Can You Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?
People often say they want to lose weight. But they are generally looking to lose fat, not muscle. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but this holds true most of the time. Here are some important guidelines you can follow in order to reduce fat and keeping or gaining muscles at the same time as well.
1. Cardio Before Breakfast
Fasted cardio in the morning is optimal because insulin levels are bottomed out, hormone-sensitive lipase (the fat cell releasing enzyme) is fully active while lipoprotein lipase (the fat storage enzyme) is dormant. GH is still coming off its overnight high, a major fat burning hormone.
At this time there is less glucose in your bloodstream to be burned, vs. after having just eaten a meal, leaving fats as the go-to substrate. Keep the session under 60 minutes long, 45 minutes is ample, too long and you eat up muscle tissue when your body perceives starvation.
2. Be Aware Of Your Carbohydrates
Do not consume carbs when you don’t need them! The best times to give yourself larger portions of carbs is when you first wake up and before and after workouts, as you can be sure it will be put to use and be burned off, not stored as fat.
Consume no more than 25-35 grams in other meals if you must have more carbs based on your job and or lifestyle and even then, make them high fiber vegetable based carbs.
Give yourself the proper carbohydrate fuel to get the day started, get through a workout and the carbs to recover from the workout, that’s it! Any other carbs taken in should be trace carbs or sources that are not true carb sources like starches and sugars.
3. Don’t Get Hungry
Letting yourself get hungry causes loops to enter the diet; you get impatient and look for anything to eat. It’s human nature when you feel starved.
Even if it’s the right thing to eat, you end up eating way too much of it. Eat often enough to stay full even if it’s lots of veggies and water.
4. Do Not Consume Large Amounts Of Fat And Carbs Together
This is a controversy in many fitness circle-numbers right now, but it is my belief based on human metabolism and peoples over-reliance on carbs. Carbs of any kind will release insulin (high GI more so then low GI) which acts to store anything in your bloodstream.
Fats normally get booted to storage since they don’t need chemical processing or active transport to become body fat. Plus the body prefers to use carbs (glucose) as energy.
So my message is don’t eat them together in huge amounts. A few grams of healthy fat with complex carbs are ok (about 15g fat for every 50 grams carbs eaten at a sitting). Assuming you always eat a protein at every meal of course!
5. Take Your Fish Oil
They increase your sensitivity to carbs (allowing you to use more vs store more) and they assist with fat loss via PPAR-delta stimulation (a mitochondrial activator found in muscle).
Alwyn Cosgrove, a very popular weight-loss specialist, and researcher is huge on fish oils to promote fat loss (take 3-6g a day).
6. Protein Before Bed
45 to 60 minutes before bed eat 1-1.5 cups cottage cheese (2% fat or less) or casein protein powder to fight late night hunger cravings and give your body some slow digesting casein protein to break down and use during the night; it’s void of sugar, low carb (lactose) and high protein, plus it’s got calcium which can help you sleep. No, it won’t get stored as fat!
Your body does not just turn off your digestive system at night people! If calories are controlled during the day and exercise is intense enough, you will process and use foods like this even at night.
7. Eat Citrus Fruits
Eat citrus fruits if you must eat fruits as they are acidic and raise insulin less than most typical fruits (exception of pineapple). Plus they contain flavonoids such as naringin, found in oranges and more so in grapefruit which also helps with fat loss by extending caffeine’s effects.
Do not eat grapefruit with prescription meds as it may have negative side effects. Kiwi, mango, and strawberries also fit the bill as good citrus fruits.
8. Weight Train To Hold Lean Muscle
Maintain some form of weight training at least 3 times a week or your body won’t have a single reason to hold lean muscle, it will burn muscle faster than the recession is burning away at the stock market, even more so if you’re doing substantial amounts of cardio each week. Too much cardio and no weights mean a soft skeleton body in no time.
9. Interval Train To Burst Through Plateaus
If long duration steady state cardio (45+ minute session) stops working, throw in a shorter 30-minute interval (hard/easy work-rest periods), 1-2 times a week and go with that as a plateau buster. Works every time for most!
10. Refeed Rather Than Cheat
Lastly, when you really feel like you’re hungry all the time and weight loss is not keeping up, “refeeds” are far more effective then cheat meals or cheat days at kick-starting your metabolism.
Refeed’s are just 1 single very-high carb meal of slow and medium digesting carbs. Eaten before bed (yes 2-3 hours before bed) it tricks your body into sucking up all these carbs all night long causing it to blunt any hint of starvation or metabolic slowdown.
T3, leptin, and a couple other hormones related to hunger and metabolic rate go through the roof because of the overnight presence of insulin (you won’t store much at all if your diet has been spot on over the week). This does have a limit however. The amount and type of carbs needs to be titrated to your bodyweight.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, it is certainly possible to lose a lot of weight without losing very much muscle. It all just comes down to following the right strategies, so that you can put your body in a position to prioritize burning fat stores for energy, instead of lean muscle mass.
On the workout side, this means doing everything you can to maintain your performance in the gym, fighting not to lose strength on your exercises, while reducing volume if necessary to ensure that you’re recovering properly.
And on the diet side, this means working with a moderate calorie deficit, while keeping both protein and carb intake on the higher end.
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