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Building muscle vs Burning fat — which is better?

January 19th, 2024 | 3 min. read

By Jen Azevedo

As we move into January, full of vigor and determination about our New Year resolution, many of us are working hard to get a little more fit. And with that goal, is the wish for a fitter physique.

There are literally hundreds of exercise methods, approaches, and classes to choose from. Researching them all can be exhausting — and confusing. The primary conflict is between the idea of burning fat versus building muscle. 

Do you know which approach is going to be best for you?

The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that offers over 60 group fitness classes each week, plus small group and private training. Our instructors know there is a lot of information available about how to be fit. 

That is why in this article, we will share what building muscle and burning fat mean, the benefits of each, and which fitness method is best for you.

0b075726-9b2f-461f-80d0-81b799195a26Building Muscle 

What does it mean to build muscle when you exercise? 

Muscle growth is referred to as muscle hypertrophy. To experience muscle hypertrophy, you must strengthen your muscles by increasing the intensity of your resistance training.

Resistance training, also known as strength training, is any workout that uses dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. 

What are the benefits of building muscle? 

There are several benefits to building muscle through resistance training.

  • Improves posture
  • Boosts your mood
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Increases brain function
  • Keeps you stronger and more mobile
  • Decreases your risk of falls/injuries
  • Improves your activities of daily living
  • Makes your bones stronger, reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis

crop_comp_weights - Edited (2)How do you build muscle? 

Effort is one of the biggest factors for seeing muscle gains over time. You want to challenge yourself with progressive overload. Progressive overload is the act of gradually increasing the stress placed on the body during physical activity. 

Implement progressive overload by adding weight, increasing reps, or maintaining reps but shortening the time frame to completion.

Eat protein to build muscle. Most bodybuilding experts recommend you eat at least half your body weight in grams of protein. For example, a 140-pound woman should eat a minimum daily protein intake of 70 grams.    

compressedIMG_7026 (1) (5)Burning Fat

What does it mean to burn fat when you exercise? 

Exercising at lower intensities with heart rates of 60% of your MHR (maximum heart rate) or less is typically where you will burn more fat than carbohydrates. 

What are the benefits of burning fat?

Burning fat means our bodies appear more lean and toned with more muscle definition. 

  • Improved heart health
  • Lowers blood pressure 
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Decreases risk of fertility issues
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes

IMG-3549 (1)How do you burn fat? 

You burn fat when you work at lower intensity levels — walking, swimming, hiking, Pilates, barre, and circuit training. 

However, you burn more total calories performing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts and continue to burn calories long afterward, burning more overall calories than working at lower intensities. 

Building muscle also helps to burn more fat. Studies have shown that each pound of muscle burns an additional seven calories compared to a pound of fat. Muscle has a higher density than fat, meaning it takes up less space than an equal amount of fat. Think of one pound of muscle looking like a baseball while one pound of fat looks like a basketball. 

IMG_0110Which is better, building muscle or burning fat? 

Building muscle and burning fat are both essential to being fit. 

Building muscle helps you to be strong, develop a toned physique, give you power for your favorite sports, and burn more fat. Studies have shown that each pound of muscle burns an additional seven calories compared to a pound of fat.  

Exercises that require brief periods of high-intensity exertion alternating with rest, such as HIIT should be integrated into your schedule twice weekly. They are especially great workouts for when you are short on time.

Burn fat to support cardio and metabolic health, lose extra pounds, and enjoy workouts that are easier on your joints and need less recovery time.

Remember, working out smart is not the only way to be fit. Eat a balanced diet of whole foods, get adequate sleep, and surround yourself with activities and people that bring you joy. 

If you want a little more joy in your life, schedule a tour of the Paseo Club.

Schedule a Tour

Check out all eight acres of fitness, Pilates, swimming, tennis, and pickleball facilities. When you become a member this will be your home away from home.                           
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Jen Azevedo

Jen Azevedo is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!