Apr 30, 2015

muscle and fat

Well you hear this a lot: "You should build up muscle because it'll increase your metabolism and allow you to burn more fat." As someone firmly in the LCHF camp, this "fat burning tip" strikes me as complete bullshit. So I figured I'd figure out if it was true.

The theory is this. We burn more calories a day to maintain a pound of muscle versus a pound of fat. Hence more muscle equals more calorie burning.

Turns out it's not completely wrong but the magnitude of the effect is meaningless. It's true that the body does spend more energy maintaining muscle than it does fat. You see the problem comes in quantifying how much more energy is expended. Numbers are thrown out in many of the articles on this subject but they are horrifically wrong. The actual strong literature on this subject suggests one pound of muscle burns less than 10 calories per day at rest.

So if you could increase your body's muscle by 10 pounds you'd burn an extra 100 calories a day maintaining that at most. Do you have any idea how hard that is to gain 10 pounds of muscle? I always laugh at women who don't lift because they are scared of gaining muscle. Men, who have testosterone, have enough trouble building muscle as it is. 10 pounds is an INSANE amount of muscle to gain.

But of course the story is worse. Because of course just because your are burning an extra 100 calories a day doesn't mean you'll lose the equivalent of that in weight. Your body is well adept at signaling to you that you need to eat another 100 calories to feed that new muscle.

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