Gaining Muscle Mass is NOT the Best Way to Burn Body Fat

August 24, 2007

Is Gaining Muscle Mass a Good Strategy for Fat Loss?

There is a huge myth going around that gaining muscle is the best way to burn body fat and stay lean in the long run. This is a really trendy thing to say right now. Go into almost any gym and you will hear a personal trainer tell their client “You have to work on building more muscle, because then your body will burn more calories each day…leading to fat loss”.

attractive body

(Just two attractive people to “draw you into” the article…”Read more so you can look like us!”…LOL!)

Gaining Muscle is a VERY Inefficient Way to Lose Body Fat

For each pound of lean muscle that you gain, you will burn an extra 12 calories per day. If you gained 10 pounds of lean muscle mass, you would burn an extra 120 calories throughout the day (note: I’m talking 10 pounds of ‘lean’ muscle…most people would have to gain 15 pounds to build 10 pounds of fat free muscle).

Burn Body Fat 10 Times Quicker With Diet and Cardio

A tough cardio workout can easily burn 600 calories. If you reduced you daily intake of calories by 600, then the total calorie deficit would be 1,200 calories…this is 10 times the calorie burning effect that a 10 pound muscle gain had. Here is an amazingly effective cardio workout that I’ve used for the past few years: An Aerobic Workout Program That Forces Your Body to Burn Fat

Too Much Muscle Can Ruin the Look of Your Physique

Yeah…I’m completely against the idea of gaining a bunch of muscle…especially for women! The ideal look for a woman is toned with just a hint of muscle…kind of like the women on the cover of Shape Magazine. If you gain too much muscle, you may be asked to model for the cover of Flex Magazine…that is a terrible look! Too much muscle looks cheesy on guys as well…ask any woman.

Note: If you do want to gain muscle quickly because you are skinny, here is a great article: How to Gain Weight Fast

Summary: If you want to gain muscle, then work on gaining muscle. If you want to burn body fat, then diet and cardio is the way to go!

best way to burn body fat

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

FitClubScott August 24, 2007 at 3:25 pm

Dude, that chick could use a sandwich!

Don’t get me wrong, given a shot, I’d be all over it like white on rice, but I like my women to be at least a little north of 80 lbs.

It’s tough to be shapely when you’re skin and bones, unless the shape you’re going for is a stick.

Great point about strength training not being the best way to burn fat. Nutrition and diet is the number one issue for most people looking to find that hidden six pack. No matter how much aerobic exercise you do, you can’t “out-cardio” a Big Mac habit. It’s sooo much easier to not eat those calories than it is to burn them off.

admin August 24, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Yeah…she is probably a bit thin…but skinny girls need love to, LOL! I mainly put her picture up there because she has beautiful skin and hair. I’m a sucker for the dark-haired tan girls.

I completely agree with your comment about diet…I like the way you put it…”out cardio” a Big Mac habit…totally spot on!

Note: To all the women reading this…Scott has a good point. The woman in the picture is rail thin. This probably isn’t the ideal size to shoot for.

Another Note: If the actual woman in the picture reads this…please contact me immediately, as I would love to have children with you. Scott isn’t attracted to you, so hang with someone who appreciates your beauty!


Angie August 25, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Yea I agree..she needs a little more meat on her bones.

Totally agree..cardio to lose fat. I did some experimenting and tried to build muscle and lose fat…doesn’t work at same time. I did build some muscle..but losing the fat didn’t work so well. Now its time to hit the HIIT cardio and lose some fat!

Great blog by the way! 😉

admin August 25, 2007 at 9:39 pm


You have a great blog!

Note to readers…Angie has a blog that her and her friend Carmel regularly post to. It is a blog focusing specifically on Women’s Diet and Fitness.

I like it because I think she gives much better advice than most women’s magazines.

Make sure and check it out and leave a few comments for her. Also signup for her free newsletter.

Good Stuff!


john September 17, 2007 at 12:23 am

I highly doubt both of these models walk around like this on a daily basis. I am sure they hover a few body fat % points over what you see in the picture then slowly ease into this temporary state of low bodyfat…combine it with airbrushing and good photography and you have a beautiful fantasy to sell.

admin September 17, 2007 at 1:09 am

I’m kind of a sucker for dark-haired girls. I enjoy going traveling to Mexico for this reason alone…LOL!


Jenny January 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm

So…. I am 5’4 and weigh 146. I want to loose 10-15 pounds (that was my main goal) so I shouldn’t be lifting weights?

rob January 16, 2008 at 1:23 pm

yea you may burn more calories during a cardio workout vs. resistance workout, but the EPOC of a resistance workout is much more (=more calories burned). and you said cut 600 calories out of a diet? okay, how about a 130 pound women trying to lose weight. If you cut 600 cals out of her daily intake, which is prob low already, shes gonna be starving herself. When you cut out a lot of calories you lose weight in the short run (fat AND lean mass), but eventually your body will go into starvation mode (hang onto as much fat as possible, store fat easier, mess with hormone levels).

I’ve trained a lot of people and I have seen incredible results with weight training. and unless your eating in a caloric surplus each day your not going to bulk up. and women who are scared that they will bulk up shouldn’t worry because 1.) if they eat their daily allowance of cals they wont get bigger and 2.) they don’t produce enough testosterone to build substantial muscle.

The one thing i will give you is that your treadmill routine is good for fat loss compared to the average gym goer who walks at a snails pace and reads a magazine for an hour and claims to have worked out.

If you want to look at a women who has embraced weight training and i think has the ideal womens physique, look at jessica biel, not SHAPE cover models.

To jenny…definitely lift weights. not only will you look better, but there are so many other benefits, especially for women (prevent osteoperosis). and don’t necessarily go by the scale, muscle weighs more than fat so you may be losing fat but the scale will read the same since you are putting on muscle. its better to use some old jeans to gauge your progress.

wrap-up: resistance training IS better for fat loss than steady-state cardio, but diet is still the most important factor

admin January 16, 2008 at 1:37 pm


I actually think that most women would LOVE to look like the cover models of SHAPE magazine. I think those women look outstanding and that really is the type of physique that I push with this site. You have a slightly different viewpoint than me and that is cool. I believe in resistance exercise, just less so than most.


Sorry I missed your question and left you hanging. I believe in a workout centered around cardio with a bit of resistance training. Some people believe it should be the other way around. It really depends upon the look you are trying to achieve.


rob January 16, 2008 at 2:29 pm

one more point, im sure you know the principle of progressive overload. in order to progress in cardio exercise you must either increase speed or time. at some point in increasing speed you will be working anaerobically (without oxygen). now you can just workout longer, but who really wants to be on a treadmill for 2 hours. the problem with cardio is people will plateau rather quickly and they won’t continue to see changes in their body. then the usual scenario happens…they stop going to the gym.

with resistance training there are numerous ways to progress workouts: more reps, more sets, shorter rest intervals, increase weights, barbell vs. dumbbell vs. machine vs. sandbag vs. resistance bands, finish set in shorter time, and there are endless numbers of resistance exercises. a person with a good program can always progress with resistance training avoiding the dreaded plateau.

heres a resistance routine to try, it won’t build huge muscles, doesn’t use heavy weights, but i guarantee it will have you breathing harder than any traditional cardio work, this routine will keep your metabolic rate up for hours and hours:

grab barbell with a 10 on each side (65 lbs total), perform exercises with no rest in between (women can use lighter weights, dumbbells will work too):

10 romanian deadlifts
10 bent over rows
10 hang cleans
10 front squats
10 push presses
10 lunges, each leg, with barbell on back

rest 2-3 minutes, repeat 3x

some quick math here, 70 reps x 3 sets = 210 reps x 65 lbs= 13650 lbs

Thats almost 14000 pounds moved in a workout, and i guarantee you won’t feel bulky after and it wont take you too long to do

try to work up to doing this 6-8 times in a workout, by the time you can do this 8 times your body will be looking very lean

admin January 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm


Great stuff buddy! I am sweating just looking at the workout. I know Craig Ballantyne has a similar routine with bodyweight exercises with Turbulence Training, but I like it that you have a barbell involved. I’ve tried circuit training many times, but they aren’t realistic in most cases since you have to hop between 5-10 pieces of equipment. Yours is very practical and it looks effective as well.

Great alternative or supplement to an intense cardio routine.



PS: I just sent you an e-mail

Chim May 9, 2008 at 4:40 am

I NEED HELP! I have thick/fat thighs and butt. I WANT TO SLIM THEM DOWN. All my dancing and excersising seemed to even make them bigger. I can’t fit into my jeans anymore…it seems i’ve only made them bigger.

admin May 10, 2008 at 8:40 pm


Avoid all leg lifts altogether and hit cardio hard. Avoid anything that “pumps” the muscles in the leg. The ideal cardio would be on a treadmill. Stick to this gameplan and over a period of time your legs and butt will slim down substantially.


mike July 22, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Umm, this is gonna be a little weird cause im a guy.

But that girl in the pic is Jaslene Gonzalez from season eight America’s Next Top Model. And in that picture she wasn’t even a super model yet :O.

josh January 19, 2009 at 1:27 am

Rob hit the nail on the head no need to say more.

Anna January 23, 2009 at 2:22 am

Hi Rusty, I have a question for you then. For someone like me who is about 20% body fat (age 27, height 5’4″), a lot of people say that I look too skinny. I’m going for a healthier look and not the skinny model, anorexic look. So, I’m wondering which direction I should go – fat loss or muscle mass?

Just a little confused 🙂

James March 17, 2009 at 5:09 am

i’m trying to lose about 30 lbs of fat….i used to be pretty skinny 170 lbs to be exact, im 6’3 around 220 lbs now….i want to get down to around 190, i used to play basketball in highschool i’m 19 goin on 20….and because of the recent 2 year gain in fat i have been having trouble running, legs hurting a little bit, should i just try to push through it or should i play it by how my body feels, i’d like to lose the weight in about 2-3 months….any tips? mayb a running program?

arabiangenie March 18, 2009 at 4:23 pm

ok im realli pissd off coz i been workin out for da past two months an im nearly a uk size 10 bu im bulkyyy an i cnt fit dem coz dre too tight all becoz i workout tuff an gained muscle help :(:( shall i eat soup for a month to lose da muscle?????

arabiangenie March 18, 2009 at 4:25 pm

oh an btwww i onli did cardio such as treadmill, cross trainer, bike an stepper were did i go wrong i neva did weight liftingg an im still musclyy :(:(

Andy May 9, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Well you’re correct on gaining muscle mass in and of itself being ineffective for losing a significant and noticeable amount of fat, but this article is very misleading…to the max. The act of strength training and weight training itself can make you lose a lot of fat. Weight training IS the best way to lose fat if you train hard enough to tax the metabolic system hard. If the rest periods are generous but still relatively short like 60 sec, the actual weight training can significantly burn calories, jack up HGH and testosterone, and your metabolism for 2 days, which is going to turn you into a fat burning machine (given the diet is right.) The gaining muscle part is another nice side effect of the weight training, but so will be the lowered bodyfat.

Andy May 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Follow up to last comment: I should have mentioned that this works great with the biggest and hardest exercises. Squats, deadlifts, clean and presses, chins, dips…I know you’re against squatting and deadlifting. If anyone else is too for rusty’s given reasons then just do front squats and some other posterior chain exercise that won’t build up your hips and glutes…reverse hypers maybe. October 20, 2009 at 7:34 pm

It is always fun to find a good buy. I am on my second bottle of the Dr. Max Powers Testosterone Boost….its Tribulus supplements….

I am really amazed at how it has helped me. I am finding that I am developing muscle mass much easier than I used to. Without a lot of exercise, it looks like I have actually been working out a lot. I have also found that my back muscles feel a lot better after regular and heavy lifting. I carried a large tv uspstairs, with the help of a friend. I had to grab it down low, over and over again with each step, and I was at the top end so I really had to bend. I was sure my back with be very soar for a few days but suprisingly, my back muscles recovered very quickly and I wasnt even soar the next day.

I also find myself less nervous talking to people in general. I attribute this to the Tribulus as I am convinced that it has restored my natural levels where they had been lacking. I am a huge fan and will continue with the Dr. Max Powers brand.

brittany June 27, 2010 at 2:50 am

she’s from america’s next top model haha this is a shoot they did on the show with tyra

Signe - mini stepper July 21, 2010 at 5:32 am

well, I personally love the way she looks on that photo, another thing is how she looks in real life..!! I worked with a model once, and she look destunning on photos but in real life she was nothing but bones.. couldn´t get a boyfriend or just a flirt.. What I mean is, that I may have a few pounds too much on the side, but my love life is great and if the weight is getting a bit out of control I use my stepper AND NOT MUSCLETRAINING:-)

Mallory August 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Wow. Just wow…
I find it very unfortunate that you and the rest of the world seems to find emaciated women to be attractive. Tell me why should women care what “society” wants them to look like?? Quite personally, I find muscle on women to be attractive myself which is why I regularly partake in muscle training and muscle confusion. In fact, if you actually did your homework, you too would realize that it is and only is muscle training which promotes lifelong health and weightloss; something that cardio and diet alone is uncapeable of. It creates a metabolism in which muscle eats your fat. And you know what the best part is? You dont have to STARVE yourself. Sounds like a done deal to me. I must give you and the rest of the media credit for doing such a good job at spreading your lies and keeping women down. Thanks and way to go!!! (with much sarcasm)

Trevor Gardner August 31, 2010 at 4:23 am

This really does work. I am not into over exercise but the combination of dedication, determination, correct eating and exercise does work on that fat.

David @ The Natural Health Service March 8, 2012 at 4:01 am

Yes, you hear it a lot “gaining muscle will help you burn fat”. Well, as you say, it will, but not much. Cardio and diet are what burns fat, but thanks for putting up some exact figures to clarify the issue.

As for the woman in the picture; yes I agree, she’s way too skinny. But the bloke is too in my opinion.

Steffen May 6, 2012 at 4:32 am

Remember, that increasing muscle mass (especially fibre type 1 muscle) has shown to decrease insulin resistance, effectively making your body store less fat. Although this is an increase in calorie burn, it will help you get leaner and slim down, not lose weight, but lose fat in exchange for muscle.

Reece November 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm

A very interesting and helpfull subject
The only problem with dieting and doing cardio to loose weight is that you loose muscle within that weight loss too, is it much worth worrying about? Is it best to diet and do cardio first and then concentrate on building muscle OR vise versa OR could you alternate it?

Kibbie December 3, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I am a 23 year old female and have been lifting weights (with miminal HIIT cardio) for a few years now, and have never been leaner in my life. A lot of it had to do nutrition of course, but the muscle I have put on made me fill out in amazing ways (glutes, for one!). I don’t look bulky by any means, and in clothes, I still look tiny. Lean muscle is tightly packed (as opposed to fat) and gives women a feminine shape, and not just flabby skinny-fat. Also now that my BMR is higher from the added muscle, I can eat a decent amount of (for the most part clean!) food in a day and still retain my leanness easily.

Rodney B. Jackson January 3, 2015 at 6:31 am

I totally agree with you Rusty. I’ve been following a muscle building program more or less for 20 years. Because of this, I’ve never been able to obtain the muscular lean look that I initially went for. Everytime the question of how not to gain too much muscle on these fitness sites, the trainers or expert repeat the mantra that strength training is the best way to lose weight. From experience, I know that this not true. Thanks Rusty for your insight that confirms what I already know.

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