Don’t lose your hard earned muscle!
If you are like any other person trying to put on weight (bodybuilding) you fight for every ounce of hard-earned muscle each and every time you train.
Your nutrition is good, your workouts are consistent and your rest and supplement regime is perfect.
Somewhere down the line to your ultimate fitness physique you may find yourself wanting to lose body fat to show off that work of art you have toiled over for so long.
But do you need to sacrifice a few pounds of muscle mass for the sake of a leaner physique?
In a word: No!
By tweaking your diet a little and paying close attention to your macro-nutrient amounts (Protein, Carbohydrates, Fat), you can melt away the fat whilst keeping your muscle gains.
This step-by-step guide while show you how to get lean without losing muscle.
Step 1: Protein is king
Amino acids are the foundation of protein and protein builds muscle.
Without adequate amounts of protein you will not be able to hold on to muscle.
Keep your protein levels around 1 to 1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight (for a 200lb person this would be 200 to 250 grams).
Good sources include fish, chicken, lean red meat, turkey, low-fat cheese, natural greek yogurt, eggs and whey and casein protein.
Step 2: Fat is your friend
I cannot stress enough that fat is essential to keep muscle while trying to lose body fat.
Dietary fat will actually burn bodily adipose tissue and keep your metabolism in check by regulating key hormone levels such as testosterone.
Keep fat intake at about 30% of your total calorie intake.
Good sources include avocado, plain nuts (particularly cashews and almonds), olive oil based salad dressings, egg yolks, natural 100% peanut butter, fish (particularly oily fish i.e. salmon, tuna)
Unsaturated fats = good fats
Saturated fats = bad fats generally, but are exceptions such as coconut oil.
Step 3: Cycle Carbohydrates
These often have a bad reputation and your read a lot of crap in magazines and diets that tell you to avoid carbohydrates or to eat very little carbs.
Carbohydrates are essential for normal bodily functions as well as providing around 70% of our fuel.
The trick is regulating the amount and type consumed.
For our purposes try 2 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight to start with (a 200lb person would have 400g). This will be considered as base. Now, depending on whether you are looking to lose weight or gain weight you would adjust this amount up or down.
Healthy sources include sweet potatoes, brown rice, brown/wholemeal pasta, quinoa, green vegetables, oats (porridge), spinach and apples.
Here is the variable in your plan. You will cycle these carb amounts for each week allowing your body to burn fat whilst still feeding your muscle. This will keep your body burning fat, but enough carbs every few days to keep muscle tissue.
This is where you will need to experiment. You will have a low carb day for 3 days (0.5 – 1 gram per pound of bodyweight) followed by a medium carb day (2 grams per pound) and finally a high carb day (2.5 to 3 grams per pound)
For a 200 lb person:
Low: 100 – 200g (3 days)
Medium: 400g (1 day)
High: 500 – 600g (1 day)
With a bit of trial and error you will have to determine if you need more or less low carb days cycled into your week.
Don’t worry about losing muscle. As long as you keep protein and fat intakes in check you can be sure you will hold onto that hard earned muscle.
You should be losing around 1 to 2 pounds of fat per week. If you are losing more than this take out one or two of the low carb days and add a medium day. If you aren’t losing at least 1 pound of fat per week then add a day or two of low carb days in the cycle and/or remove the high carb day.
IS EATING TOO MUCH PROTEIN DANGEROUS FOR THE BODY?
There seems to be a continued resistance against high protein intake as extremely high amounts of protein may be detrimental to health and definitely a waste.
However, elevated levels that of which are significantly higher than that of the sedentary population can be a necessity in order to promoting muscle gain and cutting fat.
A good rule of thumb is to start at around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Some people can get away with less and others will need as much as 1.8g per pound (any more than this is not proven to have any benefit). This comes down to activity levels, exercise, somatotype etc.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET COMPLETELY SHREDDED LIKE A PROFESSIONAL BODY BUILDER AND MAINTAIN ALL YOUR MUSCLE MASS?
In a word: No.
While dieting at a level to get shredded for the competition stage, it is inevitable that a little muscle mass is lost. The body cannot go into an extreme mode of fat burning without sacrificing muscle tissue. The key as mentioned earlier to minimize this loss is to keep protein levels high for muscle maintenance and take in healthy fats for energy and hormone balance (testosterone).
For the majority of us that aren’t looking to be pro body builders and just want to tone up by increasing muscle and losing body fat, these extremes are not required.
For a beginner with an average amount of body fat that wants to build muscle and tone up, should they do a cutting diet first or spend some time learning how to build muscle before they try to cut fat?
The best thing to do is to reduce body fat first.
The reason for this is, as you get leaner, you will start to look more muscular because the muscles hidden under the body fat you had are now starting to show! The more muscular you become the larger you will look. Plus being leaner is a much better way to look at the beach or on holiday
Once you can see muscle definition then you can start to gain muscle mass at a more steady rate by increasing your calorie consumption.
SHOULD YOU CHANGE YOUR TRAINING STYLE WHEN TRYING TO CUT FAT TO HIGHER REPS WITH LIGHT WEIGHT, OR SHOULD YOU CONTINUE TO USE A MUSCLE BUILDING ROUTINE?
To hold on to as much muscle as possible when eating to lose fat you should always use the same heavy loads and medium reps as you were doing before.
This will ensure you will be able to retain muscle while dieting to cut fat.
If you were to use lighter loads the body would perceive that as a de-training period and compensate by sacrificing muscle. You must still give the muscle a need to be there.
Heavy compound movements exercises such as bench press, squats, leg presses, should presses, pull ups, dips should make up the majority of your training programme.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT HERE AT MARK PERSONAL TRAINING MY SYSTEMS ALLOW YOU TO BUILD MUSCLE AND LOSE FAT ALL AT THE SAME TIME, THROUGH GUIDED TRAINING AND NUTRITIONAL PLANS.
THERE IS NONE OF THIS ‘CUTTING’ AND ‘BULKING’ PHASE CRAP THAT YOU SEE SO MANY TRAINERS USE.
HERE IT’S ALL ABOUT LOOKING GREAT ALL YEAR ROUND, NOT JUST 2 OR 3 MONTHS OF THE YEAR.
IF SUSTAINABLE, LONG-TERM WEIGHT LOSS AND MUSCLE TONE SOUNDS APPEALING TO YOU, THEN LET ME COACH YOU THROUGH THE ENTIRE PROCESS.
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