Q: One of the more common perceptions in some fitness circles is that strength training individuals lose weight because one pound of muscle can burn approximately 30-50 calories per day. Is this claim valid?
A: It is true that muscle in its resting state is similar to an idling engine and burns energy (fuel) in the form of calories. However, according to reputable scientific research conducted on the subject, the actual number of calories burned by a pound of resting muscle in a day is considerably less than 50. In fact, the caloric expenditure that can be attributed to lean muscle mass is not very significant. For example, muscle tissue has been observed to burn roughly seven to 10 calories per pound per day, compared to two to three calories per pound per day for fat. Therefore, if you replace a pound of fat with a pound of muscle, you can expect to burn only approximately four to six more calories a day. Given the fact that the average person who strength trains typically gains approximately 3 to 5 pounds of muscle mass over a period of three to four months, the net caloric effect of such a training regimen is very modest-only 15 to 30 calories per day (the equivalent of a few potato chips).
Despite the limited calorie-burning potential of muscle, strength training should be an integral part of any exercise program aimed at weight management. Here are just a few of the weight management-related benefits of strength training:
- Helps to prevent or minimize the loss in lean body mass that is typically a by-product of dieting.
- Burns calories (i.e., a modest caloric expenditure of approximately 150 calories per average 30-minute training session.
- Strength training favorably affects an individual's overall body composition, resulting in a greater proportion of lean tissue relative to fat tissue. This training adaptation helps to enhance both functional performance capabilities and physical appearance.
The bottom line, however, is that the most effective way for you to capitalize on the calorie- burning potential of your muscles is to actively use them.
Source: Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, ACE's Chief Science Officer; ACE FitnessMatters, Mar/Apr 2006.
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