Busting the Myth of Muscular Metabolism

I personally have always found difficulty in working up the motivation to consistently do any kind of cardiovascular exercise, and always found it much easier to work in the weight room.  For much of my life I was under the impression that in order to lose any significant amount of weight cardiovascular exercise was what you should be doing.  We have already looked at one alternative to tradional endurance cardio.  However, I always wondered whether or not focusing exclusively on weightlifting could be a useful tactic for weight loss.For a long time I was taught that for every extra pound of muscle you have you burn about an extra 100 calories per day without doing any extra work. This sounds like the easiest way for us to possibly lean out.  We gain weight in muscle and naturally lose fat because our metabolism will be running faster.  However, there seems to be very little evidence to back up this claim.  As far as I can tell it was originally based on a study done on 26 adult men that showed an increase in average daily metabolism of the men placed on exercise program. However, we need to add several caveats to analyze this study.  The authors even acknowledge that the difference could very likely be due to a misestimation of energy burned in the workout program.  This is further strengthened by the fact that there was not an observed change in sleeping metabolic rate (Westertep).

This study seems to give what is is in my opinion a more accurate value for the value of increased metabolism because of muscle.

“Every 10-kg difference in lean mass translates to a difference in energy expenditure of 100 kcal/d” (Wolfe).

That means our actual value for change in metabolism seems to be closer to 4-5 calories per pound.

What this means practically for us, is that we can not count on gaining muscle to have a large effect on our resting metabolism.  Instead exercise must still remain a continual part of a weight loss regime.


Westerterp, K. R., L. M.l.a. Van Etten, and F. T.j. Verstappen. “Effect Of An 18-Wk Weight-Training Program On Daily Energy Expenditure, Sleeping Metabolic Rate And Physical Activity 512.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 28.Supplement (1996): 86. Web.
Wolfe, Robert R. “The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 84 (2006): 475-82. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Web.

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