Lose fat. Gain muscle. Those seem like two pretty reasonably attainable goals to build a healthier, happier you. And while it may seem like those two ambitions go hand-in-hand with a balanced diet and exercise routine – this actually couldn’t be further from the truth.
Losing fat and gaining muscle require nearly polar opposite diet and exercise demands. In order to build muscle, the body requires a surplus of calories and little to no vigorous activity. But when it comes to burning fat, the body needs drastically fewer calories and tons of intensive cardiovascular exercise.
However, it’s not impossible to achieve both. It’s simply going to require total dedication to a rigorous (but doable) fitness plan. Here’s how to lose body fat and get ripped simultaneously.
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4 Tips For Burning Fat & Building Muscle
A six-pack isn’t sculpted on the gym floor; it’s created in the kitchen. So in order to lose fat while giving your body enough nutrients to build muscle, you’ll need to eat less – and eat better. Here are four tips to follow:
1) Determine Your Daily Caloric Intake
To lose fat, you have to create a calorie deficit. All that means is that you have to burn up more calories than you take in.
Use a free online calculator to find your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE and then strive for about 10% less than that. For the average individual, this would mean cutting about 400 calories a day from their TDEE to lose a pound of fat a week.
A pound of fat each week might not seem like much… but that works out to be 52 pounds in one year! It’s important not to be too overzealous with fat loss goals. If you eat too little and work out too much, your body will burn off both fat AND muscle.
2) Drink More Water
From pumping blood to breathing air, every single physiological process in your body depends on water. Water is always important – but especially when you’re eating less and working out more.
Your goal for fat loss and muscle gain should be a gallon of water a day. This will keep you feeling hydrated and amped for exercise, plus it will help you feel fuller in between meals and make it easier to stick to your reduced calorie diet.
3) Increase Your Protein
In order to build muscle, you’ll need a lot more protein. The general rule is 1g of protein per pound of body weight every single day.
Chicken, turkey and fish are all excellent sources of protein – but it doesn’t have to come from just your traditional meals. Supplements such as protein shakes and bars are other quick, easy methods to reaching your daily requirements.
4) Make Every Calorie Count!
Since you’ll be eating less and working out more, you’ll need to keep your body nourished. Load up on fresh vegetables. Skip the processed foods and simple sugars like sweets, alcohol and anything with white flour. Instead, reach for whole wheat, low-carb alternatives and healthy fats like avocado, natural peanut butter and olives.
Incorporate Cardio For Fat Loss
Plan on 3-4 intensive cardio sessions each week. Strive for 30-minutes each time – but split that into 5 minutes for warm-up, 20 minutes of intensive aerobic activity and finally, 5 minutes for cool-down.
You should be working out hard enough to start panting and breaking a sweat – but not working so hard that you have to periodically stop and take rests.
It’s also important to pick the form of cardio that will give you the most efficient workout. Running is one of the best forms of cardio, plus you can do it for free outside nearly anytime!
When it comes to cardio equipment in the gym, opt for a stair mill or rowing machine to really work up a sweat. Avoid the elliptical and recumbent bike: they are good for low-impact to moderate exercise, but not serious cardio workouts.
Don’t have time for a 30-minute sweat session? Here’s a tip: split your daily cardio requirements into two separate segments. Get up a little earlier and go on a 15-minute run. Then run stairs on your lunch break for 15-minutes or jump rope for 15-minutes in the evening.
This is not only easier to fit in – it’s more effective too!
Studies have shown that individuals who did two 15-minute cardio sessions burned up to twice the amount of calories as those who did a single 30-minute session. The key to torching more calories is to make each 15-minute session as intense as you possibly can.
Get Ripped With Weight Training
Aim for 3-4 intensive weight training sessions each week. Ideally, you will alternate and do different workouts each week: Monday – cardio, Tuesday – weights, Wednesday – cardio, etc. This will allow you to fully focus on each exercise and not burn yourself out trying to do both.
It’s also a good idea to divide up your major muscle groups and work a different part of your body each day. Here’s an example of a schedule for a four-day split and some exercises to try:
1) Day 1 – Shoulders and Triceps
- Shoulder press (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Lateral raise with free weights (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Reverse fly with free weights (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Shoulder shrugs with free weights (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Overhead tricep extensions (3 sets of 6-10 reps)
- Kickbacks with free weights (3 sets of 6-10 reps for each arm)
- Tricep dips on a bench or dip-assist machine (3 sets of 6-10 reps)
2) Day 2 – Back
- Pull-ups or static hangs (strive for 4 sets of 10 reps – but go until failure if that’s not possible)
- Close grip lateral pull-down (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Single-arm row with free weight (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Bent over row with barbell or short bar (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
3) Day 3 – Biceps/Triceps
- Incline bench press with free weights (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Traditional bench press with barbell (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Incline fly with free weights (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Cable fly (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Alternating curls with free weights (either standing or seated at an incline – 3 sets of 6-10 reps)
- Preacher curl (3 sets of 6-10 reps)
- Alternating hammer curl (standing – 3 sets of 6-10 reps)
4) Day 4 – Legs
- Squat (4 sets of 6-10 reps)
- Leg press (4 sets of 6-10 reps)
- Leg extension (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Walking lunges (4 sets of 6-12 reps)
- Standing calf raise (3 sets of 10-15 reps)
Supplement your workouts with abdominal exercises as you see fit – but be careful not to work them too hard and strain yourself. We recommend adding abdominal exercises to the beginning or end of every workout, every other day.
Remember: your core muscles support pretty much every other major muscle group in your body – hence their name. Overworking them can lead to an injury that may prevent you from performing your other workouts.
In this article, we outlined the basics of how to lose body fat and get ripped. It’s certainly not easy as each goal requires different diet and exercise demands – but it is possible to do both at the same time.
You just have to reduce your caloric intake while upping your protein at the same time and allocate separate days for vigorous cardio and weight training work.