It’s the catch-22 of fitness enthusiasts everywhere. Your goal is to get rid of unwanted fat, but you don’t want to lose muscle as well.
Low- to moderate-intensity cardio will certainly help you lose fat, but it will probably cost you some muscle in the bargain. On the other hand, weight training will definitely help you maintain and build muscle, but it won’t contribute much to fat loss.
So, what is a guy or gal to do? Here are some approaches you can take that have worked for others:
First, modify your diet. The best way to lose fat is through healthy eating. It’s much easier to reduce caloric intake than it is to burn stored calories with exercise.
A single McDonald’s ice cream cone contains about 150 calories. On the other hand, a mile of running burns off only about 100 calories. Obviously, while cardiovascular exercise can play a role in losing fat, it is quicker and easier to simply cut down the number of calories consumed.
Avoid fatty foods and junk food, while maintaining healthy amounts of protein and whole foods filled with vitamins and minerals. Stay well-hydrated and don’t skip meals to keep your metabolic fires burning and preserve muscle tissue.
Next, concentrate on high intensity workouts and keep the sessions to 45 minutes or less. High intensity training while keeping your workouts relatively short and sweet not only helps to preserve muscle, it also avoids the excess secretion of cortisol, which comes with extended exercise. Cortisol is a stress hormone that causes the body to store fat and break down muscle tissue.
After working out, pay attention to recovery. Studies show that consuming food or beverages with a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein as soon as possible after exercise (within 30 minutes to 2 hours) provides the maximum benefit in rebuilding damaged muscle tissue and restocking muscle glycogen—the primary source of energy for intense workouts.
Additionally, it’s important to get a full night’s sleep to maintain muscle tissue and healthy hormone levels.
As you sleep, your body secretes a growth hormone that repairs your muscles and stimulates tissue growth. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, has been linked to increased cortisol secretion and increased obesity.
Maintaining muscle while losing fat is a delicate balancing act, but it can be achieved if you plan your diet properly and focus on high intensity resistance training.
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