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 the best way to lose weight per se.
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.
What is Basal Metabolism?
On a daily basis, at the same time that 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 exercise 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.
The Key to Burning Calories = Balance
So, what are you going to do if you can’t lift yourself into growing a lot of muscle and creating a huge calorie deficit (which is essential to weight loss)? 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 downward shift in your metabolism, so a gradual approach to resetting your eating habits is usually better.
2. Drink Lots of Water
Drinking water can suppress your appetite, and it also burns calories (especially cold water, because the body has to work hard to heat it up). Water is necessary to burn fat.
3. Have a Varied Exercise Routine
Creating variety in your fitness regimen is key to weight loss. The main idea is that you want to surprise your body and break out of routine as much as possible to build muscle and burn calories in new ways. And 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.
Make sure to add little things to your daily routine wherever you can get it. For example, 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.
The Bottom Line: Exclusively Resistance Training Isn't Always Enough to Lose Fat
Weight training alone is not always enough to burn your desired amount of calories. Activities that vary your routine not only prep you for your next race, but also keep your metabolism in good form.
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