Does Having Muscle Burn More Fat?

Imagine your body as an engine. Now, every engine requires fuel to run, right? Your body’s fuel comes from the food you eat, which provides calories. The thing is, different parts of the engine use fuel at different rates. In the context of our bodies, muscle is like a part of the engine that’s always slightly on, even when you’re at rest. It’s constantly burning fuel just to maintain itself.

On the other hand, fat doesn’t require as much energy to maintain. So if you have more muscle compared to someone else of the same weight who has more fat, you’ll naturally burn more calories even when you’re not doing anything. This means that over time, just by having more muscle, you’ll have a slight advantage in burning off any excess calories or fat.

Moreover, when you engage in activities, muscles play a big role. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn during exercises or even everyday activities.

So, in essence, while it’s not like having more muscle instantly melts fat away, it does give you a metabolic edge. It makes your “engine” run a bit hotter, making it easier for you to use up more fuel, which in turn can help in burning fat.

Let’s take a deeper look into why this is the case.

1. Higher Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest to maintain basic bodily functions such as breathing, circulation, and cell production. Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. Therefore, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest. This increases your overall daily caloric expenditure, making it easier to create a calorie deficit which is crucial for fat loss.

2. Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption

Also known as the “afterburn” effect, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is the increase in oxygen intake following strenuous activity. This process helps the body restore itself to a resting state and adapt to the exercise just performed. More intense exercise that engages muscles, like strength training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), elevates EPOC, meaning you’ll continue to burn calories at a heightened rate long after you’ve finished working out.

3. Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Having more muscle improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This means that your muscles become more efficient at taking in glucose from the bloodstream, using it either for immediate energy or storing it as glycogen. An improved insulin response not only reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes but also aids in preventing excessive fat storage, especially in the abdominal region.

4. Increased Fat Oxidation

Engaging in resistance training and building muscle can increase your body’s ability to oxidize fat. This means that your body becomes more efficient at using fat as a source of energy, both during exercise and at rest.

5. Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)

Diet-induced thermogenesis, or the thermic effect of feeding, refers to the energy required to process and store food. Protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth, has a higher thermic effect compared to fats and carbohydrates. This means that as you focus on building and maintaining muscle (and consequently consume more protein), you burn more calories during the digestion process.

6. Muscle’s Role in Fat Mobilization

Lipolysis is the process by which fats are broken down in the body. Certain hormones stimulate this process, and these hormones are more effectively released during muscle contraction. Hence, an active muscular system can lead to more efficient fat mobilization and usage.