Yes, it’s true, muscle does burn fat. But it is a lot less than what many people want you to believe. Because they read some numbers wrong.
Will Muscle Burn Fat?
I wager there’s a bunch of people thinking, whut, I built all this muscle, shouldn’t I be able to practically eat as much as I like, because it burns so many calories? Why do I still have all this flab? Actually why do I still get flabbier?
It’s because muscle mass burns calories, but fewer than many, many websites state as the correct answer:
Research For Your Perusal
Alrighty, here is the research I said I would link. Those people talking about 50 kcal being burned by one pound of muscle mass got their number from papers like this one here. Note that it talks about “FFM” – fat-free mass.
The seminal research paper that gave the very likely really correct answer of 7 kcal / lb of muscle mass is: Elia M., Organ and tissue contribution to metabolic rate (found in Kinney JM, Tucker HN, eds. Energy metabolism: tissue determinants and cellular corollaries. New York, NY: Raven Press, 1992:61–80). Unfortunately it isn’t available online, but there are numerous other papers that reference it. This one gives you a good bit of concrete data.
But Building Muscle Burns Fat?
The other way around: building muscle burns fat, but not really because the muscle is there. It’s rather because an intense 45 minute workout goes through 200-300 kcal like a hot knife through butter.
Of course, to actually benefit from that, you still have to have your calories under control. If more comes in than goes out, you can exercise to the end of days and it won’t make a difference on your fat deposits. Your muscles would be bigger, but still covered by a layer of flabby.
Picture courtesy of Lin Mei.