I’m sure in all of my years of training, writing, and speaking to people on the topic of fitness, I have covered similar topics over and over. There still seems to be some confusion about the importance, or the absolute necessity, of finding the right balance with a nutrition and exercise regimen. It seems that everyone I speak to desires one of two outcomes. It’s either losing fat or gaining muscle. They often come to me and talk about all of the hard work they’ve been putting in for years either trying to gain lean muscle mass and bulk up, get toned shed excess body fat, or achieve a combination of these two goals. Usually, within the first 7 minutes of speaking with them I can figure out why they seem to be chasing their own tails. To put it in simple terms, they are doing too much and too little! Here are some examples:
- Doing too much cardio and eating too little food.
- Training too much and not getting enough sleep.
- Doing too much heavy lifting with not enough top quality nutrition.
- Eating too many processed foods and not enough fresh ones.
- Eating too much sugar and not enough fiber.
Let’s go a little deeper into this subject. The human body, under certain circumstances, can actually gain muscle and shed body fat at the same time. By eating enough of the right nutrients at the right times, you can create magic! Yes, I have said it and it’s true but it is very hard to do. The average person will struggle with achieving this goal.
Most people tend to sacrifice the achievement of one during the progress of the other. But, it is not impossible. Often times, people who have a higher fat to lean body mass ratio tend to enjoy this advantage since they are losing body fat and gaining lean muscle at the same time! However, the leaner you are, the harder it is. So if you are trying to lose, say 10 pounds, and it has not been budging at all for the last several months, then this article should help you. The example below might sound very familiar to you!
Is This You?
You have been going to the gym on a regular basis for years and you are simply not getting as lean as you would like to be. You have some quality muscle on your physique and you can feel it but you also have a layer of fat that covers all of that quality muscle. So you eat a little less, cram in some additional cardio and you still have to go to work and do all your other normal daily activities. If you are lucky, you get 6-7 hours of sleep each night. How about vitamins, minerals and other nutritional supplements? Well, you take some vitamins when you remember but not much else. How about your water intake? You don’t really like the taste very well but you are drinking more than you were before, and you’ve cut out most of the soda.
So what’s the problem? The first issue is that your body is probably deprived of one or more key items. This is the “too little” part we discussed earlier. With the right balance of all aspects of your fitness program, things would be falling off much easier (I am talking about body fat, not your limbs). But what do you do now? You decide to kick up your cardio even more. Doing that will burn off a little more fat but it might burn up some hard-earned muscle too!
This is something you absolutely want to avoid. Any loss of lean muscle tissue will wreak havoc on your metabolism. Your muscle to fat ratio will most likely decrease, causing even more chaos. Remember, muscle tissue is incredibly powerful and burns calories even while you’re at rest, so if you lose some of that important tissue then your metabolic rate will decrease and you will burn fewer calories every day.
You may even feel lighter. Well, that would make sense because you’re now smaller. Have you ever seen the size difference between a pound of fat and a pound of muscle? The fat is a lot larger and the muscle is super compact.
So, if you are losing lean muscle because you are overtraining by doing too much cardio and taking in too little nutrient dense calories, then you are burning off lean muscle to be used for energy. This is the exact opposite of what you want to do! The beauty of adding muscle to your body is that not only does it burn away additional calories and fat but since it’s compact, your physique will be smaller which will make it much easier to fit in those skinny jeans!
The trick is eating enough of the right foods, like lean protein, complex carbs (fiber), veggies (fiber) and fruit (but not too much since fructose is sugar). You should also support your system with BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), a good multivitamin supplement, and vitamin D (I love that stuff.) Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and make sure you get enough sleep every night to fully recover from your hard workouts. Sleep is really where the magic happens. Your body is repairing and rebuilding all of those little muscle fiber tears.
When you’re in the gym, you should be lifting in beast mode but make sure to avoid overdoing it and keep your weight workouts to under 1 hour for the best results. Enjoy doing cardio and don’t do it just for fat loss, but also for the heart healthy benefits. Once again, don’t overdo your cardio training. It’s important to find your own balance which means not too much and not too little. Try your best to be patient and enjoy the process.
Something To Leave You With
As I get older I realize more and more about the importance of lean muscle mass. I do my best to keep every ounce of muscle I have ever earned over the years because it truly is the engine that burns body fat and keeps my physique lean and sexy. When I lose muscle, I really lose it! I’m not just talking about the actual muscle tissue itself, I literally lose it! I know from my own clients and the women I train that some ladies are afraid of lifting weights. I understand their fear. However, when I’m 60, I believe I will be grateful for the muscle on my arms, legs, back and everywhere else on my body. This is a balancing act as well. As women gain muscle they may feel a little bulky for a while but remember the simple fact that the more muscle mass you have, the more body fat you will burn, all day long! Over time, this body fat is used for energy and you are left with amazingly lean and sexy muscles! Just try to enjoy the process and find the right balance for yourself so you can keep on progressing and getting closer to reaching your ultimate physique goals!