These 8 tips will help you achieve a lean body in a way that still supports your health and wellbeing!
Building muscle and losing body fat go hand in hand. Also known as ‘getting lean,' this change in body composition is not necessarily a priority for everyone, but if it is for you - read on!
We have 8 tips to build muscle and lose fat in a way that supports your overall health and wellbeing.
You may think you just want to lower your body fat without gaining muscle… but did you know that even a small increase in muscle mass will boost your metabolism? This means you'll burn more calories at rest, which enables easier fat loss!
1. Use heavy enough weights.
Whether you're doing sets of 6 reps or sets of 12 reps, the weights must be heavy enough that you couldn't possibly do more than one extra rep in each set.
For women, a common reason they are not gaining muscle and losing fat is that the weights they're using are too light for the body to need to change.
Men, on the other hand, will sometimes attempt lifting weights that are too heavy, and end up injured before they can get any results. These examples are generalisations though, and either could happen to anyone.
To build muscle and strength, we must challenge ourselves by progressively increasing the weight we lift.
For each exercise, find a weight where you can do 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps in perfect form. If you're easily hitting the last few reps of the last set, then it's time to increase the weight!
2. Focus on total-body lifts
To build muscle and burn a larger number of calories, focus on the large, total-body movements first.
These are also known as compound exercises, as they target several joints at once. Compound exercises include squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups and pushups, and not only are they the most efficient way to build muscle and lose body fat, but they are great for building core strength too.
Starting your workout on the isolated weights machines that line the gym floor will hinder your results, as they only work one muscle group at a time.
Instead, start with total-body lifts and finish off your workout with the smaller, isolated exercises to target any weaker areas such as your biceps, triceps and abs.
3. Try interval training
Interval training will not only help you get fitter and faster, but it will also spike your metabolism. Sprints can be brutal, but they're so quick and effective that once or twice a week is enough to get great results.
They can be done running or cycling outdoors, or on a cross-trainer, treadmill or stationary bike inside. Once you've warmed up, sprint all out for 30 seconds, rest and recover at a very slow pace for 60 seconds, then repeat for 7-20 minutes.
4. Change your training program every 3-6 weeks
After a few weeks doing the same exercises with the same reps and sets, our bodies will have adapted to the challenge.
If we don't change things up every 3-6 weeks, our progress will plateau, and we'll probably lose motivation too!
We need to continually surprise our bodies (and our minds) with new challenges to keep gaining lean muscle and losing body fat. A new program every month keeps things fresh and exciting as well, so we're more likely to feel motivated to continue training for the long term.
5. Use BCAA’s during your workouts
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) helps us build lean muscle by supporting muscle growth, recovery and repair. BCAA's are particularly useful if you're in a calorie deficit and need a sustained energy source to fuel your training, as these supplements are also a healthy and natural way to boost energy production and reduce fatigue and muscle soreness.
Staying hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the day will help you feel and perform at your best, but if you want to maintain the muscle you have, build more lean muscle, or just have an easier time shedding body fat, a natural, plant-based BCAA supplement will get you there. As with any supplement - always check the ingredients for chemical nasties, animal-derived ingredients, fillers and artificial sweeteners.
Have you tried our delicious new Tone BCAA+ in Raspberry Flavour?
6. Avoid caloric restriction
Starving is out, and thriving is in! It may seem counterintuitive, as it goes against what the media has been telling us for far too long… but if you give your body enough energy, with a balance of carbs, fats and protein - you'll end up leaner, healthier and stronger in the long term.
This is because adequate nutrition balances our hormones and lowers our stress, convincing our bodies that we are not in danger, and there's no need to hold on to extra fat stores.
To gain muscle and lose fat, we must eat enough. As an example, most women require an average of 300 extra calories per day (on top of their maintenance calories) to provide their bodies with the building blocks to create more muscle mass.
Once you've worked out how many calories you need to ‘stay the same weight,' start by adding a small surplus of 100 calories. Continue training and see how you feel - it all comes down to trial and error.
If you're always tired, feeling drained, and you're no longer hitting PBs in the gym - you need to increase your calories (remember healthy calories though! Not junk calories).
Getting stronger and leaner is all about increasing your Basal Metabolic Rate, so the goal is to continue increasing calories over time.
This is especially important if you're coming from a background of strict dieting and low-calorie intake.
Aim to get 20-30% of your calories from protein, then spilt the rest between carbs and fat, depending on your preference and the kind of foods you thrive on. We're all different, so listen to your body.
7. Prioritise stress management strategies that work for you
Did you know that stress can slow down our metabolism, prevent fat loss and inhibit muscle gains? The hormones involved with chronically high levels of stress can also cause us to put on extra fat, hold more fluid, and even lose some of the muscle mass we have.
Whether you find your bliss through meditation, yoga, cognitive behavioural therapy, dance, journaling, art, or something else entirely… make it a bigger part of your life.
It's also essential to take scheduled rest days, as well as extra rest days whenever you need them. On rest days - relax… and if you really want to recover well and get back to training feeling strong, keep your food intake the same as any other day.
The point of taking rest days is to repair and strengthen your muscles - so don't starve them!
8. Sleep well - it’s more important than you might think.
If you want to take your fitness progress to the next level, never compromise on your sleep. Not only does sleep deprivation have a negative impact on your exercise performance, but it also makes it more difficult for your body to efficiently repair and recover after a workout.
Sleeping well is crucial to our immune-health, mental cognition, exercise recovery, and even our insulin sensitivity. If building muscle and losing body fat is a priority for you - then sleep needs to be a priority too.
Sustainable results take time and progress is never linear - so enjoy the journey! For a lean, strong physique that's easy to maintain in the long term, it's important to focus on making lifestyle changes, rather than looking for a quick fix.
While drastic changes to our body composition can take some time, the strength and performance gains will come much faster. Remember that fat loss does not necessarily mean weight loss, so don't measure your progress with the scales.
Instead, track your improvements in performance, changes in the way your clothes fit, and most importantly - how you feel.