How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle in 3 Simple Steps, According to Personal Trainers

How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle in 3 Simple Steps, According to Personal Trainers

  • Losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously, known as body recomposition, can be tricky.
  • Eating a high-protein diet with a slight calorie deficit, weight training, and getting enough sleep are key.
  • Body recomposition is easier to achieve if you’re new to resistance training, experts tell Insider.

Personal trainers have broken down what it takes to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, to achieve what’s called body recomposition.

Generally, to lose fat, a person must eat fewer calories than they burn, which is called a calorie deficit, while building muscle requires a surplus.

However, there are certain contexts that facilitate body recomposition, according to Nick Shaw, personal trainer and founder of RP Strength, the official nutrition coaching platform of the CrossFit Games:

  • If you are new to bodybuilding
  • If you resume strength training after a break
  • If you changed your diet to achieve the right calories and protein for the first time

Body recomposition is “not the norm” because it’s hard to do, Shaw told Insider.

This may be more difficult for some people due to potential barriers such as their genetics, socioeconomic status or mental health, Dr. Mike Molloy, founder of M2 Performance Nutrition, told Insider. But it’s theoretically possible for anyone to lose fat and gain muscle.

Here’s what personal trainers have said you need to nail to give yourself the best chance of getting a body recomposition.

Eat a high protein diet

Consuming a high-protein diet while in a slight calorie deficit will give you the best chance of retaining or even building muscle while losing fat, according to research. Don’t drop your calories too much or you’re more likely to lose muscle, Emily Servante, certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance Personal Training, told Insider.

A small 2016 study found that men who ate more protein while training resistance and high-intensity interval training lost more fat and built more lean body mass. say anything but fat.

Another small 2018 study of women found that those who ate a high-protein diet during resistance training lost more fat and built more muscle than those who ate less protein.

A post shared by Ben Carpenter (@bdcharpenter)

Protein helps muscles recover after workouts and is filling, keeping you feeling full. It also has a higher food thermic effect than carbohydrates and fats, which means the body uses more energy to digest it.

Eating at least 0.7 grams per pound of body weight per day is enough to maximize strength gains, according to a meta-analysis published Sept. 4 in Sports Medicine Open, Insider’s Gabby Landsverk previously reported.

strength training

Resistance training is the key to body recomposition.

“Most people focus entirely on the weight loss aspect when trying to get back together,” Molloy says. “However, I would say that most people need to spend as much, if not more, time putting energy into building muscle mass.”

While cardio has many overall health benefits and any type of movement burns calories, it’s not essential for fat loss, Molloy said.

A 2015 meta-analysis found that overweight people who did strength training lost more fat than those who did cardio.

Another study published in 2021 found that people who did mostly strength training were less likely to become overweight than people who did mostly cardio.

This is because weight training causes the body to burn more calories outside of workouts, Molloy said.

Shaw recommends training “like a bodybuilder.”

“Make sure you train with higher volumes in the gym,” he said, which means enough reps, sets, and weights. Shaw suggests sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise with weights heavy enough to be challenging.

Keep challenging yourself and stimulating muscle growth by applying progressive overload, which means gradually increasing the reps or weights, he said.

Get enough sleep and manage your stress

In addition to eating well and working out, recovery is also key, Molloy said.

Molloy recommended getting eight hours of sleep a night and reducing stress levels.

A 2004 study suggested that two nights of less than six hours of sleep could lead to a 25% increase in hunger and a 33% increase in cravings for high-calorie foods. This is because ghrelin (known as the “hunger hormone”) increases when a person is sleep deprived, the researchers found.

Be patient

Body recomposition is not a quick process, so it takes patience, experts said.

“Unlike weight loss which can be very rapid (demonstrated with the prevalence of crash dieting), building muscle is a notoriously slow process, and therefore recomposition is no different,” Carpenter said.

Seasoned gym goers can achieve better long-term results by having dedicated fat loss or muscle gain phases, Shaw said.

“Trying to do both can be counterproductive because the best way to lose fat is to eat less and the best way to gain muscle is to eat more,” he said.

It is also not possible to choose the parts of the body from which you lose fat, because it largely depends on genetics.

“People tend to have stubborn areas that even training those areas with weights will still be the last place you lose fat,” Shaw said. “The best idea is to lose weight slowly and eventually that stubborn fat will come off.”

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