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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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