The vast majority of people really mean “lose fat” when they say they want to lose weight. In all my years working in fitness, I can count on one hand the people who’ve told me they want to “lose muscle.” The very few who do are usually professional athletes or an actor preparing for a specific role. Think Christian Bale in The Machinist, the movie in which he was completely emaciated. (The pic to the left is the way he normally looks.) Do you really want to look like a walking skeleton? Didn’t think so. When people think of losing a few pounds and getting in shape, they generally picture someone like this:
Most people never reach their fitness goals–which is almost always include some version of toned– because they lose muscle along with fat. YOU MUST RETAIN–OR ADD–MUSCLE IN ORDER TO HAVE A TONED LOOK.
If you want a slender, strong, lean body like that, here are a few do’s and don’ts.
DO EAT LOTS OF PROTEIN WITH EVERY MEAL: Requirements for protein for the general population range somewhere between 0.8–0.9 g protein/kg/day. (A kilo is 2.2 pounds.) According to a review published in Sports Medicine, if you strength-train at least three times a week, you can actually gain muscle while losing body fat. For that to happen, eat 2.3 to 3.1 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight (1.09 to 1.41 grams of protein per pound of your bodyweight). Make sure you eat some protein with every meal, not just a couple. If you do traditional weight-training with long rest periods, do two-three short interval cardio sessions/week as wellt.
DON’T OBSESS ABOUT THE SCALE. It’s perfectly normal for your weight to fluctuate. According to Healthline.com, the average adult’s weight fluctuates 5-6 pounds per day due to water retention, foods and drinks consumed, stool and urine in your system. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time to be sure you’re actually losing or gaining true weight. Pinch the skin on your stomach and assess the thickness of the skin fold to determine how much fat you have instead. The thinner the skin fold, the less body fat you have. In other words, if the scale keeps dropping pounds but you still have lots of fat on your stomach, rest assured you’re losing precious muscle, not fat.
DO METABOLIC RESISTANCE TRAINING. I mentioned above how important it is to weight-train and keep cardio to a minimum if you want a lean, slender look. The difference between traditional resistance training and metabolic resistance training is speed. Instead of waiting a minute or two between sets, you go from exercise to exercise as fast as you can. MTR combines weight-lifting and cardio into one session because your focus is multi-joint, compound exercises such as pushups, deadlifts and wood chops. You want to do as heavy as you can and as fast as you can control the exercise. This type of intense training can elevate excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) up to 38 hours after the actual workout session–which in itself burns lots of calories!
DON’T FORGET TO REST. If you don’t get enough sleep and work out all the time, you will break down your muscles instead of build them. Do your resistance training every other day and some light cardio in the between days. This rule can be broken if you do shorter weight-training sessions that focus on the entire body, using compound exercises. In that case, you can lift a couple of days back-to-back. Try emphasizing different body parts different days. Listen to your body. If something is aching, rest that muscle group for a couple of days.
DO THINK LONGTERM. Patience is your friend if you want to be slender AND lean. Seriously, the quicker you drop the pounds, the bigger the chance you’ll end up skinny fat. Muffin top anyone? According to one obesity study, the weight loss of the people who ate 500 cal/day consisted of 18% muscle, whereas the weight loss of the people who ate 1,250 cal/day consisted of 7.7% muscle. This is why they say, don’t lose more than 1-2 pounds/week. Seriously, starving yourself is a very bad idea. You may end up losing some weight, but not only are you more likely to gain it back, but you’ll aiso be less healthy and more prone to diseases because it’s impossible to get all nutrients you need with hard-core diets (less than 1,200 cal/day).