“Gain more muscle to ramp up your metabolism!”
“You burn a TON of calories without even doing anything!”
“Your RMR could increase by 500 calories by just gaining only 10 pounds of muscle!”
How many of you have heard these phrases or something similar?
It’s all a big ol' load of BS.
I have no idea where this myth originated, but after doing some digging it seems that even fitness magazines and health “gurus” didn’t start this stupid rumor, they sure seem to be perpetuating it.
But let’s entertain this being true for just a moment. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. That means that if you can really burn 500 calories AT REST from gaining 10 pounds of muscle, you would stand to lose a pound of fat every week.
Without. Making. Any other. Diet or exercise. Changes.
A very attractive and marketable concept to money-hungry fitness gurus, but completely asinine to anyone with common sense.
Furthermore, as a sports dietitian, if I had a freshman athlete who was burning that many calories when he began his college-level training and started packing on muscle, I would be beside myself (and stressing about my food budget) trying to keep weight on them if they were burning that much at rest plus whatever they burned during their practices and weight training.
It just doesn't make sense when you think about it.
In reality, studies show that you’ll only stand to burn about 6-7 calories at rest per pound of muscle gained.
That means that even if you were to put on 10 pounds of muscle, every day you would burn, at rest, the equivalent of a single Double Stuf Oreo.
Nah son. Nobody got time for that.
And sure, say some fitness programs get this part right and promise still “by the end, you’ll put on 10 pounds of muscle!” which would give you a weekly burn of almost 500 calories.
That’s why when I see influencers and gurus selling fitness programs with the promise of “gain 10 pounds of muscle in just 8 weeks!”, not only is this a laughably deceptive promise (in my experience it takes months and months to put on this much muscle), but it would still take you 7 months just to lose a single pound.
Not worth it.
It’s not all negative, though, as strength training still does have benefits to your metabolism and health. For starters, one of the drawbacks of getting older is weight gain and studies have shown that gaining muscle through resistance training can play a big role in preventing weight-related overweight and obesity.
Strength training has also been shown to help you burn calories for hours after a strength training session is already complete. Thus, still helping your resting metabolism, but not in the sensationalized way mentioned above.
Lifting is just awesome, okay?
The bottom line? Gaining muscle is great for aesthetics, building strength, improved athletic performance and the afterburn you get from weightlifting. However, the claims that gaining pounds of muscle is going to give you a metabolism that will have you burning massive amounts of calories when you aren’t even doing anything is just wrong. The actual burn is modest at best, but if you are really looking for weight loss, strength training (rather than just tons of cardio) is the best way to go in the long run.
If you want to learn how to gain muscle like the pros, check out my program The Athlete's Method.