Muscle Inferno: How many Calories is your Lean Mass Actually Burning?

If your answer is 30-50 extra Calories per pound of added muscle, you are … dead wrong! This muscle myth is a wide-spread and detrimental piece of misinformation; extra muscle mass will improve health, improve functional strength, and make you sizzle, but the amount of muscle gained through resistance training in the short term will not send the metabolism soaring.

A top notch article (1:Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Dec;18(6):1009-29) reviewed the impact of various kinds of exercise on weight loss and metabolism, which was compiled for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). To write this kind of paper, the authors searched extensively for the relevant scientific research about a topic and then combine all the results statistically to draw a conclusion.

The article states that 1 kg of muscle mass burns an additional 25-50 calories; the high estimate would tranlate to an additional 11.4 Calories per pound of lean muscle mass added. Consequently, this value is very similar to a value of 13 Calories/pound that I determined by statistically analyzing the data from my lab at Baylor University. The most conservative estimate predicts that an extra pound of muscle burns only about 7 Calories/pound.

A value of 30-50 kcal/lb of lean muscle is unrealistic and untrue, though it is published a lot in popular media. Numbers this high do not make practical sense. For instance, suppose a typical male bobybuilder has 100 lbs of muscle mass (not including the bone, organs and other components of fat-free mass), the mythical numbers would suggest that his muscle alone is burning between 3000-5000 Calories a day. On top of that, organs burn far more Calories per pound than muscle, so based on popular dogma, the man above maybe about 6000 Calories/day. I’ve measure the metabolism of countless athetic men, and roughly 3000 total Calories per day would be high for an athletic man of this size.

When high values are provided in articles, they are not supported by scientific literature; however, articles that reference research always suggest lower number, which generally range between 5-15 Calories per pound of muscle. Another good article that addresses this topic is below:

Jean has more knowledge to bestow upon you. Come visit her on and live the healthy you’ve always wanted.


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