Want to lose weight while gaining muscle? Can we really have both at once? Let’s dispel some mythology and learn how.
You may have heard that you cannot lose weight while gaining muscle definition and strength. If we snapshot one moment in time, this would be true. However, our body is in a constant state of flux. If we expand our view beyond a single moment into a whole day or week, you could do both.
If you are tired of jumping from diet to diet and being stuck in cardio land, it’s time to embrace a new framework. Many think that more cardio, coupled with dieting and avoiding weights, are the keys to fat-loss success. Actually, the exact opposite is true!
Here’s a step-by-step guide to lose fat and tone up at the same time:
- Start with sleep. If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night, your hormones do not have time to reset. Thyroid, cortisol, and growth-hormone imbalances can cause muscle breakdown along with water and fat retention. The fix is easy. Start by adding 15 minutes per night to your sleep schedule until you – at least – reach 8 hours per night.
- Track your food for 3-7 days. Doing this will help you develop awareness surrounding your current intake. If you are on a low-calorie diet (< 1500 kcal/day), you likely need to eat more to speed up your metabolism. If your tracking reveals consistent caloric excess compared to your activity, aim for a small decrease (i.e., 10% in a day). The 10% daily decrease is a sustainable strategy that can help preserve muscle while losing fat.
- Rotate food choices. We tend to gravitate toward what we like and what is easy. Vary your food routine to provide your body a variety of nutrients to keep your metabolism speedy. Rotating foods can also help decrease food sensitivities. Food sensitivities promote inflammation and water retention, which is the opposite of what you want.
- Eat frequently. Eating small balanced snacks throughout your day instead of one to three big meals will keep your blood sugar stable. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods.
- Examine your protein. Protein is essential for muscle building. If your nutrition log shows <0.8 g/kg body weight (i.e. 50 grams of protein per day for a 160 lb. person); you likely need more. If you discover excess protein >1.8 g/kg body weight (i.e. 115+ grams of protein per day for a 160 lb. person), ask if this is contributing to too many calories in a day. Remember that if you take in far more calories than you burn, even protein can promote the body’s storage of excess.
Beyond overall quantity, also look at timing. Including a little protein (i.e. 15-20 grams) with each snack or meal will promote your lean-mass-building and weight-loss efforts versus consuming all of your protein at one time.
- What you do with weights matters – Using weights will not make you bulk up. If your workouts are cardio-focused, you may be breaking down muscle instead of building it. Weight lifting helps build muscle to speed up your metabolism. Unlike cardio, weight lifting keeps your body burning calories long after your workout.
If weights are new to you, start with six total-body exercises, two to three days week. Begin with a load for which you feel challenged, but can maintain proper form for one set of 10 reps. Your body will adapt quickly, so progress by working up to 2-3 sets.
Once you’ve mastered multiple sets, add resistance. Pick a heavy enough load to make your last two reps of each set challenging, but doable. If you lift four or more days/week, alternate between upper and lower body each day.
- Cycle carbs – If you’ve already checked the boxes consistently to every item in the makeover checklist, but your body is on a plateau, you can try carb cycling. This is an advanced nutrition technique. Each day in the first half of the week, decrease protein by 25 grams. For the second half of the week, reverse the cycle. Example: Sunday 200 grams, Monday 175 grams, Tuesday 150 grams, Wednesday 125 grams, Thursday 150 grams, Friday 175 grams, Saturday 200 grams.
Want more detailed info? Visit your local NUTRISHOP® store and speak with a caring and knowledgeable nutrition coach. We’d love to hear from you on Instagram and Facebook (@NutrishopUSA). What happened when you gave your makeover a try for at least 21 days in a row? Remember, consistency is key!
About the Author: Dr. Meredith Butulis is a Sports Medicine Physical Therapist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach in practice since 2002. She consistently walks the talk as a fitness, physique, and OCR world level competitor and lifestyle transformer since 2006, celebrating many wins along the way. Want more total fitness lifestyle inspiration and interaction? Follow Dr. Meredith on Instagram @Dr.MeredithButulis or join the free “Fitness Focus Fuel” Facebook Group.