It’s often said that building muscle and losing fat are mutually exclusive. To lose body fat you need to eat less and to add muscle you have to eat more, so it can seem downright impossible to have these two goals.

But it is possible. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that sedentary men were able to increase their VO2 max (an important marker of fitness), while at the same time also boosting their 1 rep max bench press and leg press.

Want to achieve something similar? Read on to find out how to tighten your sleeves and loosen your jeans.

Contents

The Burn Fat and Build Muscle Training Plans

You’ll alternate between doing a week of heavy weights and low repetitions, in order to build muscle, and low weights with high repetitions to burn fat. This strategy elevates your metabolism by conditioning your muscles to have both endurance and strength. Combine these efforts with our intelligent meal plan, and you’ll expose your body to the variables you need to hit your seemingly contradictory goals and realise the overall objective: looking and feeling your absolute best.

The ‘Get Muscle’ Workout Plan

Do this low-repetition, high-weights programme for weeks one, three, five, seven and nine. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds between sets to make sure you’re fully recovered and constantly try to increase the weights you’re lifting.

Monday: Chest and Abs

Barbell bench press
Sets: 5
Reps: 12,8,6,4,12

Incline dumbbell press
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,6,6,6

Incline flyes
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,6,6,6

Dips
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,6,6,6

Weighted sit-up
Sets: 5
Reps: 10

Kneeling cable crunch

Sets: 4
Reps: 8

Tuesday: Legs

Barbell squats
Sets: 5
Reps: 12,10,8,8,6

Dumbbell lunge
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,12,12,12

Leg press
Sets: 4
Reps: 10,8,6,6

Leg extension
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,12,12,12

Barbell straight leg deadlift
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,8,6,6

Lying leg curl
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,8,8,8

Calf raises
Sets: 5
Reps: 12,10,10,8,12

Related Story

Wednesday: Arms

Underhand pull-ups
Sets: 5
Reps: 10

Alternating bicep curl
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,8,8,8

EZ bar curl
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,8,6,6

Lying triceps extension
Sets: 5
Reps: 10,8,8,8

Cable pushdown
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,6,6,6

Dumbbell overhead extension
Sets: 4
Reps: 8,6,6,6

Related Story

Thursday

Rest day 🛌

Friday: Shoulders and Abs

Seated dumbbell shoulder press
Sets: 5
Reps: 12,10,8,8,6

Bent-over Lateral raises
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,8,8,8

Front raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 10,8,8,8

Lateral raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,10,10,10

Cable upright row
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,8,8,8

Medicine ball Russian twist
Sets: 4
Reps: 10,8,8,8

Leg raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 12,10,10,10

Saturday

Rest day.

Sunday

Rest day or a light cardio day. Do 10 minutes each on the rowing machine, bike and elliptical cross trainer.

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The ‘Get Ripped’ Workout Plan

Do this high-repetition programme for weeks two, four, six, eight and ten. Rest for no more than 15 to 20 seconds between sets to keep your heart pumping and sweat dripping.

Monday: Back and Biceps

Lat pull-down
Sets: 5
Reps: 12

Barbell bent-over rows
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Seated rows
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Dumbell row
Sets: 4
Reps: 112

Standing barbell curl
Sets: 5
Reps: 12

EZ bar curl
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Standing cable curl

Sets: 3
Reps: 20

Related Story

Tuesday: Legs and Abs

Smith machine front squat
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Dumbbell straight leg deadlift
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Leg press
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Lying leg curls
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Leg extension
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Calf raises
Sets: 5
Reps: 20

Lying leg raises
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Barbell roll-outs
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Related Story

Wednesday: Cardio

Do intervals on the treadmill for 40 minutes: sprint for 40 seconds, then jog for 60 seconds to recover.

Thursday: Chest and Abs

Barbell bench press
Sets: 5
Reps: 12

Incline barbell press

Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Decline bench press
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Pull-over
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Leg raises
Sets: 5
Reps: 20

Cable woodchop
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Related Story

Friday: Shoulders and Triceps

Clean and jerk
Sets: 5
Reps: 12

Dumbbell lateral raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Dumbbell front raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Bent-over lateral raise
Sets: 4
Reps: 15

Dumbbell upright row
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Cable pushdown
Sets: 4
Reps: 20

Dumbbell kickback
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Bench dip
Sets: 4
Reps: 12

Rest day

Do intervals on the rower for 30 minutes: sprint for 40 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds at a slower pace.

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Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time!

There are several mysteries of the universe that continue to baffle us: the infinite nature of time and space, the popularity of Justin Bieber, and—more relevant to readers like you—whether it’s possible to build muscle and lose body fat at the same time.

When it comes to getting in shape, most people opt for choosing a singular goal: Either they go on the see-food diet (that is, see it and eat it) for mass gaining, or a calorie-restricted plan that saps their strength, size, and energy in an effort to lose fat.

“I think it’s inaccurate to say that it’s impossible to build muscle and lose body fat at the same time, which is, in my opinion, a true transformation,” says Stephen Adele, fitness coach, best-selling author, and owner of Colorado-based iSatori, a maker of nutritional products. “I’ve coached hundreds and thousands of people over the years and I’ve seen it firsthand—individuals who can gain muscle mass and lose body fat at the same time.

“It presents unique challenges, but it mainly comes down to your approach. I’ve come to realize there are five rules that I have lived and coached people by on how to transform—encompassing eating, supplementation, training, and mindset—that allow individuals to undergo a transformation in which they can accomplish both goals.”

It’s truly hard work, but Adele maps out a plan that’s worked for thousands of people.

1. Cycle Carbs While Remaining Nitrogen-Positive

Gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus, while cutting fat requires a caloric deficit, so the plan here is to cycle each phase short-term. That’s achieved mainly by cycling carbohydrate intake. “I’m a big proponent of carb cycling because it allows your body to burn body fat and build muscle at the same time,” says Adele, who has decades of experience taking individuals through transformation programs aimed at reducing body fat while simultaneously increasing muscle size.

Adele recommends you first determine how many calories your body needs each day. This can be estimated with a calculator or by multiplying your bodyweight x 15. Using this formula, a 200-pound lifter would require 3,000 calories daily.

From there, Adele recommends you get 40 percent of your calories from protein, 40 percent from carbs, and 20 percent from fats (40/40/20). Hence, the 200-pound individual would consume 1,200 calories from protein (300 grams), 1,200 calories from carbs (300 grams), and 600 calories from fats (67 grams).

The carbohydrate rotation comes into play like this (shown over 10 days) for a 200-pound lifter:

Carbohydrate Rotation

Remember, protein and fats don’t cycle, so they remain consistent over the course of the entire program: 300 grams of protein and 67 grams of dietary fat per day, which is usually naturally occuring.

With carbs and calories cycling down and then up, your body enters short-term periods of caloric deficit in which body-fat stores can be tapped for energy, and higher-carb and higher-calorie periods in which the body’s energy stores are restocked and muscle-building is emphasized.

What’s important to remember, says Adele, is that you always remain in a state of positive nitrogen balance, meaning your protein intake is stable and high throughout: “You’re taking your body through calorie-positive and calorie-negative phases, but not long enough for it to become catabolic,” which would initiate the burning of lean muscle mass for energy.

He warns against staying on a low-carb diet for too long, saying it compromises the body’s ability to build and maintain lean body mass. “You just can’t do it sufficiently without adequate carbohydrates,” Adele says.

Adele doesn’t recommend anything beyond your standard bodybuilding fare: lean protein sources, complex and starchy carbs over simple sugars (except post-workout), and healthy fats in addition to the saturated ones you naturally consume when eating animal protein. He also realizes that not everyone’s going to count calories, but you’ll want to learn how to eyeball foods—especially what 35-40 grams of protein looks like—and read labels. What you really need to keep your eye on, he insists, is carbohydrate intake.

For many of us, dieting means cravings. “I’m not a big believer in just giving up on certain kinds of foods,” he says. “You have to be creative and not totally give up on something, but rather find ways to satisfy your sweet tooth, which for most people is the hardest part of dieting. Maybe you can turn your BCAA drink into popsicles; we also have a chocolate-flavored Eat-Smart MRP that tastes like a Jell-O pudding dessert.”

2. Train Antagonist Muscle Groupd While Incuding Active Rest + HIIT Cardio

“When you’re on a calorie-restricted diet (as part of this program is), it can be easy to start losing your strength along the way, and when you start losing your strength, you can start losing potential muscle mass,” says Adele. “There’s some research to support the idea that a muscle is stronger when its antagonist is immediately contracted beforehand, which is the basis of this training program.”

Doing opposing muscle groups—think biceps/triceps, quads/hamstrings, chest/back—back-to-back is called supersetting. You rest only after you’ve completed a movement for each body part.

Supersets are intense, but Adele has upped the intensity even more. By engaging in active rest—not to be confused with sitting on a bench and texting between sets—you follow your superset with 30-60 seconds of work, whether it’s jumping rope, box squats, step-ups, or any activity that keeps your body moving. Only after this bout of active rest can you take a minute of full rest.

” doesn’t have to be extremely intense by any means; it’s just to get your heart rate up, the intensity of the workouts maximized, and should be done at a comfortable pace,” Adele says. “After completing all three exercises, rest for a minute and repeat the cycle for the prescribed number of sets. So you get strength, volume training, and cardio work done over the course of your workout.

“The idea here is that active rest during weight training can deplete most—if not all—of your glycogen (stored form of carbohydrate) levels in the body. So when you do your cardio session after your workout, you’ve completely depleted almost all of your glycogen and are now burning mostly body fat.”

The training split Adele prescribes follows a two-on/one-off approach, so you’ll be in the weight room two out of every three days. But you’ll be doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) 6-7 days a week to help strip off fat.

The week breaks down like this:

Training Split

Admits Adele: “Yeah, intense. These workouts aren’t easy, but they are extremely efficient and rewarding. They take a couple of weeks for your body to get adjusted to, but you’ll find you get a lot done and you feel good when you’re done.”

Each superset follows a pyramid structure—sets of 12, 10, 8, or 6 reps to failure. Ultimately, the number of sets and reps ensures there’s a high volume of work done, which provides an important anabolic stimulus, says Adele. “The high volume is important, but it’s not so much work that you get too exhausted and can’t recover sufficiently between sets.”

All that movement during your hour-long weight workout is meant to exhaust your muscle glycogen, so the ensuing HIIT cardio goes right into tapping body fat for fuel. HIIT training, as you probably know, alternates all-out cardio with periods of slow recovery, whether done on the treadmill, stair-climber, or other cardio equipment.

“The research says you’re going to burn more calories over a longer time period using HIIT over steady state,” explains Adele. “By the time you get to cardio, you’re going to burn body fat as fuel right away.”

Adele warns that anyone who’s not used to doing cardio on zero glycogen is going to be challenged: “When you first start this workout, you’re going to be sucking wind. You’re going to feel like you can’t do it because you don’t have enough oxygen. It’s going to take a little time to build up those red blood cells and get yourself to the point where you don’t feel as winded. That means at first you’re going to sacrifice a little bit of strength. That’s where a good pre-workout supplement with caffeine and beta-alanine can help, delaying muscle fatigue and helping you push through it.

“You may start at only 10-15 minutes of cardio HIIT, but work your way up over time. I like going to 25-30 minutes; it hits that sweet spot. And you’re definitely going to notice the difference because your body is pretty depleted.”

3. Make Big Improvements the Backbone of Your Training

While Adele has provided a companion superset workout that he gives to individuals whose transformation he oversees, the one critical factor he says every lifter must do is include “the big three” exercises: squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. These compound movements are irreplaceable because they produce results in extremely efficient fashion.

But there’s one caveat: You don’t want to attempt any of these movements on a low-carb (25-percent) day. You need enough energy to fuel a hard workout and give it your best shot. Adele’s recommendation: Manipulate your workout just enough so that these big moves fall on other days in your training schedule.

“You’ve got to do them, but plan them on higher-carb days,” he says. “It really goes without saying, but it’s important to get your technique right before you start moving the weight up. When you do get the technique right, your weight just goes up quickly with consistency of doing the exercise.”

4. Stimulate then Maximize Protein Synthesis

When you’re cycling carbs and your daily calories are already running a deficit, it’s incredibly important to ensure you’re getting your daily protein requirements.

While eating whole-food meals six times per day is a challenge even for someone who works from home, supplements can conveniently fill in the missing spaces between meals. Now it’s just a matter of making sure you get the right supplements at the right times.

To ensure you’re getting adequate protein, two scoops of whey protein isolate or hydrolysate typically provides 40 grams of quickly digested protein. Besides a good protein powder, additional BCAA mixtures like Amino-Amp are useful when you’re in a caloric deficit to ensure the body doesn’t strip amino acids away from building muscle to be used to fuel your body’s energy needs.

Adele lists one additional supplement as necessary for success in a transformation program: bioactive peptides. “Bioactive peptides are cleaved protein fragments that contain growth factors that are essentially bioactive. These growth factors are what’s doing the heavy lifting in the muscle cells, the signaling for amino acids to be used to accelerate the rate of protein synthesis. The faster the rate of the protein synthesis, the faster the muscle repairs and rebuilds itself—bigger, stronger, or faster ” Adele says they’re especially important for individuals who are also on a calorie-restricted diet because they can help you at least maintain and develop new lean body mass.

5. Make Your Lifestyle Fit Your Goals

You’ve no doubt heard that success doesn’t happen by accident. Adele sums it up this way: “Success comes from following a disciplined approach. That means timing your meals, timing your supplementation, timing your sleep, and planning, planning, planning. If you take that kind of disciplined approach to this program, you’re guaranteed a much higher level of success.”

Success requires purpose and discipline, traits many of us have difficulty mustering on a daily basis. That’s why Adele suggests following an intense program like this for just eight weeks.

“During the first four weeks, you won’t see a lot of changes,” he says, “but takes pics about every two weeks anyway. By the end of the second four weeks, you’re going to see some huge differences. At that point you’re seeing your hard work and you’re really motivated. If you can make it through another four weeks, you’re going to see incredible results—cuts you never knew you had.”

Adele also recommends you put your transformation on the calendar. “Having a deadline is important,” he says, “whether it’s doing a contest or just wanting to look your best for a vacation or photo shoot. Set that deadline date and lay your plan out and work toward that date. That’s probably the most powerful tool to motivate you in that direction.”

The 8-Week Transformation Workouts By Stephen Adele

  • Follow this six-day split using a two-days-on/one-day-off format. You’ll repeat workouts every seventh day.

  • Choose a weight that lets you reach muscle failure by the target rep. If necessary, add warm-up (w/u) sets, but those don’t count as part of your working sets.

  • Superset all antagonist muscle groups, completing one exercise and immediately doing the other without resting.

  • Neither squats nor deadlifts are supersetted; use straight sets for each.

  • Engage in “active rest” (step-ups, jump rope, burpees etc.) after you complete each superset. You’ll perform active rest for this amount of time:

    Weeks 1-2: 30 seconds Weeks 3-6: 40-45 seconds Weeks 7-8: 60 seconds

  • Rest one minute after completing all three components, and repeat for the prescribed number of sets listed.

  • After all weight-training sessions (and on days in which you’re not lifting weights), do HIIT cardio according to this schedule:

    Weeks 1-2: 20 minutes Weeks 3-4: 25 minutes Weeks 5-6: 30 minutes Weeks 7-8: 40 minutes

Weeks 1-2

Workout 1 1 Superset 5 sets, 15-20 reps 5 sets, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 reps+ 3 more exercises

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Workout 2 1 Group 5 sets, 15-20 reps 5 sets, 10, 8, 6, 6, 6 reps+ 3 more exercises

  • Instructional Videos
  • Don’t risk doing a workout improperly! Avoid injury and keep your form in check with in-depth instructional videos.

  • How-to Images
  • View our enormous library of workout photos and see exactly how each exercise should be done before you give it a shot.

  • Step-by-Step Instructions
  • Quickly read through our step-by-step directions to ensure you’re doing each workout correctly the first time, every time.

Week 5-6

Workout 1: Chest/Back—Repeat workout from Weeks 3-4

Workout 2: Shoulders/Traps/Abs—Repeat workout from Weeks 3-4

Workout 3: Biceps/Triceps—Repeat workout from Weeks 1-2

Workout 4: Quads/Hamstrings—Repeat workout from Weeks 1-2

Weeks 7-8

Workout 1: Chest/Back—Repeat workout from Weeks 1-2

Workout 2: Shoulders/Traps/Abs—Repeat workout from Weeks 1-2

Workout 3: Biceps/Triceps—Repeat workout from Weeks 3-4

Workout 4: Quads/Hamstrings—Repeat workout from Weeks 3-4

Gain Muscle and Lose Fat At The Same Time!

You CAN gain muscle and lose fat at the same time and I will show you how. Common wisdom is that you have to gain some fat to gain muscle, its the whole bulking and cutting mentality. I’m here to tell you its wrong, at least for most people. Because of many peoples unrealistic expectations about adding muscle they come to the incorrect conclusion that you can’t gain muscle while losing fat.


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Gaining muscle. Most mature adults can gain a maximum of 15 pounds of muscle in a year but many can only gain 5lbs of muscle a year. That’s only 1.25 pounds of muscle gain per month maximum – pretty slow whether you are losing fat at the same time or not. In rough numbers, to gain that 1.25 pounds of muscle each month while maintaining your current bodyfat you should eat an additional 3125 calories more a month, that’s about 100 more calories a day – not much of a calorie surplus.

Losing fat. Now lets look at losing fat, its much faster than gaining muscle. You lose fat when you consume fewer calories than you burn off in a day (the TDEE). For an average person losing weight, they will eat about 400 calories a day less (12,000 calories a month) than their TDEE to lose a pound of fat a week, or 52 pounds of fat in a year.

The first important thing to note is that the calorie surplus to gain muscle is very, very small when compared to the calorie deficit required to lose fat.

To gain muscle and lose fat at same time. Now lets try to put the two together – losing fat and gaining muscle. Now, your first thought is probably that it can’t be done because to gain muscle, you have to eat 100 calories more per day and to lose fat, you have to eat 400 calories less per day. How can you eat less and eat more at the same time? The secret to this is that our assumption that you need to eat more to gain muscle is incorrect for most adults.

Lets look at what your body does with its calories, please look at my body on left side of the above diagram. A whopping 25% of your energy goes to your brain. 50% is housekeeping stuff to keep us alive – breathing, pumping blood, maintain body temperature, replacing dead cells, etc. Its only down here where it gets interesting. About 20% is actually spend DOING stuff – walking, lifting, moving and only about 5% is spent adding muscle. Don’t get hung up on the exact numbers, the important thing is that exercise and building muscle uses very little of the calories we consume.

Now look at the right side of the above diagram, the sources. To keep you alive, your body needs two things, plain energy to burn in the form of carbs or fat and then amino acids in the form of protein. Your body has an amazing series of emergency backup system to keep you alive should food be scarce. Your stomach is the gas tank for ordinary use. Your bodyfat is the backup up generator to be turned on when food is scarce. And your muscles are the emergency backup, your body wont turn on this nuclear power plant to cannibalize muscle unless its a DIRE emergency. Energy can come from any of the three systems but amino acids can only come from the stomach or the muscles.


Lets talk about this nuclear reactor here and how to stop if from turning on and burning up our muscles. Our bodies are really smart, they know muscle is really important and they wont burn it unless they absolutely have to. There are three occasions your body will fire up the nuke in the above diagram:

  1. It needs energy to stay alive that is not available in the stomach or fat stores (the barrel or the portable generator in the above diagram)
  2. It needs amino acids to stay alive that are not in the stomach (the barrel in the above diagram)
  3. Its afraid you are starving. If you cut calories more than 10% under TDEE, risk burning muscle.
  • 40% of energy from protein eaten
  • 50% of energy from fats and carbs eaten
  • 10% of energy from stored bodyfat

So YES, you can gain muscle and lose fat and here’s how:

    1. Constant influx of protein. 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day taken 5-6 equal portions spaced evenly through out the day – otherwise your nuclear power plant will have to turn on between meals and burn muscle, you don’t want that.
    2. Consume enough calories to keep your body from thinking its starving but not so many calories that you gain fat, 10% under your TDEE is a good value to use. My calorie calculator will tell you exactly what that is for your type metabolism. Make sure to set your goal in step 6 to “10% calorie reduction”
    3. Proper nutrition, make every calorie count!
      1. eat unprocessed or minimally processed foods
      2. eat lots of fresh vegetables
      3. eat less than 30% of your calories from fat and eat only good fats like olives, nuts, and avocados
      4. eat whole grains and low G.I. carbs – no simple carbs like sugar, alcohol, or white flour
      5. eat omega-IIIs daily, flax or salmon are great sources
    4. Hardcore, consistent weight workouts. You can use my custom workout plan generator to design a workout plan appropriate for you.
    5. Daily cardio, 30-40min. Cardio will not burn muscle, it will help you gain muscle while losing fat at the same time.

Many beginners to fitness ask if they should lose their fat first or start lifting to gain muscle first, the answer is that they should do BOTH at the same time!!! Especially for beginners, it is very easy to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time!

Now lets talk about the exceptions to this, those who can’t gain muscle and lose fat:

  1. Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is very difficult for advanced bodybuilders. Many of them are close to their genetic limits so adding muscle is very difficult and slow for them even under the best of circumstances. Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is something that only beginning and intermediate bodybuilders can do. (By my somewhat arbitrary definition, an advanced bodybuilder is someone who can do 8 flawless, ultra slow-motion pullups and 20 flawless, ultra slow-motion pushups.)
  2. Skinny teens who can’t gain either fat or muscle even when they eat as much as they can.
  3. Advanced bodybuilders with low bodyfat (under 8%).Your body needs some fat so when you get to a certain point, your body will start choosing to burn muscle instead of fat if you have a caloric deficit. If you are 8% bodyfat and want to get down to 4-6% bodyfat you wont be able to add muscle while you do this, at best you can do is to maintain your muscle mass. With regular dieting, its tough to drop down to 4-6% without losing muscle mass but carb cycling seems to really help for this specific purpose.

zen habits : breathe

By Leo Babauta

I would bet that I’m not alone here in wanting to get leaner and fitter — it’s something that many of us would like to do, and many of us are striving for all the time.

We don’t want to lose weight, although that’s often stated as the goal — we want to get leaner. We want to shed the fat and leave just the lean muscle (some of us want to increase the muscle, others just want to lose the fat). We want to be healthy and in good shape and able to be physically active.

Unfortunately, with the stresses of our daily lives, with the frustrations of being overweight and living an unhealthy lifestyle, with the difficulties of changing ingrained habits … getting leaner and fitter isn’t always an easy process. Many of us give up before we get very far.

A little more than a month ago I announced my plan to become lighter and leaner in The Rules of the Unbelievable Lightness of Being Club. In summary, I planned to:

  • Eat when I was lightly hungry, eat slowly, and stop when I was lightly full.
  • Eat light foods (nothing heavy or greasy).
  • Add weight lifting to my running, and start lightly (just one set of light weights to start with).

I’d like to give you my successful one-month report (I’m not stopping yet, but plans have changed a bit), and then share some of my tips for getting leaner and fitter — things that are working for me that I think could work for you too.

My One-Month Assessment – Success!

Since I published my plan in early April, I started a training blog and announced my overall goal and some sub-goals (see below). Also, since posting that plan I decided to try to do a couple of sprint triathlons (the first is this weekend!) which meant adding swim and bike workouts to my plan.

Now, to give you some background, I’m a runner but a complete novice when it comes to the swim and the bike. So I’ve been building up a little endurance and learning some skills, and generally having a blast. I won’t be competitive in the triathlons, but I will have fun. 🙂

Another thing to note is that I’ve now become addicted to triathlon training. It’s so much fun, and I recommend it to anyone trying to get lean (it’s included in my list of tips at the bottom of this post).

OK, let’s take a look at my goals from a month ago, and the progress I’ve made on each:

My overall goal is just to get myself in good shape for my honeymoon in late June, and then after that to prepare for my 3rd marathon in December. Progress: I’ve been exercising almost every single day and eating pretty healthy in the last month. I’ve added triathlon training to my running and weight lifting and feel fitter than ever. I’ve lost an inch or two on my waist and about 5 lbs so far, though my weight has plateaued a bit. I really feel fitter than I was a month ago and feel like I’ll be seeing even more results in the next few weeks.

My sub-goals:

1. Start and stick to a regular strength training routine. I’m going to do 2 full-body workouts a week, just 6 exercises: bench press, standing rows, shoulder presses, pullups, bicep curls and squats. I might add deadlifts and dips later, and maybe a 3rd day per week once I’ve gotten into the habit (after 3 weeks maybe). Progress: I’ve stuck to this strength training routine extremely well so far, doing more than 5 weeks of this schedule. I’ve gone from one set per exercise to four (starting today) and have increased the weights for each exercise. I also feel stronger than ever. This is my longest ever to stick with a weight routine!

2. Build my running back up to a decent level. My focus won’t be on running, but I’d like to have a decent base (maybe 30 miles per week eventually) before I start my marathon training. I’ll also do a faster workout once a week, to increase fat burning and to get me in good shape for some shorter races I’ll be doing for the next few months. Progress: I’ve not only built my running back up to a decent level (25+ miles per week and still increasing), but have started doing hills/speedwork once a week and am feeling strong on the run. Also, not in the original plan, but since I’ve begun triathlon training I’m now doing more cardio than ever before. I feel amazing!

3. Eat lightly. I’ll go into more detail on this in a future post, but I’ve created my own meal plan, and will be eating 4-5 times per day, about 300-400 calories per meal. Sometimes a little more. Eat when I’m lightly hungry (instead of ravenous), eat slowly, eat until I’m lightly full (not stuffed), eat light foods (not heavy). Allow myself to cheat a couple meals per week. Progress: I have definitely been eating more often, and eating less per meal, and eating healthy foods for the most part. The cheat meals haven’t been too bad, and while I haven’t stuck exactly to the meal plan, I think my eating has been really good in the last month. I eat when I’m hungry and don’t starve myself, but don’t stuff myself either — very healthy eating style.

4. Stay accountable. I will be trying to post daily (or so) here on my training blog, as well as keeping a public training and eating log on FitDay. Progress: I’ve posted reports each day (though I was late on a couple) so I’ve been pretty much perfect here. And while I don’t use FitDay anymore, I’ve switched to the much better The Daily Plate (see my diary) and have been logging faithfully every day. The accountability of this log and the training blog have really helped keep me on track.

Overall Assessment

As you can see from my progress on each sub-goal above, I’ve been doing great on every account — overall fitness, strength training, running, eating healthy, and staying accountable. I’ve also added swimming and biking and am having such a great time!

A few indicators:

  1. Weight: Started at 189.5 and have dropped to 185.5. While my weight loss has leveled off, I think the overall loss is decent and the plateau is probably temporary.
  2. Waist: Started at 38 inches, down to 36 inches as of this week. Hooray!
  3. Strength: Went from 1 set of light weights to 4 sets of heavier weights.
  4. Running: Went from running 4x a week, 13 miles a week (my first week) to running 5x a week and 25 miles a week (last week).
  5. Overall exercise: Went from 6 workouts in a week the first week, total of 2 hrs 40 mins, to 11 workouts last week for a total of 8 hours and 20 minutes. That’s an increase of more than 3 times my total exercise minutes!

I’m obviously very happy with the last month and hope to just continue the exercise I’ve been doing and continue my healthy eating. I will continue to progress gradually with all four sports (weights, running, cycling, swimming) but will obviously not make the same kind of increases in total exercise time. If I just continue my schedule, I should do well over the next month

Tips for Getting Lean and Fit

The last month has been an enlightening part of my continuing journey over the last couple years to get leaner (and I still have a ways to go). One of the things that’s a bit tricky is losing fat while maintaining or even increasing your muscle mass — it’s hard to do as you tend to lose muscle as you lose fat, as a rule.

However, I’ve been finding that my muscle mass has actually been increasing (not at a huge rate, but at least it’s not decreasing) while I’m losing fat at the same time. Here are some tips for doing that and getting fitter than ever — as always, remember that I’m not an expert and these are just things that have been working for me:

  1. Increase cardio. I know that you’ll read magazines and hear from bodybuilders that building muscle is the best way to lose fat. And to some extent, I agree that’s a good strategy. However, losing fat is really about being in a calorie deficit — if you burn more calories than you eat, your body will burn fat for fuel. And there’s no better way to get into calorie deficit, in my experience, than lots of cardio. It’s hard to burn 1,300 calories in one workout by lifting weights, as I did in my bike ride yesterday, or even 800+ calories, as I did in my run yesterday. Even the amount your metabolism is boosted by having extra muscle is negligible when compared to these high amounts of calories burned by cardio. I know this one tip will spark a debate, as it always does, but let me just say that by swimming, biking and running for more than an hour a day (sometimes two) I’ve been burning a lot of fat. You can use whatever strategy works for you, but this method is proven to be successful.
  2. Do triathlon training. This is an extension of the first tip, but I think it’s a great tip — I’ve never had as much fun training as I have since I started triathlon training. Each day is a new challenge — a long run today, learning to improve my stroke tomorrow, a long bike ride the day after, then a hill run, then an endurance swim, then intervals on the bike, with weight workouts mixed into all of that. You never get bored. My suggestion is to look for a triathlon near you, maybe three or four months away — choose a sprint triathlon to start with. Then look for a beginner’s plan online, something that doesn’t start too hard, and slowly begin to build up endurance in each sport. Don’t overdo it in the beginning — even 20 minutes a day will make big improvements over time, until you’re doing 45-60 minutes most days of the week a month or two later. You’ll be fitter than ever, and your body will be leaner without a doubt.
  3. Lift heavy. This is where I agree with many magazines and bodybuilders. If you just do a lot of cardio, you will lose fat, but you’ll also lose muscle. But if you lift heavy weights (whether you’re a man or a woman), you’ll force your body to keep that muscle. Lots of repetitions with light weights don’t really do much — you have to work your way up to heavier and heavier weights with fewer reps. Compound lifts are best — ones that work multiple muscle groups, like squats and deadlifts and bench press and so forth. Now, if you’re trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, you won’t gain as much muscle as you would if you just tried to gain muscle and didn’t worry about the fat. Bodybuilders usually have periods of bulking (gaining muscle with a caloric surplus) and cutting (losing fat with a caloric deficit). You can do this too, but I’ve found that just lifting heavy and doing a lot of cardio will get you leaner.
  4. Eat adequate protein. This tip will also spark off a debate, because many bodybuilders will recommend one gram of protein intake per pound of body weight. However, most nutritionists will recommend 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight (divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms) for those trying to build muscle, and less for those who don’t exercise. If you eat a regular American diet with lots of meat, you eat well over this amount, so don’t worry about it. Vegetarians like myself can also easily get this amount if they try to get good sources of protein with every meal (nuts and nut butters, beans, tofu, soy milk, whole grains, etc.). I suggest non-vegetarians also focus on getting lean proteins, including those I just mentioned and lean sources of poultry, fish and red meat.
  5. Focus on bodyfat, not weight. While I like to monitor my weight, I know that it’s a very imperfect measure of how lean I’m getting. What’s better is bodyfat percentage, and while there’s no convenient way to get an accurate measurement of that percentage, there are a couple of methods that will suffice. The first is a bodyfat scale — there a a bunch of good models on the market, and while none of them is very accurate, they are consistent, and changes in the readings of these scales will reflect actual improvement in your body composition. The second is just using a tape measure to measure your body — you can measure waist, hips, chest, arms, thighs and neck, but if you’re shooting for easiness maybe just do waist (right around where your belly button is, not where your pants go around your body). With these kinds of measurements to monitor your improvements, you’ll have a better reflection of whether you’re getting leaner or not.
  6. Be accountable. My training blog has been a great way for me to stay accountable for my exercise and eating — it’s very motivational. I highly recommend starting such a blog to keep yourself accountable. Online forums, such as the Zen Habits forums, are also good ways to stay accountable, especially if they have daily reporting threads where you can tell people what you ate and what exercise you did every day. Sites such as The Daily Plate, where you log your food and exercise and other people can look at your log and post comments, are also good accountability tools. If you don’t use one of these online tools, at least have a group of friends and family to whom you give updates on your training, in person or through email.
  7. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. This seems like such basic advice but the problem is many of us don’t follow it. We’re out of tune with our bodies and instead eat when it’s “time to eat” or when we have time or when we’re out with others and there’s food available. These are unhealthy eating patterns. First, we shouldn’t go hungry just because it’s not time to eat or we don’t have time. Always have healthy snacks, whether at work or on the road, and eat when you’re a little or moderately hungry. If you wait until you’re ravenous, you’ll overeat. Second, don’t keep eating if you’re satiated. Many times we are so ravenous that we eat past the point when we’re full, and then we’re stuffed. Or we eat seconds or even thirds because the food tastes so good, or because we’re too busy talking or watching TV to realize we’re full. Learn to eat slower, to pause in your eating for a few minutes even if you don’t think you’re full yet, and to listen to your body. Sometimes if you just wait for 5 minutes, you’ll realize you really are full. Avoiding overeating is crucial to getting leaner.
  8. Get into calorie deficit. As I said above, it’s only when your body is in caloric deficit (you burn more calories than you eat) that it really taps into fat as a fuel source. Your body burns fat all the time (it’s doing it right now as you read this article) but after you eat a lot of food, if your body doesn’t need all of those calories, it’ll store them as more fat. So on balance you’re not losing fat if you’re not in caloric deficit. How do you get into caloric deficit? First use an online calculator to calculate how much your body needs to maintain itself. Then subtract 500 calories from that amount and aim to take in that much each day — that’s the deficit you need to lose about a pound a week, which is a safe amount. Don’t go into a deficit of more than 1,000 calories per day, as that will result in an unhealthy rate of weight loss. Also don’t go below 1,200 calories per day if you’re a woman or 1,500 if you’re a man, as that’s generally said to be too little — you won’t get the nutrients you need.
  9. But don’t be in deficit during your exercise window. While being in caloric deficit is important if you want to lose fat, if you’re increasing your exercise (as I am and as I recommend above), then your body needs fuel for the exercise and for recovery and growth. Starving yourself while increasing exercise will only lead to low energy and the breakdown of your body. Here’s what I do: I think of the couple hours before my exercise, plus the time of my exercise, and the couple hours after my exercise, as my “exercise window”. So if I do an hour of exercise at 5 p.m., then my exercise window is 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. That’s when your body needs fuel — before and during exercise to fuel the exercise, and after the exercise to promote recovery and growth. Don’t go into caloric deficit during this time — try to get healthy, nutritious food with lots of carbs and protein. The rest of the day, you can be in deficit, but not during exercise if you want to get leaner and grow some muscle mass.
  10. Eat clean if possible. What’s clean eating? It’s a lack of junk food and as little processed food as possible. It’s whole grains, lean protein, fruits and veggies, good fats, beans and nuts. Basically, healthy food. You don’t need any fancy diet plan — just eat these kinds of clean foods, and eat a variety of them. Now, you can eat “unclean” foods of course, but as much as you can, eat clean.
  11. But don’t severely deny yourself. If you “go on a diet” and restrict yourself from foods your body craves, you will eventually binge. That’s not a healthy eating pattern either — restrict yourself severely and then binge, then repeat. Instead, indulge in what your body is craving, but do it in moderation. Then, instead of feeling guilty, move on and aim for clean foods most of the time. Feel free to indulge, as long as it’s the exception and not the rule. You want to have an eating pattern that you can live with, not something that will last a month and then collapse.
  12. Eat lotsa veggies and fruits. If there’s any single diet change you make that will make the biggest difference in getting you leaner. Two reasons: one is that they are high in fiber and vitamins and minerals, which most people are lacking in their diet and which promote a healthier body. Two is that they are high in volume without being high in fat or calories. You can eat lots of fruits and veggies but have very few calories.
  13. High-quality carbs are your friends. While in many circles carbs have been villified — and in the case of white breads and sugary foods, justifiably so — the truth is that if you’re going to increase your exercise, you need carbs. But you should aim for ones that are high in quality — whole grains, without a lot of fat or sugar, high in fiber and nutrients. Fruit, veggies, oatmeal and whole-grain breads are some good example of high-quality carbs.
  14. Drink water only. Well, almost only. I have a cup of coffee in the morning, and an occasional beer or glass of wine (especially if I burned a lot of calories exercising that day). But other than that, I only drink water, all day long. I don’t consume massive amounts of it, as that hasn’t been shown to contribute to weight loss, but I make sure that I stay hydrated, and drinking water instead of juice or sweet drinks is a good way to keep out those extra calories.
  15. Increase intensity. After you’ve built up some endurance in whatever exercise you choose — whether that’s walking or running or cycling or swimming or rowing or hiking — you should increase the intensity of that exercise perhaps once or twice a week. That doesn’t mean do an all-out effort, but doing faster-paced intervals, or walking or running or biking up hills, helps increase fitness, calorie burn and leanness. I’m a fan of long, slow miles, but more intense workouts really improve performance and get you fitter than ever.
  16. Rest is just as important as exercise. Many people make the mistake of exercising at a high level all the time, and think that rest is for wimps. Well, it’s not. Rest is when your body heals itself and grows stronger. If you just exercise all the time, your body will break down, and you’ll get injured or burned out. It’s something I have to do all the time: force myself to take a break. To ensure that you’re getting proper rest, make sure that 1) you take at least one full rest day a week, and two if you’re just starting out; 2) you follow a hard workout day with an easy one (or a rest day); and 3) you get lots of sleep — even take naps if you’re doing a lot of exercise.
  17. Most of all, enjoy yourself! Getting leaner and fitter doesn’t happen overnight, or even after a week or three. It’s a long process and it takes patience — and you’ll quit if all you’re looking for are results on the scale or in the mirror, especially if you don’t enjoy the exercise and good eating. If you really want to get lean and fit, you need to stick with it for the long haul, and that means you need to do it because you enjoy it. Make exercise fun! Don’t do it if you hate it (however, give it a couple weeks before you decide — often it gets much easier and more enjoyable after a couple weeks). Find exercise you love to do, that you look forward to doing. Find healthy foods that you enjoy. Living the healthy lifestyle can be a real pleasure if you make it so — and it’ll help you to get to where you’re going if you enjoy the journey.

Everything You Need to Know About Burning Fat and Building Muscle

What Is Muscle + Types of Muscle

Everyone has two different types of muscle: type 1 (slow-twitch) fibers and type 2 (fast-twitch) fibers. “Slow- twitch fibers control endurance. They’re what you use for activities like running long distances and low-impact aerobic workouts like Zumba,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Auburn University Montgomery. Fast-twitch fibers are used for shorter, explosive movements like squat jumps or sprints. They fatigue more quickly and require more recovery time. While type 1 fibers remain about the same size even after you tone, type 2s get larger as they get stronger, so working them is key if you want muscle definition. “If you only focus on training one type, you’re missing out on half the perks,” Olson says. (Up next: 7 Common Muscle Myths-Busted.)

What Is Fat + Types of Fat

Fat is a little more complicated. You have white fat, which includes subcutaneous and visceral kinds, and brown fat. Subcutaneous fat is the pinchable stuff around your hips, breasts, butt, belly, and thighs that gives you curves. And yes, it has functional benefits: “Subcutaneous fat is your largest energy reserve,” says Labros Sidossis, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University. “It also helps regulate body temperature and cushions your internal organs.” This type of fat is so essential that your body is wired to hang onto it, which can make it tough to lose.

Visceral fat hides out under the white fat in your midsection. “Its purpose is to protect organs like your liver and intestines,” Olson says. “But too much visceral fat increases inflammation, raising your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure,” she adds. Any woman with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches likely has an unhealthy amount of visceral fat. (Here: five really important things to know about body fat.)

Finally, there’s brown fat-the kind you actually want more of. “It burns calories instead of storing them,” Sidossis says. Exercise may help the body make more brown fat by producing a hormone called irisin, which activates it, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. And vigorous workouts may even prompt white fat to temporarily turn into a type of brown fat known as beige fat, which also burns calories.

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The Muscle-Fat Connection

Like a car engine, your muscles need fuel to move. In fact, the majority of the energy you use during the day is for powering your muscles, which have hundreds of essential purposes besides helping you crush it in the gym, like keeping your heart pumping and maintaining your balance. One of the best sources of that energy is fat. It contains 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates, another top fuel source, contain just 4 calories.

But your body is fickle. It likes to pick and choose its gas. “You tap fat for energy when you do low-intensity activities like typing on your computer or going for a walk,” says Keith Baar, Ph.D., a professor in the department of physiology and membrane biology at the University of California Davis. “But as you increase physical intensity and your muscles start demanding fuel faster, your body switches to burning carbs, which are quicker to break down into energy.”

How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle with Your Workouts

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You’ve heard of the “fat-burning zone,” an exercise intensity of about 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate, thought to be below the threshold where your body will start burning carbs. It turns out, though, that cranking up the intensity can lead to more fat loss in the end. “You want to burn as many calories overall as possible during your workout so that afterward your body will be forced to use fat to help your muscles recover,” Baar says. “That’s how you get the biggest burn.”

Intensity is only part of the equation, however. These six strategies will help you build muscle and torch fat more effectively.

  1. Get moving early. You can blast up to 20 percent more body fat by exercising in the morning. The key: Eat breakfast after your workout, research in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests. “Your body has less glycogen (a.k.a. energy) from carbs if you don’t eat, so it will have no choice but to turn to fat,” explains Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine physician in New York City and the author of Running Strong. (And ICYDK, there are even more benefits to morning workouts.)
  2. Sleep more. Aim for at least seven hours a night. Less than that keeps your levels of the stress hormone cortisol elevated, which may sabotage the results of your workout. “Cortisol slows muscle growth,” Baar says. It may also cause the body to hold onto fat. “Stress is seen as a threat, so your body begins hoarding fat so it has energy stores, particularly in the abdomen,” Olson says. (These science-backed strategies will help you sleep better.)
  3. Follow the 1:3 rule. One hour, three times a week. People who stuck to that workout schedule for six months experienced a change in their gene expression that encouraged their bodies to remove fat from the blood stream; they also had significantly smaller waists, according to research from Lund University in Sweden. The study authors say the genetic changes may lower the risk of heart disease too.
  4. Push harder. The best way to build lean muscle mass is by lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises until you’re tapped out. (Just one reason why weight lifting will change your life.) “When you lift to failure-the point where you physically can’t do it any more-all your muscle fibers get the signal that they need to grow,” Baar says. “It could be five reps with a heavy weight or 15 reps with a lighter weight; whatever it takes to get you to failure.” And don’t worry about bulking up: Women are naturally less muscular than men. If you do feel your muscles are looking bigger than you’d like, though, “lift heavier weights, but don’t push yourself to failure every time,” Baar suggests. “This helps your muscles grow stronger without getting as big.”
  5. But take it easy sometimes too. Change your routine to let your muscles rest. “Switching from moderate- to high-intensity workouts gives your body different challenges to adapt to and prevents overtraining,” says Polly de Mille, an exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. And recovery is essential: That’s when your muscles are able to build themselves back up stronger and your body dips into your fat stores to replenish your drained energy. (Here’s your active recovery guide to get the most out of your workout.)
  6. Snack smart post-exercise. Eat a combo of carbs and protein within two hours of your workout. “The carbs replenish glycogen stores, while the amino acids from the protein help repair wear-and-tear on your muscles so you’re stronger the next time you exercise,” says Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D.N., a sports nutritionist and cofounder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Aim for a 2-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein (or if you’re exercising for longer than 75 minutes, a 3- or 4-to-1 ratio), like a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder (go for 20 to 40 grams), a quarter-cup of oats, and a banana. (Or one of these healthy post-workout snacks.)
  • By By Kelly Mickle

Lose Weight by Building Muscle Tone

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by: Holly Ridgeway

Building muscle tone through resistance training is about the most efficient way to shed unwanted pounds. Here’s how it works.

The myth of spot training

Contrary to popular belief, it’s hard to target muscle tone in a specific area by concentrating on particular muscle groups, or so-called “spot training.” The misconception is that you can increase muscle tone and lose weight in one body region only — for instance, your upper legs or the backs of your arms — by simply targeting those areas when lifting weights.

But, in fact, fat is lost unevenly throughout the body depending upon your genetic makeup. If you have your grandma’s pear shape, you’ll likely lose upper body weight first. Alternately, if you inherited your mother’s apple figure, you’re more apt to lose the lower body fat before the upper.

How building muscle tone helps you lose weight

First, you can burn just as many calories while working to increase muscle tone as you would on a bike or the elliptical. This is particularly the case with circuit training, where you are performing exercises back-to-back with minimal rest. The burn is especially strong if you use free weights, as opposed to machines. Not only will you have to stabilize yourself, but you’ll have to perform many exercises while standing, which burns more calories than sitting. And, because circuit training provides a more efficient workout, you might actually spend less time at the gym!

Second, muscle burns about three times more calories than fat. Think of your body as a furnace; your muscles are the burners. When you increase muscle tone, you add more burners to the furnace, which causes you to burn fat more efficiently. This equates to lost pounds.

Finally, if you increase your muscle tone, you’ll also increase your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which is the phenomenon of elevated metabolism after (not during) exercise. By building muscle tone with resistance training, you’ll actually burn more calories while watching TV following a resistance workout than you will after a cardio workout alone.

How to increase muscle tone

For the goal of weight loss, the National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends doing resistance-training exercises consisting of two sets of 12 to 15 reps at 60-75 percent intensity. It’s best to perform exercises in a circuit so you can minimize your rest interval between exercises and burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Rather than doing two sets for the same muscle group back-to-back, do an exercise for each body part once, and then do each one again in sequence. Yoga and Pilates are also beneficial for increasing muscle tone, and group exercise can be more motivating if you’re trying to lose weight.

And ladies, don’t worry about bulking up. Unless you’re a woman who has an unusual excess of testosterone, you are not going to turn into a bodybuilder by lifting weights. You can increase muscle tone without increasing muscle mass. So don’t fear the iron if you’re trying to lose weight — embrace it!

10 Tips To Drop Body Fat And Get Toned Fast

Looking to slim down? Want to look your very best in that little black dress you plan to wear to your anniversary dinner? If you have a timeline to hit and you want to lean out as quickly as possible, it pays to follow a few smart tips and guidelines.

Losing body fat and firming your muscles does not require a secret approach. Rather, it requires followed, tried and true strategies that you can rely on time after time.

Let’s take a closer look at 10 tips to drop body fat quickly and enhance your level of muscle definition.

Challenge Yourself In The Gym

The number one mistake that most women are making when they hit the gym is simply not challenging themselves enough. They are too worried that lifting much more than five or ten pounds will have them looking ‘manly’.

This isn’t the case. Always remember that your body does not possess enough of the hormone called testosterone, to develop large amounts of muscle bulk.

Instead, when you do lift heavier weights, you’ll achieve better overall muscle tone and definition, while also increasing your overall fat burning capacity as well. This will make your workout sessions that much more intense and the more intense those sessions are, the more calories you burn not only during the workouts, but after the workouts as well.

Ditch Hour-Long Cardio Marathons

Moving on, the second must-do to get serious results is to stop all those marathon cardio workouts you’re doing. If you’re the type to force yourself out of bed an hour earlier first thing every morning to have your scheduled date with the treadmill, this needs to stop.

Too much of this steady state cardio is just going to cause your body to look flat and lacking all muscle definition. You may burn calories while doing this, but usually you won’t be losing that much body fat.

Plus, all that cardio can make you hungrier than ever, which only leads to you consuming more food than you otherwise would be eating.

The solution?

Intervals. Hop on the treadmill and go as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds. Then slow to a walk for 60. Then repeat this process ten more times. Once that’s done, tell me you didn’t just have the cardio workout of your life.

This form of cardio will always produce better results than all that steady state cardio you were doing.

Know How To Use Carbs To Your Advantage

Next, you’ll also want to learn how to use carbohydrates to your advantage. Here’s the thing: carbohydrates do matter. Used poorly in your program and they will lead to fat gain. On the opposite side of things, used wisely and they can actually boost your metabolic rate, enhance your energy level, and accelerate your fat loss results.

So how do you make the most of this nutrient? First, you want to schedule the bulk of your carbohydrates around your workout sessions. Before and immediately following exercise are when your body is most likely to use those carbohydrates for energy and to replenish the muscle glycogen stores in the body.

This is also the time when you are least likely to utilize them for body fat gain. Then during the rest of the day, you’ll want to focus primarily on fiber-rich carbohydrates coming from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Feast On Lean Proteins

Another diet change you’ll want to be making is ensuring that you are getting sufficient lean protein into your meal plan. Protein is a must for everyone who is looking to firm their body and accelerate fat burning. Again, many women are afraid of consuming too much protein as they fear it will cause them to develop muscle bulk.

It’s only if you consume far too many calories will you start to get ‘bulky’ and usually that bulk is not muscle, but rather, excess body fat.

Lean protein rich foods are going to help to boost your metabolic rate, increase your overall level of fat oxidation, decrease hunger, and help you best build lean muscle mass tissue.

If you aren’t eating enough protein, it’ll also be harder to recover from the workout sessions that you are doing, so this could keep you out of the gym longer between sessions. The less frequently you are exercising, the slower your results will be as well.

Focus on lean proteins such as chicken breast, turkey breast, lean grass fed beef, eggs and egg whites, as well as plenty of fish and seafood. Whey protein powder is also an excellent option and something that almost every woman should have in their fat loss diet plan.

Keep Your Hydration In Check

Hydration is another area of focus for any woman looking to melt fat and tone up. Ask yourself this, what are you drinking throughout the day?

Are you consuming plenty of water? Or do your hydration choices pile on the calories to your day? If you are consuming calorie dense beverages like fruit smoothies, energy drinks, fruit juice, gourmet coffees, or the worst choice of all, alcoholic beverages, this needs to change if you are going to lose weight successfully.

You simply won’t feel as full from these calorie containing beverages and as such, will rarely reduce your total calorie intake because of them. This then may mean that you are overeating in calories, thus will experience weight gain.

Alcohol is an especially poor choice as the minute that alcohol enters your system, it acts as a toxin and all fat burning will stop until it’s fully burned off. Each time you take a drink of alcohol, think of it as if you were taking a break from your fat loss program.

Instead, focus on drinking beverages such as water or herbal tea. Both of these will help optimize your hydration, which in turn can also speed up the overall rate of fat burning that you see.

Black coffee in moderation is also okay and may give you a bit more of a boost given the fact it does contain the caffeine. Just avoid drinking coffee too close to bedtime or sleep may be compromised.

Don’t Fast Through The Day

One big mistake that many women make is getting up and trying to make it through the day while eating as little as possible. They fast through breakfast, eat nothing much more than a salad for lunch, and by the time they get home in the evening, they are primed to eat everything in sight.

Sound familiar? This is another big mistake that is doing nothing to help get you to your end goal.

The problem here is that by refusing to eat when your body needs the fuel, you are going to have a higher chance of burning up lean muscle mass tissue for energy. Then when you do eat (and eat in abundance!), you are just going to deposit all those calories as excess body fat stores. Late in the evening you aren’t likely all that active (unless you are doing a late-night workout), so there is a much higher chance that you are going to end up gaining body fat because of it.

Instead, spread those calories out over the course of the day. Not only will this give your body a better chance to use the energy you are feeding it, but in addition to that, you’ll feel a whole lot better as well. If you are often low in energy mid-way through the day, this is very likely why.

Don’t ‘bank’ those calories until the evening. Use them when you need them the most.

Schedule Some ‘Me’ Time

Here’s one thing that most women completely neglect in their program –‘me’ time. I know. You have a million and one things to do and a number of obligations to take care of.

Still. You need to schedule at least one hour a week to yourself. Read a book. Take a bath. See a movie that you’ve wanted to watch. Do something to help combat stress and keep yourself sane.

Women who spread themselves too thin often lose motivation to maintain their healthy eating plan and also experience such high stress levels that it can cause them to turn to eating foods in a highly emotional state.

When you have some time carved out each week just to yourself, you can help prevent this.

If you can get some time in each day for yourself, even better. Remember, when you feel great and healthy, you’ll be able to do more during the other hours of the day, so your entire schedule may move along more smoothly.

Use A Good Pre-Workout Supplement

The next thing that you may want to consider adding to your protocol to help increase your overall rate of fat burning is a good pre-workout supplement. There are many of these on the market now and you don’t need something too elaborate and should not fall for one that promises any unrealistic claims, but this said, it is wise to have something in your court to give you the boost when you need it.

Look for a pre-workout supplement that contains a moderate dose of caffeine (around 150-200 mg) along with other energizing ingredients such as citrulline malate, carnitine, as well as tyrosine.

These will all help give you a mental edge while you are in the gym doing your workout and may also help enhance your overall metabolic rate as well.

Try New Activities Regularly

Also focus on trying new activities as regularly as possible. Break away from your traditional workouts from time to time or work with a trainer who will keep your workouts varied.

This will not only keep you more mentally stimulated as you go about each session, but also help keep your body guessing as to what’s coming next.

If you hit the gym and do the same workout over and over again, soon your body will adapt and you’ll stop seeing the results that you’re looking for.

Change things up. You’ll work muscles you may have been neglecting and this can really go a long way towards helping you develop a well-rounded physique.

Sleep 8 Hours Per Night

Finally, don’t overlook the influence your sleep schedule is having on your ability to burn fat and tone up. You must be sleeping at least seven, if not eight hours each and every night to see maximum results.

Don’t take sleep for granted. If you aren’t sleeping enough, you’ll likely find that your hunger level during the day is much higher and your appetite may be completely insatiable.

Likewise, you may also notice that you are struggling to work up the energy to hit the gym and even if you do, you aren’t performing at an intensity level that’s optimal. This will dramatically reduce your post-workout calorie burn and could even set you up to experience injury. Those who exercise while in a fatigued state are far more likely to use sloppy form and this can be one of the leading causes of injury.

Have a serious look at your agenda each day. Are you spending time watching TV, browsing the Internet, or checking your social media feeds that could be much better spent sleeping?

If so, make some changes. Once you realize just how much better you feel on a good night’s rest, you’ll never want to go without again.

So there you have ten steps to know and remember that will all help you get leaner and achieve the muscle tone that you’ve been looking for. It’s not always about working harder to see great results, but sometimes, just about working smarter. If you can make a few tweaks to your current routine so that you are following all of these principles, you can rest assured you’ll be in your dream body in no time.

How To Increase Muscle Tone

What do you hope to achieve when you step into the gym? Is it losing weight, or building stronger and larger muscles? Or are you shooting for a combination of the two? Doing this – aka “getting lean” or “toning up” – has become one of the most common fitness goals, with hordes now hitting the gym to strip away body fat and reveal a set of impressive, well-defined muscles to the world.

Toning up is certainly not a bad goal to have, and personal trainer Jamie Lloyd has found it to be an increasingly standard target among new clients. It is also, however, quite a vague idea. Compared with, say, losing 5kg, a general goal of becoming more toned lacks, somewhat ironically, definition. So before we get into Lloyd’s advice on how to tone up, we asked him for his take on exactly what that means.

“When people come to me and say that they want to tone up, what they usually mean is that they want to lower their body fat percentage and get lean muscle,” says Lloyd.

“Basically, they want to lose the lard and add some muscle mass and definition – but not so much muscle that they look like a gladiator on steroids.”

“Toning up is a term used to describe the results from a combination of basic weightlifting and fat-burning workouts, where the end goal is that your muscles look more defined.”

Perhaps the easiest way to think of toning up is in contrast to bulking up, which is also a fairly vague term but one that’s easier to grasp.

“Again, there are no rules to bulking up, but it usually means adding a lot of muscle tissue to the body, bringing to mind strongmen and bodybuilders pumping iron,” says Lloyd.

How To Tone Up

People who are looking to tone rather than substantially bulk up their muscles commonly do high amounts of reps with lighter weights to achieve their goal. However, avoiding heavy weights could be counterproductive.

“While there is some truth to the idea that lifting lighter weights for more reps does a better job of increasing the muscular endurance, lighter weights will not help you tone better than heavy weights,” says Lloyd.

“Lifting heavier weights build the strength of your muscles – and yes, the size to a small degree – thereby helping to increase your metabolism and burn fat. Adding a little bit more muscle to your body and decreasing your fat makes you look leaner, not bigger. So lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (eight to 12 on average) and working until you’re fatigued is more effective at toning muscles than lifting lighter weights. Not to mention that it’s more efficient, too.”

If you really do fear that lifting heavy weights will result in muscles that are too big, first of all you should be so lucky, but secondly you might be underestimating the level of commitment bulking up requires.

“To really bulk up, you have to put the work in. Bodybuilders spend hours and hours in the gym lifting extremely heavy weights, along with eating a very strict diet that promotes muscle gain.”

Of course, that’s not to say that toning up is easy.

“If you want to lose weight and get lean you should have a strength training plan in place that works every major muscle in the body eight to 12 times per set, using a weight that is heavy enough that the last two repetitions are very tough,” says Lloyd.

“Exercise like deadlifts, squats, snatches, pull-ups, burpees and thrusters are good. You can add in some whole-body conditioning with wall balls, prowler sleds, Ski-erg and kettlebell swings.”

Five Workouts To Help You Tone Up

Gym workout

We have no shortage of workouts you can tackle in the gym if your aim is to get lean. In fact, we even have a full four-week training plan designed to help you achieve just that.

See the gym workout to get big and lean

Bodyweight workout

Joe Wicks is one of the best-known proponents of using bodyweight training to tone up, so check out this four-week training plan from the man himself that contains a variety of excellent HIIT bodyweight blasts.

See the Joe Wicks fat loss workout

Dumbbell workout

Grab a pair of dumbbells and brace yourself – this quick-but-brutal workout from the F45 gym in Kingston burns boatloads of calories and works muscles all over the body.

See the F45 dumbbell workout

Resistance band workout

In just 20 minutes this fast-paced resistance workout challenges your entire body and ramps up your heart rate so you burn more calories.

See the resistance band workout

Kettlebell workout

Kettlebells are ideal for HIIT workouts, because many kettlebell exercises are dynamic which means they improve your strength and get your heart pumping simultaneously. This 20-minute kettlebell workout is a great example of a fast-paced strength workout that is sure to put you on the path to a leaner physique.

See the full-body kettlebell workout

12 Week Fat Destroyer: Complete Fat Loss Workout & Diet Program

This workout plan is designed to help you shred fat and get in shape in only 12 weeks. This might sound like hype, but it’s not. The following plan is not easy. It starts slowly, but builds rapidly.

Every detail of your diet and training for the next 12 weeks will be laid out for you. You will be told exactly what to eat, how much cardio to do, and how to weight train.

The goal is simple: lose fat, maintain muscle mass, get in shape and transform your physique as much as possible over the next 3 months. You want to not only look better, but have the fitness level and strength to match your new body.

Editor’s Note: Make sure you’re doing all the right things you need to be doing to lose body fat. For those looking for a more in-depth resource to teach them how to lose fat, we’ve created a FREE 5 day Fat Loss Email Course.

The course will teach you how your body loses fat, how to utilize workout plans on our website to maximize fat loss, how to eat for fat loss, how to supplement to lose body fat and how to track your progress.

Sign up below today to learn and ensure you get the most out of this workout program.

12 Week Program Expectations

Over the next 12 weeks your goals and expectations are:

  • Fat Loss – To lose at least 10 pounds of fat.
  • Muscle Mass – To maintain, or even gain lean muscle mass.
  • Conditioning – To be in amazing shape; perhaps the best shape in years.

The 12 Week Diet Plan

Each week will consist of 3 different types of eating days.

  • High Carb Days – 1 day per week
  • Moderate Carb Days – 3 days per week
  • Low Carb Days – 3 days per week

You may structure these days in any preferred manner. I suggest keeping the high carb day for special occasions. That way you can attend family functions, or eat out with friends, and indulge a little more than normal.

It should be noted that calorie intake can be adjusted based on metabolism. The follow changes are recommended:

  • Men 40+ – Reduce daily calories by 300.
  • Men 20-25 – Increase daily calories by 300.
  • Women 40+ – Reduce daily calories by 200.
  • Women 20-25 – Increase daily calories by 200.
12 Week Eating Plan for Men
  • Week 1 – 3 low carb days with 2300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2400 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 2 – 3 low carb days with 2200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2400 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 3 – 3 low carb days with 2100 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2400 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 4 – 3 low carb days with 2000 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2400 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 5 – 3 low carb days with 2300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2300 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 6 – 3 low carb days with 2200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2300 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 7 – 3 low carb days with 2100 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2300 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 8 – 3 low carb days with 2000 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2300 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 9 – 3 low carb days with 2300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2200 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 10 – 3 low carb days with 2200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2200 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 11 – 3 low carb days with 2100 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2200 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.
  • Week 12 – 3 low carb days with 2000 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 2200 calories, 1 high carb day of 2700 calories.

Protein intake should be a minimum of 180 grams per day. If you are a bigger guy, or have a fair amount of muscle mass, then eat 200 to 220 grams of protein per day. If you eat a little more protein the drop your daily fat intake to make up for the calories.

Fat intake should be approximately 20-30% of your daily calories. Once you have determined your daily calories from proteins and fats, fill in your eating plan with carbohydrates.

Also, you are allowed up to 10% of your daily calories from dirty foods/junk foods. You do not have to eat any junk if you prefer. This option exists as a convenience, should you be battling a craving, or attending a social gathering where you would prefer to have a small snack.

12 Week Eating Plan for Women
  • Week 1 – 3 low carb days with 1500 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1600 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 2 – 3 low carb days with 1400 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1600 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 3 – 3 low carb days with 1300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1600 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 4 – 3 low carb days with 1200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1600 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 5 – 3 low carb days with 1500 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1500 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 6 – 3 low carb days with 1400 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1500 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 7 – 3 low carb days with 1300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1500 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 8 – 3 low carb days with 1200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1500 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 9 – 3 low carb days with 1500 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1400 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 10 – 3 low carb days with 1400 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1400 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 11 – 3 low carb days with 1300 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1400 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.
  • Week 12 – 3 low carb days with 1200 calories, 3 moderate carbs days with 1400 calories, 1 high carb day of 1900 calories.

For women, protein intake should be a minimum of 100 grams per day. If you are in good shape and have a fair amount of muscle mass, then eat 120 grams of protein per day. If you eat a little more protein the drop your daily fat intake to make up for the calories.

Fat intake should be approximately 20-30% of your daily calories. Once you have determined your daily calories from proteins and fats, fill in your eating plan with carbohydrates.

Also, you are allowed up to 10% of your daily calories from dirty foods/junk foods. You do not have to eat any junk if you prefer. This option exists as a convenience, should you be battling a craving, or attending a social gathering where you would prefer to have a small snack.

The 12 Week Cardio Plan

It doesn’t matter which form of cardio you use for these 12 weeks. Pick something that gets your heart moving, be it treadmill, elliptical, or swimming.

The first thing you will notice about this cardio plan is that it starts slow. That’s ok. Right now you are out of shape. This program is designed to get you in shape over the course of 12 weeks.

Be patient. Trust the plan and stick to the plan. After the end of 12 weeks your level of conditioning may surprise you.

During the first 6 weeks take at least one day of rest between cardio workouts. After week 6 it is recommended that you perform cardio using a 2 days on, 1-2 days off pattern.

12 Week Gym Workout Split

You will be using an upper/lower workout during the next 12 weeks. Rep schemes are merely guidelines.

When a weight becomes manageable using the given set and rep schemes, add weight to the bar. For sake of convenience, use the same weight for each of the sets for a given exercise.

  • Day 1 – Upper A
  • Day 2 – Lower A
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Upper B
  • Day 5 – Lower B
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off
12 Week Gym Workout
Upper A
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Bench Press 3 8-10
One Arm Dumbbell Row 3 10-12
Seated Barbell Press 3 8-10
Pull Ups 3 10
Skullcrushers 3 10-12
Dumbbell Curl 3 10-12
12 Week Gym Workout
Lower A
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats 3 8-10
Leg Curl 3 12-15
Leg Extension 3 12-15
Leg Press Calf Raise 3 15-20
Plank 3 60 sec
Twisting Hanging Knee Raise 3 20
12 Week Gym Workout
Upper B
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 10
Barbell Row 3 8-10
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12-15
Lat Pull Down 3 10-12
Cable Tricep Extensions 3 10-12
EZ Bar Preacher Curl 3 10-12
12 Week Gym Workout
Lower B
Exercise Sets Reps
Leg Press 3 15-20
Stiff Leg Deadlift 3 8-10
Walking Dumbbell Lunge 3 10
Seated Calf Raise 3 15-20
Cable Crunch 3 20
Russian Twist 3 20

Post your post-workout swolfies in M&S gear on IG and tag @muscleandstrength, #muscleandstrength, or DM them to us to get a shoutout on Muscle & Strength stories!

I get a lot of questions about diet and fitness. No, seriously. I get A LOT of questions about diet and fitness. And I’ve consistently gotten this crazy number of questions for quite a few years now.

During this time, I’ve noticed that a handful of these questions seem to come up much more frequently than all of the others. And today, I want to answer one that is somewhere at the very top of that list…

How do you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

In order to answer this one, we need to begin with the big problem that causes people to ask it so often in the first place.

Two Little Facts… One Big Problem

If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you already know what I’m about to tell you. But if you’re not, please allow me to bring the following two facts to your attention…

  • FACT 1: Losing fat requires a caloric deficit, which means consuming LESS calories than your body needs so that stored body fat is used for energy instead.
  • FACT 2: Building muscle requires a caloric surplus, which means consuming MORE calories than your body needs so that new muscle tissue can be created.

Once you put these two facts side-by-side, you come to a very obvious and confusing problem: losing fat and building muscle require the complete opposite of each other in terms of calorie intake.

And it’s this realization that leads those of us who want to build muscle AND lose fat (ideally at the exact same time) to wonder just how in the hell we’re supposed to make it happen?

In fact, it leads us to wonder if it’s actually possible for it to happen at all? Can it even be done?

Well, let’s clear it up once and for all, starting with whether it’s actually possible…

Can It Be Done?

The answer is: YES!

Yup, seriously. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. In fact, I’ve even done it before myself. Anyone who says it can’t be done is 100% wrong.

That’s the good news.

The bad news however is that it’s not exactly something that everyone will be able to make it happen. Meaning, some people can do it… but most people can’t.

Let’s start with those lucky bastards who can…

Who CAN Do Both At The Same Time?

There are primarily 4 groups of people who can do it. In no specific order, they are:

  1. Fat Beginners
  2. People Regaining Lost Muscle
  3. Genetic Freaks
  4. Steroid/Drug Users

Now I’m sure #3 and #4 aren’t all that surprising. I mean, we all have an equal amount of jealousy and hate towards the people with amazing genetics for a reason, don’t we? They can do stuff we can’t do, and the stuff we can do they just do better, faster and easier.

And, as I’ve covered before, steroids and various drugs completely change everything.

So let’s ignore those two groups and look at the only two groups most of us will ever have a possibly of falling into: fat beginners and people regaining lost muscle.

1. Fat Beginners

The untrained state beginners are in when they start working out makes them primed for rapid improvements in virtually every area, especially strength and muscle. Noob gains are just awesome like that.

Now, if you combine this borderline superpower that beginner’s possess with an abundance of body fat, you end up with a magical calorie partitioning scenario that gives fatter beginners a short term ability to take calories stored on their body as fat and use them to build new muscle.

Basically, your body burns fat as a fuel source for muscle growth, essentially using your own body fat as your “surplus calories.” Like I said, it’s pretty damn magical.

Now how “fat” of a “fat beginner” do you need to be exactly to pull this off? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the fatter you are, the more capable you’ll be of doing it… and the better and more significant your results will be. The leaner you are, the less likely you’ll be to actually make it happen and the worse/less significant your results will be.

So, if you have just a few pounds of fat to lose, don’t get your hopes up too high. But if you have quite a bit of fat on you to lose, you’ll most likely have a short term ability to both build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

To do this, create a moderate caloric deficit, get the rest of your diet right (sufficient protein intake, etc.) and use an intelligently designed beginner routine focused on progressive overload (and work your ass off to make it happen).

While you definitely won’t be building muscle at the same rate you’ll be losing fat (not even close), you’ll still be able to make some decent strength and muscle gains while in a deficit.

But keep in mind, this is only a temporary thing. As time passes and you become less fat and less of an untrained beginner (and more muscular, too), you’ll lose this superpower and become human again just like the rest of us. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. People Regaining Lost Muscle

Similar to the fat beginner, there is another group of people who will be able to pull off a similar type of magic. In this case, the magic in question is largely due to the fact that muscle memory is very much real, and very much spectacular.

I’ve had the unfortunate luck of actually experiencing it first hand, as I once stopped training for about 3-4 months due to injury. I lost a bunch of muscle, AND I gained a little bit of fat along the way. As you can imagine, it sucked.

If there was one “positive” thing that came out of it however, it was getting to see what it’s like to return to lifting after a significant break and try to A) lose that fat, B) rebuild the muscle that I had previously built but now lost, and C) do both as fast as F-ing possible.

I don’t have the details in front of me, so I don’t remember exactly what happened or exactly how it happened. But, without a doubt, I was temporarily losing fat AND building muscle.

Each week certain measurements would consistently go up (like my arms) while other measurements went down (like my stomach). Strength came back at beginner speeds, if not faster (and my guess is faster). My weight was all over the place. Some weeks I’d lose, some weeks I’d gain, some weeks I’d maintain.

But in the end, there was less fat and more muscle on my body. And during the early stages, it was clearly happening simultaneously within the same period of time. I expected progress to go well, but it exceeded my expectations.

One of these days I’ll do a full breakdown of exactly what happened and what I did to make it happen, along with a complete week-by-week recap of how it all played out. It was pretty interesting, at least to me.

But the point I’m getting at here is that if you’ve built a decent amount of muscle, but then stopped training for a significant period of time during which some/most/all of that muscle was lost and body fat was gained, you’ll be able to rebuild that muscle WHILE losing that fat, at least for a little while. Just like with fat beginners though, this is only a temporary thing. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Who CAN’T Do Both At The Same Time?

For the most part… everyone else.

Certainly not at anything even remotely close to an acceptable rate, if any rate at all. I know it sucks to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Unless you happen to fall into one of the four groups mentioned above, the likelihood of you being able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time falls somewhere between slim and none. Or, to narrow it down even further, none and none.

But wait, what’s that you say? What about those who claim it can be done? What about those who claim they’ve done it themselves? What about those who claim it’s totally possible as long as you do it a certain way?

I had a feeling you’d bring that up.

But I’ve Seen Claims That It Can Be Done!

Yeah, I’ve seen those claims too. More often than not, it’s usually one of four things…

1. Bullshit

Do me a favor. The next time you see some fitness guru claim that “everyone else has it wrong… we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time,” take a second and let me know what happens next.

I mean, as soon as they are done explaining why it’s possible or how it’s possible (or more often just hyping the fact that it’s supposedly possibly), do they just so happen to have some kind of program, book, supplement or product of some kind that you can buy to make it all happen?

Yeah, what a shocking coincidence.

This is probably the most common format you’ll see this claim made in… when it’s part of the sales pitch/marketing of some shitty product. Like most of the stuff you’ll see in the diet and fitness world… it’s just good old lies, deception and bullshit put out there to get you to buy something.

You know, just like how you can use this supplement to lose 20lbs of fat in 5 days, or use this program to build 25lbs of muscle in 3 weeks. Whatever it is you need to hear to get your credit card out, someone will gladly be there to claim it. This is no different.

Add in steroid use, muscle memory, or both, and they’ll even have the pictures to “prove” their claim. They’ll just accidentally forget to mention the steroid use and muscle memory part, of course.

2. Stupidity

Then we have people who aren’t really lying like group #1 is, at least not knowingly. Rather, these are the people who have somehow come to believe that this is a perfectly achievable goal for everyone (usually as a result of group #1) and are now out in the world spreading their own stupid misinformation.

Again, this is as common as it gets. I’d estimate that someone says something wrong and stupid about diet and fitness every second of every day while thinking what they’re saying is in fact right and smart. But it’s not. It’s just a nice example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

So the next time you see someone claim that we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time as long as we just “eat clean,” or “eat 6 small meals a day to speed up our metabolism,” or “avoid carbs after 7PM,” or “get our post workout meal just right” or whatever else… ignore them.

Like the majority of the diet and fitness advice you’ll hear from the average person, it falls somewhere between “not quite accurate” and “dumb as hell.”

3. Semantics

Sometimes the claim can actually be 100% legit depending on exactly what the phrase “at the same time” means to you.

Are we literally talking about doing one while simultaneously doing the other? Or, are we just talking about building muscle and losing fat within the same period of time (e.g. 6 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, etc.)?

This seems like a silly point, I know. But, I’ve seen programs sold that claim they will allow you to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, only to go on to tell you to spend 10 weeks building muscle, then spend 10 weeks losing fat… and taadaaa!

Over the span of those 20 weeks, you’ve built muscle and lost fat “at the same time.” Not quite what you had in mind, was it?

4. The “Recomp”

And last but not least, we have various “recomp” methods.

These recomp (short for recomposition) methods typically involve alternating days of surpluses and deficits over the course of the week. The surpluses are put on training days to support muscle growth, and the deficits are put on rest days to cause fat loss. The goal at the end of the week is to break even and be at maintenance while (supposedly) making small progress in both directions.

So while there will be no real immediate change to your weight or your body, you’ll (supposedly) be making slow/tiny improvements in body composition over time. Meaning, less fat and more muscle.

Can this kind of thing work? I lean towards some combination of “maybe, kinda, barely and sometimes.”

The problem however is that if it does work, it will work so painfully and unacceptably slow that it will serve as a huge waste of time and effort for most people looking to build muscle, lose fat or do both.

I mean, if you’re only looking to make super tiny changes to your body, and you’re in absolutely no rush whatsoever to do it, it can maybe be an option to consider trying.

But honestly, for the majority of the population, it’s not really something I’d recommend at all.

But Then… How Do You Reach Both Goals?

It’s pretty simple, actually. You focus on one goal at a time and then alternate between them in a way that doesn’t interfere with the other.

Confused? Here’s what that means in English…

  1. You spend some period of time losing fat and getting lean. During this time, you should most definitely still be weight training intelligently so you can, at the very least, maintain your current levels of muscle and strength while body fat is lost. More about that here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle and in my new program: Superior Fat Loss
  2. Then, once you’re as lean as you wanted to get (or at least lean enough to go into a surplus), you switch your focus over from fat loss to building muscle. During this time, you should most definitely still be paying close attention to your calorie intake and rate of weight gain, and really just be optimizing your diet and training in general so that you gain as much muscle as possible while keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum. (UPDATE: I just put out a new program designed entirely for this exact purpose. Check it out: Superior Muscle Growth)
  3. Then, depending on exactly what your goals are and exactly how much muscle you want to build and how much fat you want to lose, you’d just keep alternating between goals until you end up with the exact body you’re trying get.

So even though you’re technically only focusing on one goal at a time, you’re never really ignoring the other. Instead, you’re always going about that one goal in a way that puts you in an ideal position for reaching the other.

Or, to put it another way, you don’t “old school” bulk and cut like an idiot. You do it the right way.

And if you’re wondering which goal you should focus on first, the right answer for most people most of the time is losing fat. More about that here: Should I Build Muscle or Lose Fat First?

Summing It Up

So, there you go. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, although there are only a small number of people who will be able to make it happen.

If you’re one of the few who can, be sure to take advantage of it and enjoy it while it lasts. You’ll be like the rest of us soon enough.

And for those who can’t, the worst thing you can do is attempt to anyway. Doing so will almost always result in a lot of wasted time and effort with little or nothing to show for it. Usually nothing.

The ideal solution is to simply attack one goal at a time as intelligently as possible, and then alternate to the other.

In the end, muscle will be built and fat will be lost… just not quite at the same time.

Lose fat build muscle

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