How Can I Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?

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question-icon-newI’m currently 218 pounds and I suspect at a high percentage of body fat (down from 243 pounds a few months ago though). I’m going to the gym about 4-5 times a week, doing 40 minutes of high intensity cardio and working out my muscle groups about 2 times per week. I’ve formatted my diet so that about 45-50% of my calories are coming from carbs, 30-35% from protein, and 20% from fat. Of course, I’m also following a diet that consists entirely of clean foods and have almost eradicated saturated fats and simple carbs from my diet and replaced them with lean protein and complex carbs as well as essential fatty acids.

My goal is to get down to around 175-180 pounds, but more importantly to exchange as much body fat for lean mass as possible. I’m basically wondering about how long this should all take and whether I can reasonably expect to achieve both at the same time. I don’t really want to gain excess muscle and look massive, but rather to look toned and well-defined.

answer-icon-newYour diet, cardio and weight training plan look very solid and I think you are on the correct path to getting very lean. At this point, it’s really about tweaking your diet and cardio a little to see what works with your body. A few great tips to drop more body fat are:

  1. Try doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This will allow you to immediately tap into your fat and keep your metabolism humming all day long. Have 1 scoop (25-30 grams) of whey protein 20 minutes before cardio to preserve muscle mass.
  2. Switch off between HIIT cardio (30 minutes max) and steady state cardio for 60 minutes and see how your body responds. Kick your cardio up to 5-7 days/week.
  3. Cut out starchy carbs and fruit after 5pm. Stick with lean protein and fibrous carbs (veggies). Stir frys and salads work great later in the day.

In terms of building muscle and burning fat at the same time, it’s a bit difficult to build a substantial amount of lean muscle when your diet is lower in calories and you’re doing a lot of cardio. You should focus on maintaining the muscle you have while dropping the highest amount of body fat as possible. A key to this is always lift heavy and don’t fall into the “high reps” myth. You want to keep pushing heavy weight and try not to lose any strength during this period. This will allow you to preserve your lean muscle tissue while your diet/cardio plan will strip off the fat.

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