Everyone wants to lose fat and keep muscle, it's what makes a great physique. On the surface, this may seem like it is impossible. It’s asking a lot of the body at once, however, the body does handle doing multiple things at once very well. Your body must keep your heart beat, brain function, fight illness, digest food and allow you to walk, sweat and breathe all the while… it’s a multi-tasker of sorts! And those are just a few of the many functions the body must perform. When it comes to losing fat and keeping muscle, the body is able to handle these tasks, with the correct approach. Below are 7 essential principals I follow when I want to lose fat and keep muscle whether for a show or just my every day physique.
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 1: Food Preparation
In order to be successful at anything, you have to plan and prepare. If you want to lose fat and build muscle, you’ll have to prepare you own healthy, home-cooked food. A huge key to fat loss and muscle building success in absolutely nailing your nutrition. And, if you keep your approach to nutrition simple, you’ll have a great chance to succeed. When it comes to nutrition, there a few simple rules that I abide by. Here is the simple nutrition rules that I follow:
- Eat 3-4 balanced meals per day
- Eat 2 low fat, low sugar, low sodium health snacks per day
- Drink 1 gallon of water per day
Eating three to six balanced meals per day will ensure that you are energized; not only for your workouts, but energized to live a productive life each day. Let’s clear the air: there is no specific eating schemes that will make you lose weight. Evidence suggests that if you are consistently participating in a progressive workout program, exercising three to five times per week and eating smaller meals throughout the day this may help keep bad cholesterol, insulin, hunger and appetite in check.
For those individuals who are not exercising regularly, eating more frequently may not provide the same level of benefit as for the exercising population. Bodybuilders and athletes have been using the smaller but more frequent meal approach for decades. Scientific research is starting to indicate this may be a favorable approach when attempting to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
Start your meal plan with three relatively balanced meals per day. Weight loss success is about keeping things simple and using an approach that’s easily repeatable for you. You should start your day with high quality protein, like whey protein and egg whites. Include healthy carbs (veggies and complex carbs like brown rice in your daily meals will give you energy for your workout and re-stock your energy levels for your next workout. The three meals per day example plan below is perfect for someone new to a structured meal plan. If you are already lean and looking to build muscle, use the five to six meals per day approach.
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 2: Whey Protein Supplementation
Whey protein is a quick-absorbing from protein, packed with muscle-building nutrients and minerals. It contains 20 amino acids including essential, conditional and non-essential. Whey protein is a low carb, low sugar and low-fat source of protein, which makes it very an essential part a muscle building supplement stack. In fact, the human body is composed of a high amount of water, protein and other constituents like fat and calcium. Research shows that when whey protein is consumed 30 minutes before a workout and right after a workout, over a given period, strength gains, lean muscle gains and fat loss increase. Whey protein is a must have when it comes to strength-training muscle gains, quick recovery and overall improved body composition.
I use 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY every day with one serving after my workout. This whey protein is different because it is fortified with BIO-GRO to help speed recovery, growth and strength. It is an essential staple in both my off season and contest preparation. Cookies N' Cream is off the charts on the taste scale as well!
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 3: Daily Cardio Training: 20-30 minutes per day
Aim to burn 300-500 calories per day through cardio exercise to force fat loss but not enter a muscle wasting state. When it comes to losing weight rather quickly, cardio is king. With a balanced meal plan and performing cardio, you can lose up to 2 or more pounds per week. Over the course of a year, a person can lose up to 100 pounds of body fat.
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise. It also known as aerobic exercise/aerobic training. This type of exercise is designed to raise one’s heart rate to a level/zone where the body burns fat. Cardio comes in many forms. These forms include walking, jogging, running, biking, Stairmaster, elliptical, swimming and more.
Cardio, along with balanced nutrition, has been proven to be a focused way to lose fat. Cardio is more effective at quickly reducing total body weight than either resistance training combined with cardio or resistance training alone. A 2011 studying between cardio only participants and cardio and resistance training groups of people. That study revealed that cardio was more effective than resistance training for the reduction of fat and body mass in previously sedentary, non-diabetic, overweight or obese adults. Although resistance training was more effective for lean body mass gains than cardio, resistance training did not significantly reduce either fat mass or total body mass.
This studied showed that cardio participants spent about 30 min’s/day/wk, on either the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike, performing exercises to raise their heart rate to the 65-80% of their max target heart rate. Each week the participants increased their intensity a bit. The duration of the study was 8-12 weeks. Another shows that out of all the different types of exercise, a moderate level of cardio is the most effect for reduction of total body weight, belly fat, and improved liver function.
While I do realize that running may not work for everyone, cardio, when properly applied, will work for nearly everyone. The key to cardio is progressive resistance. What progressive resistance means is that you never stay at the same level of running, swimming or bike for long periods of time. You always look for ways to challenge yourself, to keep progressing (growing stronger, getting healthier/slimmer, getting faster).
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 4: Strength Training using the 4 BIG Lifts
If you want to build a strong, muscular body, you must master the four Big Lifts. The four Big Lifts are Bench Press, Deadlifts, Squats and Military Press. The four Big Lift exercises target multiple muscle groups at once, giving you the most “bang for your buck”. These four Big Lifts are also called Complex/Compound/Multi-joint exercises. The four Big Lifts are the best and fastest way to build muscle mass and get stronger. Let’s take a look at each of the four Big Lifts and why they are important to master.
Barbell Bench Press
The bench press targets the chest muscles as well as shoulders and triceps. Here are some benefits of the Bench Press:
- Allow you to overload your chest muscles with up to hundreds of pounds of weight, more than any other free weight exercise.
- Will help to greatly increase chest muscle strength, shape and size.
- Will not only strengthen chest muscles, but will also strengthen your shoulders and triceps too.
Rear Barbell Squat
Barbell squats is the most effective overall leg exercise. Here are a few reasons why many experts view Squats as the “King of All Exercises”:
- Squats work nearly every muscle in the body – Thighs, Butt, Core and Back. No other exercise places such widespread demand on the body as barbell squats.
- Since the Quads/Thighs are the largest muscle group in your body, you’ll experience a natural increase in testosterone when performing this exercise. Testosterone is a leading hormone in your body that controls your ability to build muscle, lose fat, improve mood and much more.
Barbell Military Press (to front)
The Standing Military Press/Overhead Press is a killer shoulder exercise. Here are a few benefits of the Military Press:
- This exercise also works the triceps, upper chest, upper back muscles and core.
- Performing this exercise on a weekly basis will lead to a bigger and stronger upper body.
- The Military Press is the best exercise for pushing the most amount of weight over your head, using only the upper body.
Barbell Deadlifts primarily work the back and legs. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this lift:
- The deadlift is great not for just targeting back, hamstrings, and gluts; but it will enable you to build more size and strength in the muscles you are not targeting.
- Due to the exercise being so taxing on the body, you’ll burn a lot of calories both during and after your training session.
- This compound movement will also stimulate both testosterone and growth hormone to be releases which stimulates both muscle gain and fat loss.
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 5 - Rest/Sleep
We live in a very busy world. There are 24-hour news stations, the Internet and means to communicate to others through voice, text and video, any time of day. We all have demands and responsibilities that often cause us to neglect our sleep. Falling asleep may seem like an impossible task when you are awake at 3 A.M. with issues of life on your mind. You have to fight and strategize to get a good six to eight hours of sleep. Sleep is going to be vital to your fat loss and muscle building goals.
Your body undergoes several necessary biological changes while you sleep. Although you may toss and turn several times throughout the night while you sleep, your muscles stay in a relaxed state. This state of relaxation gives your body the opportunity to recover and repair itself.
This is the Circadian Rhythms Cycle, also known as your biological clock.
This cycle correlates to the cycle of a 24-hour day. This cycle of alertness and sleepiness is closely tied to your body temperature: The higher your temperature, the more alert you are; the lower your temperature, the closer you are to getting sleep and rest. The body's cycles appear to be based on two rest periods of the day: a long period throughout the night and a second, shorter period in the afternoon, when many people take a nap or at least feel less alert than other points of the day.
Based on the cycle, you should be resting between the hours of 9:00 pm to about 7:00 am. Getting good sleep is more under your control than you might believe. Following healthy sleep and rest habits can make a huge difference between getting a restless and restful night’s sleep.
There are a variety of practices and habits that can help you maximize the hours you spend sleeping, even if you suffer from insomnia, jet lag, or “shift work hangover”. Applying these principles is going to be the best way to get the sleep you need in this day and age. Here are some simple tips for making the sleep of your dreams a nightly reality:
- Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, cola), alcohol and nicotine three hours before bedtime.
- Take a bath (the rise and drop in body temperature promotes drowsiness).
- Read a book, watch television, listen to music or engage in other relaxing exercises.
- Avoid stressful activities like emotionally draining conversations before bed
- Avoid drinking a lot of water right before bed. This may interrupt your sleep throughout the night.
- Find out how much sleep you need in order to have a successful and productive day. Eight hours of sleep each night is typically needed for full rest and recovery.
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 6: Stay Hydrated
Drink at least 20-ounces of water with each meal and snack is what I do and what I tell my clients. There are literally hundreds of benefits to drinking an adequate amount of water each day. The primary benefits include: reduced risk of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease, boosting your metabolism, helping to create new, healthy cells and cleansing your body. The Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes recommends about 100-125 ounces (3 – 3.6L) of water per day. When you are exercising regularly, it’s vital to drink a lot of water to push those nutrients into your cells. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is most people simply do not drink enough water.
While thirst is a good indicator you need to drink more water, it isn’t the only indicator. As weird as it sounds, the color of your urine is a good indicator of your level of hydration. If your urine is very dark you are probably not getting anywhere close to 100 ounces per day. If your urine is nearly clear, then you are very close to 100 ounces.
A few key considerations about drinking at least 100 ounces of water are it aids in helping to lose fat and build muscle. Water aids in fat loss because your water intake replaces non-healthy, “liquid calories” like soda, high-sugar fruit juices and sugary coffee-based drinks.
Water aids in muscle building because it keeps you hydrated, keeps your joints lubricated, and blood flowing to carry more oxygen to your muscles, which aids in recovery from those intense cardio and strength training sessions. A rule I have is you should drink one ounce of water for every minute you exercise. So, if you exercise for 30 minutes, make sure you drink about 30 ounces of water during/after your workout.
If you drink 100 ounces per day, you start to feel better and soon will see positive changes in your body. Drinking water helps keep your body’s chemical levels in balance. Your body, which includes your muscles, is made of nearly 70% water. When you starve your body of water, mechanisms in the body kick in to retain the little water it has. This process is commonly known as water retention. The body has methods of overcoming imbalance and it sometimes results in temporary weight gain or looking bloated. Eating too much salt can also lead to a chemical imbalance.
To ensure that I get my 100 plus ounces of water each day, I write down how many ounces I drink. I take my 24-ounce shaker bottle everywhere I go. I know that if I drink about four to five bottles of water I’ll meet my daily water requirement. I drink a full shaker cup of water with each meal. If you do this with every meal and snack, you’ll hit your 100 ounces each day. I also have a “drink water” alert on my phone to remind me to drink water.
Lose Fat and Keep Muscle Essential 7: Schedule Your Workouts
Scheduling your workout sessions early in the day will be vital to you achieving consistent results with fat loss and muscle building. Waking up early to workout is one of the best ways to start your day. Exercise gives you a tremendous mental and physical energy boost that will last throughout the day. Here are three great reasons why you should schedule workouts early in the day:
Fewer Distractions - Mornings are often a very quiet time with fewer people on the road and less people at the gym. This is a time that you can focus on your workout and be distraction free. No need to check emails, voice mail or social media early in the morning. It will be just you, the cardio machines and the dumbbells. Get your workout in early while it’s peaceful and quiet.
Metabolism Boost - Your metabolism controls how much weight you lose or gain. Having a high metabolic rate is important if you are trying to lose or maintain weight. Any exercise you do will be beneficial in boosting metabolism; however, getting your workout completed first thing in the morning, you are giving yourself the best chance of seeing results. Keep in mind the harder you work your body, the faster your metabolic rate will be and the more fat you will burn throughout the day. And if you start the fat burning process very early in the day, you’ll likely burn more calories during your waking hours.
Enhanced Mental Outlook - Working out in the morning increases your entire mental outlook. Why? One reason is you feel good because you’ve already done something positive for your body before most people are out of bed. The endorphin release from working out sets you positive mood for the day. After you workout, you are more conscious about your food choices and you’ll be free to focus on work instead of focusing on how you’re going to fit your workout into your day.
When you reach the end of your day, you’ve done your cardio and made healthy food choices and you feel positive about what you’ve done. That’s great for your self-confidence and faith in your ability to lose fat.
I typically work out between 5:00 AM and 8:00 AM, Monday through Friday. I prep my workout clothes, food, supplements and any other gear the night before. If early morning workouts don’t work for your schedule, or early morning isn’t normally your thing, try to push through these barriers, and set a goal to do cardio some other time in the morning. Mixing up your workout times is great as long as you have the energy to power through your workout.
In summary, applying all seven of the essentials of fat burning and muscle keeping will have to on track to be more muscular and leaner than ever. Avoid trying to tackle all essentials at once, but start with one and every week, add a new essential. Fitness is a life-long approach to living. Make sure you are taking the proper steps to ensure that you are adding more essentials over time, to build the body and life you desire.
For more information make sure to check out ISSA CSCS, Musclemania Muscle Model World Champion Michael Lee's website at: Mike Lee