One of the biggest mysteries of life, especially in the fitness realm, is the baffling question, is it possible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time?
It’s mind boggling to think that one is possible without the other gassing it up, and in many ways we, often end throwing the towel and simply doing the best that we can do today.
But as you work on your fitness, eat right, and push yourself at the gym, your attempts to get in shape are often downplayed by the fat and muscle question.
There is also the fact that we live in a diet fad world which sees us driven towards the see this and eat it diet, especially if you wish to gain mass, versus the calorie-restricted diet option.
Well, thanks to research and expert advice, you should know that the calorie-restricted plans do more harm than good as they sap the energy, strength, and also the gained mass out of you.
And when that happens, losing fat turns into an impossible task – yes, creating a high-stress environment for your body only its harder, which is why you need to work on a strategy that brings a balance.
We are talking about embracing a lifestyle that promotes muscle gains while burning fats.
While it is rather difficult to burn fat and lose weight while gaining muscle at the same time, it is not impossible. It only requires a lot of work and time. Being able to lose weight/ burn fats and gain muscle at the same time is quite possible, and it would result in quite the transformation.
How to lose weight and gain muscles
For you to lose weight, the most important thing for you to do is to create a calorie deficit, and for you to gain muscle, you must have a calorie surplus. What this means is that it would be very difficult for you to find a balance between the two.
Right. Well, in the next parts, will tell you how to do it. The calorie deficit-surplus might not be as important as the activation and the burning of fats cells, which is a concerted effort of the muscles and the fat cells.
There are two muscle types: type 1, also called the slow-twitch muscle fibers, and type 2 or the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Understanding these two types of muscles is important in understanding how you can gain muscle and burn fat.
Essentially, the slow-twitch muscle fibers are all about controlling endurance, and they are important when it comes to activities like long-distance running and low-impact aerobic exercises such as Zumba.
The fast-twitch fibers, on the other hand, are the muscle fibers that are effective during the short and the explosive workout movements like sprints and squat jumps.
The fast-twitch muscle fibers, unlike the short-twitch muscles, get fatigued faster, and they need more recovery time. The type 1, slow-twitch muscles remain the same size even after toning. Essentially, you need to work on both muscle groups for maximum benefits.
Unlike muscle, fat is a lot more complicated. We all have white fat and brown fat. White fat is what makes up the subcutaneous (pinchable fat around your belly, breasts, and butt), as well as visceral fat (around the organs).
Subcutaneous fat represents your largest reserve of energy as it allows for the regulation of the body’s temperature, while also cushioning the internal organs.
While visceral fat which the white fat around your midsection protects the organs, although you have to be careful because an excess of the subcutaneous fat increases inflammation, while also increasing the risk of the diseases.
But the subcutaneous fat is not all you need to worry about when it comes to weight loss; your focus needs to be on brown fat. Brown fat is the good kind of fat, and you need more of it because this is the fat that burns calories, instead of encouraging the storage of fats.
Burning brown fat through exercise is made possible by the hormone called irisin, which will activate fat burning.
The best part is that besides the brown fat being the best force behind shedding calories, vigorous exercise has the capacity to encourage the conversion of white fat into beige fat (a type of brown fat), resulting in the burning of even more calories.
Your muscles need a lot of energy, whether you are working out or at rest (your heart muscles need the energy to pump, and you also need the energy to maintain energy). The interesting bit, however, is that you are not always capable of fulfilling the energy needs of your muscles, especially if you are not eating all the time.
What this means is that the muscles will need another source of fuel when the carbs/ sugars run out, and that is where the fat comes in from. Fat is the best source of fuel for the muscle with one gram of fat carrying 9 calories (against 4 calories from carbs).
While low-intensity activities don’t call for much energy, the body tends to be very picky, and it will opt to burn the fats when you engage in low-intensity exercises while reverting back to burning carbs when you are engaging in intense physical activity.
Therefore, for the body to burn more fats, you’d have to deplete your carbohydrate reserves.
It’s not enough, though, which is why you need to identify and get to the fat-burning-zone, which happens when you engage in an intense activity that uses 50-60% of your highest heart rate.
You’d have to increase the intensity of your exercises to burn more fat in the fat-burning zone, not just during your workout, but also after the workout as the muscles recover. An intense workout often forces the muscles to use up more fat.
The intense exercises work the fast-twitch muscles, which need more recovery time. Since these muscles contract and relax and end up with many tears, their healing and repair process means that the microfibers will be growing bigger and stronger with every exercise, meaning more fat is burned as a result.
Remember that your fat-burning efforts are dependent on the activation and the conversion of the fatty cells into glucose and water; that is only possible if the body is pushed.
Besides engaging in intense workouts, here are the other things you could do to burn the fats and build muscle.
- Get enough sleep – you need to catch enough ZZZ’s for the muscles to recover and also because sleep means less cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone, will sabotage all the efforts you’ve put in the gym, and the worst bit is that cortisol slows down muscle growth by forcing the body to hold on to fat. In other words, sleep more, and avoid stress if you want to lose weight while building muscle.
- Workout early in the morning – this is important because you have less stored carbs (glycogen) in the morning than you do in the afternoon or later in the evening, meaning that the body will have to burn fat because it doesn’t have any other options.
- Push harder – lift weights and engage in strength training exercises until you feel that your body has given its all, then rest and repeat.
- Go for the 1:3 rule, which means that you should work out for an hour thrice weekly.
- Be a smart snacker
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Rest when the body needs to and switch to moderate workouts when your body cannot take the high-intensity workouts.