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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March Goals

goals

Holy crap it’s March already.

Well, I mean, it’s almost March already.  It’s close enough that it’s time to take a minute and plan out my goals and decide exactly what I want to achieve for the month.

I’ve learned a lot of things along the way on this journey of mine, not just about weight loss but about overall success, and the most important thing is that I function better with goals and a plan.

Not having a traditional 9-5 job anymore means that I need to be especially motivated every day, and for me, the best way to do that is to have a clear idea of what I want to accomplish for the month.  From there I break it down into manageable chunks, and get it done!

March is going to be a big month for me from both a fitness and a professional standpoint.  I have my first official race of the season coming up on April 11th, so training will be particularly important, and I have a few professional ducks I want to get in a row to continue to advance my career as a health and wellness writer.

Here’s a break down of the big picture of what I’m going to accomplish next month.

March Wellness Goals:

  • Follow my half marathon training plan in preparation for the Iron Girl Clearwater 13.1 race on April 11th.  Generally speaking, this means 3 runs per week with my long run increasing in distance to 11 miles by the end of the month.
  • Maintain my strength training schedule.  Generally speaking this means 5x per week lifting weights.
  • Continue incorporating yoga a minimum of 1x per week with a stretch goal of 2x per week during the month.
  • On non-running days, ride my bike (2x per week).  The focus this month is continuing to build my base for the season, longest rides will be in the 40-50 mile range.  Continue to increase my strength, speed, and comfort riding with a group.
  • Continue to hone my nutritional efforts with a goal of a bit more fat/weight loss overall.  This means 5-6 meals per day to fuel my workouts, heavy on the veggies and protein, and no more than 1 “cheat meal” per week.  Booze no more than 1x per week.

March Professional Goals

  • Develop editorial calendar for my personal blog and post a minimum of 3x per week.  (Ya’ll may have noticed I’ve been slacking lately, and it’s because I have so much paid work coming in I get distracted).
  • Continue to work to develop my niche as a fitness/health/wellness/beauty blogger with a totally questionable sense of humor, and focus my personal writing in those areas.
  • Begin studying for and register for my personal trainer certification.  (As a fitness blogger, it would be awesome to have some creds to back it up, right?)
  • Explore other certification options that may be relevant to my professional development, and opportunities that might exist with these certifications (i.e., group exercise- are there opportunities to teach classes locally?  Yoga?  New OrangeTheory opening soon…)
  • Continue to grow my social followings with the goal of becoming a FitFluential Ambassador.  Goals- 50 more followers on Instagram for the month and 100 more on Twitter.  Do you follow me?  You totally should, I’m hilarious.  Check out the side bar to follow my pages!

While there’s a thousand more things I would love to accomplish, these are the goals I’ve set my sights on for March.

So now it’s your turn!  What are you going to accomplish this month?  Share your #1 goal with me, and upcoming race you have, or heck, anything else you want to chat about.

I want to know people!

Training for Aesthetics VS Training for Performance

I’m embarrassed to admit that for close to two years I was the girl who wanted to lose 20 pounds and then followed an exercise program designed to help me lift more weight.

At first glance, you might not see anything wrong with that.  In fact, there is definitely a method to that madness.  Lifting weights is an absolutely crucial part of a well rounded fitness program, and is especially important for women.  Increasing muscle mass is a good thing, as more muscle equals more calories burned at rest and a faster metabolism.

So then why didn’t I ever lose those 20 pounds?  Why didn’t my thighs ever get smaller?  Why didn’t my booty get bigger?  Why didn’t my body magically look how I wanted it to?  Why?

Here’s the deal.  We’re all setting goals for 2015 and since changing my programming just under six months ago, I came to an interesting conclusion.  One that is, by the way, backed by all kinds of science.  If you want the smart version, feel free to google it, but here’s my dumbed down two cents.

If you have a goal, you kinda need to train for it.

So if you want to be a faster runner, it makes sense to follow a program designed to *gasp* make you run faster.

If you want to lift big weights and be super strong and max your squat this year, again, follow a lifting program.

But if what you actually want, like I did, is to reshape your body, then you’re going to need a plan to do that.  At the moment, I don’t do a lot of Olympic movements, and yeah I admit it, I do biceps curls, but it’s because my goal right now is to actually achieve a specific look.  Looking a certain way is more important to me than how fast I ride my bike, or how much I can squat.

Sure, those numbers might improve as I cut body fat and train for aesthetics, but they also might not.  And as much as I hate to “lose” any of my fitness or strength, I have to be ok with that because my aesthetic goals are more important.

So here’s the moral of the story kittens.  Set your goals for 2015, but do yourself a favor and be really honest with yourself.  If your goals don’t support each other (i.e., run my fastest 5k and put on 20 lbs of muscle, or lose 20 lbs and increase my back squat), decide which you want more and train for it.

And don’t misunderstand me.  Regardless of your goals, there is a place for cardio, strength training, and mobility in your fitness routine.  How much and what types of each, however, will vary depending on what you’re trying to achieve.

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you haven’t reached any of your goals or like you aren’t making any progress.  And it’s really not fun when you realize it’s because you’re doing things that are counterintuitive to what you really want.

We can’t have it all.  But if we decide what is really, truly important to us and work daily to achieve it, we can have the things we really want.

So get after it.  And tell me, what are you goals for 2015?