As stated in the intro, trying to lose fat while building muscle is a very difficult thing to do because they are both competing against each other. In order to lose body fat, one must be in a caloric deficit. In order to gain muscle, one must be in a caloric surplus. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat and in order to lose one pound of fat a week, your body must be in a 500 calorie deficit each day. If your goal is to gain muscle, you will want to add anywhere from 300 to 500 calories a day to your total calorie expenditure. Both goals are working against each other so it is nearly impossible to do them at the same time.
A better agenda would be to pick one area that you want to work on first, accomplish that for a few weeks until you get to where you want to be and then switch to the other area for a few weeks. For example, say your top priority is to shed 5 % body fat by swimsuit season. If that is the case, it would be wise to work towards that goal first and get yourself to your desired body fat level. Your goals would then allow you to do a resistance training program but you would also rely heavily on cardio and a strict reduced calorie nutrition program as well. Once swimsuit season is over, you can switch to building muscle which means you would rely primarily on a resistance training program, keep cardio to a minimum, and then adhere to an increased calorie nutrition program. For the purpose of this article, that is the scenario that will be worked with. Feel free to reverse the goals if that is what you are aiming to achieve.
Nutrition for Losing Body Fat and Gaining Muscle
Losing Body Fat
When losing body fat, cutting calories is the most important goal. This can be most easily achieved through an intense cardio program with a strict reduced calorie diet. Since nutrition is key to losing body fat, that will be focused on first. As already discussed, in order to lose one pound of fat each week, there needs to be a 500 calorie deficit each day from the total amount of calories your body needs on a daily basis. If you are not sure what your body needs, there is an excellent Calorie Calculator at MayoClinic.com. All you have to do is put in your age, weight, height, and sex and it will give you a fairly accurate estimate. Once you have that, subtract 500 calories from the total amount and you will have your calorie limit for each day.
In order to make sure you are cutting your calories by 500 every day, it is paramount that you write down the foods you eat and the total number of calories consumed each and every day. If you are not sure what the calories are of a particular food item, go to CalorieKing.com and search for the item or something similar to it. If you don’t want to keep a hand written journal, you can go to a website like FitDay.com and log your food online. It can’t be stressed enough how important a person’s nutrition is when trying to cut out body fat. Strive for perfection and be completely honest with yourself about what you are putting into your body. It isn’t easy work but you will be rewarded as you achieve your goals. Another important hint is to keep your nutrient levels at the 60/20/20 ratio. This means you should be consuming 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. This is ideal for most people.
When trying to gain muscle, you will want to make sure that you are consuming more calories than you are expending. This means that
you will have to take in an additional 300 to 500 calories each and every day in order to be in a caloric surplus to give your body the nutrients it needs to rebuild and repair torn muscle tissue. Proper nutrition is essential for muscle growth. As stated above, if you are not sure what your total caloric intake is supposed to be each and every day, go to MayoClinic.com and use their Calorie Calculator. Once you have that number, add an additional 300 to 500 calories each day to make sure you are always hitting your goal. As with fat loss, it is important to write down your calories in order to see if you are reaching the mark every day. It may not seem difficult to increase caloric intake, but if you aren’t used to it, eating more food can be a difficult thing.
A great way to increase calorie intake is to rely on meal replacement shakes. These are excellent for pre and post workout nutrition. MPR’s allow for optimal nutrient levels and are quickly absorbed into the muscles for repair after an intense workout. Eating multiple meals each day is also ideal for increasing calorie consumption so if you are only eating 2 or 3 meals a day, add a meal each day until you reach 5 or 6.
Cardio for Losing Body Fat and Gaining Muscle
Losing Body Fat
Second to nutrition when trying to cut calories and body fat is an intense cardiovascular program. Nothing can burn excess calories like using a treadmill or an elliptical for an hour 5 to 6 days a week. The best type of cardio program for burning fat would be an interval training program. If you are unfamiliar with this type of conditioning, the concept is pretty simple to grab a hold of. Interval training is basically doing periods of low intensity cardio work followed by short bursts of intense cardio for a minute or two and then repeating the cycle until the desired length is achieved. For example, if you are using a treadmill, you may start out walking at 3.0 mph for 3 minutes. Once that time is up, you will switch things up and start jogging at 5.0 mph for a minute or two. When you have completed the jogging, you will go back to walking at 3.0 mph for another 3 minutes and continue to repeat this cycle until you have reached the 30 minute mark.
Interval training is a great way to challenge your body and trick it into burning more calories. Your body has to continually switch energy levels in order to go from a low to high intensity and back. It allows for someone to train outside of their comfort zone for a short burst and then take a break. Once you have gone through a few cycles, you will realize the challenge and calorie burning potential that an interval training program has to offer. It’s normally recommended that the minimum requirement for healthy living is 30 minutes of cardio work 3 times a week. If you are a beginner, this is a good goal. But if you are somewhat conditioned and looking to cut body fat, it would be a good idea to get at least 5 days of cardio in a week for 30 – 45 minutes a session.
ms are less important when trying to build muscle mass because they are designed to burn calories. When building muscle, you want to hold on to as many calories as possible. That doesn’t mean that you want to necessarily cut cardio out of your life completely, but don’t go overboard with the cardio program when trying to gain muscle. The bare minimum cardio each week would be fine in order to receive the health benefits and maintain a caloric surplus. It wouldn’t be recommended to do an interval training program if your goal is to pack on as much mass as possible. Doing a low intensity program 2 to 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes would be ideal if performing cardio at all.
Resistance Training for Losing Body Fat and Gaining Muscle
Losing Body Fat
When trying to lose body fat, a resistance training program is crucial because it allows for a person to cut even more calories while strengthening and building muscle. You may not build as much muscle as a person who is specifically gunning for major mass, but you will see some increase which will help increase calorie burn and your metabolism overall. A pound of muscle burns anywhere from 6 to 35 calories a day whereas a pound of fat burns anywhere from 2 to 10 calories a day. Also, resistance training leads to something called the “Afterburn Effect” which means that after a workout, your metabolism will be elevated for a few hours and burn more calories than it would at rest.
The perfect program for losing body fat would be one that gives little rest and pushes the intensity so that the heart rate gets pumping and the calories get burning. Doing a program that is relatively light in weight, high in repetitions (12 – 15), and high in sets (3 – 4) would be the way to go. It would be recommended to do a full body routine three days a week, either on a Mon, Wed, Fri schedule or a Tue, Thurs, Sat schedule. Getting as many muscle groups involved during a workout will increase the calorie burn potential during and after a workout. Another great idea would be to do what are called “super sets.” These kinds of sets are done back to back. For example, you may go from doing a chest press into a leg extension without any rest and repeat for 3 or 4 sets. Once completed, you would go on to the next two exercises which may be a back row with a leg curl. The idea is to keep the intensity high as well as the calorie burn. Doing this type of training is more aerobic in nature which is excellent for burning as many calories as possible.
In order to gain muscle, a heavy weight, moderate reps (8 – 12) and high sets (3 – 6) routine is considered the best route to go. Studies have shown that this type of training regimen is best for creating muscular hypertrophy. Going too heavy with too few reps and sets leads primarily to strength training whereas going too light with too many reps and sets leads primarily to muscular endurance training. When trying to build muscle mass, it is a smart idea to split the muscle groups so that you can devote your attention to each one specifically. For example, you might do Chest exercises on Monday which would consist of presses, flies, dips, etc. in the routine. The goal is to ignite as many muscle fibers as possible and to try and target the muscle from as many different angles as possible. Tuesday may be Quads day, Wednesday may be Back day, Thursday may be Shoulder day, so on and so forth.
Another way to go would be to do two different muscle groups on a single day. For example, you might do Chest and Back on Monday, Legs and Shoulders on Tuesday, Biceps, Triceps, and Abs on Wednesday, and then repeat the cycle again Thursday through Saturday. Then take Sunday off for rest and recovery because that is just as important as the resistance training.
MayoClinic.com (2011, February 19). Calorie Calculator. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/calorie-calculator/NU00598
ShawnLebrunFitness.com (2011, February 19). 8 Ways to Lose Fat and Build Muscle. Retrieved from https://www.shawnlebrunfitness.com/lose-fat-build-muscle.html
TheFactsAboutFitness.com (2011, February 19). Lose Fat, Gain Muscle: How to Do It. Retrieved from https://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/gain.htm
FitDay.com (2011, February 19). Free Diet & Weight Loss Journal. Retrieved from https://www.fitday.com/
CalorieKing.com (2011, February 19). Food Search. Retrieved from https://www.calorieking.com/