The typical diet generally involves cutting calories or cutting carbs. But how do you handle eating less and depriving yourself of energy-boosting carbs if you are simultaneously training hard and building muscle?
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Whether you are a beginner, an athlete or a former athlete getting back into shape, its hard to put on size in the form of muscle mass while cutting down your food intake to lose weight at the same time. In fact, its recommended that you don’t try to achieve both goals at the same time. First focus on cutting back on your calories to lose weight, then focus on strength training to bulk up.
There are circumstances, however, that require you to lose weight and gain muscle simultaneously. Training for a weight lifting competition or a marathon, for example, may require fat loss while increase muscle mass.
Three Factors for Losing Weight and Gaining Muscle
The power combination for losing weight and gaining strength requires three action steps.
- Calorie Control. Alhough bodybuilders and athletes can eat in excess of 3,000 calories per day while controlling their body fat percentage, its not effective for the rest of us. Controlling your calories doesn’t mean not eating though. It simply means to eat clean, make smart choices and avoid wasting some of your caloric limit on empty calories like soda, chips, sweets and fried foods.
- Aerobic Training. Aerobics are effective at burning body fat, increasing energy and improving heart health. Loosing weight is difficult without incorporating an aerobic exercise routine. This can be anything from walking or running to using the elliptical machine or playing basketball. Anything that gets your heart rate up counts towards your weekly exercise goal.
- Strength Training. Lifting weight, heavy weights, is another key factor in losing weight and building muscle. Heavy lifting burns a lot of calories and the burn continues long after you complete the exercise. Weight training increases overall strength, improves self-esteem and raises your metabolism, allowing you to burn more body fat.
The thing about this power combination is that each of them cannot accomplish your goal on its own. You need to control calories, perform aerobic exercise and weight train to see the best results. If you train hard but don’t eat right, you will never see the results you’re after. Likewise, if you rely strictly on food to meet your goals, you will fail. Its the combination of these factors that allow you to slim down while getting stronger.
Additional Tips for Burning Fat and Building Muscle
What you eat and how you train are also import things to consider. These tips can help you reach your goals:
- Reduce Fat Intake. Eating a high fat diet will undo all of the progress you make during your weekends. Eat to fuel your workouts and increase your strength. Avoid high fat foods and keep your fat intake below 25% of your daily calories.
- Eat Nutritious Foods. Choose foods high in nutrients and antioxidants. The cleaner your food choices are, the better you will feel, the more weight you will lose and the better you will perform.
- Lose Your fear of Carbs. Carbs aren’t necessarily bad. You need some carbs in your diet to energize your workouts and for muscle recovery. Learn about good carbs vs. bad carbs and make smart choices.
- Increase Your Protein. Protein is vital for strength training and muscle growth, as well as muscle recovery. Once you’ve been training for a while, you will notice the difference immediately when your weight training is affected by a lack of protein.
- Train Safely. Practice good form, don’t over-train and take rest days in between to allow for healthy muscle development and repair.
- Use Active Recovery. Active recovery is a way to reduce muscle soreness post-workout and allow the muscle tissue to repair itself. This can include stretching, a light workout, the right post-workout meal or a watered down version of your usual workout.
Though losing weight and gain muscle simultaneously isn’t an easy goal to achieve, it certainly can be done with the right meal plan and training schedule. You can shed pounds and increase muscle mass using the power combination of eating fewer calories, doing cardio and weight training.
Eat Right- American Diabetes Association. “Weight Loss Nutrition Therapy for Athletes.”
Walberg-Rakin, Janet. “Forfeit the Fat, Leave the Lean: Optimizing Weight Loss for Athletes,” Sports Science Exchange. Vol 13, No. 1, p 76.
Watson, Stephanie. “Eat to Lose It and Build Muscle: How the NFL Does It,” WebMD. Sept. 7, 2010.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.