Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

I was wrong: muscle is cheap, not expensive 

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

After a burst of recent interest in my article about strength training frequency, and some good discussions with experts, I made some significant changes and a particularly important correction/retraction regarding the metabolic cost of muscle, the 50-calorie-per-pound-per-day myth. My error was pointed out by James Krieger of Weightology, who has written about it. Here’s a more thorough article about it. The gist of the article was fine, but my original text was definitely wrong and misleading on this interesting tangentially related point. I revised that whole section to minimize the importance of muscle-gain for weight loss, and I now acknowledge the original error: “There’s a common myth that every pound of muscle burn about 50–100 calories, which I carelessly repeated myself in early versions of this article. That number is much too high, and no one seems to be sure where it came from — just one of those things that gets passed around.” I elaborate in a footnote:

I originally got the 50/day figure from McGuff & Little in Body By Science: “Muscle mass is the most metabolically expensive tissue in the body. You require between 50 and 100 calories a day just to keep a pound of it alive.” This is wrong by a long shot. The brain is vastly more metabolically expensive, for instance. This seems like a clear cut case of confirmation bias: McGuff & Little presented this unsubstantiated myth as fact in their book because it would be wonderful support for their big idea … if only it were true. And then I did the same thing! Arg.”