When that little extra cushioning suddenly turns into the spare tire you never wanted, chances are you’re starting to think about ways to quickly shed that excess fat and replace it with muscle.

To successfully make this happen, it’s important to first understand some facts about fat and muscle.

  1. There is no quick way to replace fat with muscle. The weight didn’t come on overnight so it won’t go away overnight.
  2. A pound of body fat equates to around 3,500 calories. Meaning, you’ll need to burn about 3,500 calories for every pound of fat that you want to get rid of. This can mean cutting 500 to 1,000 calories a day out of your diet to lose about 1 to 2 lbs. per week.
  3. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Once you start building muscle, you will be able to eat more because your body will be burning more calories.
  4. Muscle does not replace fat. You’ll have to first burn off the fat before your body can start creating muscle mass.

How Excess Fat Affects the Body

Most people know that obesity can lead to a laundry list of health concerns, including (but not limited to):

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Sleep and respiratory issues
  • Depression

It’s not that all fat is bad for the body. In fact, our body needs fat to function. The idea instead is to get rid of excess fat that can cause damage to the body, create a sense of sluggishness, and lead to feelings of discontent.

Is Cardio the Best Option for Fat Loss?

Yes… and no. But, mainly yes!

Here’s why:

Cardio increases heart rate fast and typically burns more calories than weight lifting does. Because you’ll want to burn off the fat first, before focusing more on muscle building, cardio-forward workouts may be the most beneficial for those looking to lose fat – although, cardio should be combined with weight training for a balanced workout routine.

A few cardio exercises that are known for high levels of calorie burn include HIIT*, cycling, running, or use of the elliptical machine.

*Learn more about HIIT by LAF®.

Of course, there are other cardio options that may sound more appealing to some. These options include Group Fitness classes like Zumba® or sports leagues*.

*Check out LA Fitness Group Leagues here.

AAT: Ep. 22 – Is Cardio or Strength Training Better for Weight Loss?

Check out this episode of Ask A Trainer with Master Trainer, Stone Thomas, who helps further answer if cardio or strength training is better for weight loss.

AAT: Ep. 22 – Is Cardio or Strength Training Better for Weight Loss?

Targeting Belly Fat

While it would be so much nicer if it were possible to just target a certain area of the body, it’s not realistic. That’s just not how fat loss works.

LA Fitness Pro Results® trainer, Kayla V., explains it more in the video below and gives tips on what can be done to increase weight loss overall.

AAT – Ep. 15: What Are the Best Exercises for Stomach Fat?

Diet is Key (But You Probably Already Knew That)

Consuming more calories than what your body is expending will, at the very least, lead to a weight loss plateau (if not weight gain).

In the beginning stages of weight loss, it’s so important to track your calories.

Once you have a better understanding of food proportions and how much you need to eat daily to lose weight, you can choose to stop tracking calories and just eat smaller, healthier options when your body signals that it’s hungry.

There are plenty of online options available to help better understand healthy eating and portion control.

And, if you’re an LA Fitness member, we have a special section called “Ask Our Dietitian” dedicated to answering your nutrition-related questions. Send them to us here.

From Fat Loss to Muscle Gain

Perhaps you’ve already shed the excess body fat and now you’re looking to increase your muscle mass. This is where things get fun.

Building muscle means your workouts should now encompass more weight training. To build muscle, rather than simply retain what you already have, you should increase your weight and decrease the number of reps you’re doing.

Foods to Help Muscle Recovery

When questioning why our bodies tend to become tired and sore after working out, LA Fitness registered dietitian Debbie James, RDN shared “Since your muscles are sore, their cellular metabolism needs to be restored to normal. You might need more sources of potassium and anti-inflammatory compounds.”

These include:

  • Tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, kale, cabbage, berries, cherries, lentils, salmon, tuna, nuts, garlic, curcumin, and olive oil.
  • One possible recovery meal is tuna salad with tomatoes, olives and pine nuts on spinach.
  • A tasty snack option is cherries and almonds.

You’re Probably Going to Feel Hungrier

When you start training harder and more frequently, your body is going to need more calories because your body is going to be burning more energy.

This is where it might get tricky for someone who was formally at an unhealthy body weight.

You’ve heard it over and over again: “Cut calories and you’ll lose weight.”

So, you’ve become conditioned to eating less, but now your goal has changed. You’re no longer looking to drop fat; you’re looking to build muscle.

If you keep working out and not consuming enough calories the body begins breaking down the muscle you have, rather than repairing it or building it.

This is why protein should be your best friend when it comes to building muscle.

Healthy Eating Tips

  1. Opt for lean cuts of meat.
  2. Choose healthy carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.
  3. If you choose to supplement with protein shakes, choose a protein powder with little to no added sugar.
  4. If you’re looking for protein options that are meat-free, you can substitute eggs, milk, beans, or tofu.

That lean-look, or definition of muscles, will come with time after body fat percentage is dropped and strength training has increased.

It’s Not Easy for Everyone

Understanding how to take your body from overweight to healthy and in shape sometimes takes the help of professionals. If you’ve found yourself struggling to make the transition on your own, it may be time to investigate personal training or dietic consulting.

Living a healthy lifestyle can be done by anyone, at any age, at any time.

All you have to do is get started.

Share what made you make the change in the comments below!


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