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Final word on muscle burning calories??

Hey people, I've read over and over here and other places that building muscle will help you lose weight because more muscle burns more calories. But then I've also read that 1 extra pound of muscle will only burn 5-10 calories. I'm very confused.

Which is more important to lose fat weight:
1) cardio + strength training (to go with the idea that more muscle = more calories burned)
2) cardio + more cardio (to go with the idea that it's more important to burn more calories)?

Does doing cardio plus a reduced calorie diet really make you burn muscle?


Fri. Dec 18, 11:30am

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First of all... what are your goals? How many lbs for instance?

My thoughts and opinion:

Go with #1. However - don't adopt the philosophy that you are gaining muscle to burn fat. Think of it this way. You do cardio to burn weight. You do strength training both to MAINTAIN OR BUILD the muscle you already have AND to burn calories. Double whammy.

When I go to the gym I aim to burn 300 calories during cardio and 300 weight lifting. For me that's about 20 minutes on an elliptical machine and 40 minutes weight lifting. Sure you might burn more total calories if you just stuck to the cardio but you'd be losing the muscle.

You usually hear that the body needs to be provided with a variety of exercises to continually burn fat. This is another reason why #1 is good. That and you will get sick of an hour of cardio per day before too long.

"does cardio + reduced calorie diet make you burn muscle"?

Yes, it probably will. You can minimize it a bit by getting some protein in after the work out.

Friday, December 18, 2009, 3:18 PM

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I have to respectfully disagree with the above poster based on my nutrition class and our segment on diet and exercise. They said: Sure you might burn more total calories if you just stuck to the cardio but you'd be losing the muscle.

That's not true. You will not lose muscle when you do cardio. You won't necessarily build muscles in your arms doing an eliptacle machine, but you'll get great definition in your legs.

When you do cardio, your body burns your fat stores. The only time you are going to lose muscles doing cardio is if you don't eat at all and still try and work out. You have to fuel your body when you exercise. When you don't put fuel in the machine, it's got nothing to run on. At that point, you will start to lose muscle. But as long as you are eating right and keeping your calories at the proper level, you won't lose muscle doing cardio.

Saturday, December 19, 2009, 3:42 PM

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Agree one does not loose muscle when doing cardio, but surely one can loose some muscle mass if the daily calorie deficit over all is quite severe, and so the aim of muscle building when on a calorie restricted eating plan is to prevent muscle loss and have fat loss instead ? And not to be dismayed if there is no weight loss on the scales!

Saturday, December 19, 2009, 7:21 PM

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Ok.. was the first guy to respond.. and I would just like to say that I am respectfully disagreeing with your respectful disagreance. :)

I'm a guy and I've been reading about weight training for years. I read a lot of body building forms and these guys are fanatical keeping their hard earned muscle. They're also experts in 'cutting' body fat and they probably do a 'cutting' phase a couple of times a year at least. So basically theirs a LOT of guys out there who do a LOT of research and make a LOT of observations about what works.

And when body builders are in a cutting phase they do cardio+strength training. And they do the strength training because they don't want to LOSE muscles from doing cardio.

Also here's an excerpt from a "Men's Health" Magazine:

"For scientists, it seemed logical: Strength training increases the size of your muscles and makes them more conducive to strong, fast movements; aerobic training makes your muscles smaller and more resistant to fatigue."

"Lifting heavy weights works a greater number of muscle fibers, which may act as a protective mechanism that preserves muscle."

"First, the longer you run, the greater the chance your body will begin to break down your hard-earned muscle for fuel."


Now... all that being said. Perhaps I'm missing something and I'd love to know. Maybe exclusive cardio workouts DOESN'T burn up your muscle.

But even if it DOESN'T most people agree that the best way to lose weight is through cardio+strength training.. can we agree on this?

Saturday, December 19, 2009, 8:37 PM

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Quote: But even if it DOESN'T most people agree that the best way to lose weight is through cardio+strength training.. can we agree on this?

No! We cannot. Weight Watchers, a world renowned organization for weight loss does not even account for strength training. Body builders are a whole different category than those just wanting to lose weight.

It is scientifically proven that for THE AVERAGE PERSON who eats right and works cardio they WILL NOT lose muscle mass eating right and working cardio. Your body will never lose muscle if you are a normal person just eating right and working cardio, it's impossible.

Saturday, December 19, 2009, 10:59 PM

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Yeah, but Weight Watchers also says you can eat crap as long as you stay within your points allowance. Sure, the numbers on the scale may go down, but you may not get any healthier - you may become LESS healthy.
Perhaps there should be some clarification as to what is meant by "strength training." I can't imagine ignoring the strength training aspect of my workouts. I feel they enhance my cardio workouts. I don't think of it as "building muscle" but toning my muscles to make them more effective at burning calories and allowing me to workout (cardio) harder.

Sunday, December 20, 2009, 2:11 AM

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No they do not say you can "eat crap" ~ if you go to the meetings they specifically tell you not to eat crap and to limit your "crap" intake and do not use points to eat "crap" (crap being determined by who ever is eating it. IMO veal is crap so that's up to the person eating it)

And toning muscle is not building muscle. A weight lifter is a different class than a person trying to lose weight. Weight lifters are trying to gain, and eat a lot of protein to do it and drink a lot of stuff someone trying to lose wouldn't.

Men and women are different. That also has to be taken into account. Testosterone is a major factor in body building CORRECTLY.

Regardless, if you are working just cardio, EATING RIGHT *that must be stressed* you will not lose muscle MASS. Walking tones the legs. Carrying weights when you walk will tone your arms. Aerobics builds muscles if done right. Yoga tones muscles. Many cardio routines tone muscle. You will not lose muscle MASS just doing cardio IF YOU ARE EATING RIGHT.

Sunday, December 20, 2009, 6:31 AM

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8:37 - what you're saying is true, but that's specifically for body builders. Body builders pile a lot of muscle on their frames. More than they would naturally have if they didn't go to such extremes. So, of course they need to continue to lift weights to maintain it because it's not natural for their bodies to have it so they could lose it fairly easily if they stopped. However, for somebody that has a more natural amount of muscle, they will not lose it because they are doing cardio. And it would take a lot less weight lifting to maintain it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009, 9:30 PM

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Doing just cardio is rather silly. If you're cutting calories and doing cardio, your body is going to need fuel from something. It does NOT automatically take it from fat. You can very easily keep your fat, but have your body start eating it's muscle mass.

You can't just disregard information if it references body building. Body building may have a different end goal, but what "toning" is, is muscle definition, which is key to body building along with mass. And yoga, is in many regards, a form of strength training. There are isometric, and isotonic methods of strength training.

And actually, walking with weights isn't entirely recommended- it can interfere with the natural movement of the arms, and cause injury as you're stressing muscles and joints through a pattern of movement they weren't designed for.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 12:14 AM

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Can we all agree that there will never be a FINAL word!? :)

Monday, December 21, 2009, 8:40 AM

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12:14 - I don't think anyone stated that the smart thing to do was cardio and cut calories. As a matter of fact what was said is that you won't lose muscle mass if you eat right and continue the cardio but you will lose weight. That is actually scientific fact. As long as you are fueling your body, cardio will help you lose. No one said to starve yourself and do cardio. And you are wrong about where your body takes fuel from first, it is always your fat stores, it is after a certain point it will take from your muscles but that's only if you aren't fueling it, but no one has said to not fuel the body.

I'm going to agree with 9:30, however. Body builders are a different class of people and how they train and eat is totally different than normal people just trying to lose weight. I lived with a body builder once, they never tried to help me with weight loss because they knew what they had to do was different than what I had to.

As the trainers who are extremely well paid have said walking with the hand held weights designed for carrying while you walk have recommended this action, I'll take their recommendation. They know what they are doing and wouldn't put out there something that is going to cause injury. An extra one pound in each hand isn't going to cause injury to muscles and joints though a pattern of movement they weren't designed for. Think about it. Those extra two pounds you are carrying when walking after losing 15-20 is nothing compared to what was there when you walked before you lost the weight.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 9:33 AM

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@ 8:40 am ~ we can definitely agree to that one.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 9:33 AM

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Cardio+Weights is still better

Lets suppose for a second that doing cardio alone will not cause you to lose muscle. There are still a number of reasons why it is still more beneficial to do strength training to lose fat.

1) Even if cardio allows one to maintain their muscle mass. Even if cardio allows one to BUILD muscle mass. Weight training is more effective at BOTH of these things. And more muscle (either maintained or built) will help burn more calories.

2) It varies your exercise routine. This is beneficial first of all from a psychological viewpoint. You will get sick of cardio a lot quicker if you do it 4 times a week an hour a day as opposed to throwing in some strength training.

I'm not sure why people seem to be leaning towards cardio-only in this thread.. I always thought the general consensus was that strength training+cardio is more beneficial to fat loss.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 11:25 AM

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Another link

Here's a link, written by a woman who is a personal trainer about how strength training is needed for optimal fat loss.

Note that ALL the evidence (in the form of expert opinions via links to other websites) provided in this thread so far has been for the "cardio+strength training" argument.

Everyone who is saying "just do cardio" has no real proof to back it up so far as I am concerned.

The closest we've come to a

Monday, December 21, 2009, 11:37 AM

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And more..

Ok. It's no doubt that there are 2 opinions are valid. But most people will tell you that the strength training will help you lose weight faster and help you keep it off.

I just typed "best way to lose fat" in google and went through the first 4 links.

You get people saying cardio is best, and people cardio+strength training is best. But more people say cardio+strength. Perhaps that counts for something?

Monday, December 21, 2009, 11:52 AM

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How about a third option as to what's most important when it comes to losing fat?


I've done every exercise and every combo and I always got and continue to get results when I make sure to watch what I eat (namely, make sure I don't eat more than I need.) I've lost weight eating faux foods, eating whole foods and eating fast food - you name it. It all came down to the nuts and bolts of eating less than I needed to maintain my weight. (And my cycles of up and down are only related to life stuff - pregnancy, vacation eating, etc., not a whacked out binge/starve thing!)

That said - I have the best body when I do less straight cardio (running and the cardio machines) and more strength training and body weight exercises!

Monday, December 21, 2009, 1:03 PM

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@11:37 "
Everyone who is saying "just do cardio" has no real proof to back it up so far as I am concerned. "

People aren't saying JUST DO CARDIO like it's all you should do. They are saying IF YOU JUST DO CARDIO YOU WON'T LOSE MUSCLE MASS. That is fact. You won't lose muscle mass just doing cardio. Some people don't have access to special machines and weights and all that and they can and do lose weight just walking and running. You can't tell me everyone who ever has lost weight has to have done strength (not weight) training just to lose weight. That's ridiculous.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 3:53 PM

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BTW 11:37. you do realize that ANOTHER bodybuilding website. How about a reference that isn't from people trying to look like the Hulk? Just asking because I know I was told by a body builder that I shouldn't work out at all like her.

Monday, December 21, 2009, 3:57 PM

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Articles from non-bodybuilding websites? There WERE some above. Why am I the only one providing any proof in the form of studies etc here?

By the way, just because it's on a body building web site doesn't mean it's written for hulk-ish guys. It's written by a woman who is a personal trainer of fat people like you and me. :)

But anyway here's another:

This article references a lot of scientific studies on the topic. If nothing else it should tell you that cardio is a cornerstone of fat loss as it increases your resting metabolism more than cardio.

No.. you wouldn't work-out like your friend. She's a bodybuilder and presumably that's not what you want. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't lift weights. You won't look like a hulk by doing weights as a woman very easily. Men have to work really hard to put on muscle. Women have to work harder. I've seen hundreds of women at the gym who lift weights and they're not hulkish. I have one friend who is a female bodybuilder however and her workout is VERY different than other typical women.

For one thing to gain muscle a woman body builder would do lower reps. For weight loss, muscle maintenance, and toning you would do higher reps. That and the fact that you are operating on a calorie deficit means you will not gain big bulky muscles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 11:27 AM

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and why not more..

As far as I'm concerned their's two threads going on here. One does cardio alone burn muscle. And the other is which is a better fat loss regime cardio or cardio+strength training.

If you have access to scientific publications here's another by Kramer, Volek et al.

"Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men."

"Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).

The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn't result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone."

Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss. However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 11:32 AM

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Excuse you @11:27. You may be fat but do not include me or anyone else here in that statement. You don't know what anyone here looks like so don't include people in your statements like that. It's rude, uncalled for, and ignorant.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 12:15 PM

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Sorry! Wasn't mean to be rude. Meant to be funny.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009, 12:45 PM

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Given how flabby all the biggest loser 'winners' and people are, I'd definitely say the strength training is very important and that calorie restriction and doing a lot of cardio doesn't help you keep muscle mass. I'd rather be my solid size 12, than the flabby 6's that many of those women are.

Friday, January 01, 2010, 9:26 PM

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PP ~ Your confusing muscle mass and fat. The Biggest Loser contestants are not losing muscle mass, they are losing fat and cellulite. Cardio won't cause you to lose muscle.

Friday, January 01, 2010, 11:47 PM

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most of them are all flab, so they have very little muscle mass. If they were hauling around 300lbs on their frames, they had more muscle mass than they do as those super flabby 150-200lb people. Where did it go?

Saturday, January 02, 2010, 12:20 AM

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Wow, what a kafuffle this thread is causing!

Just wanted to put my two pennies in from my own personal experience... for years I just did cardio and ate healthily.. I lost weight. I don't know scientifically if I lost muscle mass or not but I know that I wasn't strong, I could run 25kms on a good day but I couldn't do fifty squats without wanting to die!

Now, through looking at sites like PT and reading about health and fitness I've changed the way I exercise. My eating is the same but now I do strength training as well as my cardio (which I've had to cut down on to fit it all in) and I feel so strong and fast too! My running has improved, my overall fitness, my shape.. why would you NOT want that???

My final word.. do both, keep your body and your mind interested in what you're doing.

Saturday, January 02, 2010, 1:19 AM

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