I don’t know too many fitness women who don’t want to be lean, tight and muscular. Building a muscle is often associated with bulking diets or bloated off-season regimens that put cardio to the back burner and increase calories beyond your actual needs. The truth is that it is possible to still build muscle, lose fat and get a trim body without sacrificing one for the other. All it takes is following the right diet. I have seven dieting tricks to help you do just that. These simple tricks can help you keep lean and trim while minimizing muscle losses.
Trick #1 – Keep It Tight
If you want to minimize how much muscle you lose when trying to get cut, then you need to keep it tight all year round! That doesn’t mean you need to be on a super strict diet all the time, but you do need to make your clean eating a lifestyle! That means following a maintenance meal plan that provides enough high-quality protein in addition to a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates and essential fats. There is no reason to gain a lot of unnecessary weight in the off-season, only to lose it come beach season or contest time. For one thing, taking off a lot of weight takes time, you will have to diet long and hard to lose any added fat weight, which can be a disaster on your metabolism.
Trick #2 – Control Fat Burning Hormones
When you drop calories in an effort to lose body fat, overtime your fat burning hormones start to shut-off, which slows down your metabolism. The longer you stay on that diet, the slower your metabolic rate! But, you can trick the body by shifting your calories up and down periodically, which increases and decreases these important hormones. On the days you have super hard workouts and are lifting heavy, up your calories. Then, reduce your calories on the days when your training requires less energy output!
Trick #3 – Don’t Stay On A Diet
Dropping your calories for too long will not only affect your fat burning hormones, but it can also decrease anabolic hormones such testosterone and growth hormone. Prolonged calorie deficit has been proven to lower growth hormone levels and testosterone levels as well as cause muscle breakdown. Limit your restrictive dieting to eight to twelve weeks and use a maintenance meal plan the rest of the time.
Trick #4 – Carb Friendly
Yes, it is true that lower carb diets do cause weight loss and can decrease body fat quickly, but you do need some carbs in your diet to help keep you anabolic. Muscles need energy in the form of glycogen (i.e., stored carbs) to function properly. Once the glycogen is gone, the muscle can turn onto itself for energy! Catabolising your hard-earned muscle! The key is to time your carb consumption to ensure that you are hanging on to your muscle while maximizing fat loss. The most important time to eat carbs is post-workout to re-load muscle glycogen. Post-workout, eat some simple carbohydrates along with a source of protein. Keep your daily carb intake to about 30-40% of your daily calories.
Trick #5 – High On The Protein
This is a no-brainer, and you probably already know that regardless of whether you are trying to cut or build, your protein intake should always be high. When you need to cut your calories, it should be from carbs and/or fats. Protein helps build muscle and preserve it. So, keep protein to 1 to 1.5 g per pound of bodyweight! Aim for lean sources of protein like chicken, turkey, egg whites, lean red meat and whey protein.
Trick #6 – Cheat…Occasionally
Yes, cheating on your diet occasionally can benefit you when it comes to dropping fat and keeping muscle! The cheat meal can help stimulate the fat burning hormone leptin as well as re-stock your muscle glycogen load. Leptin gets shut off after a few weeks of dieting. If you want to keep leptin up regulated, have a cheat meal. Eating carbs can help to stimulate this important hormone, and when this hormone is turned on, so is fat burning! Limit cheat meals to twice per 4-week cycle.
Trick #7 – Fatten Up
If you want to minimize your muscle loss and maximize your fat burning, you want to keep a good amount of fat in your diet. In fact, a diet low in fat can reduce important hormones that help build muscle. In addition, when you eat fat, you can actually help preserve muscle tissue and switch the body to utilize fat as fuel. Eat foods that contain good for you fats such as almonds, avocados, walnuts and fish. Aim for 20-30% of your daily calories to come from fat.