Train hard and eat right – that’s the short answer to how to build more muscle and burn fat. But it’s easier said than done and it’s more complicated than that when you start getting into details. And once you get down to it, it can be quite overwhelming, especially if your fitness journey is only beginning.
What we want to do in this article is to simplify the process of muscle building to a list of essential guidelines that are sure to help anyone who is willing to follow them build solid muscle and burn fat at the same time.
Go for the Afterburn
The number one mistake made by guys when training is not training smart enough. Guys think that if they spend a lot of time at the gym on lengthy 1-2 hour long workouts they will burn more fat and build more muscle. As a matter of fact, they’re wasting time more often then not.
To burn fat and build muscle you need to boost the levels of anabolic hormones in your body (testosterone, human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1)), and that is not done by lengthy workouts with long periods of rest, nor long low intensity cardio workouts.
The answer here are maximum intensity short interval workouts. So you should strive to fit your workout in the interval of maximum 30 minutes and keep the intensity as high as you can. What’s more, increasing your heart rate in these intense intervals makes you gasp for air which increases the level of oxygen you breath in. This “afterburn” effect increases your methabolism greatly.
Supersets and Dropsets
The way to increase intensity can be done by using either of these two training techniques. Superset is simply doing two or more exercises in a row without rest. While dropsets are decreasing weight or substituting an exercise with an easier form exercises as you fail to continue doing a set. An example of a workout that fits this description is my favorite high intensity shoulder workout in a single dropset:
Varying Repetitions and Exercises
Your muscles adapt to stimuli so you have to change them around. That means not only varying a number of repetitions per set but changing up your workouts regularly.
So if you’re doing sets of 8-10 reps, change the weights up so you can do 12, or 6. If you do drop sets until failure, these variations will happen naturally.
Prefer Compound Exercises
Prefer compound exercises over isolation moves. Engaging multiple muscle groups at a time increases intensity and builds your metabolic strength much better than isolation exercises. And it goes without saying that it means faster muscle growth.
I recently wrote about the most important moves in fitness and muscle building. Employing that strategy of workout would maximize the results of compound exercising:
What About Cardio?
As I mentioned, long low intensity workouts are not as effective. You’re burning fat to fuel your body during a long 30+ minute run but it stops right at the finish line. What’s worse, a cardio workout too long will release catabolic hormones in your body and eat into your lean muscle mass and that’s the last thing you want. Low intensity doesn’t boost your metabolism as much nor does it boost the “muscle growth” hormones.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop doing cardio. Instead, switch to high intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio and do short sprints followed by slower walks. Amp up the intensity and you’ll benefit from cardio in much shorter periods of time without the adverse effects.
Eat More and Divide the Plate
You have to eat to build muscle and you have to eat a lot. Your body grows only in caloric surplus and there’s no way around it. Many guys are worried they’d get fat if they eat too much, but that’s a big misconception. You have to understand that it’s about what you eat, not how much you eat.
If you eat lots of fast food, pizza, sweets, and simple carbs, then yes, you will get fat even if you train intensely. To grow muscle you need a protein and complex carb based diet. That means a lot of meat, fish, seafood, nuts or high protein plants, as well as tons of non-starchy high fiber veggies, with some rice, sweet potato or pasta – the complex carbs on the side.
Figuring out how much you eat of which nutrient can be complicated, but here’s my favorite nutritional shortcut. Divide the plate visually. Fill half of your plate with high protein food, a quarter or more with veggies and the remainder with complex carbs. The rest is a matter of portion size and that’s roughly all you need to know about nutrition. Almost…
Eat Saturated Fat
Saturated fats increase the levels of muscle growth hormones – testosterone, growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in your body. So make sure you have them in your diet – eat salmon, cheese, nuts and other fatty foods.
Drink Enough Water
Your muscles consist of over 70% water and not only that, the synthesis of muscle protein goes “under water”, so to speak. As you work your muscles, water is transferred from blood to muscle cells, that’s how you get the “pump” effect. But the reverse happens if you get dehydrated – water is drawn from muscles back into blood as you sweat excessively. So the importance of drinking water as you train and throughout the day is crucial.
The general recommendation is 3.5-7 liters of water per day for people who train. Keep in mind that this amount includes water in food also, so the actual amount of pure water you drink is less. But no matter how much you drink, make sure you stay properly hydrated.
Get Enough Sleep
Resting is very important as that’s when muscles rebuild and grow. So sleeping is all the more important because that’s when the majority of growth process happens. That’s when the majority of growth hormone is released, and your body is in the slower metabolic state when your muscles can rebuild much faster.
So get at least 8 hours of sleep every day and consider short power naps after you get home from gym.
Train Hard, Rest “Hard”
It takes 48 hours for your muscles to regenerate after you break them during workout. That’s why training different muscle groups each day is important. Even if you give it a day’s rest, that won’t be fully enough, so cycle through upper body, lower body, leg days and make sure these different groups get enough rest.
You may want to train as hard and as much as possible but over-training not only doesn’t lead to bigger gains, it can lead to injuries that may cripple your ability to build muscle for months. Get enough rest.