Losing body fat while also gaining and maintaining lean muscle mass isn’t easy, but totally possible with the right strategies. Gaining muscle while losing fat is super important for your overall health and fitness, and here’s why.
Building lean muscle supports your strength, stamina, joint health, and even your metabolic health. Muscles are also more metabolically active than fat, so they use more energy in the form of calories.
More lean muscle mass means more calories you burn daily.
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How To Lose Fat and Gain Muscle?
Most people lose muscle mass as they lose weight. This is because they mainly focus on cutting calories and doing cardio. In order to gain muscle as you lose weight or fat, you need to get a few things right.
To lose fat and gain muscle you need to do several things right.
In this article, I’ll share some science-backed strategies that’ll help you reach your weight loss goals without sacrificing muscle mass.
1. Keep a small calorie deficit
When losing weight and reducing body fat, you often hear the advice to create a large calorie deficit.
Contrary to this popular belief, when you are going for fat loss while increasing lean muscles, keep your deficit small.
This is because a drastic cut in calories can cause a huge loss in total body muscle. You can avoid this loss of muscle mass when you keep your calorie cut conservative.
This is exhibited in one 2016 study on obese individuals. Those who drastically reduced calories for 4 months lost nearly 9% of muscles, while those who cut less lost only 1.3 %.
The larger your deficit, the more muscles you break down as you drop weight, giving your body less chance of building muscle.
This can be prevented when your deficit is smaller and your body only breaks down muscles just enough to composite.
When looking to lose fat while growing muscle, aim to achieve that through the development of substantial muscle mass.
And that requires just a slight calorie deficit; anything large would actually jeopardize it.
The goal is to lose just a couple of pounds per week. Anything more will lead to a greater loss of muscle, which can become counterproductive in the course of fat loss and muscle gain.
2. Do HIIT
If your workout regimens consist mostly of strength training, it’s time to add HIIT cardio.
HIIT cardio is high-intensity interval training that’s designed to exhaust your anaerobic capacity. It’s fat-burning in nature as it burns calories not only while you train but hours after your workout.
You can do this solely with cardio exercises like fast-paced running or even jumping rope. You can also mix full-body workouts like squat jumps, pushups, sled, and kettlebell swings.
Make it a point to go a period with maximum effort at a full speed. Take a brief, ideally active rest and go again.
This creates intervals of high and low-intensity training and leads to a faster metabolism.
3. Eat a high-protein diet
When you are building strength and growing lean muscles, one macro you can’t go lean on is protein.
That’s because protein is the building block of your muscles and is essential in maintaining your lean muscles.
Especially when you are cutting calorie intake to create a larger calorie deficit, this muscle maintenance is key. When weight loss happens, it happens not only from the body fat but also from your muscles.
Maintaining your muscle mass with a higher-protein diet helps maintain fast metabolism.
Healthy protein sources include seafood, fish, eggs, poultry, meats, nuts, beans, and yogurts.
Include at least one source in every meal.
4. Do compound strength exercises
If you want to build muscle, you need to do strength training, preferably compound exercises.
That’s a given, and there’s no way to get around it.
Strength training causes small tears in your muscle fibers, and they grow back bigger and stronger, with the help of rest and dietary protein.
Expert recommends training at least 2 days per week to maintain existing muscle mass, and 3 or more times per week to build lean mass.
According to one Harvard School of Public Health study of 10,500 adults, researchers found that strength training doesn’t just build muscle. It also helps reduce abdominal fat levels.
The most effective exercises, for both fat loss and muscle gain, are compound exercises. Compound exercises activate multiple muscle groups at once. Examples of compound exercises include squats, chest presses, pull-ups, and rows.
Focus on making these moves the top priority of your weekly workout routine in other to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
5. Boost testosterone levels
It’s evident in many studies that obesity is negatively associated with low testosterone levels.
If you carry fat in your belly, it’s even more of an indicator that you may suffer from a testosterone deficiency.
One way to combat and boost your testosterone levels is to lift heavy and stimulate muscle growth through a full-body workout.
This is why compound exercises are ever more important for those with low testosterone levels.
There is a wealth of evidence that exercises that demand muscle growth also induce a massive hormonal response. Heavy strength training moves like squads, barbell presses, deadlifts, and rows are some great compound moves.
Build a heavy-weight workout around these compound exercises to boost your testosterone levels and speed up fat loss.
6. Include healthy fats
Fats, particularly healthy fats like nuts, avocados, and fish oil are considered healthy fats and essential to your health.
They can also help boost your fat loss.
These healthy sources of fat can help you lean out and aid muscle growth. They also help sustain your testosterone levels.
Eating healthy fats can also increase satiety and bring down your hunger levels throughout the day.
The trick is to stick with healthy sources of fat and avoid artificial fats like margarine and lard.
7. Get quality sleep
Sleep your way to a slimmer and fit body? That’s right.
You can do all things right from eating to hitting the gym, but if lack adequate sleep, it can hinder your progress.
Lack of sleep can be the culprit of your weight plateau and lack of muscle growth.
One study from Chicago shows that poor sleep can slow fat burning and increase muscle loss by 60%. That’s a significant number.
Sleep deprivation also decreases your testosterone levels during the day by 10-15%, which may lead to insomnia.
Get quality and adequate sleep every night by aiming to go to bed early and budget 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.