Hundreds of fitness blogs and websites claim to have a slew of tips, tricks and workouts guaranteed to result in weight loss, but the only fact you need to know when trying to drop pounds is that you must burn off more calories than you consume in a day. However, when attempting to create a calorie deficit, people often end up burning both fat and lean muscle. If your goal is to get in the healthiest, fittest shape possible, you’ll want to focus on maintaining that lean muscle to give your body a strong, toned physique.
Though quick weight loss programs have become trendy and popular in the industry, most experts do not recommend this type of regimen when trying to lose weight without muscle loss. Your body has many responses when it senses that it’s losing weight rapidly, many of which make it difficult to retain lean muscle. Follow some of this top advice from fitness professionals to retain your muscle and drop that excess fat.
Practice Cardio and Weight Training
Cardio is one of the first exercises that comes to mind when most people think of weight loss. The intensity and duration of a typical cardio workout have been proven to burn more calories in the same period of time than other types of exercise–such as weight training–but that doesn’t always mean that more cardio is best when it comes to weight loss without muscle loss.
In order to retain lean muscle but start to burn off that fat, you should practice a combination of cardio and weight training or another muscle-burning workout plan. Doing sprints two to three times per week is one of the best cardio workouts to promote both fat loss and muscle retention. Focusing too much on low-intensity cardio exercises will result in muscle loss, so be sure to some give thought to which types of cardio you’re working into your regular routine.
Consume Plenty of Protein
Finding a balance between creating a calorie deficit and consuming enough protein to promote muscle growth can be tricky. When you’re first starting your plan to lose weight, you may need to spend a few weeks just focusing on dropping the extra pounds before you can begin toning your muscles. Burning more calories than you consume while still intaking enough protein to promote muscle growth is difficult to perfect. Once you feel that your overall fitness has improved enough to begin focusing more on retaining and gaining muscle, you’ll need to pay strict attention to your daily protein intake. Purchasing a protein shaker bottle and incorporating protein shakes into your everyday diet is one of the best ways to keep your calorie intake low while consuming enough protein for muscle growth and satiating your hunger.
Eat Carbs Post-Workout
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation as unnecessary calories that cause bloating and weight gain, but this overarching generalization is not true. You actually need carbs in your daily diet if you want to build muscle. As with almost any food group, not all carbs are good, but not all of them are bad either. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glycogen, which is stored in your muscle and used during physical activity as energy. This means without carbs in your diet, your muscles will get weak and struggle during workouts and even daily activities.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is the key component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Even if you’re doing everything else right, if you’re not getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night, your body will not be able to properly function. During the night, your body produces HGH (human growth hormone), which is vital to muscle growth, as well as breaks down proteins and promotes overall brain health. Some people who are focused on weight loss without muscle loss suggest drinking a protein shake with casein protein before bed because it metabolizes slower than the more common whey protein and will help your body with protein synthesis throughout the night.
HIIT Burns More Fat Than Traditional Workouts
Many fitness gurus love HIIT (high-intensity interval training) because of the quick and clear results of this workout method. To practice HIIT, you must do several workouts with a higher level of intensity than a traditional circuit workout without any actual breaks. The key to doing this exercise routine properly is putting as much effort into each workout as possible and only resting for a very brief period (less than one minute usually) between each set and exercise. Because HIIT raises your body’s internal temperature so quickly, you can work out for a mere 30 minutes and your body will continue to burn calories after you’re finished, allowing you to burn fat while retaining or even gaining muscle mass.