Want to build muscle as you lose weight? Try these six tips to help your body get lean and strong.
After fat loss, one of the most common fitness goals is muscle building.
The best ways to build muscle are time-tested and fairly straightforward. Remember, patience and consistency will make all the difference here, so come up with a plan to implement these tips, and stick with it!
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1. Eat Protein
Nothing else on this list that will make much of a difference if you do not follow this step. You can lift weights all day, but you will never see proper results if you are not consuming enough protein. (1, 2)
So, how much protein do you actually need? Start by shooting for one gram per pound of body weight, per day. The type of protein is really important here, and complete proteins are far better for you than incomplete ones, like beans. Instead, dig into some Paleo-friendly proteins like grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, farm fresh eggs, sardines, nuts and chia seeds to help you build muscle.
2. Do High-Intensity Interval Training
No need for long, grueling workouts. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) allows you to build muscle in a very short time. In fact, if you are not doing this, you may be losing muscle mass – even if you’re strength training. That is because long bouts of cardio at low intensity can decrease your muscles’ ability to absorb glucose (by immobilizing the glucose transporter).
How do you perform HIIT workouts? It’s pretty simple, just go for all-out bursts of exercise, followed by short periods of complete rest. Think sprints, push-ups, pull-ups or squats, then a rest period of 1 minute. Try this 10 Minute HIIT Wall Workout to get started.
Remember, muscle grows while you rest, so do not perform HIIT workouts more than three or four times per week.
3. Lower Your Stress Levels
One of the biggest issues with both fat loss and muscle growth is the impetus of a chronically high stress level. Of course, we could all use less stress – but it can be difficult to actually make this happen.
The bottom line is that stress hampers your body’s ability to build muscle. What works best for muscle growth is short, acute periods of healthy stress, like lifting weights, followed by long periods of rest.
4. Intermittent Fasting
If you’re already highly stressed, work on step three before trying this step. But for those that are well-rested, live low-stress lifestyles and have a healthy metabolism, intermittent fasting might be a good option.
Intermittent fasting involves consuming all of your calories within a certain window of time. For example, from seven in the morning to seven at night, you might not eat anything. Or you can eat breakfast and lunch, but not dinner. This would effectively have you fasting for 16-18 hours per day.
The goal here is to reach cellular autophagy, a process where your cells clear out aggregated proteins and potential pathogens. (4) Think of this simply as your cells “taking out the trash”.
5. Lift Large
Another way to maximize muscle growth is to simply lift something heavy! I don’t mean that you want to lift to the point of utilizing poor form – but to the point where you are challenged and stressed by the weight.
A good rule of thumb (though you should always use a spotter for this approach) is to make sure your last repetition of your last set is challenging. This is not a step for complete beginners, but can be properly utilized by those who have some background in strength training.
Shorter, heavier sets, like five repetitions instead of eight, will help “shock” your muscles into continuing to grow stronger. Another way to implement this is to simply have one day per week of heavy lifting, followed by a few, less intense days. Remember – don’t overdo it, and get plenty of rest afterwards to help you achieve your goal.
6. Sleep More
We know that it can be difficult for those who live high-stress lifestyles to “unwind” at the end of the night. But sleep is essential for muscle growth, as growth hormone is secreted as we sleep. (5, 6)
While getting your eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is ideal, it’s just as important to focus on the quality of your sleep. Make sure your room is quiet and dark, and definitely don’t fall asleep with the television on – toxic blue light disrupts melatonin production, setting you up for a hormonal imbalance.
The Bottom Line
Though it will take time, patience and discipline to see these changes, you will see real results if you eat a protein-rich Paleo diet, get lots of high quality sleep, and lift heavy weights. Before you know it, you’ll be leaner, more muscular and healthier – and your brain and body will thank you for it.