This is a guest post by Mehdi, author of StrongLifts.com.
After my previous post 7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit, Leo asked me to write an 8-week program to build muscle and lose fat.
However, I believe that to have long-term success, the plan must become your lifestyle. It must become a habit.
Therefore this article is not an 8-week program. It’s a list of simple ways to build muscle and lose fat. Tips that worked for me and my readers. And guess what: you will be able to build muscle and lose fat in 8 weeks using these tips.
Build Muscle. The fastest way to build muscle is to get stronger. The stronger you are, the stronger you’ll look. Get into strength training. Do barbell exercises that hit several muscles at the same time: Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, etc.
Nutrition. You need solid nutrition to get stronger and build muscle. Keep the nutrition healthy and you’ll lose fat. Some tips:
- Protein. 1g/lbs daily. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, etc.
- Fat. Balance omega 3, 6 & 9 intake: fish oil, saturated fat & olive oil.
- Veggies. All kinds, especially green fibrous veggies.
- Fruit. Also all kinds. Eat veggies and/or fruits with every meal.
- Water. 1 liter per 1000 calories you expend.
- Whole grain food. Oats, rice, pasta, breads, …
Eat foods that come in their natural state. Avoid anything that comes out of a box. Avoid trans-fats. Limit junk food consumption to once a week. Quit drinking soda. These simple tips will make a big difference in a very short time.
Lose Fat. Strength training will build muscle while decreasing your body fat. Eating healthy will further decrease your body fat. If you need to lose a lot of fat or if you’re impatient, these tips are for you:
- Cardio. Do 30 minutes of cardio after your strength training. Three times a week at moderate intensity will do. The goal of cardio is to burn fat, not to exhaust yourself. You should breathe heavier than when at rest, but not gasping.
- Cut calories. Track your food intake using Fitday. Start eating 18x your current body-weight in lbs. One week later: cut 500kcal. Check the balance one week later again. Did you lose weight? If you did, keep eating the same amount of calories. If not: cut another 500kcal.
Whatever you do: don’t starve yourself. Fat is emergency storage for your body. If you don’t eat your body will hold the fat and burn muscles. That’s the opposite of what you’re after. Only cut calories if you don’t progress.
Women. Building muscle, losing fat and strength training for women is same as for men. The only difference is women have other hormonal profiles than men. Meaning women will always have less muscle mass and more body fat than men.
But the approach is the same. Follow these tips and you’ll get results. You won’t get bulky if you don’t overeat and stay away from steroids.
Vegan & Vegetarian. Leo is a vegan, and other readers of Zen Habits are also vegans or vegetarians. You’ll find plenty of examples of vegans and vegetarians who built muscle. It can be done. But you might have less results than meat-eaters.