How to gain muscle and burn fat

Fueling muscles with food and nutrition

As you take your first steps along a new fitness journey, it is essential to be aware of the critical food and macronutrients required to fuel your muscle gain and fat burn.  Committing to living healthier is a significant step, so why undermine your efforts by not ensuring you have a proper nutrition plan in place?  In the past, I was my own culprit and self-sabotaged my workouts by snacking on processed foods that would undermine my discipline for spending several hours in a gym every week.

My intention with this post is to make sure that you do not make the same mistakes and hinder your results.  Much of the nutrition content here comes from Dr. Ellington Darden, Ph.D. and his book on Killing Fat which I live by and hold my clients accountable to as we strive to become the best version of ourselves every day.

Eat whole foods

Our diet needs to consist of all macronutrients, carbohydrates, good fats, proteins, minerals, water and vitamins.  Carbs, fats and protein contain energy in the form of calories.  My diet consists of skinless chicken, turkey, fish, lean meats, fats (olive, coconut, or avocado oil).  Here is a list of healthy food choices.

From carbohydrates, I consume fruit, whole-grain bread and lots of green vegetables.  It is wise to maximize your intake of whole plant-based foods and minimize the intake of animal-based foods.  The essential nutrients are the substance that supplies nourishment for growth and metabolism.

The one hack that will help you burn fat and accelerate the achievement of your goals is to remove refined sugar from your diet.  I know from experience how difficult this can be.  I still get the cravings on some days, mainly just a couple of hours after an intense workout.  This intensity of the cravings dies down after weeks of instilling the habit.  If you are making the attempt to eliminate, it is best to remove all sugars from your pantry so that you don’t cave in later in the evening when your willpower is at its lowest point.

Do you think you are addicted to sugar?

Sugar is not addictive, according to the American society of addiction medicine.  Addiction is a chronic disease of brain reward and related circuitry characterized by an inability to abstain consistently from the object of addiction.  Cycles of relapse and remission are common, and without treatment, addiction is progressive.  Side effects are often associated with stopping a drug or alcohol.

Abstaining from sugar doesn’t cause this level of adverse effect. There will be some challenges with mood early on until the new habit of eliminating or limiting refined sugar is instilled.  Sugar lights up neural reward pathways as certain drugs do.  But scientists also noted that these same pathways also light up playing video games, intense workouts, and sexual activity.   Don’t mistake common cravings for true addiction.

The importance of carbohydrates

Massive protein intake does not work to your advantage in trying to build muscle and release fat.  Instead, a diet rich in complex carbohydrates does.  Humans have no way to capture solar energy.  However, plants can and do this by using sunlight to combine carbon dioxide and water.  The product of this combo is hydrated carbon.  Carbohydrates and hydrated carbons are the same.  Carbohydrates in abundance are necessary to keep your body saturated with water.

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source, and it spares your protein intake to go a long way. Our body prefers to use carbs for fast, sustainable energy.  Therefore, carbohydrates should be emphasized and not neglected.  The best source of carbs are vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.

So many people get wrapped up in low-carb diet plans.  The truth is that people can’t stick with this diet type long-term.  The law of thermodynamics is that to lose fat; fewer calories must be consumed than expended.  Individuals on low-carb diets tend to lose weight more quickly than just a calorie-restricted diet.  This can be explained by a greater initial loss of body fluids and the tendency to eat less.  What is known is the initial weight loss advantage of a low-carb diet slows as time progresses. These are not sustainable long term.

A key to remaining lean and vibrant as you age is consistency.  Steady, dependability in your actions and practices is required.  Here are 4 to take action on regularly:

  • Weigh yourself regularly.
  • Adopt an eating plan. (see below)
  • Exercise using a HIIT routine 2-3x per week.
  • Stay well hydrated and rest adequately.

Remember, consistency is the key to getting the fat off and keeping it off.

Nutritional guidelines for releasing fat

Your diet should be high in complex carbohydrates = 50% of daily calories.  Sustain a moderate protein intake equal to 25% of your total daily calories.  Be mindful of selecting low-fat sources of protein.  Your total fat intake can be up to 25% of daily calories.  Limit your intake of fat by selecting lean meats, fish, poultry without skin.

Daily macronutrients

  • Complex Carbohydrates – 50%
  • Lean Protein – 25%
  • Fat – 25%

Cut back on vegetable oil, butter, mayo, salad dressing and fried foods.

Avoid refined sugar as much as possible, and don’t drink alcohol.  I know the last two are very difficult to eliminate, but both simply add too many calories without supplying other nutrients.  Accessive consumption of these two can lead to a variety of health problems.  Drink more water, plain and cold

Daily calories

  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

All these calories from each category count towards the surplus or deficit of fat metabolism.  To lose fat, you must consume fewer calories than you burn each day.  Your calories per day should not be too low, or your body may pull nutrients from your muscles and vital organs, which is not desirable.

You can achieve optimum fat loss results by adhering to daily calorie levels that range from:

1800 -1400 calories for Men 

  • Week 1 & 2 target of 1600
  • Week 3 & 4 target of 1500
  • Week 5 & 6 target of 1400

1500- 1200 Women

  • Week 1 & 2 target of 1400
  • Week 3 & 4 target of 1300
  • Week 5 & 6 target of 1200

Fat loss is aided by eating small meals of 400 calories for women and 500 calories for men. A large meal of 1000 calories or more creates excess insulin production, and insulin is a pro-fat hormone.  We are far better off eating smaller meals as a result.

I recommend that you eat six small, evenly spaced meals per day.  No longer than 3 hours should elapse between each meal.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks at mid-morning, midafternoon and night. A snack could consist of 100-200 meals and counts as one meal.

6 Pack at 70

Muscle loss and the brain

Studies indicated that it is essential to remain physically strong as we age and hold on to our muscle mass as we get into our senior years.  After all, it is possible to have a six-pack at sixty and beyond.  Just google some images so that you can see them for yourself.  Both our muscles and brain operate in accordance with each other as we go about our life.  According to Marnie Shaw in the study out of the Australian national university, International Journal of Obesity, most men and women in their 40’s begin losing muscle at the rate of approximately 0.5 pounds per year.  Significant muscle atrophy can cause the brain’s cortex to shrink and thin.  These changes in the brain associated with losing muscle in our senior years can increase the risk of dementia.  Studies indicate that it is important to remain strong as we age and hold on to muscle mass as long as possible.  Strong muscles and active brains are the keys to wellness, and this is why it is essential to have good exercise and eating habits to have good health well into your senior years.

Are you interested in reading more content on health and mindset?  Subscribe to my readers’ list and access the free guide 3 Pillars to upgrading your health at Live well.

4 thoughts on “How to gain muscle and burn fat”

  1. thank you for this great article – How to gain muscle and burn fat. Nutrition plays a vital role in our overall well-being. Your article spoke about eating whole foods and avoiding sugar. Easier said than done, however if you are determined eating right come easier with time. Eating right means a stronger and healthier body.

    1. I agree Diana!.  It is easier said than done and it’s all about starting and instilling the habit.  The best way to do this is to start with small adjustments to our diets and work our way up.  If we are committed to change then we will do whatever it takes.   I like your last statement and thank you for commenting.

  2. I totally agree with you that refined sugar is one of the major cause of obesity, diabetes and other related diseases. What do you think about brown sugar? Is there any difference in the harm caused by white as compared to brown sugar intake?

    Thank you for this insight; I definitely need to check my carb intake. 

    What’s the best kind of carb diet I can include in my diet?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Muslimah,  thanks for your comments and I apologize for my delayed reply.   There is very little difference between brown and white sugar.  Both do not provide any health benefits and should be limited.  You can use a small dose of Stevia if you need to sweeten up a little.   I highly recommend complex carbs mostly found in whole plant foods to fuel your body.  Examples:  beans, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, sweet potato and lots of green vegetables.   Hope this helps you and good luck!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *