Burn Calories or Build Muscle?

The Two Ways to Change Your Body Through exercise; Method One and Method Two.



1)      Through increasing lean body mass and reduced nutrient intake (I will call this, Method One).

2)      Through increased calorific burning from exercise (Method Two).



Method One focuses on building lean tissue such as muscle (in the right places), sinew and bone density, which are metabolically active tissues. Metabolically active means that they require energy throughout the day to function. The more lean tissue you have, the more calories you burn.


Lean tissue as listed above is of great importance to every human. The denser your bones, the less likely they are to break. The stronger your sinew, the less likely a sprain or tendon tear. The stronger your muscles, the more mobile and functional you are. It should also be noted that muscular tissue is the most metabolically active, easiest and fastest to manipulate so that is the focus of exercise – muscles.


If you are currently carrying an excessive amount of fatty tissue on your body then you will also need to reduce the number of unhelpful nutrients you consume over the course of the week. Any surplus nutrients will be excreted where possible and then stored as fat where excretion is impossible – thus making you fat. Too much food = getting fat. Your food choices can make energy consumption easy to manipulate. Whole natural foods such as; fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, nuts and whole grains should be the foundation of your nutritional intake. Treats like chocolate and sugary foods should be a treat to be consumed rarely and in small quantities, gluttony is not attractive or healthy.


Building lean tissue can be done in a very short time with resistance training. Moving relatively heavy objects in a manner that stimulates lean tissue increases in the right places. For example; a large number of women would rather not build arms, like many men, so the focus of lean tissue growth should be on the rear side of the body where the lean tissue will be evenly distributed giving the trainee a toned bum, legs and back, which by the way, happen to be the most functional areas to add active tissue.


Building lean muscle tissue in the right places will dramatically alter your physical appearance; a more upright posture, a tighter bum, broader shoulders and a flatter midsection are just a few examples.


The type of regime this entails requires very little time spent in the gym each week (thirty minutes, twice per week) and a little discipline in the kitchen.


It should also be noted here that if you were to take a break from exercise for a period of a few weeks for a holiday then you will not suddenly put the weight back on as so often happens with regular exercise programmes (see Method Two). Lean tissue will not be lost for many months. Unless you are totally bedridden.


Method Two requires you to use exercise as a way of burning calories rather than lean tissue doing that job. If you exercise fairly hard for about an hour, it has been said that you will burn 500-800 calories. This will vary among individuals due to many factors not limited to; age, gender, health and work ethic.


If you exercise as described you can burn up to 1lb of body fat per week, provided you trained 7 days per week (7 days at 500 calories burned per one hour each day is equal to 3500 calories per week – there are 3500 calories of energy stored in one pound of fatty tissue).


Exercise to burn calories requires a significant amount of time exercising and discipline, every day.


If however, you should want to take a holiday and halt training temporarily, you would instantly be reducing the amount of energy you utilise in a day and thus fall back to gaining excess body fat, fast. A very common viscous circle that sees thousands of people turn away, disappointed, from exercise.


This happens because the style of exercise performed in method two fails to create the production of lean tissue (remember that is metabolically active and energy consuming) and as a result, the hours of exercise in the gym has not increased your metabolism.


It is also highly likely that it has actually reduced your metabolism by wasting of lean muscle tissue; To exercise in a manner that allows one hour of continuous exercise, the actual muscular effort (as percentage of what it can do maximally) must be of a low intensity (that is not to say that it won’t feel hard) and thus the body will atrophy any tissue it does not see as essential.


The same is true of flexibility and mobility. If you only ever jog or ride a bike then you will lose mobility through adaptive shortening. I marvel at the number of joggers I see when walking my dog that look stiff and old in their pigeon stepped jogging style. The range of motion used is so small relative to what the joints are capable of that they “forget” how to use their bodies properly, they lose function in the way old people do.


Worthy of mention at this stage are the detrimental, chronic effects that daily, low intensity and impacting force producing exercise will have. Your joints will eventually give up. See the medical figures for knee and other joint injuries. Let’s not forget about how hard the heart will have to work every day in Method Two – the heart is a muscle and muscles will weaken through over work. Just something to think about. Especially when Method Two promoters of the seventies and eighties have died from heart failure, in their fifties.



Both methods have their place. Method two is great for short time help in reducing excess body fat so long as Method One is also incorporated and becomes the primary tool. The use of lower intensity and longer duration work can also aid in the recuperation of other body parts and muscles due to the increased blood it can promote, not to mention the psychological benefits that periods of lower effort work can have.



Method One;


Positives  Negatives
Time saving High momentary effort
Increases metabolism
Better external appearance
Increased function
Enhances mobility
Long lived



Method Two;


Positives  Negatives
Acute fat loss assistance Time consuming
Can enhance recovery Short lived
Low effort Chronically damaging
Reduces metabolism
Reduces mobility
Reduces structural strength



Looking at the information provided, what Method would you rather chose? Either way you go, I will help you now you have an informed decision.


Richard Ham Williams – Epsom’s Personal Trainer and fast fitness expert