While the simplest way to build muscle and lose fat is to lower your caloric intake and to start lifting weights, this isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. What and when you eat coupled with how and in what order you exercise will have a big impact on how quickly you’ll achieve a leaner, more muscular shape. A smart diet and exercise routine will make the process much easier. Keep in mind, however, that while it’s possible to lose fat and tone muscle, adding on additional muscle mass, or “bulking up,” will actually require an increase in caloric intake. If you’re looking to both dramatically increase muscle size and lose weight, you’re better off choosing one of the goals to approach first, then tackle the second once you’ve achieved the first.
Take a good look at what you’re eating. As difficult as it may be, you’ll want to make a real effort to reduce your intake of sugar (check your yogurt and fruit juices!) and also of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and rice. While whole wheat pasta is certainly better than regular, try cooking spaghetti squash and treating it like pasta instead. Swap out soft drinks for unsweetened iced green tea, which is not only calorie-free, but it’s also said to reduce belly fat. Try to consume a good portion of your calories at breakfast so you’ll have plenty of energy for the rest of the day. Never skip breakfast.
Your body needs protein in order to build muscle, so try to include a serving of protein with every meal, especially breakfast. Eating protein actually activates muscle growth in the body, so saving the big dose of protein for dinner will have the least amount of payoff. Be sure to eat a protein-rich snack and some fruit within two hours of your workout, both before and after. Don’t buy into fad diets that promise to burn fat at an unnaturally high rate. While you may experience some quick results, in the long run the weight loss can be difficult to maintain. Your best bet, as always, is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Working with free-weights or machines is the best way to build muscle, and it’s also a good way to burn off excess blood sugar and boost your metabolism, meaning you’ll get more out of your cardio workout if you save it for after the resistance training. Starting your workout (after stretching, of course) with about twenty minutes of weights or machines will put you in the best position to burn fat. Don’t overdo the resistance workout, though, or you’ll drain yourself of energy you’ll need while performing your cardio exercises.
For the best fat-burning results, cardio sessions should last between twenty and forty minutes. Don’t maintain a single intensity for the duration; varying the difficulty of your workout will help to burn more calories. Although the intensity should vary, the duration should not. Don’t take breaks during your cardio session. If you’re doing a twenty-minute workout, you should work out continuously. Doing it in two ten-minute sessions with a five-minute break in between will lower your heart rate and undermine your fat-burning goals.