Sun, 24 March 2019
Today, we’re going to clear up a misconception about muscle and metabolism. It’s become common knowledge that muscle burns so many more calories than fat. If you put on more muscle, the story goes, more calories just burn along with it. So increase your muscle mass! Right? In this episode of Spartan Health we’re gonna’ look into that…
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
While it’s true that muscle does burn more calories than fat, the importance of this difference may be quite exaggerated. As it turns out, resistance training (which is often the preferred way to build muscle) is important in keeping many of our body’s functions healthy and vibrant … but it’s not best way to lose weight.
Not convinced? Here are some things to think about--
Many studies that demonstrate how muscle mass increases your calorie consumption measure your body’s total metabolic rate as a way to determine how new muscle mass burns calories. But that metabolic rate is a measure of all of a person’s daily activities, not just that of muscle mass.
It turns out that on a daily basis, at the same time your muscles are working, so are other parts of your body – and they’re burning calories, too. Your organs are doing this all day long. Even “fat” is burning calories indirectly by secreting proteins. Almost everything your body is doing outside of exercising is known as your “basal” or “resting” metabolism. You might be surprised to learn that the basal metabolism takes up 60-80% of your body’s total consumption of energy.
So, what are you going to do if you can’t lift yourself towards losing huge amounts of calories through growing muscle? In a word, it’s balance.
1) Watch your calorie intake but don’t binge diet. In general, it’s a simple equation. If you burn more calories than you consume, you’ll probably lose weight. (But there is a catch – binge dieting may result in a permanent shift downwards in your metabolism, so a gradual approach is usually better….)
2) Drink lots of water. Drinking water can suppress your appetite. Drinking water also burns calories, especially cold water (because the body has to heat it up). And water is necessary to burn fat.
3) Have a varied exercise routine. Guess what? That’s exactly what any Spartan Race will do. Weight training is good in this domain, but it’s not the only thing. Daily aerobic exercise is a very efficient kind of movement for burning calories. But make sure to add little things to your daily routine – take the stairs instead of an elevator or walk to the local convenience store instead of using a car. Even “low intensity” activities like working in your backyard can add up on your daily calorie output.
So, in short, how do I weigh in on only weight training to burn calories? It’s not enough. Activities that vary your routine not only prep you for your next race but keeps your metabolism in good form.
Building muscle mass is a good way to increase your body’s consumption of calories, but it’s by no means the only way. In fact, if you depend too much on growing muscle as a means to control your weight, you’ll be wasting a lot of effort. Reducing calorie intake in a sensible way while finding various ways to increase your aerobic and daily physical activities will offer the best path forward to losing weight.
Basal metabolism: the energy consumed by the body when at rest.
Metabolic rate: the amount of energy used by the body over a specific period of time.
LINKS & RESOURCES:
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Christan Finn, “The Truth about Muscle and Metabolism,” Muscle Evo, https://muscleevo.net/muscle-metabolism/, accessed January 2019.
Jennifer Huizen, “Can water help you lose weight?” Medical News Today, June 28, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322296.php, accessed January 2019.
Alexandra McPherron, et al., "Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism," Adipocyte 2.2 (2013): 92-98, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3661116/, accessed January 2019.
Ludo Van Etten et al., "Effect of an 18-wk weight-training program on energy expenditure and physical activity," Journal of Applied Physiology 82.1 (1997): 298-304, accessed January 2019, https://www.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/jappl.1922.214.171.1248.
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