Does Building Muscle Burn Fat?

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat?

The process of building muscle mass at the same time as we are burning off excess stored body fat is often referred to a Body Recomposition. Body Recomposition requires us to Burn Fat Stores to provide the required energy for growth.

When we make a conscious decision to to tone up our flabby bodies by Hiking, Trail Running, Walking, Backpacking or even going to the Gym we set off some several processes in reaction to this new stimulus. One of those processes being burning some of our fat deposits.

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Building Muscle and Burning Fat

Why Do We Burn More Fat When Our Muscles Get Bigger?

Why does building muscle burn fat? There are a few processes at work that will burn off our fat deposits here.

The initial building up of the muscle requires an influx of additional energy. This energy will initially be provided from your Glycogen stores, these are stores of carbs obtained from your muscles and liver.

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Glycogen Stores

However, once these Glycogen stores are used up, your body will have to switch to burning fat for the energy required. Firstly this energy will be provided from the fatty acids floating around in your blood stream from recent meals, and secondly, if the demand for energy continues, as it will, your body will be forced to convert fat from your fat reserves (think Beer Belly and Chins) and convert them to the energy required.

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Fatty Acids in Bloodstream

Secondly your body will then need additional energy for the growth, recovery and repair of these developing new muscles. Again this will come firstly from Glycogen and then from Fatty Acids then from Stored Fat exactly as stated above.

Thirdly, your new found additional muscle is going to need more fuel to operate it, both when you are resting and when you are using it. You can picture this by using the “a Bigger Engine needs more fuel” analogy.

Building Muscle or Losing Fat – Which Comes First?

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Which Comes First

Just like the Chicken and the Egg Question, this one is equally difficult to answer. There are 3 camps in this argument, and all seem to give fair arguments for their point of view. Let’s have a look at the opposing points of view closer:

  • Lose Fat before Gaining Muscle
  • Gain Muscle before Losing Fat
  • Do both at the Same Time

The Lose Fat before Gaining Muscle argument is that if you don’t do it their way, you are going to look a lot bigger and weigh a lot more before your excess fat is burned through. This can be extremely discouraging to someone who already feels big and heavy.

The Gain Muscle before Losing Fat argument is that we really shouldn’t be spending our precious time dieting before building muscle. If we build up some muscle first, the muscle building repair, maintenance and recovery itself will do the diet for us by burning up the excess fat we already have as the calories required for the process.

The third argument, and my favourite, the Do both at the Same Time argument is that we just start and then we the body will do what it thinks needs doing in the correct order. I think millions of years of evolution has the upper hand on what I consider to be right or wrong, which is why I like this theory.

To be honest, whichever path you choose to follow will build muscle and burn fat, so make your choice and reap the benefits of the outcome.

Can You Burn Fat From One Particular Area?

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Spot Target Fat Loss

Oh, how I wish you could. “Spot Targeting during Fat Loss” is like the holy grail in the Body Recomposition field. Unfortunately, as fat as we know right now, it isn’t possible.

If we build more muscle than we already have now, our bodies will require more energy to build it, repair it, maintain it and operate it.

A lot of this energy requirement will come from our Fat Stores. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose which fat stores our body will go to first, and you can almost bet your bottom dollar that your body is going to empty the one that you would like to target first as the last one.

But, don’t be discouraged by this, as either way you look at it, you are going to burn off excess fat if you build more muscle. When we talk about Building Muscle, we’re not talking about turning into a Body Builder here. Simply toning up the muscles that you currently have by hill walking, hiking, trail running or backpacking by only 15 or 20% is going to make a big difference to speeding up your metabolism.

Here’s an interesting article on why you can’t spot target fat loss from

Will Hiking to Build Up My Legs Burn Belly Fat?

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Burn Fat Hiking

Yes, building up your legs by hiking will burn belly fat, but not solely belly fat. Toning or building up your legs will require more energy, so will draw on the reserves of fat that your body has stored once your Glycogen Stores are depleted.

Generally if we are Hiking and putting in some effort, this will begin at around roughly the 45 minute mark. What do I mean by “putting in some effort”? We used to say that if we were hiking hard enough just so that it becomes difficult to maintain a conversation, that was the pace that we needed to maintain for fat burning.

Why am I getting Heavier but Looking Thinner?

Does Building Muscle Burn Fat - Initial Weight Gain

If you have begun to build muscle and burn fat, initially you will probably experience some weight gain. This is due to you replacing your fat stores with muscle mass and it is nothing to worry about, although it can be somewhat depressing to see when you first get on the scales the morning after a tough hike.

Muscle weighs in the region of 15% more than body fat, so as you replace your body fat with muscle you might put on a little extra weight, but on a brighter note, you will look leaner as that flabby layer of fat from just under your skin would have burned off to reveal some of your muscle definition.

Can I Burn Fat and Build Muscle Effectively from Hiking?

The answer to this one is a resounding yes. Hiking is an extremely efficient and enjoyable way to build muscle and burn fat.

Providing you are hiking with enough intensity and for a long enough period of time, you should tone and build your muscles and burn off excess fat rapidly.

Check out Keith’s amazing body transformation over 6 months in this video:

There are a few ways you can accelerate the process of Muscle Building and Fat Burning too. Namely, by taking on more steep hills on your hikes and by carrying a heavy backpack. Both of these tactics will skyrocket your gains compared to just hiking.

If however, your ethos is “slow and steady wins the race“, that tactic will work for you too, just not as quickly.

The takeaway from this is simply that if you build more muscle you are going to have to burn more fat to maintain that muscle.