How To Lose Fat and Build Muscle:The Beginner’s Guide
If we were to ask people what they needed to do in order to gain muscle mass and lose fat, most would reply without hesitation: “hit the gym and lift weights”. To a certain extent this answer might be true, after all hitting the gym is fundamental to induce muscle gains, but it is far from being the only factor in the equation.
Training, diet and supplementation all go hand in hand as part of the fat loss and muscle building process. Disregard any one of them and you won’t be getting the kind of results that you’re after.
We know it can be hard for a beginner to sort out all the necessary steps to building muscle fast. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of the most important training and diet tips to add muscle mass. Focus on these powerful rules and be amazed with the results.
1. Your Training
When it comes to training most people go one of two ways- weight training to build muscle, or endurance and cardio training to lose weight. A common misconception is that yiu must hammer the cardio until you lose weight- and only then start trying to build muscle. Ultimately the fat loss and muscle building process should go hand in hand! Training gives your body the necessary stimulus to build muscle mass, whereby weight training induces micro-traumas to the muscle fibres. These tiny tears are repaired and recovered by the body every time allowing the body to come back stronger and fitter.
If your looking for the jargon behind this- this is called the Super-compensation principle, which ultimately is a natural adaptation process your body goes through in order to be able give a better answer next time it is subjected to a similar stimulus.
When starting your fat loss and weight training journey it’s important to follow some weight training guidelines. Let’s take a look at what we consider to be some of the most important steps:
1. Number of workouts/sets/repetitions:
The general recommendation is that you work out at least 3 times per week and if you are on a full-body routine or 4 to 6 times per week if you are on a split-routine.
A full body routine consists of working different muscle gorups on different days, for example:
You should aim to do 3 to 5 different exercises per muscle group and 3 to 5 sets per exercise.
The number of repetitions affects which muscle fibre types you will develop. Studies show that the optimal repetition range to induce muscle hypertrophy (an increase in the size of muscle fibres) is 8 to 12.
For fat loss there are many different theories behind cardio, whereby some say fasted cardio first thing in the morning is best for fat loss. Regardless of the different theories if you’re looking to lose fat you should be performing cardio around 4 times a week with 2 low steady state sessions lasting 45 minutes to an hour, and 2 high intensity sessions lasting 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Intensity/rest between sets:
Ensure you keep your workouts short and intense. There’s no need to exercise for 2 hours. That will only increase your cortisol levels (Cortisol is a catabolic hormone – one that destroys muscle mass).
Instead of long rest periods, you should aim to rest between 60 and 90 seconds in-between sets. One hour should be enough to complete your workout. Remember, it’s all about intensity and taking your body beyond its comfort zone.
4. The Best exercises:
Do you get tired just from seeing other people lifting those heavy barbells?
Well, truth is you should not run away from the more demanding exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, pull-ups, dips and back rows. These are the best muscle building exercises.
Compound movements such as the ones mentioned above involve several muscle groups at once and therefore will induce a bigger hormonal response. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do bicep curls or tricep kickbacks. You can, just be sure you focus on big movements instead of isolation ones.
5. Resting time:
This may come as a surprise to you but you don’t grow in the gym. You grow outside the gym, more specifically when you’re sleeping. It is during sleep that your muscle fibres will recover from the exercise-induced micro-traumas. That’s the reason you should get a sufficient amount of rest.
The general recommendation is that you sleep 7 to 9 hours. Avoid drinking any liquids prior to going to bed in order to avoid paying a visit to the bathroom in the middle of the night and disturbing your sleep. Make sure you have at least one complete day off from the gym, and if you’re a beginner 2 – 3 is advised to allow your muscles to adapt to change.
A solid nutrition plan is essential to support muscle growth. If you don’t provide your body with enough Calories, it doesn’t matter how hard you hit the gym, your muscles simply won’t grow.
Fat is an essential part on any muscle building diet plan. Fat is not only necessary to produce testosterone, but it also helps with the transportation of liposoluble vitamins.
Fats should make up 25% to 30% of your diet. You should always aim to regularly consume good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as the ones found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, fatty fish, eggs, peanut butter, cashew butter and almond butter.
Avoid trans-fats, found mostly in processed foods and snacks (cookies, cakes, etc.) as they causes inflammation, and hold no benefits for your body.
Proteins are the building blocks of muscles. In order to grow, you must consume an adequate amount of protein on a daily basis. Scientific studies suggest you should eat around 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
So, if you weigh 70kg you should be eating around 105 grams of protein per day. You can choose from several good protein sources such as milk, fish, meat and eggs. Try to eat every 3 hours and ensure you always include a good source of protein in every meal.
Another common misconception when it comes to losing weight is that you must cut out all carbs to lose fat- WRONG! If you want to lose fat whilst letting your muscles grow, you’ll also have to eat a good amount of carbohydrates. They are the body’s main energy source and also play a role in manipulating the anabolic hormone insulin.
Your body can store up to around 500 grams of glycogen (400g being muscle glycogen and 100g liver glycogen). 55% to 60% of your diet should be derived from carbs. Give preference to low glycemic index carbs such as legumes, vegetables, whole foods and sweet potatoes.
It is extremely important to eat fast absorbing carbohydrates immediately after your workout. Having a load of high glycemic index carbohydrates after your workout along with your protein shake will not only help to quickly replenish glycogen levels, but it will also lower cortisol and boost protein synthesis.
In order to grow, you need to consume more calories than those you burn daily. Seems obvious, but not everyone pays attention to it. Try to eat 20 to 22 calories per pound of body weight, per day.
If your efforts are not working, add some more food to your diet plan. It is very common for beginners to think they are eating a lot when in fact they are not.
Supplements come as the cherry on top of the cake. If you’ve already established a proper diet plan, then you can start thinking about getting some supplements to boost your muscle growth to a higher level.
Supplements are designed to fill in the gaps in your nutrition plan. Let’s face it, it’s not an easy task to take more than 120g of protein per day, or to eat 3000 calories every day – especially if you’re not used to eating a lot.
That’s where sports supplements come in. A protein shake can easily give you 20 to 30 grams of protein. If you take a protein shake 2 times a day (for instance, before and after your workout) that’s 40 to 60 grams of protein you can get with very little effort. BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are also very helpful when increasing muscle protein synthesis and avoiding muscle catabolism.
To find out all the benefits and facts about BCAA’s check out this article: BCAA | What Are Branched Chain Amino Acids? Glutamine plays an essential role in muscle recovery and providing the muscles with an adequate supply of energy. To find out all the benefits about amino acids check out this article: Amino Acids: Amino Acid Benefits.
A Preworkout and fat burners can come in handy for losing fat and gaining a greater level of focus and determination. Our preworkouts are packed full of ingredients such as BCAAs and creatine making them the ideal workout supplement. Find out more about MYPRE 2.0.
If you’re looking to burn fat supplements such as CLA and Omega three can also be beneficial for your goals. To find out how CLA can actually help fat loss you can check out this article on CLA | Weight Loss Benefits
The most demanding users can also try ZMA or T Matrix for speeding up muscle and strength gains. Supplements can help you achieve your goals in less time. But remember they should never be a substitute for food. Instead they are very useful as a complement for your diet.
Record Your Progress
If you’re a fitness beginner its vital to record your progress! For training this means keeping a training diary where you can record your reps, and weights each week. By doing this you’ll be able to make achievable targets and spot weaknesses in your training regime. At the beginning of your journey and every two weeks onwards, try taking photographs and measurements- by visually and physically recording changes you’ll be able to see improvements and become more motivated each week! In terms of nutrition using an online and mobile app such as myfitness pal means you can be fully aware of what your eating and the calories and macronutrients you need each day.
If you’re looking to lose weight, burn fat and gain muscle make sure you pay attention to the 3 essentials: Diet, Trainign and Supplementation. By researching and knowing what your training regime will consist of, what you should be eating and what supplements are best for you, you’re more likely to reach you’re goal!
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.