Does Increasing Muscle Mass Increase Metabolism? What Does the Science Say?

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Before we get into the nitty-gritty, we need to understand what metabolism actually is. Metabolism is the rate in which your body processes what you have eaten. Various dictionaries define it as “the bodily processes required to sustain life”. Often today, we hear the word associated with weight issues. Many a person struggling to lose weight has complained of a “slow metabolism” as the reason they can’t shed those extra pounds. Sure there’s some truth in that statement, but there are other elements that play a bigger part with weight loss, than your metabolism. This leads to the question, does increasing muscle mass increase metabolism? 

Boosting your metabolism

If you’re in the game to lose some pounds, and you’re one of those who’ve realized you have a “slow metabolism”, there is a way to boost it. When we’re on a weight-loss program, we often reach a stage where we cannot seem to lose anything, no matter what we do. This is referred to as hitting a plateau. The key to getting past this plateau is to boost your metabolism. 

As we mentioned previously, metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) we burn during the day. But you don’t only burn calories while exercising, you also burn them when you’re watching TV, or checking social media, even while you’re sleeping. This is known as “resting metabolic rate”. Now, when you increase muscle mass, you actually boost your resting metabolism, which allows your body to burn more calories. 

This sounds perfect for the non-exercising types, BUT, it’s the very reason why exercising is highly encouraged when trying to lose weight. You don’t have to become a gym bunny to build muscle mass, although that would help you get there faster. Any sort of strength training will aid you to increase your muscle mass, including weights, abdominal crunches, or even push-ups. Every time you build up strength, you will lose weight, according to experts.

Strengthen your body

Yoga or Pilates classes are an excellent form of strength training that will definitely help you increase muscle mass. Pilates concentrates on strengthening your body’s core, and some yoga forms do the same thing. Weight training should essentially be done twice per week. But it’s not recommended to use carrying weights, such as an ankle weight while going for a stroll. They could cause some joint damage and should be used only when you’re stood still.

The best calorie burner is cardio workouts. Whether you’re running, hiking, dancing, doing aerobics or even kickboxing, get that heart rate going and you’ll start beating that plateau! Of course, you shouldn’t push yourself to do something you don’t enjoy, because then you’ll do it once or twice and give up. Find an exercise you can do and have fun with, and you’ll build muscle mass even quicker.

Does anything affect your metabolism?

Most definitely there are things that will have an effect, and as everyone is different, so is everybody’s metabolism. It has been noted that some medications can either speed up your metabolism or even slow it down. Speeding it up sounds intriguing because that’s what you want, but it has to be very carefully monitored as it can be dangerous.

Make sure you’re eating the most important meal of the day, every day! Breakfast wakes your body up, as well as your metabolism. And no, that doesn’t mean just a cup of coffee! Use it as an excuse to get that delicious avocado toast we all love!

Quick weight-loss, which makes you feel incredible, slows down your metabolism. This is because you’re smaller now, and your body needs less energy to function. So basically you no longer need as many calories per day. You can either reduce your daily calorie intake or get in an extra gym session to keep those calories burning.

Some genetics and medical conditions, like thyroid issues, can have an effect, but these are best discussed with your doctor and/or a nutritionist.

One factor none of us can avoid is aging. It’s normal to gain fat and lose muscle as we get older. Also, bodily changes in some people result in them becoming less active, like a grandma with her arthritic knees. But it doesn’t have to be like that. For example, you can go for more leisurely strolls to compensate for a slower metabolism.

Preserving muscle mass

Vital to all diet programs is the preservation of your lean muscle mass. As we have established, muscle boosts your metabolism and gives your body tone and definition. Avoid diets that call for starving yourself. This will result in wasting all your muscle mass and a decline of your resting metabolism, which you need to keep up to burn those calories. Sustaining your hard-worked for muscle mass is especially important as we get older, because of the natural slowing of our metabolism.

So, does increasing muscle mass increase metabolism?

According to various reports, yes it does. But, there is a catch. While it does boost metabolism, it’s not really all that significant a boost. Some studies have shown that every pound of muscle burns approximately 4-7 calories a day. So, what does this mean? If you want to burn 100 calories extra, then you need to add 10 - 20 lbs of muscle. And that’s not really possible in the short term. It’s not all doom and gloom though, because you’re still being active and burning those calories, you’re just not boosting your resting metabolism by major amounts. As you continue to strive to get a good mass muscle, you’re improving your body all the time! You’ll find you will be stronger and will be able to do more reps, which will result in you burning more calories faster. 

Final thoughts

So, while building more muscle mass on its own will not help burn more calories, it will help you “work more and work better”, which is what WILL burn the calories. Don’t focus on building muscle mass to boost your metabolism, and end up being disappointed. Focus on the positives and that you are doing an incredible job of working on your body and all-round health.

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