Losing Fat & Cutting, Without Losing Muscle

The art of cutting, losing body fat without losing muscle mass. Learn how you should eat and train if you want to keep your lean muscle mass and lose that excess fat!

Planning

In order to lose body fat we have to have a reason as to why we want to achieve this goal, is it (a) Make you look good (b) Health benefits (reduce heart disease, lower cholesterol etc) (c) Holiday/Vacation (c) Competition (d) or just to see if you can.

There are many reasons why people choose to get to a low body fat percentage, but to achieve your goal in a half-hearted fashion will not work. Remember that the body likes to be at a set point of body fat and will try everything it can to maintain this set point, the main way that the body achieves this is by slowing the metabolism down, or by holding body fat and using muscle tissue, the body is clever and it has evolved over thousands of years, so were not going to trick it into change over night.

You have to plan your life around wanting to change, your aim must be clear and precise as to why you want to do it, you must set a date to start, tell your friends/family that you are going to do it, and that you are going to start on a certain date, you will need the support from the other people whilst you are embarking on this new regime. It is not easy to achieve a low body fat percentage and you must be 100% committed to your aim.

Setting Goals

Write down the reasons as to why you want to achieve this aim, i.e., “I want my body fat to be ...X...” But be realistic, you wont achieve a 15% reduction in a few weeks.

By writing down your aims you have made a statement and setting yourself a goal, and get rid of any thoughts of “I wish I was…….etc. Your statement now is I will loose “X” amount of pounds in “Y” amount of time. Set goals that are ambitious yet achievable. You might not know how far you can go in losing fat, so find an example like in fitness magazines, you might of seen the before and after pictures of people who have been losing fat for a while, and pin it on your wall for inspiration.

Now you have written your goals down make copies and hang them everywhere you see them regularly, i.e. bathroom mirror, refrigerator door, inside the car, just to reinforce what you are about to achieve, Remember that there will be set backs, but you will be able to get back on track because remember “you are going to achieve this”.

Male fat loss

The RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) is a means of determining how hard you are exerting yourself, including physiological and muscular strain.

Nutrition

Restricting calories does not work, your body has safety mechanisms which will work the other way and store fat, an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase is the enemy in trying to lose fat, it slows the metabolism and makes you store fat as a last resort for energy, and on top of that the body then gives up our muscle tissue for energy, you will lose weight but the wrong weight, Muscle is 70% water so on the scales you think you are doing well but it is muscle and water that has gone and considering that muscle burns calories this then further reduces your metabolism, when you come off the diet you will gain back every ounce of the fat you had and some more for “insurance” in case you do this again, so now you can eat less and still get fat.

Meal Frequency

You must eat regularly which means never go more than three hours without eating food, which means that you will be having six or seven meals a day. You won’t be eating any more calories than you need but all you have done is spread the calories evenly over the day, this in turn increases the metabolism, stops craving, and stops the highs and lows of blood sugar. You will have more energy and less hunger pangs, the food will be more easily digested and you will create a metabolic environment that supports healthy fat loss and muscle gains.

Meals

When trying to lose body fat we have to eat less then our body requires in the day to create a “negative balance”. Instead of counting every single calorie that you eat, we go about this differently we count portions, and a portion is the size of the palm of your hand, or the size of a clenched fist. This is a basic easy way to eat your food. Without the right foods you will not see results, food and training is the key.

Food Groups

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6)

 The quality of health reflects in large measure the quality of the food we eat. Research has identified 45 essential ingredients. "Essential" means; we absolutely have to have them to live and be healthy. Our bodies cannot make them from other substances. We must therefore obtain them in their natural state from the foods we eat (or from food supplements). Deficiency of any of the essential nutrients has to result in deterioration of health. Large scale nutritional surveys have shown that over 60% of the population are deficient in one or more essential nutrients.

Of the hundreds of fatty acids found in nature, about 20 are common to human food, and two are essential to human health - the essential fatty acids - EFAs. It is a fact that many of the classic degenerative conditions (cardiovascular disease, some cancers, diabetes, MS, arthritis, PMS, osteoporosis, sterility and miscarriage, schizophrenia, depression) are fat-based and have a proven link with nutritional deficiency.

The Omega 3s are known to play a key role in maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting against everyday pollutants. Harmful processed oils and margarines block the activity of EPA and DHA in the body and are directly linked to the upsurge in many of today’s major diseases.

Abdominal exercises

Don’t think that you need to exercise every day to achieve your goals, you don’t, and we still stick to a routine of exercise

Omegas 3s in particular are required for normal brain development. In the adult, Omega 3s are required for visual, brain and nerve, adrenal and testis function. Clinical studies indicate that Omega 3s bring a sense of calmness because they interfere with the production of chemicals that the body makes in response to stress. They seem to improve the condition of those suffering from schizophrenia and the behavior of juvenile delinquents resistant to counseling.

EFAs stimulate metabolism, increase metabolic rate, increase oxygen uptake, and increase energy production. They also stimulate the process of oxidation because they attract and somehow reversibly react with or activate oxygen. People who begin to take EFAs when they have been deficient feel an increase in energy levels. Athletes and others appreciate finding that their muscles recover more rapidly from exercise fatigue.

The Omega 3 essential fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The richest food source of ALA is flax seed (linseed oil). EPA and DHA are found in fish oils such as cod liver oil.

The Omega 6 essential fatty acid itself is called linoleic acid (LA) and it is found in most seed oils. The body converts this to gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). GLA is ultimately responsible for the production of two other prostaglandin series - PG1 and PG2 which are essential in the production of reproductive hormones, maintenance of healthy skin and regulation of blood pressure.

Essential Fat also has the following health benefits:

  • Improved delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and other tissues because of reduced blood viscosity
  • Improved aerobic metabolism because of enhanced delivery of oxygen to the cells
  • Improved release of growth hormone in response to normal stimuli, such as exercise, sleep, and hunger, which may have an anabolic effect to improve the post exercise recovery time
  • Reduction of inflammation caused by muscular fatigue and overexertion, which may improve post exercise recovery time
  • Possible prevention of tissue inflammation
Protein

Bodybuilders strive for a high level of muscle mass, a goal that mandates a higher need for energy, Most strength trainers are under the illusion of “the more protein the better” which is not true, ideally bodybuilders should consume between 1.5 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, assuming that adequate energy is consumed from carbohydrates. Any excess protein that we take in is simply burned as fuel or could be stored as fat. (Bodybuilders normally have a total intake of 25 to 30 percent of total calorie intake).

Consumed proteins are digested into amino acids, and these amino acids join other amino acids produced by the body to constitute the amino acid pool. The tissues take the amino acids from this pool to synthesise the specific proteins the body needs (muscle, hair, nails, hormones, enzymes, and so on). This amino acid pool is also available for use as energy via a deamination process to be burned if other fuels (carbohydrates and fat) cannot satisfy energy needs. Protein plays a very important role in the body, i.e., protein based enzymes, optimising blood pH, forming antibodies, are components of body tissue including heart, liver, pancreas etc, and muscles and bones, transporter of substances in the blood to the correct receptor sites, controlling fluid volume and osmolarity in the blood and body tissues.

Female fat loss

To transform you body you must lift weight. Cardio by itself won’t help you achieve your goal of a better looking body.

The main nutrients provided by this group of foods are iron, protein, B vitamins (especially vitamin B12), zinc and magnesium. Iron is needed for the formation of haemoglobin and Myoglobin in blood. It is also a component of many enzymes.

Protein must be provided in the diet for growth and repair of the body, any excess is used to provide energy. B vitamins are principally involved in energy metabolism. Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of blood cells and nerve fibres. Zinc is needed for growth of tissues, immune function, and wound healing. Magnesium is needed for bone development and nerve and muscle function. It is also necessary for the function of some enzymes involved in energy utilization.

Protein foods Choices: All beans and pulses, All fish, All lean meats, All nuts, All poultry without skin, All shellfish, Sushi (raw fish component) and Textured vegetable protein. (E.g. Soya)

Practical advice (protein)

  • Eat moderate amounts of foods from this group, and choose lower fat versions where possible.
  • Choose lean meats and remove visible fat.
  • Take the skin off poultry.
  • Avoid poultry and fish cooked in batter or breadcrumb coatings. Cook these foods without adding fat.
  • Aim to eat at least two to three portions of fish per week, of which should be oil-rich (fresh tuna counts, but canned tuna does not).
Carbohydrates

There are different types of carbohydrate, and each type is treated differently by our bodies. For instance, glucose and bran are both carbohydrates, but they are on different ends of the energy spectrum. Glucose enters the blood stream quickly and initiates a fast and high insulin response, while the energy in bran never makes it into the blood stream because of its indigestibility, and tends to mediate the insulin response by slowing the rate at which other energy sources enter the blood stream. So we should carefully consider the type of carbohydrate that might be best under different circumstances. Glucose is the main source of fuel for muscular activity and the higher the muscular intensity, the greater the reliance on glucose for fuel. Understanding how to keep glucose from becoming depleted should become a major focus of any person’s nutrition practice. Sustaining carbohydrates sufficiency is problematic because, unlike either protein or fat, humans have a limited storage capacity for carbohydrate; some is stored in the muscle and some in the liver as glycogen.

  • Carbohydrates give you energy - They have starches and sugar!
  • Can aid in proper digestion - Go for fibre-rich food choices each day!
  • Provide many vitamins and minerals, fruit and veg; for example, contain vitamin A (beta-carotene), several B-vitamins (including folate), vitamin C, iron and potassium.
  • Help you manage the amount of fat and calories in your overall diet because they tend to be low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Carbohydrates groups:

Starches: (complex carbohydrates) Cereal, potatoes, pasta, macaroni, rice, bread

Dietary fibre: Whole grain cereals and breads, dried beans and peas, fruits and vegetables

Sugars: (simple carbohydrates) Fruit juices, fruits, milk, sweetened cereals and baked goods, jam and syrup

Food Groups And Food For This Plan

Protein Carbohydrates Vegetables
Chicken Breast Baked Potatoes Broccoli
Turkey Breast Sweet Potato’s Asparagus
Lean Minced Turkey Yam Lettuce
Swordfish Squash Carrots
Haddock Pumpkin Cauliflower
Salmon Brown Rice Green Beans
Tuna Pasta Green Peppers
Crab Oatmeal Mushroom
Lobster Whole grain cereals Spinach
Shrimp Beans Tomato’s
Fillet Steak Corn Peas
Sirloin Steak Strawberries Bean sprouts
Lean Minced Beef Melon Artichoke
Lean Ham Apple Cabbage
Egg Whites Orange Celery
Low fat Cottage Cheese Whole-wheat Bread Cucumber
Protein Drinks Yogurts Onion

Remember that each meal should contain a portion of protein and carbohydrates and at least two meals should also contain a selection of vegetables

Protein drinks containing complex carbohydrates (not sugar) can also be used for a meal, but be aware that our bodies also require fibre which comes from Vegetables, Fruit, Oats, Sweet potatoes, Rice, Wheat.

Remember that a portion of each food is the size of a clenched fist or the palm of the hand, and the number of meals per day is 6.

On day 7 (Sun) of the week, this is a cheat day when you can eat anything in this day that you want, literally anything….

Fluid Intake

Muscle is comprised of approx 70% water, and fluid is an essential transport mechanism for a number of nutrients, carbohydrates, and is also has an important role in all cellular activity. If your water intake is low then the ability to transport nutrients is compromised, you will lose strength and feel sluggish because of a build up of waste products like ammonia, urea, uric acid. Drink a glass of water before, during and after a meal, this way you will be hydrated sufficiently throughout the day, make sure you also have fluids whilst you train and even more if the weather is hot.

Barbell curls

When trying to lose body fat we have to eat less then our body requires in the day to create a “negative balance”.

The Plan

So to achieve this plan all we have to do is exercise and eat right, “Oh if it was this simple”.

We see constantly advertisements for pills, potions, exercise gadgets, which all say “take this and do that”, and that’s all you have to do. Forget them all they don’t work – Period.

Training

To transform you body you must lift weight. Aerobics by themselves won’t achieve your goal; the best form of exercise to shape the body is weight training for both Male and Females. By resistance training you increase your metabolic rate, which is the rate at which the body burns fat. By increasing muscle mass the body requires more energy to maintain the new mass; fat does not require energy it just sits there annoying us all. So weight training is superior to aerobics as it increases the rate at what the body uses energy, by doing only aerobics you may lose weight but won’t alter your body in the way that weight training does.

Weight training is not just for young people, I have people training who are over 60yrs old, and are in good shape, as our bodies get older we tend to store fat because we tend to slow down and become more inactive, and because we slow down and become inactive we also lose muscle mass and strength. So the end result is someone who is old, fragile, weak, and has physical disabilities. But this trend is reversible, weight training reverses the frailty, muscle weakness, posture, well being.

Don’t think that you need to exercise every day to achieve your goals, you don’t, and we still stick to a routine of exercise. Our routine needs to be brief and intense to be effective. The routine needs to have stimulation to trigger an adaptation response by the body. Remember that the phase “More is not better” High intensity for long periods of training have been shown to be counterproductive.

Some people work out a lot for a long time and have not achieved their aim, but would not think about cutting back on their training so they think “maybe I am not doing enough” and end up doing even more, which further compounds the lack of results.

In weight/resistance training we cause trauma to the working muscle, once that occurs the body responds by repairing the damage we have caused by training, this causes the body to use energy to repair itself and we need nutrients such as protein, carbs, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, creatine to achieve this. But more importantly we need to rest to allow the body to repair itself and it will not do this whilst you are in the gym, it is between sessions that our body repairs the damage and along with all the essential nutrients we can grown bigger, stronger and leaner.

Weight training involves two movements of a weight, (a) the concentric (lifting) and (b) eccentric (lowering). So when we lift the weight, we shorten the muscle and when we lower the weight we lengthen the muscle, both portions of lifting, concentric and eccentric movement are equally important. You have to concentrate on both phases of the movement, lifting and lowering, if you just lower the weight by gravity your wasting this part of the exercise.

In resistance and weight training you have to push your self, don’t just think than you just have to do a number of reps and then put the weight down it’s like everything in life “you get out of it - what you put in”. I see many people doing their training and pushing the reps out as fast as the can, just to get to their required amount of reps, but the exercise is being lost when you do this, slow the reps down and you overload the muscles for a longer period of time.

Training Routines

Intensity

Monitoring your rating of perceived exertion (RPE) by the Borg Scale. The RPE is a means of determining how hard you are exerting yourself, including physiological (how hard you are breathing, how fast your heart is beating) and muscular strain (how much you feel the exertion in your muscles). The scale measures your answer to the question: "How hard do you feel the exercise is?" The scale goes from 1 to 10.

Rating of Perceived Exertion

Rating of Perceived Exertion
Grade Perceived Exertion
0 Nothing
0.5 Very, very weak
1 Very weak
2 Weak
3 Moderate
4 Somewhat hard
5 Hard
6  
7 Very Hard
8  
9  
10 Very, very Hard
  Maximal

Woman doing push ups

You have to push yourself. Don’t think you just can do a number of reps and then put the weight down. Exercise is like everything in life “you get out of it - what you put in."

Aerobic Training

Remember to warm up, stretch, do your aerobics, and then cool down.

The scale above is a reference as to how hard you are working out, if you are unfit then to reach level 10 would be a lot easier to reach than if you were fit, for example, level 1 on the scale would be sitting on the settee watching TV. Level 3 might be carrying shopping bags to the car; level 5 might be carrying the shopping up a few flights of stairs. The scale continues right up to level 10 this is all out “balls to the wall” maximum effort, at this level you just cant do any more or go any faster. And this is the way we are going to do our Aerobic training and weight training, People say that the best way to lose body fat is low intensity – long duration aerobic exercise, but using this method is not the best for getting rid of body fat. Research indicates that not only does high-intensity training burn fat more effectively than low-intensity exercise (up to 50% more efficiently) it also speeds up your metabolism and keeps it raised for quite a while after your workout, provided that you don’t eat after your workout for one hour. The best time to do your aerobic training is first thing in the morning, this can be done at home on an exercise bike, or on the streets running, etc. Scientific studies have found that by exercising first thing in the morning burns fat much faster (up to 300% percent faster) than doing the same exercise in the afternoon. The workout we are going to do is only 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week, no more, and definitely no less. You have to make each and every workout the most effective fat burning, health enhancing 20 minutes you can. And to do that we use the Borg Scale.

We select an exercise, like rowing, cycling, jogging, treadmill, etc. You can vary your sessions on different pieces of equipment if you want every session, or every week, your choice; it is you that’s doing the work. We start with 2 minutes at about level five intensity on the scale, after two minutes we up the intensity to level 6 for one minute, then up to level 7 for one minute, then up to level 8 for one minute, then up to level 9 for one minute, after the minute we then go back down to level 6 (a moderate intensity level) We repeat the this pattern 3 times but on the last cycle after we have gone from level six up to level nine we continue up to level 10 this is where you are going faster than you thought you could ever do, it is maximal effort, you cant do it any faster, then after one minute at level 10, we drop back down to level 5 for one minute, this training method is called Interval training is an excellent way of dropping body fat. But not easy!!

Minute 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Level 4 4 6 6 7 8 9 6 7 8 9 6 7 8 9 6 7 8 9 10 4

Stick to the intensity for the given minute of exercise. Do not try and burn yourself out, that would be counter productive, when you first start you may find that level 10 might just be walking at a fast pace, that is ok as that is your pace, but you have to aim for improvement, you must try to achieve a higher and higher level of improvement.

When you apply the same intensity principles to both your aerobic and weight training you will constantly be moving to higher and higher levels and you’ll continually be stimulating your muscles while losing fat. You will become more metabolically efficient. Your body will burn fat at an elevated rate throughout the day, during your daily activities, and even whilst sleeping.

Weight Training

The weight training element of this fat loss programme upper/lower body based type of training in which we divide the body up into sessions where we do 1st day is upper body, 2nd day is aerobics, 3rd day is lower body, 4th day is aerobics, 5th day is upper body, 6th day is aerobics, 7th day is a day off!!. Then the second week we start with 1st day lower body etc. The routine continues for at least 12 weeks.

  Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 Upper
Body
Aerobic
Day
Lower
Body
Aerobic
Day
Upper
Body
Aerobic
Day
OFF
Week 2 Lower
Body
Aerobic
Day
Upper
Body
Aerobic
Day
Lower
Body
Aerobic
Day
OFF
Week 3 Upper
Body
Aerobic
Day
Lower
Body
Aerobic
Day
Upper
Body
Aerobic
Day
OFF

The above routine continues for as many weeks as is necessary for you to achieve your goal of body fat percentage.

Lat Pull Down

Lifting involves 2 movements, (a) the concentric (lifting) and (b) eccentric (lowering). When we lift the weight, we shorten the muscle. When we lower the weight we lengthen the muscle

Weight Training Exercises

Chest Dumbbell Bench press
Dumbbell flys
Incline dumbbell press
Flat barbell bench press
Shoulders Seated dumbbell press
Side raises
Standing barbell press
Bent over raises
Back Wide grip pulldowns
Reverse grip pulldowns
One-arm dumbbell rows
Dumbbell pullovers
Triceps Barbell extensions
Bench dips
Close grip pushdowns
Lying dumbell extensions
Biceps Incline dumbbell curls
Standing barbell curls
Seated dumbell curls
Hammer curls
Quadriceps Leg extensions
Barbell squats
Leg press
Dumbell squats
Hamstrings Dumbbell lunges
Lying leg curls
Stiff leg deadlifts
Standing leg curls
Calves Seated calf raises
One-leg raises
Standing calf raises
Angled calf raises
Abdominals Floor crunches
Decline sit-ups
Twisting crunches
Leg raises

For guides on how to do these exercises, visit the exercise videos section.

Weight training routine

Remember to warm up all body parts being worked, then stretches, exercises, stretch, and finally complete a cool down.

Pick two exercises per body part. You will perform 4 sets on one of the exercises, with reps and intensity of 12 reps (intensity level 5), 10 reps (intensity level 6), 8 reps (intensity level 7), 6 reps (with intensity level 8) with one minute rest between sets; speed of reps is 2 – 1 – 2 seconds (example, bench press. Lower weight for 2 sec, 1 sec hold at bottom, 2 sec press). Then the last set is a superset where we do two exercises together with no rest, first exercise is the one that you started with, a rep range of 12, (Intensity level 9), then immediately with no rest do the second exercise in the superset for 12 reps (at an intensity level of 10).

Example of one body part and the superset, (we do the same on every body part).

Upper Body Day Exercise Reps Weight (lbs) Minutes
between sets
Intensity
Level
CHEST Dumbbell bench press 12   1 5
  Dumbbell bench press 10   1 6
  Dumbbell bench press 8   1 7
  Dumbbell bench press 6   1 8
* Super
Set
Dumbbell bench press
Dumbbell Flys
12
12
  0
2
9
10

* Superset means both exercises are done back to back with no rest in between exercises

The rest of the exercises of upper body is continued after chest and is completed in the same way, two minutes rest between body parts then the next body part exercises are completed.

Upper body exercises: Chest, Shoulders, Back, Triceps, Biceps.

Lower body exercises: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs.

Monitoring lean body mass and body fat

 In order to make sure that our calorie intake is adequate we need to monitor our lean body mass, this is done by having our body fat percentage done on a weekly basis, body fat percentage can be done by two means, (1) By callipers, any gym should have callipers and someone experienced enough to use them and monitor the results, with this type of testing it is important to have the same person doing the testing, that way the results would be more accurate. The principle behind this method is that the amount of subcutaneous fat is proportional to the total amount of body fat. However, the exact proportion of subcutaneous to total fat varies with gender, age, (2) By Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis, (BIA) this method is easy to administer, non-invasive and a safe method. BIA involves passing a small electric current through the body and measuring the impedance or opposition to the current flow. Fat free tissue and water is a good conductor of electrical current, whereas fat is not. The resistance to the current flow is related to fat free mass and total body water, both can be predicated by this analysis. This type of testing is either done by a hand held device or a four lead test, in which four leads are attached to the client whilst they are lying on an examination table.

If using the BIA method you should remember the following points:

  • Abstain from eating and drinking within 3 hours of the assessment.
  • Avoid moderate or vigorous physical exercise within 12 hours of the test.
  • Do not drink alcohol within 48hrs of the test ?
  • Do not use any diuretic agents (including caffeine) prior to the test

Once you know your body fat percentage, you can calculate your lean body mass by multiplying body weight by the percentage of body fat, this will give you total fat mass, then to work out the fat free mass all we do is subtract the total fat mass from the body weight and you have your total fat free mass.

IF YOU FIND THAT THE FAT FREE MASS (MUSCLE) IS GOING DOWN, THEN YOU WILL NEED TO INCREASE THE INTAKE OF CALORIES. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT; It is muscle that burns calories; if calorie intake is to low then the body will release an enzyme that will make you store fat as an emergency store for energy.

Other easier methods of monitoring fat % are:

  • Changes in body composition viewed in the mirror
  • Waist measurements
  • Waist to Hip measurements
  • Weight
  • BMI, although people who weight train would have a higher level of muscle and this would make the results inaccurate.

If you have any questions for Doug about stripping fat, cutting, diets or muscle building you can catch him over on our muscle building forum. His forum name is "Doug". You can register free here.