In the desire to have a beautifully-shaped muscular body with as little fat as possible, I often did a lot of stupid things. For example, I skipped meals or even stopped eating altogether.
However, as a result, I did lose not excess fat, but muscle mass that I was striving for.
So, I used to receive a completely different result, until I figured out what I was doing wrong. In this post, I have gathered some tips on how to burn fat without losing muscle.
Way #1. Change Your Nutrition Plan
The first step is a change in nutrition. Your nutrition is highly important, it determines in 70–80% the success of your fitness goal. The following ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates is considered ideal for burning fat: 40/30/30.
However, please remember that it is not ok to limit yourself sharply. It is important to move gradually, giving the body the necessary time to rebuild.
For example, if you are used to eating a cake a day, gradually reduce portions so that one day completely refuse it at all.
It is best to eat five to six times a day with an interval of 2.5-3 hours. Thus, you can have three main meals, and two to three snacks.
If your fitness goal is muscle growth, lean on protein foods. But do not forget to combine it with healthy fats and carbohydrates (although in smaller quantities).
Way #2. Drink Water
Often we confuse the desire to eat with the desire to drink. Or rather, it is not us who confuse, but to be more precise, it is the hypothalamus – part of the brain where the centers of hunger, thirst, and satiety are located.
Therefore, if you think that you are hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 15-20 minutes. If the feeling of hunger has not passed, then you really want to eat.
Way #3. Eat More Protein Food
First of all, our body needs more energy and time to digest protein. Secondly, protein is the main “building material” for the whole organism, including muscles.
If you just want to burn fat, while not gaining weight, then to determine the individual daily intake, multiply 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your weight.
If you want to gain weight, then multiply two grams of protein per kilogram of weight. This is the amount of protein that you need to “build” muscle mass.
Way #4. Reduce Carbohydrates
Morning is the best time to eat carbohydrates without fear of getting fat (two hours before training and once after it).
On training days, if you want to lose weight, calculate the body’s need for carbohydrates according to this formula: multiply two grams of carbohydrates by one kilogram of weight.
On non-training days, reduce carbohydrates to 1.5 grams per kilogram of weight. And eat carbohydrate foods only until 4.00 PM.
Way #5. Include Healthy Fats Into Your Diet
It is not worth to completely exclude fats if you want to burn the body fat. Fats are necessary for the coordinated function of the human organism.
For example, the condition of hair, nails, and skin depends, on the most part, on fats. In addition, they perfectly saturate and permanently relieve hunger.
Eat foods that are high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats. These are found in fish, walnuts, egg yolk and avocados.
To calculate the correct amount of servings, use this formula: multiply one gram of fat by one kilogram of weight.
Way #6. Alternate Cardio Training with Strength Workouts
Even if you are just starting out, I recommend around one-hour workout three-four times a week. Moreover, two of these workouts do cardio, and the other two – with weights (barbell or dumbbells).
Do not forget to rest two-three minutes between sets. If you are looking for muscle growth, it is better to do a combination of exercises such as deadlifts, squats, lunges and bench presses. These exercises involve the most number of muscles.
If you are a beginner, I recommend you to start your workouts with a fitness coach, because he will teach you the right execution technique.
Remember, if you do the exercises incorrectly, instead of muscle growth and getting rid of excess weight, you might get injuries and wasted time, which you definitely don’t want.
When you feel like you have learned the correct techniques of the most exercises, you can perform your workouts independently.
Common Mistakes that Lead to Loss of Muscle While Burning Fat
In order to simplify things, I want to make an analogy here. Imagine the process of excess fat burning is the same as you would burn some firewood in the stove. So, firewood is the fat that you want to burn.
The goal is, in fact, like with any stove, is to burn wood and get energy. But, if you have ever light a fire in such a stove or just made a bonfire, you know that so big logs can not be set on fire just as simple as that. That is, you need a catalyst for this.
The catalyst, in this case, is glucose, which triggers the fat burning process. Maybe you have already heard this saying: “The fats are burning in the fire of carbs”.
Here, in fact, happens something like this. Glucose, in its essence, serves as a source of energy, but when we are on diet and limit the amount of carbohydrates, there is little glucose and it burns out quite quickly. This is the moment when fats serve as the main source of energy.
In order to start the fat oxidation process, there is a need for a small amount of glucose to start this process. Therefore, even while on a diet, we should get a small amount of carbohydrates, at least for such purposes.
If you are wondering, what is the case then of carb-diet or keto-diet, that works pretty well? Well, there is still a need for a catalyst, and it is still glucose, but in the case of keto-diet, the glucose is taken not from carbs, but from proteins.
That is why, if you want to use a keto diet, it is advisable to consume more proteins than usual because a part of the proteins will be used for covering the energy needs.
Mistake #1. Hunger or Starving
So, how do you think, what will happen, if you get neither proteins nor carbs together with your food? When you don’t eat enough, your organism still has to live and get from somewhere sources of energy. Moreover, energy sources are available – these are your fats.
Here is when your organism will use its own protein in order to get glucose from it and to trigger the fat-burning process. This is the situation when your fats are burning in the fire of your muscles.
If you are going to not eat enough balanced food (i.e., starving), then the muscle tissue will be used not only as a catalyst but also for the maintenance of other vital functions.
Now, it is clear that even if you are on a diet, receiving adequate amounts of proteins and carbs, then there is no need for your organism to use its own muscle tissues.
Mistake #2. Prolonged Physical Activity
This is about long hours of workouts or long hours of physical activities (for example, 25 km marathon) when energy consumption is high and you are not able to consume foods for a long time.
Mistake #3. Radical Diet + Intensive Load Workouts
I think that, among athletes and people who tend to follow a healthy lifestyle, there are very few people that get themselves starving or exhaust with lots of training.
At the same time, combining a radical diet with intensive load workouts is the most common mistake that people are inclined to commit. It is when you limit very much your diet, and train long hours intensively, every day, day after day.
Let’s take, for example, cardio workout in the morning. Many people like to perform it in the morning and indeed, morning cardio workout burns fat very well. But, what are your risks in this case?
Your organism has spent a lot of hours without a meal (typically, from 8 to 12 hours) because many people prefer to eat the last meal about two-three hours before going to bed.
Add to this your night sleep hours and your diet, and you find yourself woking up without glycogen stores, it is all gone and wasted.
In this condition, you are going to run and run for a long time, say 1-2 hours. So, in fact, you are on hunger, giving your organism a big load of physical activity.
You need to take the energy from fats in the situation when you lack catalyst (because it is all wasted) and your organism, most likely, will use its own proteins that means loss of muscle.
The same situation often happens in the case of evening training. Especially, if you are an office worker when you had your lunch at around 13.00 PM, got to the gym at around 19.00-20.00 PM, without having to eat something and started to push hard. This situation is also taken by your organism as a hunger.
In order to avoid these annoying mistakes, first of all, do not limit that much your diet, especially if your workouts are intensive and exhausting.
The more energy you spent, the harder you train, the more calories you want to consume. So that your fats burn in the fire of carbs, and not in the fire of your muscles.
Secondly, if you are training on an empty stomach, for example, you do morning cardio workout, then either do it short (no longer than 30-40 minutes) or take some preventive steps, like take a little amount of amino-acids before going to your workout.
These could be BCAAs or protein shake or, as a last resort, eat a few white eggs. In this case, these amino-acids will serve as a catalyst and your muscles will not burn.
If you prefer to train long hours (1,5 -2 hours and more), it is completely necessary to nourish your organism with the same amino-acids.
That is, it is no longer enough to drink before your workout a portion of BCAA, but prepare another portion and drink it during your workout. In this way, you will protect your muscles from catabolism.
The fact is that we need glucose during the whole day so that the process is stimulated permanently. If you eat in the morning and not eat during the day, it is not going to work in this way. That is why it is recommended to eat frequently in small portions.
In the bodybuilding world, there is such a stereotype: when you gain muscle mass, along the way you gain some amount of fat. Accordingly, when burning fat, be sure to lose some muscle.
Indeed, this happens when your approach to training and nutrition is incorrect. Together with fat-burning, the body will lose its own proteins.
At the same time, if you do everything right, then with fat burning, you will not lose your own hard-earned muscles.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how to burn fat without losing muscle and now you are more prepared for your workouts.
If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave them in the comments section and I will get back to you asap!
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My best wishes to you,