A lot of people say it’s not a realistic goal to simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat. They are actually conflicting goals. Gaining muscle is all about putting on weight, while losing fat requires losing weight and you do different types of activities for both of these.
The hardcore bodybuilders and fitness models go through a season of gains where they eat a shit ton of food, lift insane amounts of weight, and gain hella weight (the fun part!). Then, they eat nothing but super lean foods and workout like 5 times a day to lose fat and lean out (this part sucks…really sucks).
The results are insane – I won’t doubt that. However, most of us don’t want to be that hardcore. Also, if you’ve ever tried to do this, it absolutely sucks to gain a bunch of weight, get distracted or something, and never even get to the lean-out phase. Trust me. I’ve done it. Twice.
So let me tell you how I made this gain-muscle-lose-fat thing work for me.
I was actually just training for a race
I’ve talked about the Spartan race that I ran in a previous post. I didn’t intentionally try to get all lean – it just happened to be a nice little consequence of training for the race. It’s funny how that works. You can work your ass off for the way you think you want your body to look, but sometimes the results come when you have a much more practical reason for it to happen.You can work your ass off for the way you want your body to look but sometimes you need a better reason than 'looks'.Click To TweetMy back muscles started poppin’ because I needed to climb a rope. My glutes were stronger because I needed to run and climb hills. I leaned out so my body wouldn’t have to work as hard. None of this was for aesthetics. Just the primitive basics of my body adapting to survive. If that’s not a reason to find some intrinsic motivation (instead of the basic, flaky type of motivation), I don’t know what is.
Me and my Spartan crew at one of our workouts. When you’re climbing, hanging, and dangling off of stuff, the muscles can’t help but grow 🙂
I did a lot of functional, large-muscle work
I’m a big fan of large muscle exercises, and always will be. It makes so much more sense to work large muscles of your body and let the smaller muscles simply kick-in as needed. It’s like an 80/20 rule. I started going to a couple of different Spartan training gyms where we did lots of push, pull, and squat types of exercises. For my own workouts, I also did this type of training.
The AllPro workout continues to be one my favorites as it’s got all the basic large-muscle exercises and is really easy to follow. Check out my post on Allpro, which is full of ridiculously helpful info also includes a nice little worksheet for tracking your workouts.
I ate pretty decent, but it wasn’t too hardcore
As a complete lazy-ass-no-good-in-the-kitchen type of girl (sorry hubby), my diet usually consists of easy, ready-made dishes and a lot of take-out. This didn’t change much. Some of my go-to foods are things like:
– Jimmy Dean Delight breakfast sandwiches
– Boiled eggs
– EAS Protein shakes (in true lazy fashion, the ready-made ones) – I like to order a bunch of these on Amazon
– Thai food where I usually opt for extra spicy basil chicken
– Chipotle chicken salads
– PB&J sandwiches
– Lightly breaded chicken filets
– A nice glass of Malbec at the end of the day
None of this changed too much. I made a couple of smaller changes like going lighter on the rice with my Thai food, adding in a couple of extra protein shakes throughout the day, and only one
bottle glass of wine per night instead of two. Most importantly, I continued to enjoy the things that I like to eat, but made smart choices like controlling portions and not indulging too much.
When I did the body fat analysis I had some awesome results
There are a few different ways of measuring your body fat and DEXA is one of the most reliable ways of doing it. Our company works with a mobile DEXA scan company and it takes less than 10 minutes to do it. A machine hovers over your body and scans your body to understand the composition of fat and muscle, then it prints out results. Check out mine:
I did the scan a year prior, so I could see how my body changed, and it was awesome to see the progress! (Because otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post, right?). I weighed myself a few months prior (even though I vowed not to step on the scale) so I knew I gained weight. But the DEXA scan proved to me that I gained the right type of weight. Gaining muscles is always a good thing and I gained 9 pounds of it! Plus, I managed to lose fat – a whole pound. Winning!
As far as how this muscle-gain-change-in-body-composition feels in real life, it’s really not that visible. I didn’t take the best before/after pictures, but here’s best I could do. I guess the biggest indicator that something changed is I went on vacation with friend in in the middle of 2015 and saw her again earlier this year. She immediately saw my progress in my muscle definition.
Next time, I’ll do better progress pics :/
Honestly there’s not much of a difference with the pics. But the biggest changes for me physically were:
- I looked amazing in a bikini
- I got a lot of compliments on my arms as they got much more defined
- My pants fit loser on the waist (so less of the annoying feeling you get when you’re sitting and feel your stomach)
- I felt so much healthier in general
So what now? Well first…my diet.
My goal at this point is to focus on how I might lose fat and lean out a little more. But really, I’m not going hardcore with this.
I’m still sticking with the theme of Do Things to Lead to Great Results Outside of Looking Good, so I’m training for another Spartan race. This time, it’s a longer distance (13 miles vs. 8) so I had to step up my training. I’m doing a little more cardio and making it more intense. Lots of hills. I really hate hills.
As far as my diet, I’m working on tweaking it a little more. I still insist on my glass of wine at night (sorry people, I need to unwind), but I can probably go easy on the carby cheat meals that I have probably 3-4 times a week. I also recently proposed this change to myself (and Self is still mulling it over) where I drink a protein shake before every meal so that I eat less of that meal and get more protein. It sounds like a great idea in theory but still working on how to make it happen (because who wants to carry around protein all damn day?)
More strength training too
I also plan to add more strength training to my workouts. Before I just had one day dedicated to strength training, but now I want to add 12 minutes to all of my cardio days. The workout I’ve started doing on my running days is:
10 pullups (or rows if a bar isn’t available)
15 laying leg lifts
Repeat that 3 times. Each of round takes me 3-4 minutes.
Here’s an image that makes it pretty 🙂
I think it’s short enough to tack on after 45-60 minutes of running, and challenging enough to really test my muscles.
But most importantly, it needs to be something that will last
More than anything, I always want to evolve my diet and workouts so that they’re sustainable. Sure, I’ll go through another off-season [link to don’t feel like working out post] soon enough, and won’t do a damn thing. But if I can maintain this stuff like 80% of the time, I’m happy with it.