5 Ways to Lose Fat, Not Muscle

fat-cartoon

All in all, weight loss is pretty simple.  Last week I talked about my top 10 weight loss tips, and as you can see, none of them require anything fancy to get the job done.

That said, there are a few key things that you can do in the gym, and out of it, to ensure that the weight that you’re dropping is actually the body fat you’re trying to lose, and not the muscle that will rev your metabolism and give you the lean look you’re going for.

1.  Don’t do too much cardio

Yes, cardio is an important component of overall fitness, but when it comes to fat loss, doing too much cardio can actually be counter productive.  Studies show that cardio workouts over 45 minutes can sometimes result in increased cortisol levels, muscle loss, overuse injuries, and decreased power output during your workouts.

For the best fat loss results, keep your cardio sessions shorter and intense.  High intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a great way to get in a hard as hell cardio workout in 20-30 minutes that will melt fat but not muscle.  Check out this treadmill workout for one of my favorites.

2.  Lift weights

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, lifting weights is CRUCIAL for fat and weight loss.  If you’re going to start somewhere, start with weights.  In this article by Fitness Rx for Women they site a research study that found that combining calorie restriction with cardiovascular exercise can result in your body using your muscle for energy instead of fat.  However, the same study said that by lifting weights your body would be able to maintain it’s lean muscle mass, and lose weight.

We all know that weight loss means you take in less calories than you use in a day, but without lifting weights it’s possible you will not lose fat.  Lift heavy, lift often.  When you only have time for a short workout, choose weights over cardio.  Your metabolism will thank you.

3.  Eat enough, and eat it in protein and veggies

Now that I’ve said to cut calories, I feel like it’s important to note that this isn’t an example of a scenario where a little is good and a lot is better.  Yes, you need to consume less than you burn on a daily basis, but do not take that to an extreme.  Rapid weight loss will not equal rapid fat loss, so it’s important you still eat enough to fuel your workouts and daily activities.  Get the majority of your nutrition from proteins, vegetables and healthy fats to help give your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle, and burn fat.

4.  Take a chill pill

It might surprise you to learn that being stressed can actually make it harder for your body to let go of your fat stores.  High stress levels can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol.  While cortisol in normal levels is important to healthy functions within your body, when you get all jazzed out for days or weeks at a time and your levels spike it can create nasty side effects like elevated blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, reduced fat burning abilities, insulin resistance, and put you at cardiovascular risk.

Not all stress is controllable, but try practicing deep breathing, meditation or yoga to help your mind unwind.  Work through your stresses as best as you can, and most importantly, be sure to get enough sleep every night to help give your body and mind the time it needs to recharge and reboot.

5.  Stop being such a wine-o (or beer babe, or whatever your drink of choice is)

I really, truly attribute most of my weight loss to the fact that I cut back my alcohol consumption dramatically and now only have a drink (or two) once a week at most.

There’s a host of scientific reasons why that’s probably true, but here’s my version of it.  One, booze has a lot of calories.  Two, when you drink booze, french fries and pizza suddenly sound like an amazing idea.  Three, the day after drinking an entire bottle of booze you desperately need something greasy to make your stomach feel better.  And four, combined with all that nonsense, alcohol actually surpasses your metabolism in the process so not only are you consuming entirely too many calories, but your body is slowing down while you’re doing it.

I’m all for having treats and going out and having fun, but if you are like I was and drinking most nights of the week, cut it back and reap the rewards.


I am a cardio queen, so I still struggle the most with getting in my lifting on days I just don’t want to.  What about you readers?  What’s your biggest struggle in trying to lose fat?

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11 thoughts on “5 Ways to Lose Fat, Not Muscle

  1. I’m a long distance runner and agree I def favor cardio over weights. I like lifting as well but only manage to get it in about 1x/week! I know that’s not enough I guess I just crave the running high most days 🙂

    1. Jill I totally hear ya! I would 1000x rather run or ride my bike than lift, but my body only started changing once I added in lifting. Not to mention the fact that I *knock on wood* haven’t been injured in 8 months now. Before lifting I had chronic tendonitis, issues with my knee and hip, and now nothing. Even if it’s just adding some squats, lunges, and push ups at the end of the run, it’s beneficial.

      Thanks for the comment, and keep running!

  2. Not that I do it enough, but I’d much rather do cardio than lift weights (unless you count carrying a 30 pound toddler around haha). My husband and I started our first Whole30 this month so my diet is pretty much protein and veggies. Hopefully it will help.

    1. Whole 30 is definitely a good experience in giving your body the nutrition it needs. I did one awhile back and it was hugely challenging for me, but in the end I developed some great habits that have helped me through my journey. Good luck!

  3. Diet consistency… especially with having a family that likes to show you the love by feeding you more (especially sweets and high fat stuff).

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