound of fat tissue at rest. To be exact your body burns 6 calories per hour per pound of muscle and 2 calories per hour per pound of fat. On average, 1lb of muscle will burn (within 24 hours) an extra 96 extra calories in comparison to fat tissue.

How many calories does 1 pound of muscle burn per day? ›

Burning Calories

Muscle tissue will burn seven to 10 calories daily per pound. And since fat burns two to three calories daily per pound, replacing a pound of fat with muscle helps you burn an additional four to six more calories each day.

Does your body prefer to burn muscle or fat? ›

"In general, muscle is not lost before fat—it is very dependent on nutrition and activity volume," Miranda-Comas says. "A person who is attempting to lose weight by not eating may lose weight in muscle first before fat."

Which part of body loses fat first? ›

Mostly, losing weight is an internal process. You will first lose hard fat that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and then you will start to lose soft fat like waistline and thigh fat. The fat loss from around the organs makes you leaner and stronger.

Does a pound of muscle burn 50 calories? ›

What a myth. This myth has been floating around for years, but is not true. You will NOT burn an extra 50 calories per day just by gaining a pound of muscle.

What happens when you burn muscle instead of fat? ›

Without enough energy (i.e., calories) to keep those going, your body will tap into its own sources—which include both stored fat and muscle. Lose muscle, in turn, and your metabolism slows down. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, that's totally counter-productive to your goals.

Do sore muscles mean burning calories? ›

Sore muscles do burn calories, however it may or may not come from the fat on your body. Also, please note that sore muscles do not burn calories any more than muscles that are not sore. Lean tissue (i.e. muscles) is the primary driver of our metabolic rate.

What is the most efficient way to burn calories? ›

Running is the winner for most calories burned per hour. Stationary bicycling, jogging, and swimming are excellent options as well. HIIT exercises are also great for burning calories. After a HIIT workout, your body will continue to burn calories for up to 24 hours.

Does having more muscle increase your metabolism? ›

Building more muscle mass is one thing that can increase a person's metabolic rate. Estimates suggest that every pound of muscle burns roughly six calories per day at rest, Dr. Church says. That's about three times as many calories as a pound of fat, which burns roughly two calories per day.

How many calories can you burn without losing muscle? ›

Maintain Only a Moderate Caloric Deficit

If you want to cut after a bulking phase and still have muscle to show for it, start with a moderate deficit of only 500 calories—it's just the right number to spark fat loss without sacrificing muscle size or strength gains.

Do you gain muscle before losing fat? ›

Building muscle should be your main focus as it increases your metabolism and makes losing fat easier. If you want to lose fat first to improve your body composition, you'll need to strength train and up your protein intake to minimize the amount of muscle you lose, too.

What exercise can burn 1000 calories a day? ›

You'd be able to burn 1,000 calories by running for about 70 minutes or 7 miles. However, this assumes that you can maintain the same pace for all 7 miles. If your pace slows down at all, it will take you longer to burn 1,000 calories.

Does it take 3500 calories to gain a pound of muscle? ›

It takes even more energy to build and store muscle mass through muscle protein synthesis (MPS). An estimated 2,500 to 2,800 excess calories are needed to gain one pound of lean mass.

What exercises burn 1000 calories in an hour? ›

Running continuously at 8 mph for an hour will burn 1000 calories, and running and sprinting continuously for 45 minutes can burn 1000 calories. How much do I have to walk to burn 1000 calories a day? You need to walk for about 120 minutes at 6 mph to burn 1000 calories in a day.

Can you build muscle on 1600 calories a day? ›

It takes a deficit of 3,800 calories to lose a pound of fat and a surplus of around 1,600 calories to build a pound of muscle.

Why do bigger people burn more calories? ›

Why Heavier People Burn More Calories. Simply put, a calorie is a unit of energy and the number of calories you burn is actually a measure of the energy required to move your body. Heavier people require more energy to move their bodies, so you'll typically burn more calories at a greater weight.

Does protein cancel out calories? ›

The metabolic pathways for protein are less efficient than the metabolic pathways for carbs and fat. Protein contains 4 calories per gram, but a large part of these protein calories is lost as heat when it's metabolized by the body.

How do I get my body to burn fat instead of muscle? ›

The following are tips you can follow for losing fat and preserving lean muscle mass:
  1. High Protein-Intake. ...
  2. Exercise. ...
  3. Consume Fewer Calories. ...
  4. Aerobic Exercises. ...
  5. Strength Training. ...
  6. Clean Eating. ...
  7. Muscle Recovery. ...
  8. Avoid Drastic Diet Restrictions.
Jan 10, 2023

What is the first step of losing fat? ›

Step 1: Make a commitment.

Making the decision to lose weight, change your lifestyle, and become healthier is a big step. Start by making a commitment to yourself.

In what order does fat leave? ›

Coming to the point, you will first lose “hard fat” (visceral fat) that surrounds your organs like liver, kidneys and later, you will burn soft fat (belly fat, thigh fat, back fat, etc.). Women accumulate fat cells around their belly area, hips, thighs and these areas are usually the last from.

What takes belly fat away? ›

To battle belly fat: Eat a healthy diet. Focus on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and choose lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy products. Limit added sugar and saturated fat, which is found in meat and high-fat dairy products, such as cheese and butter.

How many calories is 1 pound of fat? ›

If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. And if you eat fewer calories and burn more calories through physical activity, you lose weight. In the past, research found about 3,500 calories of energy equaled about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat.

Does walking build muscle? ›

2. Strengthening bone muscles and joints. Practicing brisk walking as a daily exercise routine builds muscle strength and endurance.

How many calories should a 50 year old burn a day? ›

Just as an example. A 50 year old man, who is 5' 10” and 165 pounds, burns around 1,650 calories a day, without any exercise. A 50 year old woman who is 5' 6” and 135 pounds burns around 1,400.

Does eating less calories burn fat or muscle? ›

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories or exercising, but preferably both. However, cutting your calories too much can lead to a greater loss of muscle rather than fat.

Can I weigh more because of muscle? ›

You will gain weight from lean muscle mass that you add by building your muscles with exercise or weightlifting. But this won't happen right away. It will take you at least a month or two to add any lean muscle mass that would show up in your weight.

Do muscle cells burn more calories than fat cells? ›

Muscles use more calories than fat throughout the day, even while you are resting. This contributes to what is commonly called a "faster metabolism."

What body movement burns the most calories? ›

Running is the winner for most calories burned per hour. Stationary bicycling, jogging, and swimming are excellent options as well. HIIT exercises are also great for burning calories.

Does adding muscle increase metabolism? ›

Building more muscle mass is one thing that can increase a person's metabolic rate. Estimates suggest that every pound of muscle burns roughly six calories per day at rest, Dr. Church says. That's about three times as many calories as a pound of fat, which burns roughly two calories per day.

Does lifting weights burn fat? ›

Strength training specifically leads to gain lean muscle gain. These are fat-free tissues that are highly metabolic, allowing more caloric burns than any other tissue in the body. Essentially, this is why strength training works best: it loses fat while maintaining muscles that burn calories.

What burns first fat or muscle? ›

What happens to body fat when you exercise? Your muscles first burn through stored glycogen for energy. “After about 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, your body starts burning mainly fat,” says Dr. Burguera.

Why am I losing muscle instead of fat? ›

Not using certain muscles enough, a sedentary lifestyle, and improper nutrition are some of the leading causes of muscle loss,” says Dr Sharma. In fact, your exercise, combined with that calorie deficit can make you lose muscle instead of fat.

Why have I gained 10 lbs since working out? ›

“When you start exercising, your muscles start gobbling up fuel called glycogen,” says Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph. D., Director, Headspace Adjustment Bureau, Precision Nutrition. Since glycogen stores water, you could gain up to 10 pounds in water weight alone, says Scott-Dixon.

Why do I keep gaining weight even though I don't eat much? ›

It's often due to fluid retention, abnormal growths, constipation, or pregnancy. Unintentional weight gain can be periodic, continuous, or rapid. Periodic unintentional weight gain includes regular fluctuations in weight. One example of unintentional weight gain is experienced during a woman's menstrual cycle.

Why am I gaining weight in my stomach even though I exercise? ›

If you have been exercising and still have belly fat, you could be doing the wrong style training, your stress levels may be too high, or you may have an endocrine disorder like polycystic ovary syndrome.

How many calories is 1lb of fat? ›

It originated from researcher Max Wishnofsky, MD, in 1958, who calculated that 1 lb of fat stores approximately 3,500 kcal of energy.

How many calories does 1 pound of fat burn? ›

And if you eat fewer calories and burn more calories through physical activity, you lose weight. In the past, research found about 3,500 calories of energy equaled about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat. So researchers thought burning or cutting 500 calories a day led to losing 1 pound a week.


1. How Many Calories Should You Eat To Lose Fat? (GET THIS RIGHT!)
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2. Does Eating MORE Calories Build MORE Muscle or FAT?
(Thomas DeLauer)
3. Can You Build Muscle In a Calorie Deficit / Lose Fat In a Surplus? (Science Explained)
(Jeff Nippard)
4. How To Burn More Calories Lifting Weights (Do These 3 Things)
(Jeremy Ethier)
5. Should You Cut Fat BEFORE Trying to Build Muscle?
(Thomas DeLauer)
6. Best Way to Lose Fat | The Science of the Fat Burning Zone
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