Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk into a gym and use the special machine that burns fat WHILE building lean muscle and then go home? Unfortunately, there is no such machine and don’t believe any infomercial that tells you otherwise. In this article, you will learn the best approach to losing fat while preserving (and gaining) lean muscle mass.
Is It Possible to Lose Fat AND Gain Muscle?
From a physiological and mathematical standpoint, it seems nearly impossible. Here’s why: in order to gain one pound of muscle, you need to consume an additional 2,500 calories. So if you wanted to put on one pound of muscle in 2 weeks, you would need to consume an additional 180 calories per day. However, in order to lose one pound of fat, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories. So to lose a pound of fat in 2 weeks, you would need to burn an additional 250 calories per day. Do you see why this seems extremely difficult and confusing?
Whether your primary goal is to lose fat or to gain lean muscle, both will occur simultaneously if you are eating the right diet with the correct portions that consists of high protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and avoiding sugar. In addition to eating correctly 90% of the time, it is imperative that your training sessions include cardiovascular exercise and more importantly resistance training.
Most studies, if not all, prove that consistent resistance training will result in fat loss as well as an increase in lean muscle mass. You will know if you are losing fat and gaining lean muscle by the clothing test: your clothes are becoming looser, yet the number on the scale is not changing. Most people tend to obsess about the number on the scale, checking it daily to see if there is any decrease, then are disappointed and frustrated when the number seems to say the same week after week.
As a personal trainer, I tell my clients to weigh themselves just once per week to start. It can become mentally exhausting when the number on the scale does not decrease. You should only begin to worry if your clothes are starting not to fit and getting tighter. This is a clear indicator you are doing something wrong. I try to remind my clients when your clothes are getting looser and the number on the scale remains the same, it’s actually great news. It means you are losing fat, and inches while preserving and building your lean muscle which will give a toned, firm physique.
Who doesn’t want that?
A 3 Step Program for How to Lose Fat While Building Muscle
To lose fat and gain lean muscle include the following in your training program:
1. Two Heavy Lifting Days
This entails heavy weights and low repetitions. For example, 4 sets of 4-6 repetitions. One “heavy” day should be aimed at involving the major upper body muscle groups (chest and back) and the second “heavy” day should include exercises that involve the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
2. Two Intense, Total-Body Circuit Training Days
These workouts should include exercises for every muscle group, little to no rest in between exercises, alternate muscle groups and be of lighter weight with more repetitions. Each week, change the exercises for each muscle group to keep your body guessing. An example of what that would look like is:
12-15 repetitions of the following circuit, do the whole circuit 3 times.
- Chest press
- Hamstring curls
- Bicep curls
- Tricep extensions
The purpose of these total-body circuits is to stimulate the release of human growth hormone (as well as burn a ton of calories for fuel). Human growth hormone is needed for proper metabolism (helps break down fat into energy) and to use protein to build muscle.
3. One Day of Long, Easy Endurance Training
This is the simplest requirement to a fat loss/lean muscle program and it simply involves performing low-intensity exercise for 60 minutes. Walking and easy cycling would be good examples.
By including these components to your training program, you will be maximizing your body’s fat-burning and muscle-building abilities. However, keep in mind that the exercise component to fat loss is only half of the equation (or even less than that depending on which expert you talk to). The bigger guy in this equation is diet. Let’s take a brief look into what your diet should consist of to turn your body into a fat-burning-lean-muscle-building machine.
Calories and Protein
To determine the number of total calories needed per day, take your body weight in pounds and multiply by 13. For example, 150 lbs. x 13= 1950. This may seem high, but keep in mind that if you are consistent with your training and giving it all you got in each workout, you will need this many calories to build muscle. If you do not each enough, you will lose fat, but you will also lose muscle which will make you look flabby (and definitely not toned).
To determine the amount of protein you should consume, you should aim for 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of LEAN body mass. Lean body mass refers to your body weight minus the fat. For example, a lean 150 lb. person would need anywhere from 150 – 225 grams of protein per day. To look and feel your best, aim for lean protein sources such as organic chicken, white fish, turkey, etc. This should be divided up into 5-6 meals per day so that you are having roughly the same amount of protein at each meal.
So there you have it, how to lose fat while building lean body mass. Keep in mind that the number on the scale may not move in either direction, but as long as inches are decreasing, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, a tape measure would be more appropriate than a scale in trying to lose fat while maintaining/building lean muscle. What are you waiting for, go get started!