One of the most common questions among general population athletes is “How do I lose fat, but maintain lean muscle mass?!” In all honesty, this is one of the most frequently asked questions of trainees - and one of the most important - and hitting it hard at the gym is only one small piece of the puzzle. The truth is, a multi-faceted approach is required when it comes to working towards this specific goal. That is why Coach Evan Johnson and Coach Jackie Iannoni are here to guide you through what may seem like a confusing process. This article will discuss the training, nutrition and lifestyle variables involved in successful body re-composition, and some of the specific modifications that you can begin implementing today.
The following are examples of general programming strategies to create a balanced, yet purposeful training program that yields fat-loss results:
1. Tempo and Volume. During a session there is always a primary focus (strength, power, conditioning, etc.) however the tempo and speed in which the circuits are completed dictates the overall volume of that session, or how much total work is performed. You will see volume go up or down by changes to sets, reps, or time during a work interval. The greater the volume in a given session, the more physiological adaptations you will see. These are all easily manipulated factors that change quite frequently as an individual progresses through a periodized training program.
2. Metabolic Energy System Demands. Our body uses several energy systems that use different fuel sources. The system that uses fat as fuel is called the Oxidative or Aerobic system. You should not rely solely on the Aerobic system criteria to do all the work when it comes to fat loss. Instead, use methods that have been shown to increase the amount of overall work being performed in a shorter period of time, using interval-style structured circuits. The key to conditioning when it comes to providing the biggest bang for your buck, is high intensity interval training. This requires the heart rate be elevated for a brief period, followed by a period of rest. This type of training allows an incredible amount of work to be performed by the cardiovascular system in a shorter period of time than compared with a long, endurance type of training session such as plodding along on your treadmill for an hour. While obtaining 90-100% of your estimated maximum heart rate is beneficial for the myocardium, it is during the rest periods where the adaptations are actually occurring. During the rest interval, fat is being processed through biological pathways in order to replenish energy stores. Even after your session is over, your body continues to use these pathways and burn fat for fuel - so do not think your training is complete when you walk out of the gym!
3. Resistance Training. Whether you are lifting weights, sprinting on the Airdyne, or running down the turf, there is a physical adaptation we are trying to achieve - that is the definition of training. For example, you can use resistance training to increase or maintain muscle mass. You can use a plethora of different types of resistance (i.e bands, plates, medicine balls, barbells, dumbbells, body weight, etc). More muscle mass = a greater energy demand from your body (in both a resting and
elevated heart rate state), resulting in the loss of fat which is being pulled from adipose tissue and lipid stores. A common misconception is that the only way to lose fat is to do “cardio” and spend 45-60 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill. However, incorporating resistance training creates a more efficient and holistic approach to fat loss and body re-composition and has been shown to be a major contributor to fat loss if performed two or more times per week.
FUELING FOR SUCCESS:
The strategies discussed above are used to create structured, specific and progressive programming - by choosing to invest in yourself and showing up ready to train each week you are taking a HUGE step towards achieving your body composition and performance goals. If you are just starting out with training, make it a goal to engage in physical activity a couple days a week - it’s all about progression and incremental steps towards long term change. Just as the coaches continue to progress the intensity in your training, once an athlete’s training age reaches a certain point, other nutritional and lifestyle interventions have to be introduced and adapted in order to see continued weight and fat loss. Below are the top four most impactful changes that you can start implementing today;
1. Get your calories in check. In order to lose weight and/or decrease body fat you must be in a caloric deficit – aka taking in fewer calories than you expend. To figure out what your starting daily
calorie range is, multiply your bodyweight by 11-13. (EX: a 150lb person’s range would be 1650-1950 calories/day.) If you are a fairly sedentary individual (less than 4 hours of activity/week,) you should start on the low end of that range. If you are moderately active, (4-6 hours of physical activity/week,) you should start in the middle of that range. And, if you are very active, (7+ hours of physical activity/week,) you should start at the high end of that range. I highly recommend utilizing a tracking system like MyFitnessPal or MyPlate to figure out what your current intake is and to keep yourself accountable when you initially implement a deficit.
2. Consume adequate protein. In order to maintain lean muscle mass while in a caloric deficit, it is crucial to consume enough dietary protein. For most individuals, aiming for at least 85% of their body weight in grams of protein per day is a sufficient goal. (EX: a 150lb person would need at least 127.5 grams of protein/day.) Foods that are high in lean protein include – chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef, venison, tofu, protein powder, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, beans & legumes etc.
3. Increase NEAT. NEAT = non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or the energy expended doing anything OTHER than structured exercise, sleep and digestion. Examples of NEAT include leisurely walking, cleaning, yard work, or playing with your kids. Increasing NEAT has a HUGE impact on your energy expenditure throughout the day, making it much easier to stay in a caloric deficit. The easiest way to do this is to walk more – give yourself a step goal (8,000-10,000) each day and try to stick with it!
4. Be Consistent AND Patient. This is probably the most important factor - these changes can be very challenging to implement, and expecting upfront perfection is not realistic. All or nothing approaches when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle interventions are short lived and minorly impactful at best. Take the time to track your current intake, identify one or two opportunities to make small improvements and then implement consistently for an extended period of time. Having patience with this process will pay off big time with long-term progress towards your goal and sustainability of desired outcomes. And remember, the coaches at XIP are here to help! Don’t hesitate to reach out with more questions or for some more individualized support in crushing your goals!
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