Hoping to lean down and buff up simultaneously? The “build muscle, burn fat” goal is one that many people share—and some believe is impossible. The two don’t match, they say. You can’t build muscle and lose fat. We think differently, although you may need to alter your approach to exercise and overall health in order to achieve your goal. Here are five musts that will help you in the quest to become both lean and strong.
Getting enough sleep is so important that we’re putting it first on our list. You’ll be hard-pressed to maintain proper health—much less achieve a healthy level of lean muscle mass—without adequate sleep. While you are sleeping, your body is actually hard at work repairing itself. Growth hormone, which helps muscle tissue rebuild, is released while you sleep. The stress hormone cortisol becomes elevated if you don’t sleep enough. Cortisol is a roadblock to muscle growth and it is a common cause of weight gain, especially abdominal fat. Furthermore, being tired often causes sugar cravings, which can derail the best-laid dietary plans.
Up the Intensity
You work out every day, trudging away for an hour on the treadmill—yet you don’t see the results you want. What gives? You’re probably stuck in a rut of running at the same steady pace. Don’t get us wrong—the exercise you’re doing is important. But to increase the impact it can have on your build muscle, burn fat goals, you need is to push yourself past that steady-pace comfort zone. Introduce high intensity intervals into your workout for a better burn and more noticeable results. For example, if you typically run 60 minutes at a 9-minute mile pace, try this 45-minute speed session instead: 10-minute warmup at 9-minute mile pace, 6 x (3 minutes at 8+-minute mile pace, 2 minutes easy jog), 5-minute cool down at 9-minute mile pace. For the fast intervals, run a pace that is challenging yet sustainable for the entire interval.
Push Past the Plateau
Similarly, you’ll probably notice that once you’ve practiced a particular workout routine for a while, your body seems to stop responding. Sure, you’re in shape, but doing the same old thing day in and day out is boring. Your build muscle, burn fat goals have stalled out. This is known as a plateau, a sure sign that it’s time to mix things up and progress in your training. There are a variety of ways in which you can progress. In strength training you can increase the load, modify the rest between sets, increase the speed of the exercise, or switch from isolated to compound movements (for example, instead of isolated leg extensions, try squats, which recruit multiple muscles at the same time). In cardio workouts, you can add high intensity intervals as mentioned above. While you’re at it, mix up your workout routine to include different sports. If you’re a cyclist, swap the bike for run shoes or a lap lane once or twice a week. Cross-training is an excellent way to recruit muscles that are overlooked in your typical training program.
Eat Right, Right Away
After those high intensity workouts, you’ll be hungry. You’re pushing your body harder than usual, and it’s more important than ever to refuel. If you’re trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, you may think dieting is the right approach. But you won’t last long with your new workout routine if you don’t fuel your efforts and refuel afterward. Proper nutrition is key so that your muscle tissue can rebuild and repair. Rather than cut calories, choose the right calories—including critical protein after every hard workout. Keep a BlenderBottle® shaker in your gym bag and you’ll have a protein shake handy immediately after you finish. The insulated stainless steel BlenderBottle® Radian™ bottle is an excellent choice; you can make your shake in advance and it will still be refreshingly cold when you’re done at the gym.
Stick to Your Goals
A healthy program designed to build muscle and burn fat won’t show results overnight. Instead, you’ll need to be patient yet persistent in order to see lasting change. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially in the beginning when you’re feeling the hurt of the hard work but not yet reaping the rewards. To help from getting discouraged and keep your motivation high, commit to gym sessions with a training partner. If you prefer to work out on your own, commit to yourself and gauge your progress by keeping a daily training journal. You can also log your nutrition to keep track of lean protein, healthy fat, whole grain, and vital nutrient intake.
Make these five tips the foundation of your health and fitness program and you’ll be well on your way to win the battle to build muscle and burn fat.