Lose weight by eating more
LOSING weight is one thing but not if it comes at the expense of muscle loss.
So it makes sense to wonder - is it possible to achieve fat loss while maintaining muscle mass? Surprisingly, the answer is yes - but it does involve a smart approach to fitness and nutrition.
A lot of the time, when people lose weight, they wind up with a lot less muscle than they started out with.
Why? Weight loss requires an energy (calorie) deficit and muscle-building requires an energy surplus.
To implement a calorie deficit, you need to either eat less calories or burn more calories through exercise, or do a combination of the two. However, while eating less is necessary for losing overall body mass, this calorie deficit is counter-productive for building muscle at the same time.
What's more, if a person is restricting carbohydrates, fats (in the form of ketones) and proteins will be used for energy instead, therefore won't be available for muscle repair and growth.
So how can you achieve both goals? These five science-backed strategies will help.
1. DON'T OVERLY RESTRICT
Drastic changes in calories will not only sabotage your workout efforts but will ultimately slow your metabolism, partly due to the loss in muscle that comes when you drop overall body weight. And since muscle is the greatest determiner of your metabolic rate, this muscle loss may largely explain why so many people struggle to keep weight off once they lose it.
To prevent this, your food intake should never dip below your "basal” metabolic requirements, which is the minimum number of calories your body uses to keep all its systems functioning correctly.
There are a plethora of online tools that can help you calculate your basal metabolic rate. While their accuracy is debatable, they will give you a basic understanding.
2. PROTEIN IS KEY
Protein needs are based on age, activity, sex and whether you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
However most authorities recommend about 0.75-0.84g per kilogram of body weight but many round it up to 1g a kg to keep things simple.
For example, if you weigh 75kg, you would need roughly 75g of protein a day. But, in order to preserve lean muscle tissue, adjusting your protein intake slightly is an important piece of the puzzle.
"Achieving a protein intake of approximately 1.3-1.6g per kilogram of body weight or aim for at least 20g of protein in every meal and snack across the day where possible,” Deakin University School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences' Dr Jackson Fyfe said.
"Consuming a slightly greater amount of protein than what is required to meet your energy needs will ensure you have spare to sustain or even build muscle.”
So for that same 75kg person, that's a protein intake of roughly 97-120g a day.
This can be achieved by including protein-rich foods as part of a calorie-controlled eating plan, such as eating a couple of eggs (12g protein), a cheese sandwich (35g protein), glass of milk (10g protein), two handfuls of nuts (12g protein), one cup of Greek yoghurt and 150g steak (40g protein). Pretty easy to do.
3. FOCUS ON STRENGTH
On top of adjusting dietary protein intake, performing regular resistance-type exercises (such as push-ups, squats, lunges or lifting weights) two to three times a week will help burn calories but, more importantly, help to maintain existing muscle tone and build more muscle.
4. HIGH V LOW
For the fat loss side of things, balance your strength training with cardio-type activity to help you burn body fat and calories.
However it's best to keep your cardio sessions short and sweet.
"Minimising the total volume (duration and frequency) of endurance training is best,” Dr Fyfe said.
If you're going to perform cardio training, focus on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This type of cardio involves short bursts of intense exercise with intermittent rest periods. These workouts will maximise fat burn post-exercise.
5. HAVE A BREAK
Muscle needs time to repair and grow after a workout. Neglecting to give your muscles enough time to recover means they will not get bigger or stronger. At least 48 hours between sessions is a good rule of thumb.
Kathleen Alleaume is a nutrition and exercise scientist who is passionate about making sense of conflicting health buzz. Follow her @therightbalance.