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Recently we received the following question from a reader: “I’ve always thought that adding muscle speeds up your metabolism. But then I read this isn’t correct. So what’s the truth: Does increasing your muscle mass really increase your metabolism?” -Phil, Vancouver

For as long as I can remember, a lot of people have believed that for every 1 pound of muscle you gain, your body burns an additional 50 calories. On paper, this sounds awesome. But unfortunately, it’s not true.

How Does Muscle Mass Affect Metabolism?

The answer is “yes, but not by a whole lot.”

Research shows that every pound of hard-earned muscle burns about an additional 4-7 calories per day. Translation: if you wanted to burn 100 calories extra per day, then you need to add a solid 10-20 pounds of muscle to your body — and that’s a lot of muscle.

But Here’s The Good News

The ever-wise Dean Somerset wrote a great post on why this seemingly depressing news can be a bit deceiving. Let’s start with basics: even if you were able to add 10 to 20 pounds of muscle (and that would take you years, not months, to do), that extra 100 calories burned per day still wouldn’t give you “the fat-burning capabilities of a furnace on high in Phoenix in July.” But gaining that muscle would still be very helpful for your body — and your fat loss goals.

More Muscle Moving Means More Calories Burned Faster

While the caloric burn of a single pound of muscle at rest is very much overstated, the work you’d need to do in order to build that muscle would still create positive changes for your body. And then, as Somerset goes on to explain, when the now-more-muscular you exercises, you’d be able to burn more calories faster.

So the big outline of this is that adding muscle mass on its own won’t help you to burn a lot of calories, but can help you to do more work, which is what will actually burn more calories,” Somerset writes.

So, Does Muscle Increase Metabolism?

While adding more muscle doesn’t speed up your metabolism as much as you’d like, don’t overstress the impact on your baseline metabolism. Instead, realize that there are many good reasons to exercise and add more muscle (and drop fat) as a means to being healthier and looking better.

Matt Sills