Brad Borland is a strength & conditioning specialist, cancer survivor and the founder of WorkoutLab.
Okay, you want to strip some body fat and keep or maybe even build some muscle in the meantime. Seems impossible? Not really. Adopting a few little tricks and sticking to your plan of action will have you there quicker than you think.
Below are 13 tricks, tips and strategies to get you on your way to effectively burning off the fat while keeping that hard-earned muscle you have so tirelessly worked your butt off for. What good is dieting when all you fear is losing muscle mass?
13 ways to build an ultimate body
#1 - Lift heavy when stripping fat
One of, if not, the biggest mistake I see too many trainees practice is going too light and high rep during their diet phase of training. Lifting lighter will actually send a message to the muscle to get smaller. If you don’t provide the need for the muscle to either grow and get stronger or at least stick around it will atrophy and whittle away. Stay with the heavier weights and, of course, lift using proper form and technique at all times. Big weight builds big muscle and, in turn, will burn more fat.
#2 - Take out the fluff exercises
Another trick a lot of trainees like to incorporate into their training is utilizing so called “cut” exercises such as tons of cable and machine work for high reps. Sure, you get a pump, but that’s about it. Going off the coattails of the point above, lifting heavier, core movements will do more for your fat loss efforts than a bunch of time wasters. Save the single-arm, bent-over, behind the back cable concentration curls for someone else.
#3 - Increase healthy fat intake
You are most likely on some sort of low carbohydrate diet cutting back on refined sugary sources and processed junk. As this is all well and good, many also tend to cut out the fat as well – and that is bad. Fat not only supports essential and proper key hormone functions it also serves to supply the body with much needed energy in times of low carb intake. However, since fat contains around nine calories per gram a little goes a long way. Great sources include avocado, nuts, natural almond and peanut butter, olive oil-based salad dressings and eggs.
#4 - Hydration helps protein synthesis
Yes, the old grade-school lesson is important during a diet and bears repeating. Hydration is one of the most important aspects of not only a fat loss diet but to general well-being. Without proper hydration, numerous activities in the body would be stifled and some would never even happen. Important for flushing the body of toxins, hydrating muscle cells for proper synthesis and providing a feeling of satiety are only a few of the benefits. Try taking in around one gallon per day.
#5 - Cheat to rev up your metabolism
Cheating or a higher than normal intake of calories at choice periods of your diet can prove beneficial in several ways. One, it can help rev up a slowing metabolism from all the reduced calorie consumption over the past week, and two, it can provide some much needed psychological relief as well. For one or two meals on the same day have a good ole fashioned cheat meal. Any more than that can hinder your fat loss efforts.
#6 - Go compound, go efficient
Performing compound (multi-joint) moves is the fastest and most efficient way to not only build muscle and strength but also to burn off fat. Big compound moves such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows and pull-ups use an enormous amount of muscle mass ultimately building more muscle tissue which acts as a fat-burning factory. Also, keeping your reps on the low end will ensure you keep your muscle during a dieting period.
#7 - Add HIIT for bonus calorie burning
Sure, steady-state cardio training has its place in any training plan, but you want the ability to burn fat off while you keep your hard-earned muscle. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the perfect remedy for those looking to continue their calorie burning long after training is over. Normally performed anywhere from four to 30 minutes HIIT utilizes an interval ratio protocol of brief periods of high intensity coupled with a slightly longer period of low intensity. These two levels of intensity are then alternated for several rounds.
#8 - Don’t be afraid to lose
There is an old belief that if you are losing weight you are also losing muscle and strength as well. This is a common misconception and one that is tricky to convince individuals otherwise. There is something at play here, however.
While on a calorie-restrictive diet you tend to lose a little water weight due to a reduction in carbs. Since carbs attract water the reduction will inevitably cause you to lose water weight and a perception of less strength ensues. Do not despair, after several days the body will find its stasis and balance out any deficiencies.
#9 - Take off when you need it, but don’t wimp-out
Yes, dieting can become arduous and downright defeating at times. Combined with hard training dieting can sometimes run you down as you become exhausted. Know the difference between needing a genuine day of from training possibly including a cheat meal to ramp back up your energy stores and just plain wimping out. Be honest with yourself and take the necessary action.
#10 - Play around with rest periods
Another great instant intensifier is to experiment with rest periods between sets or complexes. Are you keeping good track of rest periods? Are you sticking to them? Regulating rest times either up or down can change everything. A once ho-hum, going through the motions workout can easily turn into one kick-butt, highly intense training session leaving you gasping for air. Try keeping a close eye on your rest periods – you may be surprised.
#11 - Adjust diet & training when necessary
Adjusting your diet and training no matter what plan you are using will be a necessity sooner or later. But knowing when to let it ride versus changing certain aspects of your plan is a fine line. Two things to consider: One, give any plan enough time to work. Usually three or four weeks are enough time to see if things are going in the right direction. Two, change only one thing at a time. Changing too many variables at once will only invite confusion regarding what worked and what didn’t.
#12 - Record and track your progress
I cannot stress the importance of recording your progress. Houses have blueprints and so should you when your goal is to build your ultimate physique. Valuable feedback, keeping track of changes and having an overall plan written out to refer to is an important and invaluable tool on your journey.
#13 - Give yourself plenty of time
Patience is a virtue and that is never truer than when trying to lean up and stay muscular. Try to realize that you are on a long-term plan of action. Every day you are getting one step closer to your goal. Don’t think for one minute that you will somehow cheat the system and get your results overnight. Commit, stay disciplined and work your butt off. You only have you to answer to.