How to Burn Fat Without Losing Muscle

A lot of bodybuilders still rely on going through bulking and cutting cycles in order to get the incredible muscle physiques that they display on stage.

This makes sense because it is the quickest and most efficient way to add muscle. Adding muscle means being in a calorie surplus. The more calories you consume, the more anabolic your body will be – the more testosterone will be washing around your body and the less likely you will be to burn muscle for fuel. But of course, eating extra calories makes it even harder not to gain any fat – and especially when you’re getting them from sugar ‘weight gainer’ products and the like. muscle

Fortunately, this isn’t a problem for bodybuilders. They simply follow this period up with a period of dieting hard, which causes their body to burn the fat away from the muscle. A tiny bit of muscle is lost but mainly, it’s fat that will disappear. Hence the ‘bulk and cut’.

But you’re not a bodybuilder (probably). You probably don’t want to spend half the year looking overweight. So how can you use cardio to stay lean and add muscle at the same time?

The Problem With Cardio

The reason that most bodybuilders will stay away from intensive cardio when they’re bulking is that it puts the body once again in a catabolic state. When you run using steady state cardio, your body will supply energy by turning to your blood sugar and your fat stores.

Unfortunately, this means your blood sugar drops. And when your blood sugar drops, your body responds by releasing ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Ghrelin release is always followed by cortisol (the stress hormone) and cortisol is followed by myostatin – a molecule that signals the breakdown of muscle. The more myostatin, the more muscle you lose.

Add to the fact that your body will get 15% of its energy from protein and you have a scenario that is not good for building muscle.

The Answer

There are a few solutions.

One such option is to walk. Walking will allow you to burn energy at a much slower rate and avoid completely depleting your energy stores. This means you never get to the point where you have very low blood sugar and you never start cannibalizing that hard-won muscle.

Another option is to use HIIT. This is High Intensity Interval Training, which means alternating between spurts of sprinting and periods of jogging. The good thing about this is that the sprinting portion doesn’t burn blood sugar or muscle and instead relies on energy stored as glycogen. You’ll spend less time in a catabolic state and lose less muscle as a result – and so many bodybuilders will use HIIT ‘finishers’ following a workout.

Finally, you can also use nutrition to protect yourself and reduce your chances of losing muscle. The best way to do this is by consuming BCAAs – branch chained amino acids. These have been shown to have a very positive effect in reducing muscle breakdown during exercise.

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Muscle vs. Fat and Your Energy Level

Right now, the greatest results in raising our metabolism come from exercise and building our muscle mass, while reducing our body fat. Adding more muscle to the body, in turn causes us to burn more calories, and this helps to elevate our metabolic rate.

What determines our metabolic rate, as far as our genetics? Generally, we tend to inherit the same tendencies for metabolic rates, body frames, and other related body functions from our parents.
All of this metabolic process is related to our calorie intake, our vitamin and nutrition needs, our thyroid and endocrine production, and how well all of these processes come together.

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The body’s metabolism is a unique process for each individual person. No two people metabolize food at the same rate therefore no two people have the metabolism. We all use our calories at different rates, with different results. Our metabolism, like our fingerprints is unique to each of us. But the need to understand and accommodate this metabolism is an issue that we all face. I said all of that, to say this, our metabolism affects our energy levels, and our muscle mass and body fat also affect our energy levels. When you bring the two together, you have the opportunity to create lots of energy, raise a person’s self-esteem, and give them a new lease on life. But all of this isn’t easy to attain.

Some people have really high rates of metabolism. In other words, when they consume food, their bodies burn it up almost as fast as then consume it. Then there are those of use who use our food intake so slowly, as to not even notice that we’re burning calories. These people who burn quickly are often slim and trim, the people who burn more slowly are the people with a tendency toward obesity. The people with really high metabolic rates are generally the people who feel better and have the most energy. Their body is using the food intake to its maximum, and the body feels alive and full of vitality. The sluggish metabolism on the other hand, can have almost the opposite situation; low energy levels, with very little motivation to make lifestyle changes.

The only recourse we have in trying to control our body weight, metabolic burn and health is through our thorough understanding of the role food plays in our calorie consumption versus our calorie need, and control how much of the calories we take in.

Our metabolism functions also depend on how well we have taken care of our nutritional needs. The process of burning calories and creating energy is a delicate one, and one which must be carefully tended, or it can become imbalanced. It is often through these natural imbalances that we tend to “inherit’ our metabolic rate, our body weight, and the lower energy levels.

I believe through careful analysis, and attention to each person’s unique needs, we could bring about a more natural balance of the metabolic burn vs. the calorie intake. To a level where optimal health and weight control are in equilibrium.

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Four Common Muscle-Building Myths

Bodybuilding is a field that’s often flooded with a lot of conflicting advice. While conflicting advice can sometimes have two right answers, very often the advice that’s given is just plain wrong. In this article, we’ll expose four of the most common muscle-building myths.

Myth #1 – Eat More If You Want to Build Muscle

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One common myth is that if you’re skinny and want to gain muscle, you need to consume a lot of calories. Unfortunately, this is more likely to get you fat than get you built.

Yes, if you want to gain muscle mass you do need to eat a few more calories than you’re burning. But you don’t need to consume 2,000 more calories than you’ve been eating in the past.

Eat more food, but don’t stuff your body with calories. It’s not healthy and won’t help get you where you want to go.

Myth #2 – You Should Tense Your Abs When Lifting Weights

Another common myth is that tensing up your abs when you’re lifting weights will help give your spine more support, thereby reducing the likelihood of injury.

This myth stemmed from a research study that was conducted, showing that people who had back pain tended to have lax abdominal muscles. They concluded that by tensing up the ab muscles, back support was increased which reduced back pain.

This story spread among the bodybuilding community and has come to be accepted as fact today. Unfortunately, it’s just plain wrong.

In reality, your body naturally knows what to do when it’s lifting heavy objects. Yes, you do need to tense up your abs – but your body does that automatically already. If you tense up your abs even more manually, you can throw off the whole system and actually increase your chances of injury.

Myth #3 – The Trick Is to Eat a Lot of Protein

Yes, eating a lot of protein is crucial. However, just increasing the amount of protein you eat isn’t going to cut it.

In order to really make a difference in your muscles, you need to have the right kinds of proteins. You also need to have the right combination of proteins; and you need to eat other foods that support that protein intake.

Yes, increasing proteins is important – but it’s not the magic pill.

Myth #4 – The Path to Losing Fat is Not Eating Fat

Finally, a lot of people who decide to start building muscles decide that they need to cut all fats out of their diet. Unfortunately, this is actually harmful rather than helpful.

Your body needs fats in order to operate properly. Yes, you should definitely get rid of trans fats and oily foods, but it’s important to keep consuming healthy fats so your body has the resources it needs to work properly.

You can actually lose more fat by eating enough of the right kinds of fat than if you tried to cut out all fats from your diet.

These are four of the most common myths in bodybuilding today.

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Muscle Fiction

If you’ve been training, here’s a short list of bodybuilding fiction.

  1. 12 Rep rule

Most weight training program include this much repetitions for gaining muscle. The truth is this approach places the muscles with not enough tension for effective muscle gain. High tension e.g. heavy weights provides muscle growth in which the muscle grows much larger, leading to the maximum gains in strength. Having longer tension time boosts the muscle size by generating the structures around the muscle fibers, improving endurance.

The standard prescription of eight to 12 repetitions provides a balance but by just using that program all of the time, you do not generate the greater tension levels that is provided by the heavier weights and lesser reps, and the longer tension achieved with lighter weights and more repetitions. Change the number of reps and adjust the weights to stimulate all types of muscle growth.

 

  1. Three Set rule

The truth is there’s nothing wrong with three sets but then again there is nothing amazing about it either. The number of sets you perform should be base on your goals and not on a half-century old rule. The more repetitions you do on an exercise, the fewer sets you should do, and vice versa. This keeps the total number of repetitions done of an exercise equal.

 

  1. Three to four exercises per group

The truth is this is a waste of time. Combined with twelve reps of three sets, the total number of reps amount to 144. If your doing this much reps for a muscle group your not doing enough. Instead of doing too many varieties of exercises, try doing 30 to 50 reps. That can be anywhere from 2 sets of 15 reps or 5 sets of 10 reps.

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  1. My knees, my toes

It is a gym folklore that you “should not let your knees go past your toes.” Truth is that leaning forward a little too much is more likely a cause of injury. In 2003, Memphis University researchers confirmed that knee stress was almost thirty percent higher when the knees are allowed to move beyond the toes during a squat.

But hip stress increased nearly 10 times or (1000 percent) when the forward movement of the knee was restricted. Because the squatters needed to lean their body forward and that forces the strain to transfer to the lower back.

Focus on your upper body position and less on the knee. Keep the torso in an upright position as much as possible when doing squats and lunges. These reduces the stress generated on the hips and back. To stay upright, before squatting, squeeze the shoulder blades together and hold them in that position; and then as you squat, keep the forearms 90 degree to the floor.

 

  1. Lift weights, draw abs

The truth is the muscles work in groups to stabilize the spine, and the most important muscle group change depending on the type of exercise. The transverse abdominis is not always the most important muscle group. Actually, for most exercise, the body automatically activates the muscle group that are needed most for support of the spine. So if you focus only on the transverse abdominis, it can recruit wrong muscles and limit the right muscles. This increases the chance of injury, and reduces the weight that can be lifted.

 

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