The Cost of Muscle

The Cost of Muscle (FI)

Every material has a value it is worth, based off a number of factors such as supply and demand, popularity, ease of accessibility/production, etc. Gold for example is worth $1275.40 per ounce or $41.04 per gram today (5/14/16), while Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder is currently $0.72 per ounce or $0.025 per gram. What’s the cost of muscle though? I’m not talking the sirloin steak or chicken thighs that you might buy for dinner, but the cost of the muscle that through strength training has have built onto a body in addition to the already preexisting muscle. In this article I will perform a case study on what the cost of my muscle has been, using scientific measurements where I have them and estimating other variables as accurately as possible.

Establishing the Variables

Before these calculations can done, the variables needed to perform the calculations need to be determined. The different variables needed for the equation I developed are:

  • Overall time spent strength training
    • This requires knowing a start and end date, and then an average amount of hours spent working out weekly during that time period.
  • Before and after body-weight
    • More specifically, lean body mass (LBM), as any fat gained or lost during the established time period, and its effect on body-weight, will drastically alter the resulting calculations.
  • Overall money spent on training, equipment, supplements, etc
    • A hard variable to track, and for this calculation, I just approximated a value. As you’ll see this variable has a minimal effect on the final calculated result.
  • How much money you make per hour via your job
    • This allows us to establish a realistic $/hour figure that you could have made if you had spent that time working instead of working out.

My Personal Variable Values

Overall Time Spent Strength Training

  • 5 years 1 month of training from 04/2011 to 05/2016.

During this period I have been incredibly consistent, only taking at most 1 week off occasionally for injury or sickness. I would estimate that on average I have worked out 4.25x a week during this 61 month period, with each workout lasting 1.75 hours on average.

  • Total hours spent working out = 1814.75 hours

Before and after Body-Weight and LBM

From when I started first working out at home with a cheap weight set in mid April of 2011 to now (05/2016), my weight has increased from ~145 lbs to ~188 lbs today.(with some variation in-between).

Pre Working Out Progress Picture

I took this picture just before I started working out at home mid April, 2011. The lighting of this photo is pretty terrible, as is my posing, and the photo was taken cold (no pump) and flexed (the best I could). In this photo I would estimate that my body-fat percentage was ~14%.

Progress Photo 5-14-16

I took these photos at the time of writing this article (5-14-16), and I tried to take them under similar conditions as the photo above (except I had just eaten a huge burrito). In these photos I weighed ~188 lbs, I took a similar pose as the above photo for direct comparison, and I was cold + flexing.

My most recent progress photos will not be used to determine LBM for the calculation, but they serve as a useful reference point in regards to the progress I have made since I first started.

I recently took a BIA body-fat test on 04/09/2016 so I will use the LBM value from that test to compare to an estimated LBM value from my 2011 pre-working out progress picture. In determining my LBM at the time of my pre-working out progress photo, I will use my knowledge of how I looked visually during each of the 4 BIA tests I have done over the past 1.5 years to how I look in that photo.

From my first progress photo, I would estimate the following physical measurements (calculated using weight and apparent body-fat percentage) for when I started strength training:

  • Weight – 145 lbs
  • Height – 6 ft
  • Lean Body Mass – 124.7 lbs
  • Body Fat Mass – 20.3 lbs (my estimation is 14%)
  • BMI – 19.7

The BIA body-fat test from 04/09/2016 made the following physical measurements:

  • Weight – 190 lbs
  • Height – 6 ft
  • Lean Body Mass – 168 lbs
  • Body Fat Mass – 22 lbs (11.6%)
  • BMI – 25.8

Considering my height didn’t change, I feel pretty confident that none of my LBM gain has come from anything other than my strength training. The above values establish that I have increased my LBM from 124.7 lbs to 168 lbs.

LBM gained = 43.3 lbs, 692.8 ounces, or 19640.6 grams

Strength Training Related Expenses

This value is purely a guess, and could be drastically off, but I would say that over the past 5 years I have spent probably ~$5000 on my strength training hobby. This value doesn’t take into account the cost of me buying better foods for proper nutrition, but it includes gym fees, workout gear, workout clothes, shaker bottles, supplements, powerlifting meet fees, and strength training related doctors expenses.

  • Workout Related Expenses = $5,000

Hourly Wage

During most of my lifting career I was a college student who didn’t consistently have a job, so for the purpose of simplification, the hourly wage I am going to use is going to be based off of my current salary as a young professional.

  • Hourly Wage = $24.5 per hour

The Equation


The equation I developed to determine the cost of gained muscle mass per ounce:

The Cost of Muscle Equation (1)

The equation with my specific values for each variable:

The Cost of Muscle Equation w-variables

Equation Step 1

Equation Step 2

Price of My Muscle = $1,142.3 per lb, $71.39 per oz, or $2.52 per g


For some perspective, the price of gold is $1275.40 per ounce (17.9x more expensive), the price of copper is $0.134, and the price of a New York strip steak is on average 0.87 per oz. For further reference, learn more about interesting monetary density measurements of common materials.

It is also important to take into account that this $71.39 per oz figure does not take into account the blood, sweat, tears, lost relationships with others, injuries, and frustration that I have undergone as a result of my strength training. This price also does not take into the account the skills/traits I have developed through strength training, such as mental fortitude, learning to work through adversity, increased physical strength, emotional stability, maturity, nutritional and fitness knowledge, and more favorable body aesthetics. Ultimately the price of each oz of muscle I have gained is something that can’t have a price placed on it, as the experiences I have gone through as a result of strength training are priceless.

Using the equation, what was the cost per ounce of your muscle?


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Stefan Burns

Stefan Burns

Fitness, nutrition, and powerlifting buff. Created Strength Cooperative as a way for hardworking, natural lifters to share advice on how THEY got results in the gym.
Stefan Burns

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