So you’ve been exercising and built some muscle as a result, but you’re still keen on losing fat. How do you lose one without losing the other? There is a balance to be struck so that your hard-earned muscles don’t disappear as well, so here are a few things to look out for!
The calorie conundrum
Put simply, the main cause for weight gain is consuming more calories than you use up through daily activities. Any leftover energy is stored as fat or additional muscle which is then broken down when our bodies need a little boost.
It works the other way round too! If you expend more energy than you take in, you use up the stored energy in your body within your fat and muscles. Unfortunately, muscle is easier to break down than fat which is why your body would grab its energy from there instead.
To keep your muscle and lose fat you need to strike a good balance of diet and exercise. Here’s how:
Going for extended cardio regimes such as running or cycling are a great way to lose weight, but our bodies will go for the muscle mass before the fat for an energy source. The best way to maintain your muscle is to keep doing the things that got you them in the first place – resistance training. With this in mind, you should aim to have a balanced approach to your exercise where you alternate muscle/resistance training along with your cardio.
This also helps with the loss of unwanted fat – if you are strength training, your muscles will need a lot of energy to repair and maintain, which will come from your own internal stores.
Simply eating less to lose weight won’t give you results in an efficient way – in fact, if you lower your calorie intake too much, your body will hold onto the remaining energy instead in a ‘survival’ mode, slowing down your metabolism in the process.
If you are exercising, having plenty of protein is important because it’s used to repair and grow your muscles after a workout. Whilst everyone is different, the recommended amount of protein you should consume to maintain your muscle mass is around 1-1.2 grams (for a female) and 1-1.5 grams (for a male) for every pound that you weigh.
Omega-3 (which you can get from seeds such as hemp, chia and flax) is also a good idea if you are trying to maintain muscle as it actually encourages your body to use energy from fat instead of muscle.
Ultimately, it’s all up to balance. Don’t focus too much on cardio and make sure you are giving your muscles a bit of a workout too. Make sure you get enough calories and stay disciplined – it’ll be worth it in the end!