How Many Calories in a Pound of Muscle? The Surprising Answer


It’s a common assumption that muscle weighs more than fat, and many people cite this as the reason for their weight.

Yet what is the truth about muscle, how many calories will you find in a single pound?

One pound of muscle is approximately 700 calories. However, it’s not as simple as increasing your caloric intake by 700 calories to build muscle mass. You will need to eat north of 2000 calories more per week to see an increase in muscle gain.

Gaining muscle is a topic many people are interested in, but not many people know much about it.

That’s because it’s a complicated issue that’s easy to oversimplify.

It would be easy to assume that just because there are 700 calories in a pound of muscle that you’d only need to eat a surplus of 700 calories in order to build a pound of muscle.

But that’s not true.

When you put on weight in the form of muscle, your body consumes even more energy to store calories and so you actually need to eat a lot more than 700 calories to lock in the extra muscle.

One of the best ways to gain muscle is to gradually increase your caloric intake over time, so that your daily intake ends up being 200-300 calories more than what you currently consume.

In this guide we’ll take a look at the relationship between muscle and calories closely so you can draw your own conclusions about muscle gain and loss.

How Fast Does Muscle Burn Calories?

It’s often said that muscle burns calories faster than fat.

But is this really the case, and if so, what does that mean for weight loss goals?

Well, in short, it’s true that muscle burns calories faster than fat. This means that if you want to put yourself on the right track for accelerating weight loss then you’d be well-served to build muscle first.

How many calories does a pound of muscle burn?

Specifically, a pound of muscle will burn 6-7 calories every day at rest.

So does muscle burn more calories than fat?

Yes, a pound of fat burns three times less than a pound of muscle.

So that means everybody trying to lose weight should run to the gym and lift weights then, right?

Well, yes, but the effects might not be quite as drastic as some would have you believe.

In the muscle vs fat calorie burn debate, muscle definitely comes out on top, but it isn’t a miracle solution unfortunately.

There’s no doubt that packing on muscle can indeed speed up the weight loss process, but it isn’t going to make you shed pounds of fat overnight. It’s still a slow process, but one which has the edge over aerobic exercise.

The best thing about strength training is that it can also bring about afterburn – which is a state in which your body will continue to burn calories hours after you’ve completed your workout.

How Many Calories Should You Eat?

Now comes the all-important questions for those looking to build muscle: how many calories do you need to consume?

Well, the exact figure is going to depend on what your goals are as well as what your current body composition looks like.

While one person might need to eat as many as 4000 calories a day to see an increase in muscle mass, another will be fine eating 2500 calories.

It will also depend on how intense your strength training routine is, and how many days a week you commit to working out.

There are many theories out there as to what a good formula to follow is to calculate how many calories you need to consume to pack on muscle mass.

Here’s an example of a popular formula:

Take your current weight e.g 200lbs and multiply it by 20 (the number of calories per pound of body weight it takes to build muscle). In this case, it comes out as 4000 calories that is necessary to see muscle gain.

How to Avoid Muscle Loss

A surefire way to lose muscle mass you’ve developed is to be at a caloric deficit.

That means that you are taking on board less calories than your body usually consumes, which will result in overall weight loss.

To gain muscle, as we’ve already established, you need to increase your overall caloric intake so it makes sense that doing the opposite would lead to the loss of muscle mass.

Generally speaking, it can take up to 12 months for you to lose muscle mass if you are cutting back on calories. While this sounds like a long time that you won’t be losing muscle, you really don’t want to risk losing muscles if you can help it.

As a rule of thumb, the average women should eat close to 1,600 calories every day while the average man should consume 2,400 calories. These figures will depend on a variety of factors though such as fitness goals, body composition, and more.

As such, if you’re a man and you’re eating less than 2,000 calories, there’s a strong chance that you’re at a caloric deficit which will result in gradual muscle loss. 

In order to avoid the loss of muscle, there are several things you can do.

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean you lose all your muscle, too. In fact, it’s possible to both build muscle and lose fat at the same time if you take the right approach.

To pull this off, the best thing to do is make sure you’re hitting the weights room regularly while you try to lose weight. Studies show that operating at a caloric deficit and living a sedentary lifestyle will lead to weight and muscle loss over time.

Yet if you have a slight caloric deficit but work hard in the gym several times per week you can hold onto your muscles as you gradually start to lose weight.

Another great way to retain your muscle mass is to figure out how much protein you need to consume to fuel the muscles.

As with calories, there is a generally agreed upon formula for calculating how much protein you should aim to eat in a day for muscle growth:

Eat 1g of protein (some say 0.7g and others say 0.8g) for every pound of bodyweight.

For example, if you weigh 180lbs, then some would say you need to eat approximately 180g protein in order to consistently gain muscle and speed up recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions About Calories in Muscle

How many calories does 1 pound of muscle burn a day?

A single pound of muscle will burn approximately six calories every day while resting, whereas a pound of fat burns closer to two calories.

This means that muscle is more metabolically active while at rest than fat is.

The conclusion you can draw from this information is that developing muscle is a more effective strategy for losing weight than just aerobic exercise and cardio.

How many calories should I eat a day to put on muscle?

This is a tough question to answer since it depends on your current weight and height. 

However, it’s generally thought that the majority of people will need to consume 20 calories for every pound of weight in order to develop muscle.

That means that if you weigh 200lbs, you’re going to need to eat a staggering 4000 calories in order to build muscle mass.

Is muscle heavier than fat?

Many people like to claim that the reason they weigh what they do is due to an abundance of muscle, as opposed to fat.

However, studies show that muscle weighs more or less the same as fat.

As such, a pound of fat and a pound of muscle are equal, though it is true that muscle is more dense than fat.

A Final Word From Energetic Lifestyle

There are around 700 calories in a single pound of muscle, though this isn’t the whole story.

Every pound of muscle will burn 6-7 calories at rest, but will require a caloric surplus of at least 2000 or so to build.

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Energetic Lifestyle Team

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