Your body has the ability to “catabolize”, or breakdown and use your muscle tissue for energy if your glycogen stores are depleted and no glucose is available. If you are trying to lose body fat AND build lean muscle simultaneously, you obviously want to avoid this. Here’s how…
First, you must maintain a daily “caloric deficit”. This means that you consume less calories than your body needs to burn for energy. MyFitnessPal is a free app that allows you to track your calories in vs. calories out and your macronutrient ratios in order to stay inline with your daily targets.
Second, protein is the building block for muscle. Even if you were to cut out exercise completely, a high protein diet is still ideal for fat loss. A good rule of thumb is to aim for .8-1g of protein per pound of your body weight. For example, if you’re 100 pounds, aim for 80-100g of protein per day.
Third, in order to maintain muscle while burning fat in a caloric deficit, you have to keep your strength levels up. Tracking numbers (weight used, sets, reps) can be very helpful here.
You will find that while in a caloric deficit, you may have less energy. If so, you need to adjust your training program to allow for optimal recovery while still maintaining your strength levels.
To do this, adjust total amount of sets, reps, and/or exercises as well as how many days per week you are training. You may have to play around with adjusting those numbers to find the right combination for you.
Lastly, avoid excessive cardio. It has it’s benefits, but when it comes to building a lean muscular physique, strength training, not cardio, needs to be the focus of your program.
A few other things to keep in mind… a caloric deficit needs to be something that you can maintain. Don’t go too extreme with this. Another good general rule of thumb is between 10-20% calorie reduction.
Also, two quick tips regarding workout nutrition. First, on training days, get the bulk of your protein and carbs in and around your workout time. Ideally, 1-2 hours before and 1-2 hours after your workout. Second, “carb cycling” is something you may want to experiment with. In a nutshell, this refers to consuming higher amounts of carbs on your training days when you are burning more calories, and less carbs on your rest days. Protein should stay consistently high throughout the week.
Committed To Your Health,
Brian Donovan is a certified fitness and nutrition coach, and the founder of Online Fitness Coach, LLC – an online fitness program where clients get direct coaching and personally tailored training and nutrition plans. Coach Brian was voted Chicago’s “Best Personal Trainer” by Chicago Reader magazine, Best Of Chicago 2014 edition. He has been featured in magazines such as Muscle & Fitness, Chicago Reader, Voyage Chicago, and The PTDC as well various other health and fitness blogs.
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