If you are in currently in a maintenance phase or not sure of how to start losing fat and building muscle at the same time this step-by-step guide will save you a lot of time.
There is no one size fits all with calories and food intake numbers with fat loss and muscle building, it is completely dependent on each individual. It depends on so many things like your starting weight, your current muscle mass, your fitness level, hormone levels, stress, obviously your gender, height and weight, your activity level and even your current job hours and sleep patterns. So, let me make it simple for you.. Eat slightly less of the same food you are eating now, train the same as you are training now and drink more water. It is as simple as that. Obviously a meal/exercise plan tailored to you and your goals would be more beneficial and may help you reach your goals faster but essentially fat loss is a very simple mechanism.
Essentially you want to lose body fat percentage and not so much reduce your weight. In fact, depending on your starting weight, you may even typically stay on the same ‘number’ for at least the first month or two as you want to be losing body fat and increasing muscle at the same time therefore your weight should stay around the same. Also muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t be scared if your weight on the scales goes up because your physique and body shape will be changing and this often just means you’re increasing your muscle more than you’re losing fat which is a good thing.
Follow these steps and I grantee you will start losing body fat and increasing muscle but just BE PATIENT. The reason most FAD diet plans or rapid fat loss challenges last for ‘6 weeks’ or ‘8 weeks’ is simply because they are not sustainable, they are a quick fix which obviously work because you drastically reduce calories or increase exercising every day! This will not last. If you are serious about losing fat, building muscle just do it the right way and save yourself time attempting quick fixers.
1. Be in a slight calorie deficit
The first step is to be in a calorie deficit, but I would advise not to be in a deficit that you can recognise it if that makes sense. You can be in a calorie deficit in a few ways; slightly increasing your energy output, slightly reducing calorie intake or slightly increasing daily activity. Increasing energy output refers to increasing training sessions, durations or intensity. Calorie intake obviously refers to food intake and daily activity means simply increasing your daily steps by walking to the shops instead of driving or walking to work, just simple little increases in daily energy expenditure.
I personally prefer to keep my training the same and choose to reduce calorie intake just enough that I don’t notice it. Just reduce your calories by 100-200 per week below your current intake. Personally I am quite in tune with what I ate and how many calories I would eat each day, but if you are not I would advise spending a couple days or a week tracking your food intake and becoming familiar with calorie estimates and amounts for foods you consume frequently. There are so many free apps you can use to do this- a couple good ones are ‘my fitness pal’ and ‘easy diet diary’. You will only need to do this a few times, because once you become familiar with the energy density of certain foods you will then know cutting out a spoonful of olive oil on your chicken, or a piece of toast with peanut butter will reduce your calories by approximately 150 per day, so doing this for a week you will be in a deficit without even feeling it.
Remain in a deficit for 2-3 weeks and then start to increase by ~100-150 calories per week in conjunction with your resistance training as you build your muscle which will chew through more energy and you will essentially remain in a deficit as you will require a higher base calorie intake weekly.
2. Eat at least 1.5g of protein per kg body weight
So this means for example I am 62 kg, therefore I would need to eat 93 g of protein per day. This may sound like a lot but at the end of the day if you’re eating balanced meals three times a day with a portion of protein in each, you should easily hit that target. Protein powder can also be a good snack to have and help top up your protein intake while you’re trying to build muscle (given that it is an all natural source of protein with no extra added sugar or preservatives).
3. Drink plenty of water and eat WHOLE foods
Try to stick to whole foods, real and fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and good fats! Your body needs good fuel to build muscle and function optimally. Make sure your meals and schedule fits into your lifestyle and is maintainable otherwise it is easy to fall off the bandwagon. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to reduce your sugar cravings, boost your energy and digestion and all those good things water is useful for.
4. Train and Build your muscles with resistance training
Like I said I’m not going to get in to the details about specific training splits or ways of training that are most beneficial for muscle building in this post, just know that you should be training and building your muscles at least four times a week, trying to stimulate each muscle group at least twice a week to maximise build. Cardio can be used to increase calorie deficit, but essentially it only temporarily helps with fat loss and does not help build muscle or induce fat loss long term. Girls, do not be scared of weight training you will not become bulky! This is in fact how to look lean, by building your muscle mass and losing the outer layer of fat above the muscle which will expose the leaner tissue underneath.
Lastly, just be patient and enjoy the process. There really is no quick fix- do it properly and maintain it long term.