One of the most common fitness goals we come across is people wanting to bulk up but stay lean. Or in enough words gain size from muscle but not fat. Both the processes of building muscle and losing fat are pretty slow. It takes a lot of time and dedication to lose fat, and probably even more time to build muscle.
This leads to many people asking 'how can I put on muscle and drop my body fat at the same time......'
Unfortunately the short answer to that is you can't. Your body can only do one of these things at a time, unless you are relatively new to training or you haven't trained for a long period of time.
So with that in mind we have to go down the next best route, losing fat whilst retaining as much muscle mass as possible.
This also isn't easy, but it CAN be done. You just need to make sure your doing the right things when it comes to your nutrition and training.
Read below for our 4 top pointers to make sure you hold on to as much muscle as possible and shed fat at the same time.
1. Get Your Nutrition Correct
As with any fitness related goal, nutrition is the thing that is going to get you the results you want. Without getting this right you're not going to get anywhere fast.
Nutrition is also a big part of why you can't lose fat and gain muscle at the same time:
In Order To Gain Muscle - you need a calorie surplus (you need to be eating MORE calories than you burn)
In Order To Lose Fat - you need a calorie deficit (you need to be eating LESS calories than you burn)
Hopefully it now makes a bit more sense as to why you can't do both at the same time. You either eat more calories than you burn, or less. You can't do both. Eating the same amount of calories as you burn will just keep you at the same weight, but its also pretty difficult to work out the EXACT amount of calories you burn.
You can balance your calories out and maintain - but it's pretty difficult to aim for that exact centre point sometimes.
So in order to lose fat without losing to much muscle what should you do? You need to be in a calorie deficit (consume less calories than you burn) BUT only a moderate one. If you create to big a calorie deficit then you risk putting your body into too much of a catabolic state and losing muscle mass for energy.
For a moderate calorie deficit I'd recommend eating around 300-400 less calories than you are burning each day.
You firstly need to work out your basal metabolic rate. This is how many calories your body burns just from functioning each day. From there you can work out how many calories your body burns with the amount of physical activity you do on a daily basis. Then all you do is subtract 300-400 calories from that and get tracking your daily calorie allowance!
2. Keep Training Heavy
Some people still think that by using a light weight and higher reps you can 'tone' up your muscles. This is not true, your muscles either get bigger or smaller, they don't get toned. Toning involves reducing your body fat so you can see more of the muscles definition.
When trying to lose fat whilst preserving muscle, the best thing you can do is carry on training heavy. This will stimulate your muscles to keep on growing. if you start to lift lighter then you will lose strength, which in turn means you are going to lose muscle. If you start lifting lighter weights then your body starts to think you don't NEED all that muscle anymore.
Keep in mind that because you are consuming less calories your probably not going to gain much new muscle as we've already discussed, but training in this way will at least help preserve what you already have.
When to comes to your training I'd recommend training within an 8-10 rep range.
3. Keep An Eye On Your Macros
Protein is the main muscle building nutrient, so you're going to need adequate amounts of it to preserve existing muscle tissue and build new muscle. Protein is even more beneficial with this type of goal as it is one of the more filling macronutrients and can assist the body with fat loss.
I always recommend consuming between 1.8g - 2.2g of protein per KG of bodyweight per day when trying to gain muscle, and thats no exception here! (1g of protein = 4 calories)
But what about fats and carbs? Most people will drastically reduce their fat and carb intake when trying to lose body fat, BUT:
When it comes to fats try aiming for 25% - 30% of your calories coming from this macro, theres 9 calories in 1g of fat, this should help you work out your requirements.
Then simply fill the rest of your calories from carbs. 1g of carbs contains 4 calories.
4. Don't Go Crazy With Cardio
Cardio is not the only way to burn calories, its simply a type of training system that assists with burning them. People don't always understand that by weight training alone you actually burn a hefty amount of calories. So if you follow my advice in this article and keep your weight training at a high intensity, you should be able to burn enough calories and achieve the calorie deficit you need with your weight training sessions.
But if you want to include cardio in your programme..... HIIT cardio or high intensity interval training is the way forward if your looking to blitz fat and retain muscle. It involves short bursts of exercise at maximal intensity, followed by low intensity or resting completely. This type of training can be done in much less time than conventional cardio, and furthermore research has shown its much better for holding onto muscle than steady state cardio.
Heres an example of how you could perform HIIT on a treadmill - sprint at near maximal effort for 30 seconds, followed by 1 minute of a slow walk, repeat 10 times - and thats it, perform this little set of interval 3 times a week and your maximising your fat loss whilst still retaining as much muscle as you can!
1. Calories - work out your calorie requirements and stay in a moderate deficit by eating 500 calories less per day.
2. Resistance Training - continue to make your goal about gaining strength, train in an 8-10 rep range and focus on big compound movements.
3. Macronutrients - protein is a MUST for this goal, make sure you get enough and don't try and massively cut out fats and carbs.
4. Cardio - ditch the steady state cardio and opt for HIIT, but above all your weight training should take main focus.