My Explanation of the Muscle Burns Lots of Calorie Myth

So, on a lot of fitness websites, there is a piece of misinformation out there. It goes something like, 1 pound of muscle burns 35-50 calories per day, so build as much muscle as possible.

Now, while building more muscle is always a good thing, the number of calories you’d burn due to your muscle mass is much smaller. . .like only 10% of that 35-50 number. So where does it come from? Well, I think I’ve got it figured out. You see, we are used to thinking about weight as fat and everything else. We accept that 1lbs of fat will yield 3500 calories. We accept that our bodies need some amount of calories per day.

Let’s take a 200lb man with 20% bodyfat on requires 2000 calories per day. He has 40lbs of fat, and about 100lbs of water in his body leaving the remaining 60lbs to be “lean body mass”. Which many fitness sites call muscle – ignoring that this also includes organs, skin, etc – which all require energy to function. So, simple math says that 60lbs of muscle consumes the 2000 calories which puts us at 2000/60 = 33.33 calories/lb of muscle.

A possible other source of this error is the increased caloric consumption in individuals who have gained muscle mass. Of course, this just shows you that the writers ignored simple physics. If it takes A amount of energy to lift B pounds, if I’m now lifting 2*B pounds, I’d need at least 2A energy. Most people who’ve added muscle are also expending more energy doing the same workouts. . . because they’re using larger weights. So of course they’d require more energy!

Anyway, on a more personal note, last week sucked diet wise. I had a few nights where I did not exercise control over how much I ate or drank. For February, I’m committed to drastic change. Limiting alcohol to one drink per night, 2 nights max per week and calorie-wise, I’m going for 1000 calories per day. At the moment, I’m don’t have any cardio planned for my non-workout days. After two weeks of 1000 calories per day, if I feel I need to take things up a notch, I’ll add the cardio. So far, I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to around 1000 calories. I think the only day this month that may see me deviate from my plan would be Superbowl Sunday. So, depending on how that goes, I may add a couple days of cardio that week to help counteract the effects 😉

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