How many calories are burned by one pound of muscle each day?

Muscle is metabolically active tissue that requires energy to be maintained. The number of calories burned by muscle at rest is often estimated to be around 6 calories per pound per day. However, the exact amount can vary based on several factors.

What factors affect calories burned by muscle?

The main factors that influence calories burned by muscle include:

  • Amount of muscle mass – More muscle mass equals more calories burned at rest.
  • Muscle fiber type – Type II muscle fibers burn more calories than Type I fibers.
  • Age – Younger people tend to burn more calories per pound of muscle.
  • Sex – Men tend to burn more calories per pound of muscle than women.
  • Activity level – Active individuals burn more calories for the same amount of muscle.
  • Diet – Calorie and macronutrient intake can impact muscle metabolism.
  • Genetics – Some people are genetically predisposed to having a faster metabolism.

These factors interact in complex ways to determine the exact calories burned per pound of muscle. However, the average is estimated to be around 6 calories.

What is the research on calories burned per pound of muscle?

Several research studies have aimed to quantify the relationship between muscle mass and resting energy expenditure (calories burned at rest):

  • A study in 1996 found resting energy expenditure to be 8.8 calories per pound of muscle in young men.[1]
  • A study in 2002 reported values ranging from 5.29-8.63 calories per pound in men and women of different ages.[2]
  • A meta-analysis in 2001 concluded that increasing muscle mass by 1 kg (2.2 lbs) increases resting energy expenditure by approximately 21 calories per day.[3]

Based on these and other studies, most experts conclude that each pound of muscle burns between 5-7 calories per day at rest. However, the amount can go up to 8-10 calories for more metabolically active muscle tissue.

Does the calories per pound estimate account for all muscle effects?

The commonly cited estimate of ~6 calories per pound of muscle is specifically referring to the calories used for muscle maintenance at rest. However, muscle also impacts total daily energy expenditure in other ways:

  • Physical activity – Muscle powers all physical movement, so more muscle allows more calories to be burned through activity and exercise.
  • Increased basal metabolism – More muscle raises your basal metabolic rate, so you burn more calories around the clock.
  • Dietary thermogenesis – Muscle increases the energy cost of digesting, absorbing and metabolizing food.

So the 6 calorie per pound number does not fully encapsulate all the ways muscle increases daily energy expenditure. The effect is larger when accounting for activity, basal metabolism and dietary thermogenesis.

What is the energy requirement for muscle maintenance?

Maintaining skeletal muscle is energetically expensive for the body. Some key facts about the energy needs of muscle tissue at rest:

  • Up to 30% of basal metabolic rate can be attributed to maintaining muscle mass.[4]
  • Protein turnover (synthesis and breakdown) uses 8-15% of daily calorie expenditure.[5]
  • Ion transport processes use 5-15% of resting metabolism in muscle.[6]
  • Muscle protein breakdown is a constant ATP-dependent process.[7]

In total, the minimum maintenance cost for muscle is estimated to be around 200-300 kcal per kg of muscle (90-140 kcal/lb) per day. Higher protein diets and activity levels can make it even greater.

How many extra calories are burned for each pound of muscle gained?

Gaining muscle leads to an increase in calories burned each day. Estimates for the additional energy expenditure per pound of muscle gained include:

  • One study found a 50 kcal increase per pound gained over a 4 month period.[8]
  • Another study estimated the gain as 13 kcal per pound over an average of 63 days.[9]
  • A review reported muscle gaining programs increase RMR by 7-8 kcal/lb of muscle.[10]

However, these estimates represent the measured metabolic rate after the muscle is gained. The energy cost to initially synthesize and accrue that muscle mass is estimated to be around 600 kcal per pound.[11] So gaining muscle requires a large energy investment upfront.

How does muscle mass normally change with age?

Muscle mass normally decreases with age after adulthood:

  • Age 19-50: 0-1% loss per year
  • Age 50-80: 1-2% loss per year
  • After age 80: 2% or more loss per year

In real terms, this leads to a gradual loss of 3-8 pounds of muscle mass per decade in adulthood depending on activity level. Some degree of loss is inevitable, but staying active can slow the rate of decline.

What are the effects of muscle loss as we age?

Losing muscle mass with age leads to several negative effects:

  • Decreased strength – Makes daily tasks more difficult.
  • Reduced mobility – Increases risk of falls and fractures.
  • Lower metabolism – Promotes fat gain and weight creep.
  • Higher risk of mortality – Being undermuscled predicts earlier death.
  • Poorer quality of life – Impacts functional independence.

Fortunately, staying active and engaging in strength training can slow muscle loss substantially, allowing you to stay strong and vital into older age.

What is the optimal amount of muscle mass?

There are no strict guidelines for the ideal amount of muscle mass. However general recommendations based on health and function include:

  • Men – 17-24% body fat, 38-45% muscle mass[12]
  • Women – 25-31% body fat, 30-40% muscle mass[13]
  • Strength training 2-3 times per week for major muscle groups
  • Engaging in regular physical activity

Aim for a lean and toned physique. Very high or very low levels of muscle mass tend to be associated with poor health and functioning.

What strategies can increase muscle mass?

The main strategies to boost muscle mass include:

  • Progressive resistance training – Lift challenging weights and progress over time.
  • High protein intake – Eat 0.5-0.8 g per pound of bodyweight daily.
  • Calorie surplus – Consume more calories than you burn.
  • Adequate sleep – Get 7-9 hours per night for muscle growth.
  • Manage stress – Keep cortisol under control.

Following a well-designed training program while eating enough calories and protein can help maximize your muscle building potential.

What are the benefits of building muscle?

Some of the major benefits of building muscle include:

  • Increased strength – Perform daily tasks more easily.
  • Higher metabolism – Burn more calories round the clock.
  • Improved mobility – Move with less risk of injury.
  • Reduced mortality risk – Being muscular is linked to living longer.
  • Enhanced quality of life – Preserve independence into old age.
  • Better body composition – Lower body fat percentage.

Gaining muscle makes daily life easier, helps manage body weight, reduces injury risk and allows you to stay active and independent as you age.


Research suggests each pound of muscle burns 5-10 calories per day at rest. However, muscle’s benefits extend far beyond just boosting resting energy expenditure. It also allows you to be more active, improves your body composition, helps you to live longer and enhances quality of life. Engaging in strength training and maintaining a protein-rich diet can help maximize and preserve your muscle mass as you age.

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