A lot of us have body goals we wish to achieve, with gaining muscles and losing fat being one of the most popular reasons people hit the gym. Usually, you have to choose one or the other, but there’s a way to reach both goals.
Achieving fat loss and muscle gain are possible at the same time. To do so, your body has to be in a caloric deficit (consume fewer calories than you burn) and then in a caloric surplus (consume more calories than you burn).
Do they sound confusing? You’re not alone. So, to get you covered, we’ve summarized some points about increasing muscle tissues while burning stored fat. Let’s differentiate fats and muscles first.
Muscles are Denser than Fats
Fats are bulkier and less dense. They have more volume and can take more areas under your skin. For example, a 170-pound person with 45% body fat looks much bigger than someone else who also weighs 170-pound but only has 25% body fat.
In contrast, muscle tissues are much denser than fatty tissues. As we’ve tackled, the denser a thing is, the less space it takes. The same goes for our muscles. If you have more muscle tissues than your body fat, you’ll likely have more muscle definition or a toned physique.
One reason muscles are much denser is that they utilize more calories than fatty tissues. Anyone with more muscles needs more calories to keep their system running. They can even burn many calories when resting. That’s why they can consume more calories while maintaining weight, unlike those with more fatty tissues.
However, if you’re aiming to lose excess fats and gain muscles, your calorie usage can be confusing for two reasons:
- Muscle building requires consuming more calories; while
- Fat loss requires lower calorie intake.
In other words, your weight increases if you have a high-calorie diet to gain muscle mass. However, if you consume fewer calories as part of your weight loss plan, you may not get enough fuel to increase muscle mass.
So how do fat-loss and muscle gain inevitably mutually inclusive goals? The following will tell you how.
Cardio for Fat-Loss and Strength for Muscle Gain
A combination of different exercises will help you lose fat and gain muscle. For example, do cardio training to lose excess fats and strength training to build muscles. For additional fat burning and muscle-building, you may also opt for nutritional supplements like fat-burning pills and protein powders.
How will this combination of training help you?
Cardio training, a shorter term for cardiovascular training and also known as aerobic training, can burn more calories at once. It boosts your heart rate to exceed your target heart rate zone (or your maximum safe heart rate). Once you reach the fat-burning zone, you start breathing harder and sweating more, indicating that you’re burning more and more calories. So overall, the harder and longer your cardio workout, the more calories you burn.
On the other hand, strength training helps your muscles build strength by increasing your muscle mass. It differs from weight training, where you build strength by lifting weights. But you can combine the two. Alternatively, you can also opt for resistance training, where you use external resistance to build strength, endurance, and hypertrophy (an increase and the growth of muscles).
Sample Routine for Beginners
For beginners, it’s recommended to lift weights at least three times a week. You can conveniently use barbells, dumbbells, resistance machines, or other equipment at home. You can also DIY your weights. For example, you can use a milk jug filled with water as a kettlebell or a loaded backpack as a weighted vest.
Ensure that the weights are physically challenging for you, yet possible for a set of 15. Along with your weights, do three to four 20-30 minute moderate-intensity cardio sessions in a week. Alternatively, you may also opt for cardio-strength circuit training.
Here’s an example of a 20-minute cardio-strength circuit training routine:
- 1 min push-ups
- 1 min squats
- 1 min pull-ups/downs
- 3 mins bike/jog
- 1 min military press
- 2 mins lunges (1 min/leg)
- 1 min biceps curls
- 3 mins bike/ jog (again)
- 1 min tricep extensions
- 1 repeat squats with weights
- 1 repeat lunges with weights
- 2 mins sit-ups
- 2 mins crunches
It’s recommended to choose light weights in this 20-minute circuit training for max reps. Also, the circuit doesn’t involve rest between exercises for maximum physical effort and heart rate.
A minute of any exercise in this circuit doesn’t only burn out the targeted muscle group but also boosts your heart rate to a fat- and sugar-burning zone. More importantly, remember to start with a warm-up and end with a cool-down.
Sustaining a lifting program and eating a caloric deficit is important so your body can pull from its fat stores to fuel itself and build muscle mass. However, fat loss and muscle gain don’t happen overnight. Stay patient to enjoy the long-term benefits.