If your goal is to become a lean, mean, fat-burning machine, then you’ve come to the right place. Gaining lean muscle and losing fat are two admirable goals that go hand in hand, but you’ll need the right nutrition and workout regimen to get there, among other important factors.
Remember, it’s not just about looking great in a swimsuit (though that’s an added bonus): it’s about improving your functional fitness and general quality of life, so you can be your happiest, healthiest, strongest self.
Here are six basic rules to live by in order to gain lean muscle and burn fat.
1. Choose The Right Fuel
A strong, fit body isn’t just built in the gym; it’s made first and foremost in the kitchen. No matter how much you exercise, those gains will all be lost if you eat too much junk and processed garbage. It’s one of the laws of the universe; we are what we eat. Wherever possible, choose clean, unprocessed foods in their natural form as part of your lean-mean-machine diet. A fat-burning, muscle-building diet plan should consist of lean proteins, plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, complex, carbs and a healthy fats.
Also Read: What Is ‘Clean Eating’?
Avoid processed, high-carb, sugar-laden foods and make sure you fuel your body when it needs it the most — in the morning (a healthy breakfast will rev up your metabolism), and after a strength-training workout to re-build those worn out muscles with essential proteins.
2. Focus On Strength Training
The best workout to build lean muscle and burn fat is one that incorporates strength training. Aim to complete a strength-training workout three to four times a week. You should be targeting all your major muscle groups, with compound exercises that are aimed at improving your functional strength. Not sure where to begin? These basic strength-training moves should have you well on you way.
For best results, consult with a personal trainer to create a workout regime that will challenge your entire body and keep you engaged.
3. Incorporate Cardio
Strength training is only one component of great fitness. Cardiovascular workouts torch calories, while cardio endurance has proven benefits to our health, including decreased risk of heart disease and increased life expectancy.
There are plenty of cardio workouts out there to get your heart rate up, such as running, swimming, spinning and Zumba. However, jogging slowly for an hour will not be as effective or efficient as performing Tabata-style sprints or high-intensity cardio interval training (HIIT). For example, a 1-minute jog, followed by 30-second sprint, followed by 1-minute jog, for 10 minutes, is a highly effective HIIT cardio workout.
If you don’t have a lot of time and you really want to be efficient at the gym, consider combining strength training with cardio in the same workout. Burpees, push-ups, jump squats and plank jacks are all bodyweight movements that build strength and challenge your aerobic capabilities all at once. Combination strength-and-cardio workouts are certainly tough, but they’ll blast the most fat in the shortest amount of time. Up for the challenge? Check out this complete, 60-minute fat-burning workout to get started.
4. Take Advantage Of The Ripple Effect
One tiny pebble tossed into the metaphorical exercise pool creates feel-good ripples. How does this ripple effect help you gain lean muscle and burn fat? Easy: With each completed workout, you’re more inclined to keep going. What once seemed impossible becomes your warm-up, and what used to be exhausting and arduous is now energizing and enjoyable. When your body gets fitter and slimmer, working out becomes easier, until it’s routine. In addition, exercise releases endorphins, which improves your mood, and your brain begins to associate exercise with feeling good. This is a key aspect of turning exercise into a daily habit.
But it’s not just about exercise, either. Physically active people are more in tune with their bodies, and are less likely to consume junk as a result. It’s certainly a chicken-or-the-egg situation — but once the ripple effect has begun, it influences all kinds of healthy habits, from diet to de-stressing and yes, even healthier sleep patterns. Which brings us to…
5. Get Plenty Of Sleep
We are only now beginning to understand how sleep affects weight loss and fitness, but it’s vital. A good night’s sleep (7 to 8 hours is recommended) helps regulate our body’s internal controls, balancing hormone and insulin levels, and a number of studies have established a link between a lack of sleep and serious health issues like heart attacks, obesity and diabetes. In addition, people who do not get enough sleep tend to get their energy by means of extra calories. In one study, a sleep-deprived group who slept one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group ended up consuming an average of 549 additional calories each day. Sleep is an important tool in the fat-burning, muscle-building cycle, so use it to your advantage and get some zzzs.
So, you’ve got it all figured out — you’re eating right, hitting the gym, sleeping well and feeling good. At some point, however, temptation will get the better of you. You may skip a workout to enjoy drinks out with friends, or maybe you’ll tuck into a few too many cookies in front of the TV.
Also Read: 5 Ways To Cure A Junk Food Hangover
Recognize that is is perfectly normal, and its part of a healthy lifestyle, too. Gaining lean muscle and burning fat is about diet and exercise, yes, but it’s also about embracing a healthy mindset. Enjoy life. Don’t get so caught up in inevitable, minor hurdles that you become discouraged and driven off track. Enjoy and indulgence every once and awhile, then work hard to get back on track.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to getting lean and fit. Eating a clean diet, regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep and indulging every now and again is a healthy, wholistic approach that will not only help you gain muscle and lose fat, but will also give you the tools you need to stay strong and healthy in the long run.