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Build Muscle and Lose Fat: Top Three Tips

The myth that you cannot build muscle and lose fat is just that – a myth. You lose fat by calorie deficit? And you gain muscle by eating more? Right…, so how does that possibly come together? Well, it comes across as an unachievable performance goal because most routines that attempt this fail to consider our top three, yet science-backed, tips for how to build muscle and lose fat.

So let’s grab some science, and bring on the top three tips to build muscle and lose fat…

1. Maintain Healthy Protein Levels in Your Diet

To build muscle, your body needs to synthesise more muscle protein than it breaks down – simply put, you need to make sure you’re getting enough protein. Protein also plays an important role in weight loss. Evidence suggests that eating protein can stimulate your metabolic rate and burn more calories in addition to reducing your appetite. Check out a study by researchers at Maastricht University that demonstrated even an increase in protein from 15 to 18 percent of calories reduced the amount of fat people regained after weight loss by 50 percent.

What is a healthy protein level? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Protein intake should be spaced throughout the day and after workouts.

2. Manage Your Calorie Intake

This is where it can get tricky. You need to own up to managing your calorie levels if you want to build muscle while burning fat. But keep in mind since you are attempting to do both, the results will not be as noticeable or as fast as if you were only doing one or the other. That is, if you were building muscle, and bulking, your calorie intake and workout routine would readily add mass, while in contrast, a calorie reduction with high weight training and cardio could lower fat quickly. But in this instance, we are working to walk between these goals.

The first thing you need to do is figure out your maintenance calories – that is, how many calories you burn on your rest/non-workout days. (This is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate, BMR, and is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest.) There are many ways you can determine this number, but an online calculator is likely the easiest option. Here is one from the Mayo Clinic that uses the Mifflin-St Jeor equation. But understand this number is not going to be your constant intake – it is the guide to figure out your intake. To balance fat loss and muscle building, use the following calorie intake levels, based on your maintenance calories:

  • Weight training day: Increase your caloric intake by 5-15% with a focus on protein.
  • Cardio day: Stick with your maintenance level calories
  • Rest day: Decrease your caloric intake by 5-15%

You need to focus on this part of the effort – calorie management. This is where your program is made or broken. And before we move on, do not neglect to manage your macronutrient levels. We talk about this in our Performance Diet Tips.

3. Focus on Resistance Training In Your Workouts

Resistance training is the best method to build muscle and burn fat – if done properly. You can spend hours in the gym moving weight around, our you can maximize a workout with heavy, compound lifts. It’s not completely that simple – but, just about that simple. Compound movements burn more calories. The very fact that you have to use more muscles to stabilize the weight means that you stress and develop more muscle and burn more calories and fat as a result.

Focus on multiple sets of heavy compound lifts, with smaller isolation motions as finishing moves. This will enable you to keep your focus and energy on the primary lifts. You do not need to get fancy on this – just stick to the basic press and pull motions. You can find numerous online sites with workouts that focus on compound lifts – check them out.

Now keep in mind this is not about toning up, or physique training – as we tend to stay away from that with performance training. What our top three tips to build muscle and lose fat are for is just that – build muscle and lose fat. There are variations to what we call out above, and of course, every body is different – so you will have to see exactly how you respond to the training and diet management. But if you follow these general tips, you will find that losing fat while adding muscle is possible.

-Train Hard!

fitness program failure

Fitness Program Failure: Top Five Reasons

Fitness program failure happens for a reason, and with so many out there, both online and at local fitness facilities, you need to understand the top five reasons why programs can fail – as it will improve your chances of starting one that will work for you. That said, let’s paint a picture…

You just saw this great online program, or maybe it was a flyer at the gym. You know the one…it states you can get (fill in the blank) results in 12 weeks? The fitness guru on the material is in great shape, the sales pitch sounds great, you see lot’s of testimonials, fitness technical terms were all over…you buy it, you sign up, you download it, all excited, and in a month you’re wondering how anyone does it. You’re not alone, and you have probably encountered at least one of the five top reasons for fitness program failure…

1. Time

Having the proper time to follow a fixed workout program can be one of the most challenging aspects. To make the program work, you have to follow its schedule, both in terms of days of the week, but also in duration. For example, say it’s a 90-minute routine, five days a week, for 10 weeks…Can you do that? Many individuals look at plans online, and come away with the age-old “I can do that” and then find out it’s not so simple. There is also no real answer to this challenge outside of the one that you bring to the situation: Either you have the time, or you do not (and do not forget proper rest!). But that is the issue time brings to your efforts to follow a fixed routine, and why you are setting yourself up to see less than expected results if you cannot put in the time the program assumes.

Take away – you are going to struggle to follow the program, and get expected results, if you cannot provide the time the program requires. This is true whether you are using the local gym or working out at home. Do some real research into the program’s time requirements, and lean conservative in your schedule assumptions. And if you are working a home-based program, and do not live alone, then others might affect this too.

2. Acces

Do you have access to the equipment the program calls out? If it is a home-based program, do you have everything you need at home? If not, can you get them? Do you have space for them? Before you think the gym is safe for this element, think again. How many times have you been to the gym and it was packed? You could not get anything you wanted that night? Well, this plays out more so in a fixed fitness program – in that, say it’s leg day on your program, and every squat rack, leg press, leg extension, and leg anything is in use. And it’s the only time you have that day…You see where this is going. If your program is not built with alternative plans for when this happens, it can create a disappointing day.

Take away – consider the equipment and space access expectation of the program. Nothing at home…are you OK with shelling out extra costs to acquire the gear? Have a gym membership…how packed does the gym get during your available workout times? You need to consider how well you can access the program’s needed elements throughout the duration of the program. Even the “at home, no equipment required” program can have access issues – can you access space to workout each day?

3. Program is not for you

This is simply making a poor program selection. It can be for various reasons, but we need to be thinking about how our body responds to types of training, and whether a program we want is a program that will work. This is not a repeat of the Time and Access issues noted above, but rather that the program is not suited for your physiology, personality, etc. If you are not fond of resistance training, then “Muscle Mike’s 10 Week Bulk Up Blitz” might not be your thing…in that are you going to bring the drive to get each workout done? Are you going to follow the program? Will obstacles easily make you put off a session? Or, perhaps the program reflects what you were, but no longer are? That is, maybe that program would have been perfect for the you fresh out of college, but is it perfect for your late 40s and family life? In the end, your ability to avoid fitness program failure is also partly driven by how well it suits you.

Take away – know thyself and choose wisely. Your program is likely not going to have a trainer to adjust it as you progress or have issues – but is a “buy and follow” deal. So take the time to think about what you really can handle and are in the mood to do. While the program is intended to change your body, you need to start by looking at your body. Be real with age, injuries, likes, dislikes, etc. The more honest you are, the better you will pick a fitness program you can follow. You can always build on success.

4. Nutrition

This is where we just need to have some brutal honesty. Your dedication to your fitness program is all thrown into the waste bin if you blow the nutrition side of the process. Hitting every workout, full intensity, week after week is great until you hit the local fast-food drive-through five nights a week. If you look at most of the programs out there, they are going to talk about nutrition. Now some may be trying to get you to buy certain foods, etc – but the bottom line is they are saying the full benefits of the program are only found when the nutrition backs it up.

Take away – there is an old saying: abs are made in the kitchen. That very acutely sums up this point. You need to understand your fitness is made of your nutritional intake as well, and you undermine any fitness program if you cannot maintain proper nutrition. Moreover, you need to look up what is needed for your program too – maybe it’s a high protein, high-calorie, low carb, gluten-free, etc – you might find it’s not easy to follow.

5. The program is…garbage

Well, you knew this one was coming. There is a lot out there for fitness programs. Some are created by educated and trained individuals or teams. They base their routines and instructions on proven and safe processes and information. And there are a lot more from that person who goes to the gym, looks great, can drop a lot of cool-sounding fitness buzz words, recite advice they heard from an expert – but actually are not trained or certified in what they are putting out. In short, they are putting out pseudo-science garbage and setting you up for fitness program failure. And sometimes, it can be dangerous. So if the program is garbage, it’s not going to work. Worst case, it can also risk injury.

Take away – do not be fooled by what the marketing looks like. Take the time to check up on the credentials of the program. Just because someone can pay to have ads always in your face, does not mean they are a quality fitness program creator.

In the end, this is not telling you not to purchase a fitness program. Quite the opposite – a fitness program is a great tool to develop your performance and improve your health and we encourage you to go for it! But, what we want you to be tracking is that there are many reasons these programs can fail, and we hate to say it, but often the reason falls on the buyer, not the program. Do your research, consider our top five tips, and as always…

-Train Hard!

Top Micro-HIIT Benefits

New research suggests we can train smarter and harder – but not longer – to obtain beneficial results. Short duration, micro-HIIT sessions in the gym have shown promise and may be more beneficial than traditional exercise routines that rely on steady-state.

Micro-HIIT benefits are not new – a 2016 study showed that one minute of intense training within a 10 minute period yielded the same results as a 50-minute steady-state trained group over a 12-week period.

For those not familiar, HIIT interval training encompasses short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by periods of active rest. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high-intensity intervals describe exercises performed at 80%-95% of one’s maximum heart rate, lasting anywhere between 5 seconds and 8 minutes.

Micro-HIIT is even shorter – following the 10-minute example referenced in the study. There are several exercises you can do for that “all-out” minute:

  • Mountain climbers
  • High Knee Jump
  • Burpees
  • Pull Ups
  • Push Ups
  • Box Jumps

Or, if you are on a cardio machine – these are perfect to push to full effort for a minute:

  • Elliptical
  • Rowing
  • Upright skier
  • Climber
  • Aerodyne

If you can add 1 -2 Micro-HIIT sessions a week, you should notice results.

The bottom line is we need to think about training smart, given the complexity most face in time management – there are only so many hours in the day. But take note of the key component to Micro-HIIT success – the all-out effort for one minute, and continuous effort for the other 10. If you are going to cheat this, and think “exercising” for 10 minutes is enough unto itself, do not expect to see results. Shorter does not mean easier. But for those that can…

-Train Hard!

Carbohydrate Fitness Benefits

Basic Carbohydrate Benefits

What are basic carbohydrate benefits and how to they affect your fitness?

Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, and proper intake is a key part of overall health. However, carbohydrates can also pose risks if not eaten in moderation – for example, a high carbohydrate diet over a prolonged period can cause high blood sugar and unwanted weight gain.

What is a carbohydrate

A carbohydrate is a macronutrient, like protein and fat, that your body requires daily. Carbohydrates come as starches, fiber, and sugars. Starches are complex carbohydrates, commonly found in vegetables like potatoes and corn. Sugars are simple carbohydrates. You can find sugar as a natural component in many sources of food. However, added sugars are common in processed foods, sugar-based drinks like soda, and many candies.

What do they do in the body?

Simply put, carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy; before your body turns to any other source of energy – including fat – it will use energy provided by carbohydrate sources. Your body relies on your muscle and liver tissue to store extra carbohydrate energy – which it can tap if your diet is not providing enough carbohydrates.

In addition to supporting muscle activity, another basic carbohydrate benefit is that it supplies energy to your control center – your brain. Low carbohydrate consumption in relation to your dietary needs can directly impair your mental clarity. If you feel mentally sluggish during workouts, it might be a sign you need more carbohydrates.

How much do you need?

While all dietary needs will be unique to the individual and their fitness goals, general dietary guidelines suggest that most adults consume 45 to 65 percent of their daily caloric intake from carbohydrates – which are 4 calories per gram.

Super Healthy Carbohydrates for You:

  1. Quinoa
  2. Oats
  3. Buckwheat
  4. Bananas
  5. Sweet Potatoes
  6. Beetroots
  7. Oranges
  8. Blueberries
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Apples

In all, it’s that simple. Those are the carbohydrate benefits to your fitness. Make them a regular part of your diet, and you will help develop and sustain your fitness goals.

Looking for more nutrition tips? Then check out our other articles!

– Train Hard!

Great Abs and Core Exercises

Your core – abs, lower back, and hips. A key zone for stability in functional fitness, and one you should incorporate into your regular training regime using great abs and core exercises.

So let’s get to it, and here are five key core exercises for your routine:

Plank

Plank exercise outdoors
Basic plank position

Simple, but it works. Variations keep the boredom away – side plank, reverse plank, knee tuck, etc. Hold for 30-60 seconds, and shoot for three intervals.

Bridge

Floor hip raise exercise lying on floor
Bridge, up position

Key is to focus on keeping your hips tucked under and lower abdominals engaged. Three sets, 10-15 reps.

V-Ups or V-Hold

V-Up motion, pausing at top
V-Up, top position

Static abs V Hold exercise
V-Hold

Perhaps not a beginner core moves, but ones you want to master. Already mastered them? Try holding a medicine ball or other weight with outstretched arms during the V-Up motion, or above your head during the V-Hold. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Leg Raises

Leg raises at the gym
Leg raise, top position, with crunch

Hanging leg raise at park
Hanging leg raise

No gym, then keep you back on the floor. Normally you want your arms at your sides, but, place your hands under your lower back if you have issues. Too easy? Add a crunch motion. Have access to a hang bar, or captain’s chair? Use those for leg raises, and up the work. Three sets, 8-12 reps.

Superman (also known as Cobras)

Superman pose, arched position
Superman, arched position

Face down, arms in front – and arch your body up (like you’re flying). Add a twist, and bring your arms back as you arch – return them to forward as you lower your body to reset the motion. Three sets, 5 reps, hold for each up position. Be careful not to strain your lower back; listen to your body.

Keep these in your kit for great abs and core exercises, and add them to your routine. You will keep your core strong and tone – which is key to so many other areas of your fitness progress. If you are going to take on these exercises outside, be sure to maintain proper hydration as you crush your core workout!

-Train Hard!

 

Fitness Success

Congratulations to setting a fitness goal! Many do not – so you are already in a small group. So let’s go over a few easy steps to keep in mind as you work towards your objectives.

Exercise Daily

It’s not easy; life can get in the way. But you need to get in a daily routine. You might not get to the exercise you wanted – but do not let that stop you from doing something. No time for the gym, go for a walk or jog. Or, use a quick home routine. You can always find the time – so no excuses.

Good Nutrition

As we have stated before, you cannot out train poor diet and nutrition. Keep a balanced diet, watch your caloric intake, and monitor your macronutrient levels. You are “working out” every time you eat. Those sessions with food should be just as dedicated as your sessions in the gym.

Rest and Recovery

Often neglected in our modern lives, but rest and recovery are key to progressing to your fitness goals. Resting allows your muscles to heal, and grow. They allow your nutrient levels to restore. In short – rest and recovery are what enable you to progress to your fitness goals just as much as your actual fitness routine.

Keep Going

Setbacks. They happen. You missed a few days. Family visits destroyed your diet. You were sick. These happen, get over it. Move on. Your goals are yours to accomplish, and you need to keep moving, even after a pause. We often put a mindset of absolution around our fitness plans, and when those plans are off, many see failure and give up. But you need to realize that failure is not giving up – giving up is failure. So accept the roadblocks that life gives, get rid of that all-or-nothing standard you self-imposed over yourself, and keep going.

-Train Hard!

Proper Workout Hydration

Keeping your body properly hydrated is a key part of your athletic performance and health. To help ensure full workout performance, you should ensure you hydrate properly before, during, and after your workouts.

Hydration Basics

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

During exercise, water consumption is the best way to replace lost fluids for most individuals. Some sports drinks may help replace lost electrolytes during high-intensity exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes.

If you sweat profusely during exercise, or your sweat contains a high amount of sodium (salt), sports drinks can help replenish sodium levels and prevent hyponatremia (water intoxication).

– Train Hard!

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