How to Lose Body Fat and Keep Muscle: 9 Tips
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The internet overflows with weight loss advice. Some techniques merely raise eyebrows, while others are downright dangerous. Many do result in shedding pounds, but you could lose muscle, not fat.
Mother Nature designed your body for survival. Namely, that means doing whatever it takes to fend off starvation. When it comes to how to lose body fat and keep muscle, you have to work with, not against, human biology for optimal results.
1. Pass on Fad Diets
Have you heard of the baby food or cabbage soup diet? Maybe you gave one — or both — the old college try.
Fad diets backfire in more ways than one. They make your body think that it’s starving, which kicks your natural survival instincts into overdrive. You’ll try to conserve energy — meaning you’ll have lackluster workouts that don’t build much muscle.
Plus, you’ll feel driven to eat more. Leptin is a substance that tells you, “Hey, I’m full — please put down your spoon.” However, as you lose weight, your levels of this hormone drop, making you want to eat more and exercise less.
The moral of this tale? Slow and steady wins the weight loss race. Any pounds you lose by fad dieting tend to creep back on — as fat, not muscle.
2. Eat More Protein
Animal flesh is a complete protein because their muscles, like ours, consist of the stuff. However, it’s possible to up your intake of this macronutrient even if you’re a vegan.
Include more of the following lean protein sources into your diet:
- Fish: Along with providing vital lean protein, fish also contain omega-3s for heart and brain health.
- Yogurt: Yogurt contains naturally occurring probiotics. These beneficial bacteria improve your digestion. Vegans can find non-dairy versions.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds possess vital minerals like selenium, magnesium and zinc along with protein. These nutrients help stave off depression.
- Tofu and tempeh: Tofu comes from soybeans, and its flavorlessness lets you spice it up however you like. Tempeh is a smokier fermented version that makes an ideal substitute for holiday roasts.
3. Amp Up Your Training
If you want lean muscle, you need to resistance-train. You can use dumbbells and barbells, bands or even household goods like milk jugs.
Please don’t avoid the weight bench because you fear bulging muscles if you’re female. You don’t have the requisite testosterone to end up looking like Dwayne Johnson unless you’re undergoing gender transition.
4. But Not Too Much
However, please skip on the temptation to think that if some exercise aids weight loss, more must be better. While in general it’s true that the more calories you burn, the better, you might see disappointing short-term results from going too hard. These numbers can discourage progress.
For example, workouts that last longer than an hour or are particularly vigorous elevate cortisol levels. Your body perceives the effort as stress, and it helps prepare for battle by prompting water retention and the urge to eat more. You might see a temporary gain in weight after exertion that increases this stress hormone’s levels even more.
5. Skip the Bottle
Alcohol makes you gain weight in several ways. One of the most insidious is that your body can’t store it — it burns that whiskey sour as fuel before any food-based calories you consume.
As a result, the beer gut is no myth. You pile on the extra weight, especially around your waist. Alcohol also limits inhibitions, turning a handful of bar nuts into polishing off the bucket.
6. Cut Down on Sugar
Your body doesn’t have to work hard to convert sugar into glucose. As a result, you don’t fire up your metabolism much during digestion.
Additionally, you could make your body resistant to insulin. This prediabetic condition occurs when your body gets overwhelmed and can’t produce sufficient hormone quickly enough to balance your levels.
One side effect of insulin resistance is difficulty losing weight. Instead, opt for a diet high in low-glycemic veggies and lean proteins, such as keto, to restore balance.
7. Upgrade Your Flour
White flour might not be the devil, but it doesn’t do your body any favors. During manufacturing, producers separate the nutrient-rich bran, which eliminates minerals like magnesium.
As a result, you feel hungry again soon after eating, even if you consume sufficient calories. Piling on the empty calories won’t help you keep muscle, only gain fat.
8. Manage Your Stress Levels
Remember cortisol? Mental stress can elevate levels as much as the physical variety, if not more.
What’s worse is that this stress hormone tends to make you gain weight around the abdomen. This phenomenon can create a vicious cycle, as excess belly fat also spurs more cortisol production. Manage stress by engaging in hobbies or practicing yoga and meditation.
9. Get Adequate Rest
Too little rest also results in hormonal imbalances that can prevent losing body fat while keeping muscle. The average adult needs seven hours nightly.
Practice proper sleep hygiene by going to bed and rising at roughly the same time each day. Keep electronics out of the bedroom and reserve it for slumber and sex. Taking your laptop to bed with you can make you start to associate your pillow with work.
Lose Body Fat and Keep Muscle With These 9 Tips
If you want to lose body fat and keep muscle, slow, steady and wise weight loss wins the race. Use the nine tips above to sculpt the physique of your dreams!