People looking for an effective way of losing weight probably know that the more muscle they have, the easier the weight loss process is. But when you’re at the beginning of the process, how can you get muscle if you’re trying to lose weight? Losing fat and gaining muscle can seem at odds with each other, and that’s what many trainers will tell you. If you want to lose weight, you should have to eat fewer calories; if you want to gain muscle, you will need to eat more calories and work out hard. So how can it be possible to go for these two goals at the same time? Well, it is possible if you follow the rules. You will need to eat enough to feed muscle growth, while also enabling your body to burn fat and not muscle tissue. Here’s how you can do it.
7 Smart Ways to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat
1. Don’t Starve Yourself
Normally, you need to cut your calorie intake if you want to lose fat. But since you want to build muscle at the same time, you shouldn’t go for a cut that’s too great. When you reduce your calories too much, your body will go into conservation mode, where it will try to preserve the mass. Dieting is a stress for the body, that will perceive it as a life-threatening condition: your metabolism is likely to slow down, and your body will do everything it can to hold on to the calories you are providing. If you want to build muscle while still cutting your calories, cut them in a way that enables you to lose no more than one percent of your body weight per week. Anything more than that will be too severe for the body and will make it extra challenging to build muscle at the same time.
2. Prioritize Protein
Anyone looking for upping their muscle game knows they need protein – probably more than they’ve eaten before. Aim for 1.5 to even 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, and spread that amount evenly throughout the day. Don’t be afraid of getting bulky – that won’t happen, because you’re cutting calories. Use an app for counting both calories and macros. If you’re not used to it, it might be difficult at the beginning, but soon enough you’ll meal prep like a champ. Low-calorie meals with a lot of protein are what you should be googling and making throughout this period!
3. Don’t Skip Fats
The nineties and noughties did something bad to fats, and all of us: we were made to believe fats are unhealthy and responsible for obesity. Since fats have more than double calories per gram than either protein or carbohydrate, it would make sense that cutting fat is the way to go. But consuming healthy fats, such as fish, nuts, avocado, eggs, can help burn fat, of course, as long as it’s eaten in the right amounts. If you’re a newbie and feel like you would use some help in meal prepping, you can always opt for delivery of healthy food prepared to help your muscle building process. These kinds of meals feature lean protein and healthy fats. Besides, for a snack, instead of a chocolate bar or potato chips, go for nuts – just be mindful about the amount, as fatty foods are pretty calorie dense.
4. Cut the Carbs
This is the advice probably no one wants to hear, but it’s essential. However, you don’t need to cut carbs out entirely from your diet, as that’s unhealthy and will only increase your cravings. Carbs are tasty; we’re completely aware of that. But your carbs during fat loss period should mostly come from vegetables. In addition, you’re allowed sources such as rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain bread, but try to consume them two hours before the workout and right after the workout. This also means that on your days off, when you skip the gym, you should also consume less such carbs.
If you find it difficult to cut out carbs, here are some easy low carb diet recipes you can try.
5. Use Cardio to Burn Fat – Not Calories
You probably have friends whose workout consists of an hour and a half on the treadmill, or you might have done yourself. Well, this is one of the greatest mistakes people make when they want to burn body fat. Lengthy sessions of steady-state cardio will work for burning calories, but that’s not your end goal. This kind of exercise can send you off to a caloric deficit, which will then result in your body burning muscle instead of fat. In addition, running on the treadmill or the elliptical machine is repetitive and low intensity, so your body can easily adapt and recover quickly. So what do you do, and how do you burn fat with cardio? Use HIIT as the primary form of your cardio sessions. HIIT is a high-intensity interval training that will preserve muscle mass. It will make you hate everything in this world, but luckily it will be over in 20 minutes or less. Because it’s really, and we mean really, high intensity, you shouldn’t do more than 1-3 sessions per week, with three as the absolute maximum that is only reserved for the strongest of us all.
You can use a power plate to help you burn calories.
6. Lift Well
Lifting weights are the thing that many people feel is something they shouldn’t be doing – and especially women think so. But lifting is the absolute best way to build muscle. If you just pay attention to your food but don’t engage in strength training, this can lead to loss of muscle mass. Did you know that it’s muscle mass that’s responsible for calorie burn? This means that the more muscle mass, the bigger the calorie burning. But if you lift, and include a lot of protein in your diet, you’ll maintain the muscle you already have and sometimes gain more muscle. Even the sole process of building muscle is likely to help you burn fat. And let no one fool you, lifting is great at burning calories as well.
7. Aim for Fat Loss, Not Weight Loss
People often say they want to lose weight, but they really want to lose fat. Trust us; you don’t want to end up shedding weight while maintaining a sad look that some call “skinny fat”. The end goal is not only fitting your desired size of jeans but looking good naked as well! Wink wink. So for tracking your progress, using a scale is the wrong thing to do. A scale will only tell you what happens overall, but it has no ability also to tell you if you’re losing fat, gaining muscle, or both. You need a tape measure. Every two weeks or so record your measures at the critical points (hips, waist, breasts, thigh, upper arm, shoulders), and take photos of yourself in the mirror. This will show you what’s happening “on the inside”. Of course, it would be best if you had access to a body fat percentage analyzer, but it’s costly. A tape measure will do.
If you want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, don’t think you’re aiming at the impossible goal. Quite the contrary, you’re not. But you’ll have to work hard in both workout and diet department. It’s worth the results, though, so it’s really up to you. Enjoy the process!