If there was a magic pill that we could all take that would guarantee results, there’d be a queue and it would sell out. Sadly there isn’t, and anything that is worth attaining usually involves hard work and an investment of time. The local gym survives because there are no short-cuts. There is no “easy” way to getting the results you want if your ultimate aim is to lose weight and gain muscle. But that doesn’t have to mean that everything is beyond achievement, far from it. Here we look at ways in which we can reduce our weight and gain more muscle – or rather reduce your body fat and gain muscle. Yes you may have to visit the local gym, but at least you will be doing so with a clear and coherent plan. So, if your aim is to shed pounds and look better, read on for tips and advice.
Firstly you have to have a set of goals. What it is that you are looking to achieve. Without goals, you may simply be training to train. Goals should always be S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Specific means do not have general goals. Instead of saying I want to lose weight, put a figure on the amount that you want to lose. Don’t forget gaining muscle mass may in fact increase your body weight, so make sure that your goals work. Instead perhaps say you want to lose so much of my % body fat and replace it with muscle mass. This way, when you are documenting your progress and your goals can be checked off against any changes.
Measurable – Linked to the above, you need to be able to demonstrate the change in cold hard figures rather than guessing. Do you want to add 2 inches to your biceps? This is measurable and therefore smart.
Attainable/Realistic– perhaps steer clear of the win Mr Olympia goal for now and instead set goals that can be reached. Nothing is more discouraging than never reaching your goals, or starting off on a journey you may never finish. Your goals need to be dynamic too, once they have been achieved, move them forward as a new target.
Timely – your goals need a timeframe otherwise they will carry on without a deadline, they will float along, never really meaning anything. Set a timescale, then again keep it fluid going forwards.
Unless you set smart goals, you are basically setting yourself up for failure or at the very least underachievement. Your goals will be the reasons that you keep going forward, and once attained, change them to a new goal to add new and fresh incentives to continue – never give up, and keep moving forward.
Unquestionably you have underestimated the importance of water and how much you drink. If you don’t believe this, then try seeing how long you can go without water. Water is a source of life and should always be drunk to ensure good health and fitness. Fat loss and fitness training alike depend heavily on water, and neglecting it will affect your end results. It’s time to learn to love water.
Little and Often
You’re probably guilty of the same health and fitness “crime” that many people commit. They eat but not just the wrong things, they eat at the wrong times in the wrong amounts. You need to keep your body fuelled, especially if you’re are trying to gain muscle. A starved body will look to feed itself in any way it can and this often means it attacking its own muscle mass – defeating the object of your training. Little and often should be the mantra of your diet, small meals regularly, never starving the body of the fuel that it needs to function. When lacking food, the body guesses when it may next be fed, and stores what it has in the easiest form to access i.e. fat.
As well as little and often, of course the content of your diet matters. It’s probably true that diet is more important than exercise, if you’re not certain of this, compare eating 500 calories less in the day with burning 500 more on the treadmill – which is easier? To build muscle, each meal will need to contain the best source of food for muscles i.e. protein. This doesn’t mean neglecting carbs, or removing fat, both have their place in the dietary requirements of the body, but protein is key to muscle growth. Try and add clean and lean natural protein wherever possible for the best results.
Losing weight (okay fat) means a need for cardio. Good cardio doesn’t necessarily imply plodding along on a treadmill for hours. Yes it shifts pounds eventually, but it is dull, tough on the body and will likely cause you to give up. Instead try High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT 3-4 times a week. Here the body, especially the heart, will be subjected to changes in the intensity of the workout, throughout the duration of the workout. You move from steady, to fast, to all out and back again, repeating the cycle to “shock” the body into change. You’ll see results quickly, but be warned, it isn’t easy. Ideally, workouts should be 30-60 minutes not including the warmup or cool down.
It is also possible to split cardio, into smaller sessions, so two 15 minutes instead of one 30 minute in the same day, results will vary from person to person so find out what works best for you.
To build muscle mass you will need to hit the weights, and hard. In order to grow a muscle it first has to be used. In using the gym weights, you are placing a strain and a stress on your muscles. This causes small fibres in the muscles to tear and rip – sounds painful, but training hard and an injury are noticeably difference! Worked muscles look to repair themselves. They do so using their favourite source of food – remember, protein! Once repaired they will be slightly bigger than previous. You repeat this cycle over time and the muscle will grow. Remember however that in between sessions the muscles will need time to repair, and so many cannot be trained every day. When at the gym, hit specific body areas, chest, arms, back and legs on different days, thus allowing the other areas to rest between days. Do not neglect your legs though, many miss out on legs and then hit the beach with a toned upper body and shorts showing off their little legs – it doesn’t look right and your legs contain huge muscles that need work!
If you consume less than you burn, you will lose weight, and likewise, if you consume more than you burn, you’ll gain weight. To lose fat, you’ll need to be calorie deficient, but be wary that your body gets enough protein to ensure that you do not lose lean muscle mass.
Muscles are also great at burning calories, so a muscular body will deal with calories better than one with more body fat, even if the weights are the same. If your diary is kept up to date, you’ll see the changes that have been made and will be able to constantly change your calorie intake to match your dietary needs.
Rest doesn’t just mean the days when you are training other body parts. It means proper sleep, which is vital to muscle development and growth and it also means proper rest days. The harder you train, the more strain the body is put under, if you constantly strain and stress the body then at some point you will be injured and nothing destroys hard work or stops proper training better than a real injury. Listen to your body, and whilst it’ll try and convince you to rest more often, there will be times you need to listen to it – usually one day a week.
Coming to the realisation that you want to make a change is great. Committing to it is the next step and comes hand in hand with making a plan. Remember, use SMART goals and keep a track. But the most important thing isn’t the decision, it’s sticking with the programme. There will be tough times and times you won’t want to train, but these often turn out to be the best days!
Losing weight, or body fat and gaining muscle will take time, and energy and more than anything your commitment to seeing the change through. Using these helpful tips will help, but ultimately it is up to you. Good luck.