9 ways to lose fat and keep muscle
To build muscle, your nutrition program must complement your training regime; otherwise you will not gain any significant amounts of new muscle tissue.
By the same token, to lose fat and not muscle, you must follow a few simple nutrition and exercise principles. These are principles that have been used by bodybuilders and other physique athletes to achieve that lean and ripped look.
1. Forget Dieting
Dieting to lose fat just does not work. However, having a nutrition program specifically designed for fat loss is the single most essential element of any program. To be most effective, it's best to alternate between a muscle building training program and a fat-loss one.
2. MUSCLE-BUILDING PHASE
It's impossible to lose fat without also losing muscle tissue. Therefore, if you want to get lean, your first objective should be to build lean muscle. I would recommend two-to-four weeks of weight-training accompanied by five-to-six daily meals. The total amount of calories consumed daily in this phase of training should be about 15-to-20 per cent higher than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). It is beyond the scope of this article to make these calculations here. However, if your currently on a training program it would work to increase your daily caloric intake by 15-to-20 per cent.
3. FAT-LOSS PHASE
Your muscle-building phase should be followed by a two-week fat-loss phase. During this week you want to cut out any processed foods from your nutrition program. This includes all shakes and protein bars. The focus here is on low-sodium natural foods like chicken breast, lean steak, white fish, egg whites, dark green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, yam and brown rice.
For the first three days of this phase you should cut out all complex carbs, with the exception of oatmeal in the morning and lots of vegetables with all your other meals. You should also cut back on your intake of fruits, except for bananas, berries and green apples. At the end of your first three days add some sweet potato or brown rice to your meals for the next three days then cut them out again. Continue this cycle for two weeks then return to your muscle-building phase.
4. CARDIO DURING YOUR FAT-LOSS PHASE
During your fat-loss phase, it's crucial that you increase the amount of cardiovascular activity you do. This is not optional! To see results you must do your cardio. Aim to do at least one hour of cardio during this phase.
5. WHEN TO DO CARDIO FOR BEST RESULTS
For best results, it isn't enough to just do cardio, you should aim to do it on an empty stomach. If there is sugar in your blood, your body will use that blood glucose for energy instead of releasing fatty acids from your body-fat stores. Again, the objective is to burn excess body-fat. And your body does this primarily during aerobic-type activities when there is no sugar present in your blood. Another great time to do cardio is after an intense weight-training workout lasting at least 45 minutes. After such a workout, your muscle glycogen is significantly used up, therefore your body is forced to use your fat stores for energy. I like to change my weight-training by doing 15-to-20 reps of each exercise instead of six-to-12. Keep in mind that you will still want to keep your weight-training challenging. One way to do so is to increase the weight during each set but to still do 20 reps. This helps to work more on muscular endurance and to make your weight-training a bit more aerobic, especially if you're doing a circuit.
6. DON'T OVERTRAIN
Years ago, when I was young and stupid, I used to train really hard five-to-six days a week. Today, I'm older and wiser. And of course, I have a lot more knowledge of how the works. During my muscle-building phase, I train one body part, per day, per week. Or sometimes I may do two upper-body days and one lower-body day per week. That's it. Working out too much doesn't give your muscles the necessary time they need to recuperate. And it is during this resting time that your body develops new muscle fibres.
I believe that it's impossible to build a great looking body without smart supplementation. During your fat-loss phase, you need a whole food supplement to help minimise the effects of carbohydrate restriction and to build up your immune system. A fruit and vegetable capsule should do the trick. Glutamine supplementation also helps to minimise muscle catabolism.
8. YOU'VE GOT TO EAT FAT TO LOSE FAT
One of the most important things you can do to lose fat is to start eating more good fats like olive oil, flaxseed oil, primrose oil, avocado and peanut butter. The problem with restricting the good fats is that they also contain Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) that are necessary for thousands of biological functions within the body. Since the body cannot manufacture them they must be provided by your diet. EFAs aid in the prevention of muscle breakdown, help to increase your good cholesterol, and assist in hormone production.
9. THE BOTTOM LINE
Losing unwanted body fat is not difficult. However, it requires great discipline to remain consistent with your training and eating habits. I like to tell my clients that success is consistency over time. To change your body you have to make it a priority to eat your meals and to train. All this must be done on schedule. Eating and training cannot be an after-thought - they have to be a daily priority. If getting results is not a priority then stop fooling yourself and get on with your life. If you can't do the work, you have no right to expect great results. On the other hand, if you really want that lean toned look - it is within your grasp.
Del Millers Ph.D is a fitness and nutrition consultant and author of three books.