Nourish Your Muscles, Lose the Fat

So, you want to lose weight? What it sounds like you really want to lose is body fat. Read on for the top fat loss secrets that you need to know right now.

When you embark on a weight loss journey, it’s almost guaranteed that you will also be saying “goodbye” to some muscle mass. You can counteract this phenomena by losing weight slowly, eating an adequate number of calories, pumping up your protein intake, and working out. The goal with any weight loss plan is to lose fat and maintain as much lean mass, or muscle, as possible.

 

How fast should you lose weight?

Almost everyone agrees, losing weight at a rate of one to two pounds per week is the best plan for taking off fat and keeping muscle. Dropping weight any faster puts you at risk of losing more than fat. You’ll wind up losing muscle and bone mass too, which translates into a slower metabolism and increased risk of osteoporosis for women as they age.

 

How many calories should you eat to keep your muscles?

Most women can successfully shed pounds on a diet of between 1300 and 1600 calories during weight loss. But, always consult with your doctor before deciding on a calorie count because if you are a workout junkie, that may not be sufficient. A good rule of thumb is that you never want to run more than a one thousand calorie deficit per day. So if you are planning an especially long run or playing a strenuous sport you’ll want to keep an eye on your calorie totals.

And keep in mind that it isn’t just the quantity of calories you consume that counts when it comes to muscle maintenance, it’s quality too.

Besides eating, it’s really important to drink enough water in order to help flush out the muscle soreness. A good rule of thumb is to aim for half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would aim for 75 ounces of water per day as your baseline. If you’re engaging in more strenuous activity, you may need to add more water and electrolytes.

 

Why is protein important to lose fat?

Protein is the not so secret weapon if your goal is fat loss.

  1. Protein satisfies hunger and takes longer to digest so you stay feeling full longer and are less likely to snack or go back to the kitchen to refill your plate.
  2. Protein helps regulate the blood sugar bounce you get from eating necessary carbohydrates by slowing how fast your body absorbs their sugars. (That’s why I suggest you always pair a protein with your carbs).
  3. Protein is essential to repairing and strengthening your muscles after you exercise. Working out builds lean muscle mass which increases your resting metabolic rate or the ability to burn calories doing nothing. Woot!
  4. It takes more energy to digest protein which means you burn more calories eating. Awesome.
  5. Protein helps ensure you burn fat, not muscle. Research shows that in order to effectively burn fat, your body needs a nudge from either protein or carbs. Eating protein will help preserve your lean muscle mass while your body ‘eats’ your fat.

If you want to lose fat and nourish your muscles, you MUST eat enough protein. Balanced nutrition is essential to building muscle and burning your stored fat.

 

What can I do to burn more fat?

Build more muscle. The key to maximizing your fat burning ability is to increase your muscle mass. You do that by strength training and eating a balanced diet that is heavy on lean plant and animal proteins, and fruits and vegetables. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more calories you burn.

 

Want to burn more fat? 

The secret lies in building more muscle.

 

So how do you nourish your muscles?

First answer is before AND after you workout.

Many folks work out first thing in the morning. It’s just more convenient to get up and get it done before you get on with the rest of your day. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that means working out on an empty stomach and that is like sending your body an engraved invitation to break down muscle instead of burn fat.

When you work out, your body gets its energy from the carbohydrates you eat. The carbohydrates get converted to glucose, and the glucose you don’t use immediately is converted into glycogen to be stored in your liver and muscles. If you don’t fuel your body, it has to break down the muscles to get to the stored glycogen for energy. To rebuild those muscles, your body needs more fuel.

 

What should you eat before you work out?

To maximize your fat burning potential, you need to eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and healthy fat about an hour to an hour and a half before you work out.

Some good pre-workout breakfast combinations include:

+  greek yogurt with walnuts and berries

+  scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado

+  a breakfast smoothie

+  oatmeal with fresh fruit

+  whole grain peanut butter toast with sliced bananas 

Some good afternoon and evening pre-workout suggestions include:

+  grilled chicken and mixed veggies

+  grilled salmon and sweet potatoes

+  water packed tuna with whole wheat crackers

+  turkey avocado wrap

+  whole wheat pasta with chicken and broccoli

 

What should you eat after you work out?

After you have worked up a good sweat, you’ll need to replenish your body with another healthy meal. Your post workout meal helps strengthen and rebuild muscles after they’ve spent their glycogen during exercise. So within thirty minutes to an hour after you finish crushing your workout goals, you’ll need to eat again.

Make sure your post workout snack combines protein and carbohydrates to refill your energy stores, rebuild your muscle, and ramp up your metabolism. Research shows that waiting two hours to fuel up decreases your muscles ability to replace their stored glycogen by as much as 50%. Plan ahead and pack accordingly.

Try these post workout snack ideas:

+  peanut butter banana protein shake

+  sautéed veggies and tofu

+  black beans and brown rice with avocado

+  a hard boiled egg and a piece of fruit

+  hummus with whole grain pita wedges

+  dried fruit and nuts

+  grilled chicken and pineapple skewers

+  brown rice cake with natural peanut butter

 

How do I get motivated to exercise?

This is the magic question and something that we all struggle with from time to time. Check out our How to Get Motivated to Exercise blog post, and then get your body moving. While exercise doesn’t have a huge impact on weight loss, it has a drastic effect on your health. So just do it!

 

Final Thoughts

The key to keeping your body focused on losing fat, instead of muscle and bone, is to nourish your muscles at every meal and before and after every workout. Whenever someone sets out to lose weight, the goal is usually to burn fat. No one wants to lose muscle and bone.

Fight back by setting reasonable weight loss goals. Don’t try to lose ten pounds in two weeks! Eat enough calories and protein to make sure your body is targeting fat, not muscle, and do some strength training. Any weight-bearing exercise that helps you build muscle counts.

Those strong, well nourished muscles will help you keep you burning fat and living the healthy life you desire!

 

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