Why building muscle helps you lose weight at the same time

Forget getting skinny – it's all about body composition, as you can build muscle and lose weight simultaneously

Building muscle
(Image credit: John Arano (Unsplash))

When you think about losing weight, you probably think of cardiovascular exercises, such as running or HIIT training. However, when designing a weight loss programme,  it's important to focus on building muscle as well as burning fat.

This might seem counterintuitive (after all, muscle does weigh more than fat) but there's more to weight loss than simply a number on the scale. Protein is an important part of any weight loss plan. 

Building muscle changes your body composition. You're expending energy and burning calories when you exercise, but you're also tearing muscle fibres, especially when you incorporate moves like squats, push ups and crunches. If you eat a diet with plenty of lean protein, those small tears in your muscles will heal, building them back up stronger than they were before.

Typically, this is what people mean by "toning up": burning fat and building muscle in its place. Although this means you lose less actual weight than somebody intensely focused on fat loss only, you'll be healthier and your body will be a lot more functional. 

In addition, the increase in muscle mass means you'll burn more calories, even at rest, according to this study from the Journal Adipocyte. A body with more muscle mass has a faster metabolism, making future weight loss efforts (and exercise sessions) a lot easier now you've got a bit of muscle behind you. 


(Image credit: Fitbit)

This is why, even if you're focusing on losing weight, you should be incorporating exercises designed to build muscles. 

Fortunately, you don't need a gym's worth of heavy weights to start building muscle. You can get by with a few simple bodyweight exercises and a set of dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands to start.

That might be all you need in terms of kit, but what about techniques? Fortunately, we've got some of that too. You can get started with a few of our comprehensive guides, listed below:

Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.