When it comes to weight loss as being your primary goal, nutritional choices will make or break your results. Exercise is only an enhancer of what the food and training can do for you. When building muscle, if your nutrition isn’t on par with your goals, then achieving optimal muscle growth and leanness, will become challenging, and perhaps near impossible!
A lot of people think they can always out-train a lousy diet. This is never going to become a reality. Your incentive to train should be to change your body shape, strengthen your body and train the mind – not an option to burn the junk food you just consumed. Soon enough, you will become frustrated and lose your cool!
Here is my take on how to keep the weight loss, and maintenance phase switched on when trying to put on muscle mass. I’ve formulated this from over 18 years of my strength training protocols and dieting for weight loss and physique competitions.
6 steps to developing a lean, muscular physique & staying lean
- Protein intake – make sure it’s high. If you want to lose weight and increase muscle mass, as well as have the energy to perform your workouts (and get through the day without needing constant naps) you have to make sure your protein intake is high enough. Protein is the essential macronutrient that will help you lose body fat, gain muscle mass and keep your moods regular, due to their ability to provide you with satiety. When you are dieting, this is key to your results. We want to eliminate the need for constant snacking. Too many snacks over time that are mindless and unnecessary leads to weight gain.
- Fast 2-3 days per week. To activate fat burning and muscle building hormones, we need to fast for specific periods actively. I’ve tried the whole gamut of times and have found that 20 hours is the best option for someone like me. The goal is lean muscle mass and maintaining my strength, as well as body shape. It has been a very smooth, comfortable and manageable pathway. I’ve not experienced results like this quickly and able to maintain it, with any other eating plan. Start with smaller fasting windows of time, then transition towards more hours. Don’t worry, as you get used to this, you will not feel starving, or overeat for that matter.
- Make strength training your priority – especially multi-joint movements. Get the best results by maintaining your strength training program, opting for multi-joint actions. These are the best’ bang for your buck’ movements, which create the most metabolic impact, as well as strengthening most of the muscles in your body. It takes a lot of energy to deadlift, squat, bench press, pull your weight up with chin up, or pull up, as well as a lunge with dumbbells. These are the best movements of all time, and impact your muscular development, fat burning and strength goals at the same time! This is why I make sure they are a high priority in my training regime, and they should be in yours as well.
- Rest twice a day, but still, keep active. I don’t believe in laying on your back all day. We need to stay busy, even if our muscles are sore from training, do rest, and make it a twice a week habit – even more, if you are older or not feeling the best. It takes a lot of energy, and our muscles become damaged when we lift the weight. The more intense your program is, the more rest you need. Food can only do so much for recovery, but the results from training happen when the repair and rejuvenation of muscles take place. This is a result of how well we rest our bodies and allow the muscles to recover by not lifting for 1–2 days per week. Do it and notice the difference.
- If you must do cardio, limit it to HIIT a couple of times a week. The best forms of cardio that build muscle and burn some severe body fat will always be HIIT. You can take your HIIT outdoors on a track, up a hill, or stay within the gym settings via a treadmill or bike. The options are endless. Just stick to the 20-minute rule and only do this kind exercise 2 times or less per week. If you are keeping lean without strenuous cardio, you are one of the lucky ones. Don’t ruin a good thing if you don’t need to.
- Carb cycle according to your training schedule. We all need to eat our carbs regularly (especially the nutrient-rich variety). But if we are watching the body fat accumulation and know that carbs have a bit of a negative effect on our body fat, we most definitely need to start carb cycling. That means, structuring your low to minimal carb intake on non-training days, and increasing it when you are training those multi-joint movements. Carbs are essential for our exercise recovery, as well as replacing lost glycogen in the muscles. We will need to replenish those stores next time we train.
I hope these points have helped you to develop a somewhat helpful strategy when it comes to weight loss and building muscle. Each of us experiences different results according to our food requirements. I highly recommend fasting if you are finding it hard to keep your body fat under control, despite your healthy eating. Fasting will help you re-set your metabolism, and keep it actively working in your favour.
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