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The Official Newsletter of
June 14, 2002

Does Building Muscle Burn Away Body Fat? Hardly!

by Ron Brown, author of The Body Fat Guide 

"Ron Brown is a certified fitness trainer who doesn't have an inch of flab on his body. He'll tell you what you can do to become fit and trim too." 
Washington DC

IF YOU want to hype sales of a product, just mention to your customers that it will:
  1. Make them rich.
  2. Get them sex.
  3. Burn fat.

One of the most common claims fitness salespersons make to customers about the benefits of a muscle-building program is that it will help them burn away body fat. Some fitness salespersons claim each pound of muscle at rest burns as much as 50 calories a day. Yet, hardly anyone who falls for this myth loses an ounce of body fat, unless they cycle their muscle-building training with an alternate program of aerobic activity and a reduced-calorie diet.

Does muscle burn calories at rest? Yes, it does. Muscle in its resting state is like an idling car engine, burning up fuel in the form of calories. Therefore, itís true that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest each day.

But, the actual amount of calories burned by a pound of resting muscle in a day is not nearly as much as 50 calories, unless you include the activity that muscle performs. To determine how many calories a person burns at rest, scientists calculate a personís Resting Metabolic Rate, which is based on the personís amount of lean body mass. Each pound of lean body mass, which includes skeletal muscle, burns a bit over 13 calories a day at rest.

There are many benefits to building more muscle. But, building muscle to burn more calories is not a very efficient way to shed excess pounds of body fat. Letís illustrate this with a comparison between the calorie-burning effect of Method A, a muscle building program, and Method B, a program consisting only of reduced calorie intake and low-intensity aerobic activity.

Consider a man, 175 pounds and 10% body fat. This man has 157.5 pounds of lean body mass, and he has a resting metabolic rate of 2178 calories a day. Now, suppose this man wishes to lose one pound of body fat. Letís compare how he does it using the two methods described above.

With Method A, the man begins his muscle-building program and manages to gain one pound of fat-free bodyweight in one week, increasing his lean body mass by one pound of extra muscle. He continues this for a total of 10 weeks, and he gains a total of 10 pounds of muscle. His body now burns about 130 additional calories a day. At this point, if this man does not increase his initial daily maintenance calorie intake by 130 calories, he will lose 910 calories from body fat in a week. At this rate of body fat loss, it will take him about 27 days to lose a pound of body fat. So, the grand total for the amount of time it takes him to lose one pound of body fat is 10 weeks plus 27 days, which equals about 3.5 months! And, this assumes he didnít gain any extra body fat while gaining muscle.

With Method B, this man could lose the same amount of body fat in a few days simply by reducing his daily maintenance calorie intake by 500 calories, and increasing his daily calorie expenditures by 500 calories.

To determine your resting metabolic rate, and to modify your calorie intake and expenditures in order to lose body fat in the shortest amount of time, use The Body Fat Guide.

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