Build Muscle and Lose Fat article
By Emily Mailloux
We all want it, right? We’re all after that elusive goal to increase our muscle mass while decreasing our body fat percentage. Changing your body composition can be challenging and requires a lot of hard work and patience, and losing fat while gaining muscle tone is even harder. However, it definitely can be done, if you make sure to follow the guidelines below.
While exercise plays an important role in body composition (and we’ll discuss that more in a minute), changing your nutrition will have the biggest effect on your body’s ability to lose fat while simultaneously building muscle.
First, increase your protein intake and decrease your carbohydrate intake, particularly those carbs found in processed and sugary foods. For the best body composition results, aim to get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. Sound like a lot? Start by getting a minimum of 25% of your daily calories from protein, and make sure to space the protein out evenly throughout the day. Shoot for a minimum of 25-30g of protein per meal.
Next, make sure you’re eating a lot of good, healthy fats, particularly for breakfast, which will help you feel full for longer. Swap out your carb-heavy breakfast (cereal, granola, pancakes, waffles, scones, etc) for a breakfast high in protein and fats (eggs, avocado, salmon, turkey or chicken sausage, cottage cheese). Save the bulk of your carb-heavy meals for right after your workout, when the body needs to replenish its glycogen stores.
Also, make sure you aren’t in too great of a caloric deficit. While it is tempting to drastically cut calories to lose body fat, remember that you can’t grow muscle in a caloric deficit. Instead, keep your calories at a maintenance level but adjust where those calories are coming from by changing your macronutrient ratios as discussed above – increase protein intake, make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, and decrease carbohydrate consumption.
Finally, watch your alcohol consumption, and set a goal to cut down or cut out alcoholic drinks from your diet. Not only is it empty calories with no nutritional benefit, but alcohol also alters your sleep and decreases your body’s ability to recover from your tough workouts. Alcohol also increases cortisol levels, your body’s stress hormone. Prolonged increased levels of cortisol have been linked to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, slowed metabolism, and degradation of muscle mass. Increases in cortisol also cause increases in ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. This is why the more stressed out we are, the more likely we are to binge on food. Engage in stress management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or even a walk outside, to keep your body’s cortisol levels in check.
Now that you’ve got your nutrition in check, let’s talk about the most effective training to rev up your body to burn fat and build muscle!
First, train with short, intense bursts. This includes sprinting (one of the most effective workouts to burn fat quickly) and high intensity interval training (HIIT workouts). You can create your own interval workout pretty simply: choose three exercises (let’s say a goblet squat, a push-up, and a kettlebell swing) and do 30 seconds of each exercise alternated with 30 seconds of rest (30sec squat, 30sec rest, 30sec push-up, 30sec rest, 30sec KB swing, 30sec rest). Repeat this circuit 3 times for a total of only 9 minutes.
Another way to train with these intense bursts is to utilize supersets in your training. Superset two opposing movements, for example, an upper body pull (pull-up) with a lower body push (squat), and perform them back-to-back. This helps to keep the intensity of your workout up and minimize rest time, but still allows each muscle group time to rest. Don’t check your phone during these supersets, switch quickly from one to the other to keep that heart rate up!
Performing complexes is another excellent method for burning body fat while building muscle definition. Complexes can be performed with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell, and the goal is to complete all exercises within the complex without putting the weight down (for example, a kettlebell clean, squat, and overhead press, repeated 10x, never putting the KB down until the end of the set).
Finally, lift heavy and lift often. Strength train at least 3 times a week, and prioritize the big, compound movements that work all the major muscle groups and movement patterns. And don’t forget to take ample time to recover! Take at least 24-48 hours of rest between training the same muscle group so your muscles have time to rest and grow. Sufficient sleep is also crucial to muscle recovery and growth, so aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. When you’re sleep deprived, your body craves glucose (aka sugar) in an attempt to find energy, so you’re more likely to consume more calories, particularly the sugary empty calories, on days when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.