When it comes to working out, most people are focused on doing one of two things: Build muscle or lose fat. In order to build muscle, you need to lift weights in order to force your muscles to grow. In order to lose fat, you need to burn calories. Most people do this by doing cardio.
What if you want to lose fat and build muscle at the same time?
In order to achieve this, you need to do two things. The first is to lift heavy. The second is to watch what you eat.
Lifting heavy could mean several things but for simplicity sake, we’ll define it as lifting a weight where you can do no more than 5-6 reps per set. The reason you want to lift heavy is to force micro tears in your muscle fibers. By doing this, when you rest, your body will repair and build more of them.
The more muscles you have, the more calories your body will have to burn. Why? Because your body is constantly burning just to keep you alive. From digesting to just sitting in front of a TV, calories are being burned. When you more muscles, your body needs to burn more calories.
Lifting light can work depending on your intensity but if you want an efficient workout to build muscle, you’ll want to lift heavy.
Ideally, you’ll want to focus on the big compound exercises (ones that work one two or more muscles). The best ones are deadlifts, squats, bench press, chin ups, and military presses. Feel free to do other exercises but do these main ones first.
Watch What You Eat
You could lift heavy at the gym but ruin your chances of losing fat by going home and eating a ton of junk food. If all you want to do is bulk up then eat all you want but if you want to reduce body fat, you’re going to have to be stricter when it comes to what you put in your body.
Watch your macros (proteins, fats, carbs) as well as your calories. There are ways you can calculate the limits of each which can be found online. If you’re too lazy to keep track of all of that, then just keep track of your calories.
Lifting heavy will help with burning fat but you’ll also need to be on a calorie deficit on days you’re not working out to prevent from putting on more fat.
Should I Do Cardio to Lose Fat?
It depends on what sort of cardio you do. If your idea of doing cardio is running on a treadmill at a steady pace for an hour then the answer is no. Doing cardio will burn calories but mainly while you’re actually running and a couple of hours afterward. When you focus on building muscle, you burn fat 24/7.
If you’re going to do cardio, do high intensity interval training. This basically involves a high level of output for short spurts of time rather than a steady output for a long period of time. Plenty of studies show this type of cardio training to be much more beneficial for burning fat than the traditional steady pace type of running.
Another benefit is not having to spend as much time at the gym. Here’s a short segment of a BBC documentary about HIIT with an example of what this type of training involves.