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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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August 10, 2011

How Many Calories Does Muscle Really Burn? (and Why It’s Not About Calories Anyway)

By Mark Sisson
197 Comments

The hallowed halls of the Academy of Broscience contain untold tomes of knowledge, wisdom, and recipes for “sick” pump stacks. Over the years, their scholars have elucidated the arcane esoterica of muscle confusion, thereby making it palatable for the layman. They discovered that any gram of carbohydrate eaten after dusk turns immediately to fat, and that curling in the squat rack engages more muscle fibers than curling elsewhere. Their field researchers are reportedly close to confirming the existence of spot reduction. But perhaps their greatest contribution to modern physical culture has been the establishment of the unassailable fact that muscle burns fifty times more calories than fat, at fifty calories per pound per day. (Even Dr. Oz says it, so it must be true.) As they have so painstakingly shown, adding twenty pounds of muscle increases your resting metabolic rate by 1000 calories. With that kind of leeway, you could eat a delicious twenty egg-white microwaved omelet with low-fat cheese and a side of plain oats and never worry about body fat accumulation!

This, of course, is complete nonsense. Broscience is not even peer-reviewed and their application for accreditation is still in administrative limbo.

No, but seriously: the idea that muscle significantly boosts resting metabolic rate is pretty much nonsense. Now, don’t get me wrong. I like muscle. Love it, even. Nothing I like more than a bit of lean mass, but I don’t like how this notion of “muscle burning fat at rest” has taken hold in the collective psyche. It leads to lofty expectations that come thundering down to shatter to pieces. It gets people on a single, obsessive fitness track where all they want to do is lift, lift, and lift (and eat, eat, eat) some more to the exclusion of other, perhaps more enjoyable pursuits. And, it can even negatively impact one’s health or progress toward desired body composition, either via overtraining the heavy lifting and undertraining the other stuff, like sprints, walks, hikes, and simple play.

Anyway, I came across an article several months ago detailing the author’s discovery that muscles don’t actually burn that many more calories than body fat. He doesn’t cite any specific studies, but he does cite Claude Bouchard, an obesity researcher from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, who revealed that a pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories per day (and a pound of fat burns about two). That’s a far cry from the 50 calories per day figure “cited” by others. This number isn’t available in the abstract of some specific study. It’s drawn from extensive reading of the “biochemical and metabolic literature”. If you have literature to suggest otherwise I’m all ears. For the purposes of this post, though, I’ll take Claude at his word.

So, straight from the guy that studies this stuff for a living, muscle doesn’t burn a significant number of calories at rest. To illustrate the point let me quote the author of the LA Times article:

The 20 pounds of muscle I’ve gained through years of hard work equate to an added 120 calories to my RMR. Not insignificant, but substantially less than 1,000. However, I also engaged in a lot of aerobic activity and dietary restriction to lose 50 pounds of fat, which means I also lost 100 calories per day of RMR. So, post-physical transformation, my net caloric burn is only 20 calories higher per day, earning me one-third of an Oreo cookie. Bummer.

Or a single macadamia nut as the case may be. But that doesn’t mean having more muscle isn’t good for body composition and overall leanness, because it definitely is. Let’s look at some of the metabolic and other benefits of having more muscle mass.

Recent epidemiology (13,644 participating subjects) reveals that skeletal muscle mass strongly correlates with improved insulin sensitivity. With each 10% increase in skeletal muscle index (a measure of how much muscle is on one’s body), HOMA-IR (a measure of insulin resistance) saw a relative reduction of 11%. Folks with higher insulin sensitivity have better glucose control (carbs don’t destroy them) and lower rates of diabetes. Another study looked at the relationship between sarcopenia, or muscle wastage, and insulin resistance. There was a distinct relationship between sarcopenia and insulin resistance, independent of obesity, which can also exacerbate insulin resistance. So, based on epidemiology, a lack of muscle is linked to increased insulin resistance and poor glucose regulation. This should go without saying, but sarcopenia was also linked to obesity.

How does one get increased muscle mass? Why, by lifting heavy things. And what does lifting heavy things do to insulin sensitivity in addition to its effects on muscle mass? It improves it. To show this, a study placed older Hispanic adults with type 2 diabetes on a 16-week resistance training regimen and measured their baseline and post-treatment muscle mass and markers of insulin sensitivity. Folks in the strength training group got stronger, leaner, built more muscle mass, and developed more type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers. They also became more insulin sensitive. The increase in type 1 fibers, in fact, was strongly associated with the improvements in insulin sensitivity, as this graph shows. Note how the sedentary group didn’t do so hot in either department (increasing muscle mass or decreasing insulin resistance). That looks like a pretty strong link between increased muscle mass and insulin sensitivity to me.

Why is this important? Being insulin sensitive means you handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose becomes body fat and less insulin is required to handle your business. This is far better than the idea of having a rumbling muscular engine idly burning calories as you watch TV, mostly because while the latter is a fun story to tell your bros at the gym, it’s not really true.

Having greater muscle mass also acts as metabolic reserve in times of trauma. I’m not talking about famine or starvation. I’m talking about car accidents, internal damage to organs, severe burns, cancer, sepsis, and catastrophic injury. A great review article (PDF) from five years ago summarizes the role skeletal muscle plays in recovery from and survival of trauma. In these unfortunate but very real instances, protein requirements shoot up to repair damage, and muscle protein breakdown increases. More muscle mass means you have more reserves to keep the amino acids flowing. When healing from burns, dietary protein needs increase to 3 grams per kg of bodyweight. If you can’t stomach that much or dietary protein isn’t available to you, it comes from existing muscle. And, if you don’t have much muscle to spare, you’re going to recover more slowly from severe burns. Same goes for cancer patients; those who have the greatest muscle mass tend to suffer fewer recurrences and live longer. Think of skeletal muscle mass as a buffer for hard times.

Finally, muscle looks good when attached to a human skeleton by tendons and covered with skin. And don’t we all want to look good naked, ultimately? Heck, I’d say this last one is enough reason to lift heavy things by itself.

Now that you’ve (hopefully) ceded the “idle muscle burns fat” idea, we need to go further. Let’s stop thinking of exercise and weight loss in mechanistic terms. Let’s not think of “burning” calories by subjecting our bodies to punishment. Sure, you could grind away and, with enough volume and intensity, “burn” off calories through sheer force of will. If your only concern is that you maintain low body fat, you could eat a bad diet and run fifteen miles a day. I did, and I was skinny. It “works.” But isn’t it much more freeing to realize that 80% of your body comp will come through proper diet, meaning you don’t have to grind on the treadmill and you can instead explore the joy of movement for its own sake? Isn’t it more elegant to imagine the hormonal cascade that heavy lifting jumpstarts and which gently nudges one’s physiology toward leanness and away from adiposity? Whether you see it as science, art, or a blend of both, the way we do things is more effective and enjoyable than hammering away at your fat stores.

Some may continue to hold their peace of mind ransom for those 500 calories of donut they just ate. That’s not me. While they’re waiting for “500 cal” to pop up on the elliptical’s readout, I’ll be eating real food, lifting heavy things, and appreciating the beauty of a complex physiological system allowed to do its thing. I suggest you do the same.

TAGS:  calories

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197 Comments on "How Many Calories Does Muscle Really Burn? (and Why It’s Not About Calories Anyway)"

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Peggy The Primal Parent
5 years 1 month ago

Damn, the dude on that picture is gross.

Carlos
Carlos
5 years 1 month ago

To each his/her own. Honestly that guy is not really much bigger than Mark probably has 20-40lbs on him depending on his height.

nushka
nushka
5 years 1 month ago

As I always say to those who comment on the looks of other people, it isn’t their job to look pretty for you.
Body shaming isn’t productive.

Chris
Chris
5 years 1 month ago

I think she was being sarcastic.

K
K
3 years 11 months ago

In my experience, most guys like that who are disciples of Broscience, think very highly of their bodies, and have to comment critiquing on that of other, especially women.

But these men are still overweight despite their time spent at the gym. That makes them gross despite their perceived athleticism, which considering how likely women are to hear such things on a daily basis, me should hear the general consensus, too.

It’s not body shaming, it’s sharing a majority gender perspective.

K
K
3 years 11 months ago

In my experience, most guys like that who are disciples of Broscience, think very highly of their bodies, and have to comment or critique on that of others, especially women.

But these men are still overweight despite their time spent at the gym. Being overweight makes them gross despite their perceived athleticism (which is largely vanity, not concern for health). And considering how likely women are to hear such things on a daily basis, men should hear the general consensus, too.

It’s not body shaming, it’s sharing a majority gender perspective.

Wayne Atwell
3 years 7 months ago

K, way to judge a book by the cover. Just cause a guy spends lots of time in the gym and cares about their appearance doesn’t make them a horrible person

Sam
Sam
5 years 1 month ago

Well said. (Sigh) Needless negativity by some people is a shame

Marissa
Marissa
5 years 1 month ago

Jesus, saying someone is ugly isn’t “body-shaming”. Where do these PC morons come from?

nushka
nushka
5 years 1 month ago

It’s not about being ‘PC’, it’s about basic respect for others.

Why does anyone think they have the right to make a comment about another persons looks – be they a product of their genetics or their time in the gym?

DThalman
DThalman
5 years 1 month ago

I think if it’s clip art, it’s not disrepectful to comment on looks/sexiness–sort of like, if a woman is participating in a wet t-shirt contest, men might express their views on her appearance, whereas they wouldn’t (shouldn’t) offer their opinions of a professional colleague’s body. Personally, I don’t think he’s good looking either. If someone is a model, it sometimes is their job to look pretty. In this case, his job is to show big muscles to illustrate the content of the post–and he does that well, I think.

nushka
nushka
5 years 1 month ago

On reflection I tend to agree with your comments. Clearly body snark is a bit of a red flag for me 🙂
Our bodies/looks are one of the few things that total strangers feel they can say anything about and it annoys the utter hell out of me. He may not be mine, yours or the OP’s idea of attractive but he isn’t ‘gross’ either.

alina
5 years 1 month ago

Using this calorie counter you can find out how many calories you burn every day. Knowing this value will tell you how many calories you should in order to maintain weight, or how many calories you need to lose weight.
To use this calculator, enter the values in the fields below and you will get the results

Brad
Brad
5 years 1 month ago

Haha!

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 1 month ago

I think the man is handsome and the composition of the photo is quite lovely.

dotsyjmaher
dotsyjmaher
4 years 1 month ago

Get some lutein, Chick ! You done gone blind if you think that guy is gross…

Johnc
Johnc
5 years 1 month ago

Or we could all just stop eating easily digested carbs in the first place. 🙂

chth
5 years 1 month ago

Great article. One question though:

“When healing from burns, dietary protein needs increase to 3 grams per kg of bodyweight.”

Does this include sunburns?

m
m
5 years 1 month ago

more than liklely like with other types of ‘burns’ it probably depends more on the severity/extent of the burn and how much totoal tissue trauma we’re talking about i.e. similar damage and trauma from an electrical burn vs. radiation (uv) vs. radiation (heat proximity) can all be classified using the ‘rule of nines’ this is how trauma centers get to the ‘first degree or second or third degree burns’ designation. healing/repair processes will most probably require similar amouns of aa (amino acids) for proper immune response and cellular turn over.

DocOne
DocOne
5 years 1 month ago

Not quite. The Rule of Nines is used to calculate percentage of the surface of the body that has been burned. 2nd or 3rd degree refers to how deep the damage actually is.

Chris
Chris
5 years 1 month ago

What about my sideburns? They are pretty severe, oh man, I think I need to either trim or up my protein!

chocolatechip69
chocolatechip69
5 years 1 month ago

I say up the protein:)

Dana
Dana
5 years 1 month ago

Probably not most sunburns; they tend to be first-degree, which is only the top layer or two of skin.

Now, if you’ve got a third-degree burn, that’s something else entirely. But most sunburns won’t fall into that category.

Primal Recipe
5 years 1 month ago
Totally agree – no idea where the rumor started. In the fitness industry people will say anything to sell one more treadmill, one more set of weights, one more gym membership. And the funny thing that happens is that people read that stuff, take it as gospel, and start telling other people the same thing without even checking. In fact, besides the myth that you need to do hours of long slow cardio every day to lose fat, I would say that the concept that muscle is wildly metabolic is the biggest myth out there. But as you elude to,… Read more »
Crunchy Pickle
5 years 1 month ago

I love the idea that diet can get you 80% of the way there – it is so freeing. Thanks for being that voice, Mark. 🙂

Doug
5 years 1 month ago

What about the time period (maybe 2-5 hours) after “lifting heavy things,” is resting metabolic rate boosted then?

Dasbutch
Dasbutch
5 years 1 month ago
Yo, Adrian…Wazup!?!?! I’m currently applying a minimalistic approach to fitness. It may not be the healthiest, but I’m hoping it will eliminate the fat (which is where I heard the toxins are stored) Minimum requirements for protein (lean body mass X .08) and carbs under 50 grams per day. Adding only required energy (in the form of quality fat) to perform “Moving frequently at a Slow Pace” five X’s a week; five basic primal moves at my determined level, and sprinting once every 10 days. That’s it! Share the results once I achieve my goal of 9% body fat. Thanks… Read more »
Rob
Rob
5 years 1 month ago
Mark, Your articles sometimes seem like they veer way too far into the anti-collective-knowledge-for-contrariness-sake Look at your primary argument: “Anyway, I came across an article several months ago detailing the author’s discovery that muscles don’t actually burn that many more calories than body fat. He doesn’t cite any specific studies, but he does cite Claude Bouchard, an obesity researcher from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, who revealed that a pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories per day (and a pound of fat burns about two). That’s a far cry from the 50 calories per day figure “cited”… Read more »
Jen
5 years 1 month ago
While I agree he could’ve used more citations than just the one researcher, at least there actually are many researchers with similar findings. Google brings me… Elia, M. “Organ and Tissue Contribution to Metabolic Weight.” Energy Metabolism: Tissue Determinants and Cellular Corollaries. Kinney, J.M., Tucker, H.N., eds. Raven Press, Ltd. 1999. New York: 61-79. Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Medicine 2006; 36(3):239-262. … and, yeah, tired of Google searching now. Anyway, my take-home is that no matter what the particular figure… Read more »
plutosdad
plutosdad
5 years 1 month ago

There was a study in ’02 that seemed to suggest that, but later studies proved it wrong and the thing that was happening was metabolism was raised after lifting weights, all the studies previous to ’05 or so were actually studying RMR right after weightlifting, and not studying RMR due to muscle.

Even go to weight lifting sights like t-nation.com and you’ll see no one serious believes muscle greatly increases RMR since the later studies came out. It’s more about regular weight training, and eating right being worth 80% of the effort.

cTo
cTo
5 years 1 month ago

The way that I interpreted what Mark said is that this Claude guy did a literature review. Literature reviews go through peer review process just like regular research. Sure Claudes conclusions should be more closely tested, but in the meantime I think it’s reasonable to accept them as a hypothesis.

Jason
Jason
5 years 1 month ago
I’m inclined to agree with you Rob. When someone says “believe me because I believe someone else who quoted someone who seems legit” – i instantly become skeptical and it weakens their argument. Mark also seems like a knowkedgeable guy but im not about to tell people to believe him because he sounds like he knows what hes talking about. With more research and links to legitimate medical journals or papers, then maybe I’ll be able to abandon conventional wisdom. The other points raised are still worth considering and so this opinion piece still has some relevance for me. In… Read more »
Justin
Justin
5 years 1 month ago
– says the guy who shops in bulk for air duster to keep the ever building deposits of Cheetos dust for gumming up his keyboard and painfully slowing his favortie activity – Your comment was entirely pointless, other than to run your mouth and pose as something supposedly to resemble intelligent. The researcher he quoted specifically studies obesity, therefore, offering his view, that supports your own, and opposes the other side of an arguement simply makes sense. Also, instead of makeing the false arguement that “your arguement is not a good arguement, thereby making it false” why don’t you try… Read more »
Justin
Justin
5 years 1 month ago

The last comment was @ “Rob” btw… Also, Mark… I have to congradulate you. Despite the snotty condescending tone of that (expletive deleted) you still respond calm and collected, even offering more specfic information, nevermind that the recipient was clearly too dense to understand the basic nature of your post. I am ashamed to say (only a little) I would probably not have been so nice, correction, I wasn’t… Anyways, good post and glad to see that you actually do respond to comments unlike the over whelming majority.

Antonio
Antonio
5 years 1 month ago
Dishonesty is lying, committing fraud, obtaining the property of others under false pretenses, etc. – deceiving others into believing what you know is not true. Going by the available evidence, even if only one study, may not be definitive, but is is not deception. Moreover, Mark read the story, acknowledges it may not be the final word, but finding no glaring errors in it, uses the result to underscore the major gap between a completely unsubstantiated claim and the suggestive result of one study. It tees me off to have others attack the character of someone for what by any… Read more »
David
David
5 years 1 month ago

Chill out dude. Mark is the man.

David
David
5 years 1 month ago

Whoops I commented at the wrong spot.

DFH
DFH
5 years 1 month ago

How about ” put a sock in it?!”

I’m really getting sick of the “you cant give me citations so I can’t agree” crap.

You can’t cite proof for the myth that Mark is addressing in the first place, so chill.

I have named this the “haud testimonium” fallacy. This is when one tries to act like they are right simply by saying “you haven’t shown enough evidence.”

JD
JD
5 years 1 month ago

Also, the premise was that muscle doesn’t really burn that much more than fat. But the study cited, if taken at face value, says that muscle burns three times more per pound than fat. If Mark cited a study about his diet being three times more ANYTHING than a carb-heavy diet, I bet he’d be painting those numbers as pretty favorably.

Neil
Neil
5 years 1 month ago

I think this is likely one of the best first sentences of any post ever.

Great post. Covers a lot of the stuff you need to be able to pull out when someone asks why you work out the way we do.

Primal Toad
5 years 1 month ago

I guess I shall continue my primal living ways, right? Simple.

I stepped on the scale at the YMCA in Chicago 2 days ago. I weighed 147 lbs. I weighed 147 lbs when I stepped on the same exact scale about 3 months ago.

I’ve been lifting weekly and there is no doubt that I have gained muscle. I guess my stable weight confirms this.

Awesome. Live primal folks!

Olivia
Olivia
5 years 1 month ago

Hahaha!! That guy is ridic.. I agree @Peggy..He looks like he has been doing some G.T.L. Great article..I love these kind of “debunks”!

The Primal Warrior
5 years 1 month ago

Damn, I thought all broscience was true. Oh well. Seems crazy that people actually think each added pound of muscle could burn that many calories, it just doesn’t make sense.

Primal Recipe
5 years 1 month ago

It’s not so crazy when you really, really, really want it to be true.

WildGrok
WildGrok
5 years 1 month ago

Now I know the truth about the gazillion people in the work gym doing curls sitted, curls standing, preacher curls, dumbell curls alternating and many more: They are all Broscience acolytes!

Mark
Mark
5 years 1 month ago

Okay, because that’s what all the people in the gym are do is it? Endless curls? Well I bet they all wish they could be more like you. Wild. I know I do.

Caleigh
Caleigh
5 years 1 month ago

Awesomeness. It may not be completely scientific, but it sheds light and can open eyes on how many differing opinions there are about muscle mass and body composition.
My sister is the ultimate follower of CW. I’m definately emailing her this!

Mike P.
Mike P.
5 years 1 month ago
The fact that my general health is 80% controlled by diet is liberating. Being a former college athlete, I can very easily find myself in the state of mind that I can ‘exercise’ it off. If left unchecked, my workouts will slowly grow longer and longer. Since going Primal, I purposely take a week off of sprinting and lifting about every 8 weeks or so. The week off helps me maintain focus on my diet and gives my body a chance to rest a little extra. When the week is up, I am psyched to get back into my heavy… Read more »
Mark D
Mark D
5 years 1 month ago

Where does that 80% come from? I’ve seen that mentioned in a lot of places but don’t remember coming across a reference.

Tim
Tim
5 years 1 month ago
The whole ‘exercise it off’ mentality is also a deliberately disseminated talking point from the food industry. That way people who are fat after consuming their horrible products can be blamed for just not getting out to jog enough. <>How hard is that fat people? Like, walk around the block or something and stop shoveling your gob so much. It’s not Adsanto or McWendyKing’s fault, stop blaming other people for YOUR immoral behavior.<> I despise this. These are the same people who demonize Atkins and Paleo, marginalizing it (remember the hit krispy kreamy donuts took when low carb went bigtime?… Read more »
Tim
Tim
5 years 1 month ago

UGH, it killed my ad-hoc SARCASM tags.. that middle part was a sarcastic take on the nastiness people can spout after having internalized that talking point. Sorry.

Nancy
Nancy
5 years 1 month ago

I got the sarcasm right away. I flove “McWendyKing’s”. I’m stealing it! Oh, and your point is spot on.

Mary Hone
5 years 1 month ago

It all sounds good to me. I know what works for me, and what doesn’t. Adjusting my diet and fitness routine to the Primal blueprint, is working. Thanks

Darlene
Darlene
5 years 1 month ago

I totally agree Mark. I’m currently doing chemo treatments for Stage IV breast cancer and my doctor can’t understand why I recover so quickly and have so few side effects! I tell her, it’s because I eat primal and do crossfit on a regular basis (when I’m feeling up to it now). It definitely works! I can feel my body getting stronger and healing faster! Thanks for the great posts!

fit65
fit65
5 years 1 month ago

I don’t subscribe to Mark’s diet philosophy but love his approach to fitness. I also love his blog, this being a good example. Years ago, I suggested through email to Mike Shermer, the skeptic, that he write a book on fitness mythology. Michael (a former Race across America finalist) was very open to an email discussion of his, then latest book, but didn’t want to approach fitness mythology. Perhaps Mark can fill the void of a reasonable, open minded book that de-bunks the silliness we hear every day in the gym, track or on the net.

Primal Newfie
Primal Newfie
5 years 1 month ago

Another great post Mark, keep it up!

Chris Tamme
5 years 1 month ago

More exercise is more better used to be my mantra and it nearly destroyed me. Well not quite destroyed but I was miserable and though I did lose weight I never got the physique that I was seeking. You can never look better unless you eat better and no amount of exercise in the world can change that. Broscience from the gym rats is fun to listen to, thus the reason I haven’t stepped into a gym for well over a year.

Mark
Mark
5 years 1 month ago

Chris, don’t get so smug about the ‘gym rats’. It’s a bit patronising.

Sounds like you are throwing the baby out with the bath water because you over did things in the gym last time out.

Resistance training is still the best way to get lean, strong and healthy.

Have you tried the gym and eating primal together. It works. Look at Mark Sisson. He’s at the gym 3 days a week doing resistance training.

Robin
Robin
5 years 1 month ago

Chris said he doesn’t go to the gym not that he doesn’t do resistance training. You can do one without the other.

mark
mark
5 years 1 month ago

“Being insulin sensitive means you handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose becomes body fat and less insulin is required to handle your business”

hi, i liked the article, but how exactly does more glucose in your liver make it produce less fat from glucose?

ruben
5 years 1 month ago

Have you heard of low glucose levels leading to high cortisol and adrenaline, adding more estrogen,inflammation and lower thyroid function?

LizScott
5 years 1 month ago
Hear, hear. I went through a three month phase of constant work travel with not a lot of time to devote to physical activity, save for what I could do here and there in hotel gyms. Know what? Didn’t gain a pound. (Well, maybe I did. I don’t know, I don’t bother with weighing myself. But my clothes still fit perfectly and I still look good naked, so I’ll take it) I lost soooo much anxiety once I realized that diet choices could keep my body healthy even when I didn’t have time to run for hours a day. I… Read more »
Dennis
5 years 1 month ago
The notion of eating basically whatever you want and then burning it off in a later workout is completely true. Many of my friends eat conventional “healthy” foods, work out a ton, and are very in shape people. This shows the modern way of doing things can make you look good. This was the way I used to do things as well, meaning I was eating a ton of “healthy” foods and working out hard six days a week. The funny thing is now that I have switched to living a more primal lifestyle, I workout less (now doing more… Read more »
Gabi Moskowitz
5 years 1 month ago

My favorite thing about this is that you used the word “broscience.” 🙂

Alan
Alan
5 years 1 month ago

Really? I think she’s cute. 😉

Alan
Alan
5 years 1 month ago

Whoops. Replied to wrong comment. lol

Good post Mark!

Bonnie
5 years 1 month ago

Broscience? Really? What on earth is this world coming to?!

It is interesting, though, to see how information can be misinformed and mislead. As long as it sounds plausable people are apt to believe anything that helps get them “the easy way out”.

BigNoseDog
BigNoseDog
5 years 1 month ago
Over the years, I’d hear people say that the reason your body goes into starvation mode if you skip a meal is because muscle is metabolically expensive. Like the person who lost his job and now has to cut spending, the body gets rid of it’s biggest expense, muscle. But it never made sense to me from an evolutionary perspective. Why would humans evolve in a way that makes muscle so costly? With food being scarce, you’d think the person who could retain muscle would be more favored. So wouldn’t that make it more likely that muscle isn’t a huge… Read more »
Olly
5 years 1 month ago

How many calories does one lb of muscle burn? I have no idea…and no idea if Mark’s authority is a good one to rely on.

One way of looking at is is to ask: Do those with a higher quantity of muscle mass tend to have a lower percentage of body fat?

I would say this is not something that I have observed (rather that the opposite realtionship often seems to exist) which kind of gives the lie to the common myth Mark is keen to debunk.

A thought-provoking article – thanks, Mark.

Barney Shannon
5 years 1 month ago

Pro Strongman Derek Poundstone claims he needs at least 8000 cal/day to maintain his muscles and Body Weight.

ruben
5 years 1 month ago

I think this kind of athletes can not be use as a sample population, often time they are way to chemically enhanced to be compared to other people.

EddieO
EddieO
5 years 1 month ago

Derek Poundstone weights over 300lbs and trains several hours each day in addition to suspected growth enhancing drugs. All this added togther means that he needs such an enormous amount of calories to maintain his weight.

Richard A.
Richard A.
5 years 1 month ago

The resting metabolic rate for muscle is about 3 times greater than for blubber. What this says is that a 5 lb gain or loss in muscle will cause a 15 lb loss or gain in fat for the same amount of Calories.

To actually gain and maintain lots of muscle requires energy expenditures.

DNACT
5 years 1 month ago

So, I won’t get big biceps by curling in the squat rack..WTF?

Timothy
5 years 1 month ago
Thanks to Mark for noting the concept of metabolic reserve. It occurred to me when I started gaining muscle that beyond getting stronger, I was storing up heaps of extra protein for repair and for fuel, to be used as necessary by the body in just the right amounts, and with minimal insulin. So I am very interested to learn about the protein requirements of burn healing, and I imagine that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No matter what challenge your body faces, whether trauma or daily wear and tear, it is vastly more advantageous when your body can… Read more »
Jon Ham
5 years 1 month ago

Nice post Mark, keep it up! Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle makes you more functional in Life. Skinny doesn’t mean healthy!
Love it man!

Mary
Mary
5 years 1 month ago
Broscience = Awesome I always thought muscle burned fat, or at least calories, but I never assumed it was a huge amount, and in fact based on my experience I agree wholeheartedly with this article. What I know to be true is that the more muscle mass I have, the more quickly and easily I recover from illness and injuries. What I also know to be true is that I don’t have to work out every day on a different muscle group to ensure I stay fit and strong…. two days a week of full body seems to be plenty… Read more »
Meaghan
5 years 1 month ago

So true. Although I don’t always agree with what’s taught in academia, seems my professors got this right when they gave me an estimate of about seven calories per pound:

http://www.fitnessmash.com/2011/03/muscle-doesnt-increase-metabolism-like-you-think/

There are a host of benefits to resistance training, but a lightning-fast metabolic rate ain’t one of ’em!

rrbarnes3
rrbarnes3
5 years 1 month ago

It is certainly easy to get caught-up thinking more muscle=alot more eating. As Mark says this ends up being detrimental.

I can honestly say the best results Ive had with gaining lean muscle have been just eating good food, and not worrying about stuffing myself. This goes so against what is preached by nutrition professionals but I have found it to work effortessely.

Dave
Dave
5 years 1 month ago
Good article Mark. After reading the sources posted in the comments 5-6 cals per day makes sense. But also don’t forget this is at rest. Typically those with increased muscle mass don’t sit around resting all day…they exercise that muscle through heavy lifting, walking, running, toe tapping, butt squeezes while sitting at your desk, or whatever you want; the muscle increases its caloric need, while the fat does not. Not that it results in 50 cals per pound per day, but it might result in 10 cals per day vs 5, which for a 185# male with 42% lean muscle… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
5 years 1 month ago

Very good point that hasn’t really been addressed in all this. Muscle may not have an increased resting caloric requirement, but it will have a greater caloric requirement when active. Simply put, a 200 bro will expend much more energy than a 150 bro of the same BF % when doing the same exact physical activity.

So while broscience may have oversimplified things, you will require incrementally more calories the more muscle you have because the same daily and exercise activities require more energy to perform (though you will do them with superior power!).

Reiko
Reiko
5 years 1 month ago

THANK YOU FOR MENTIONING THIS! Active metabolic rate was completely ignored in this article. Mark only talked about resting metabolic rates, but the majority of the people here are primal. We move a lot. So IMO, the broscience numbers take precedence over couch-potato numbers.

Lesley
Lesley
5 years 1 month ago

Eloquent and uplifting post, Mark! Logical, as always. I am just so glad I found MDA.

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 1 month ago

Well, I don’t know if I can ever give up donuts entirely (does it count if you eat someone elses?)… but I sure appreciate my heavy lifting and interval training sessions 🙂

meredith
5 years 1 month ago
“Let’s stop thinking of exercise and weight loss in mechanistic terms. Let’s not think of “burning” calories by subjecting our bodies to punishment. ” I really liked this statement. I find that language shapes our understanding. In America we are fond of mechanical, sports and war metaphors – and we seem to use these in order to understand how the human body works. We “battle cancer” we “fight viruses” we “burn calories.” I wonder what language we should choose when talking about how the body works and how health is achieved. I think this would go a long way in… Read more »
Devin
Devin
5 years 1 month ago

Iron Heart by Brian Boyle is great story and a perfect example of how extra muscle and fitness can save your life in a severe car accident when the average person would not make it to the hospital let alone live after having his organs put back where they belong including his heart which had relocated to the other side of his chest.

Duncan
Duncan
5 years 1 month ago

Mark, the first paragraph of this post rules! With all the bad snark on the internet, its great to see someone who can still do it right. (The rest of the post is great, too).

Broscience. Perfect.

lisa
lisa
5 years 1 month ago

Awesome awesome article

ema
ema
5 years 1 month ago

“Nothing I like more than a bit of lean mass,…” that’s what she said.

Sorry coudn’t resist 🙂

Tom
Tom
5 years 1 month ago
No evidence here, but just some “food” for thought. While it might not be the additional muscle mass in and of itself that contributes to calorie expenditure, could it be the very processes that help maintain that muscle AND the additional work they contribute while exercising at high intensity that offers the real contribution of additional muscle. The greatest expenditure while at rest comes from the internal organs and the brain, however those processes are involved in providing the energy required for cell turnover and fiber development. All else being equal, larger stronger muscles will contribute more to any activity… Read more »
Syllamo
Syllamo
5 years 1 month ago

I love it!!
I used to be on the hampster wheel, running up to 30 miles a day (training for ultraruns) ate anything I wanted. I thought I was really healthy! Now I perform body weight exercises, lift heavy stuff, swim, paddle and run medium short distances and practice yoga. I eat primal and feel much better and way stronger! I’m enjoying life!!!

Syllamo
Syllamo
5 years 1 month ago

Oh, I forgot barefoot running!!!!

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[…] How Many Calories Does Muscle Really Burn? – Mark’s Daily Apple […]

elise a. miller
5 years 1 month ago
I recently gave up on my Lotte Berke inspired workout DVDs in favor of Primal Fitness. The DVDs promise to whittle our hips and thighs if we do the dozens of plies every day for an hour. I kept hearing, “Feel the burn! Keep going! Ten more! This is your calorie-burning muscle! After this you can eat whatever you want!” I always thought it sounded like fiction, especially when my jeans got tighter instead of looser. Talk about frustrating. Now I know why. These days my jeans are looser doing less and eating Primal. Thank you for another nail in… Read more »
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