How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle – Top Diet & Exercise Tips

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Learning how to burn fat and build muscle in a healthy way will help set you on the path to getting that great body you’ve always desired.

There are several ways you can achieve this. That’s through regular exercise, a healthy food plan, and the adding of certain fat burning foods into your diet for that magic formula. 

I spent years trying the hard way to sculpt and tone my body through exercise and diet. But, truth be told, I could never quite achieve what I wanted, which was to simply lose stomach fat and gain more muscle tone.

I didn’t want miracles, but I did want to feel good in my own skin because I was never 100% happy. Unfortunately and infuriatingly, it seemed no matter how hard I tried something was still missing.

woman thinking

Making the RIGHT changes

It seems the body can adapt and get used to the same old foods and exercises day in day out. At first you get great results, but then over time and as the body adapts you may find things start to come to a standstill. And, that you find you need to work harder and harder to get the same results.

This is so disheartening, especially when you’re putting a lot of your time, effort and money into these virtuous acts. Frustration sets in, and sometimes this can cause you to give up completely, which of course only makes matters worse.

The thing is, it could just be as simple making a few tweaks and changes to your usual diet and exercise regime to shake things up.

Doing this alone may be the missing piece of the puzzle that could get your body in fat torching mode again. Like they say, ‘a change is as good as a rest’, and this is true for your body also.

Eating the Right Foods

woman eating healthy food

Adding these specific foods to help burn fat into your diet is a great place to start. It will also give you the physical and mental boost you need to make the changes you need to make.

The more you can eat of high quality, antioxidant rich foods the better. But, do remember to add them towards your daily calorie and fat count, and not just as an added extra. All foods still contain calories, and calories always need to be burnt off in order to not be laid down as fat.

Specific fat burning foods to add into your diet

  • Probiotics
  • Pre-biotics
  • Almons
  • Walnuts
  • Cacao
  • Hemp seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Pulses
  • Wholegrains
  • Spirulina and chlorella
  • Fenugreek
  • Cinnamon
  • Chili
  • Ginger
  • Broccoli
  • Green Tea
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Avocados
  • Protein powders
  • Homemade protein ice-cream

Building Lean Muscle Mass

Another very important part to the puzzle of losing fat is to build more lean muscle.

Muscle burns more calories than fat, not just when you’re exercising, but all the time. Therefore it makes sense to build good amounts of muscle mass through resistance and strength training. Both of which will help to keep your body burning up calories more efficiently all day, EVERYDAY!

In order to build this calorie burning muscle mass on your body, you will need to make sure you’re eating enough protein from various sources.

The amino acids in protein (be they from plant or animal sources) are the actual building blocks of lean muscle tissue and are therefore vital to your diet.

fitness program

Plant Based Proteins 

You will find that the protein you obtain on a healthy plant based diet will be superior to animal protein, mainly because plants are less acid forming and more alkaline.

And, as many plant foods are in fact lower on the alkalinity scale, it makes sense that they may help lower chronic inflammation in the body. 

It’s also got to be said that plant foods just seem to make you feel cleaner, lighter, healthier, and with a clearer mind and so much more clarity. This is the main reason why many people never go back to eating animal products after seeing the difference for themselves.

What is the best plant based protein?

Varying your protein sources on a plant based diet is always a good idea. Different plants contain different amino acids in varying degrees.

Eating different protein sources is especially important if you are still consuming refined sugar and oils. If you are whole foods plant based then you will more than likely med your needs without having to worry about it too much.

Do I Need Protein Powders?

When it comes to protein powders, it can be a bit of a minefield as many people believe that just because they are doing a couple of hours of exercise a week that they will need extra protein. This is usually not the case, especially if that person already eats a whole foods plant based diet.

The time when you may need extra protein is when you are regularly lifting weights, or doing some other intensive exercise for more than an hour at a time. But, your body will probably make you aware of this anyway.

Benefits of Muscle Mass

woman with kettlebell

There are just so many benefits to having ample amounts of lean muscle mass on your body instead of too much fat. 

The benefits are just astounding, and will make you realise just how important it is to take the time to add some muscle building exercise into your life for every person of any age or gender.

Check out this list below.

1. Lower Risk Of Injuries In General 

When you build lean muscle mass in general, it means you will have extra protection for all your major joints.

This is a very good thing, as it will keep your body more stable not only during exercise, but also doing any other everyday tasks. This in turn makes you much less prone to injuries and sprains in general.

2. Stronger Connective Tissue 

Your connective tissue and ligaments will also become stronger and less prone to injury.

Stronger connective tissue and ligaments will help protect your body from many age related joint problems, and make you much stronger in every day life.

3. Stronger Bones 

Strength and resistance training will push your body into strengthening your bones as it adapts to all the extra stress put upon it, meaning less chance of breakages.

Studies show having stronger bones also gives protection against age related bone problems such as osteoporosis. This is something that is much more prevalent as you age when loss of bone density accelerates.

Do not under estimate the importance of this no matter what age you are right now. You need to start early for the best results.

4. Increased Energy And Vitality

jumping for joy

Now that your body is adapting to the higher demands being put upon it, your endurance levels will increase. This in turn will give you a lot more energy and stamina for every day life.

It’s got to be said, this was the BIGGEST thing I noticed when I first got into proper fitness many years ago. Suddenly I was always ready to jump up and go any time, anywhere, and it was a totally new experience to me.

The problem with modern life

Lack of energy is one of the major issues of modern life. It is often due to a combination of many factors, including lack of sleep, too many refined sugars and junk foods, and exposure to the environmental toxins of every day life.

This is why it is vital you do as much as you can for your health now. Exercise just happens to be one of the major things you can do to help negate some of the constant damage being put upon your body.

A highly plant based diet will work wonders for cleaning out your system and detoxifying your body, along with lots of detoxifying foods.

5. Decreased Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

As exercise keeps your heart and muscles strong and your weight down, then it stands to reason that all these things combined lesson your risk of type 2 diabetes.

And those who keep themselves in shape physically are more likely to eat less sugar and junk foods. Even if they do they will burn them off as energy expenditure much more readily.

Exercise also helps to keep blood sugar under control in other ways too. After a hard exercise session, your muscles will need to refuel with glycogen to replace what has been gobbled up for energy.

This means that all excess sugars floating around in the bloodstream will literally be absorbed into the muscles. And as your muscles will carry on reglycogenating for the next 24 hours, you will also be keeping your blood sugar under control in that time too.

6. Lowering Of Blood Pressure 

Resistance training is by far one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure. This is due to the simple fact that making your heart stronger enables it to pump blood around the body with less effort. This means less force on the arteries, and therefore the lowering of blood pressure.

7. Stress Relief

running on beach

Stress is without a doubt one of the biggest killers of our time. Anything we can do to help negate the damage caused by it, or better still lower it in the first place, has got to be worth it right?

When you resistance train (or lift weights), your body releases its own painkillers called opiates which in turn act as anti-stress messengers. These opiates literally dissolve stress, frustration and irritation, making you feel calm, relaxed and happy again.

This also applies for taking a brisk walk or run in the great outdoors. The relaxing sights and sounds of nature, coupled with breathing in deeply that healing fresh air, can blast out any stress residues left in your system.

8. Happiness

As well as all the reasons above, it cannot be stressed enough the importance of resistance training when it comes to easing depression and anxiety.

Exercise promotes a cascade of feel good hormones called endorphins that will flood through your system. This makes you feel stronger and more balanced in body, mind and soul. It really is true what they say about a strong body equaling a strong mind.

Remember, when it comes to serious depressive illness then you will need a combination of a healthy diet and exercise. And, of course, you should always consult your doctor for any other possible treatments that may be recommended.

9. Better Quality Sleep

sleeping with alarm clock

This one goes without saying. The more you tire your body out, the more deep REM and restful sleep you will be rewarded with.

Sleep is one simple thing in itself can drastically improve your quality of life. It can give you more focus, drive, energy, a stronger immune system, stronger mental strength and ability, and drastically reduce your risk of anxiety and depression.

Sleep is also vital for healing the body after exercise. Continual training when you are tired (especially when coupled with a bad diet) can eventually lead to adrenal burnout and all sorts of other problems can then escalate from this. 

10. Stronger Immune System

When you exercise, your body boosts its production of the cells that kill bacteria. This means that over time, and with consistent training, your immune system will become stronger and stronger.

But, take caution, as over training can have the opposite effect and actually knock your immune system temporarily. Be sure to build up incrementally so you don’t over do it. Most of us have noticed getting a cold or sickness a few days after over doing it in the gym.

zestforever fit program


Something that may help you on your fitness and health journey could be a fitness tracker.

Fitness trackers will give you reminders to move, count your steps taken every day and measure your heart rate. They can also track your sleep to let you know if you’re getting enough of that good quality REM sleep that is so vital for health.

Creating Accountability

A fitness tracker will also create accountability by tracking every activity you do, therefore you can see at a glance where you may need to make changes. These subsequent changes will eventually start to rewire the neural pathways in your brain, which is a vital process in achieving long term success. 

How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle – Top Diet & Exercise Tips


Woman doing HITT

HITT (high intensity interval training) is a fast, all round fat burner, especially great for burning that hard to lose belly fat. It combines high intensity cardio with resistance training for an all round body blast.

Doing explosive movements of cardio, then a round of resistance or weights, elevates the heart rate, burns higher amounts of calories, and builds muscle.

HIIT can be done in shorter amounts of time than other training sessions (the average session lasting only 20 minutes), but the fat burning effects can carry on for hours, even days afterwards.

How to get your body into FAT BURNING mode!

When it come to burning fat, it’s all about the intensity. Medium pace cardio such as jogging, swimming or cycling may help to keep your heart healthy, but they aren’t the best fat burners.

Much higher intensity, shorter workouts with fast blasts of exercise will kick start the fat burning process much more effectively. This in turn, will flood your system with fat burning hormones.

You can incorporate HIIT into your normal training routine, whether it be swimming, cycling or jogging by going for 6-10 fast bursts of activity for 30-60 seconds. Start off slowly, then build up as you become more accustomed to it.

DO NOT push yourself to the complete max during the short bursts. Instead keep it just under maximum capacity for the best effects.

Remember, pushing yourself to the limit may not only compromise your immune system, but will also put a massive strain on your whole body. It may even encourage fat storage as the body enters fight or flight mode.

Check out this fat burning workout for some ideas on how to do HIIT training effectively.

2. Outdoors

If you don’t have any time to exercise (or you cannot afford a gym membership or classes), then there are many things you can do in your own home for minimum or no outlay.

There are also so many exercises you can do outdoors. For instance, you should take advantage of your surrounding local areas, as pretty much everywhere has something unique to offer.

If you live by the coast (where there are lots of cliffs and steps) you can do an great workout just by running along the beach, or climbing up and down the cliff-side steps and hills. And, on a warm day even jump in the sea for a swim!

If you live in the country, you obviously have other great ways to exercise that you should most definitely be taking advantage of.

And as with most outdoor exercise, you have the added bonus of all that wonderful fresh air to make you feel alive and really clear your lungs out.

The outdoors is actually a great place to do more lower impact exercises too, as opposed to hard gym workouts.

3. Boxercise

sparring with partner

Another brilliant, all round fat burner and cardio workout is boxing. A boxercise class (or a boxing session with a friend) can burn up to a whopping 800 CALORIES and uses all the major muscle groups. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to release pent up stress and frustrations!

Boxercise (or boxing in general) will give you more power and strength, better core stability, higher self-esteem, and extra confidence in everyday life. You will also find your coordination will improve vastly, making it one of the best all round exercises out there.

Try sparring with a partner indoors by using an inexpensive sparring kit. Then take it in turns to really let those frustrations out. 


4. Kettlebells

If, for whatever reason you can’t get outside, then the home itself offers some great opportunities to exercise. You can invest in a kettlebell that is not only fantastic for toning and building muscle, but also happens to also be a MASSIVE fat burner. 

The best kettlebell to invest in should be made of cast iron, and not the cheaper vinyl versions which make your hands all sweaty and slippy (not a good thing considering you are going to be swinging that thing all over the place). Best of all, the cast iron kettle bell will be an investment that will literally last forever.

Which Kettlebells should I buy?

Start no lower than a 6kg kettlebell for the average female and 8kg for the average male. You will quickly build up to the next size, so you may want to purchase a couple.

You will also find that you probably require a couple of different weights, as some of the exercises are easier than others.

Check Out These Cast Iron Kettlebells

A lot of kettlebells come with some instructions for exercises, but as there are so many you may need to research the most effective ones. Check out this awesome video for a quick ‘at home’ kettlebell workout from somebody who knows what they are talking about.

5. Hula Hooping

A wonderfully cheap and easy belly fat burning exercise is hula hooping. And, it just happens to give you a perfect toned stomach too!

When I started hula hooping regularly, I got myself a seriously flatter stomach more quickly than anything else I had tried. But, you do need to keep it up for long term results. 

For information on how to lose lower belly fat fast. and the best kind of weighted hula hoops to buy, please read more about this great belly fat blaster. If a toned stomach is your thing (and the part of your body that you would like to work on the most), then you should definitely read this.

6. Using The Stairs

This may seem too simple and easy to be true, but boy is it effective. If you have stairs in your home, then you can do a really good fat burning workout by simply climbing up and down them for 10 minutes at a speed.

Just make sure it’s  fast enough to get you huffing and puffing!

This will work your thigh and buttock muscles, thus helping you to achieve those much sought after ‘buns of steel’. This, along with squats, really is one of the best exercises you can do for that particular area.

7. Fitness DVD’S

home workout DVD

There are numerous fitness DVD’s out there, and also lots of free Tuition’s on YouTube from professionals if you need inspiration. Using a fitness DVD will also give you a lot more incentive to keep going, as you need to keep up in time with the instructor.

Fitness videos are also great fun to do with a friend. This will help create accountability, as it can sometimes be hard to find the inspiration to do these things alone at home.

Feel free to check out ZestForever’s own at home FAST and EASY fitness program for a super simple way to get fit at home.

Other home exercises

One of the best free, easy and super effective exercises is using a chair (or anything else of a similar height) and doing tricep dips to tone your arms. A good idea for people who are restricted would be to use the side of your bath before you get in for a soak. This also kills time whilst the water is running.

These sort of exercises are great, as no equipment is required and you use your own body weight to do the work.

Of course, it also costs nothing to get down on the floor and do some push ups and stomach work. You could always put some good tunes on in the background for the impetus to work twice as hard.

8. Dancing

couple dancing at home

Another fantastic exercise you can do either at home (or as a proper class) is dancing such as Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop, Swing, Ballroom and many more.

Not only is a dance class a great place to socialise and make connections with other like-minded people, but you will also get into serious shape. Dancing is also known to improve depression, anxiety, confidence and low self-esteem.

Stick the tunes on at home!

Or, if you don’t fancy a class, you can just pop on your favorite tunes at home and really go for it. Dance music is usually best, and the faster the better. Doing a couple of 10 minute blasts of this a day will keep you fit, and your body in calorie burning mode.

There has been a lot of research about how a couple of shorter blasts of exercise a day can be just as good (if not better) than hours at the gym. This is welcomed information for those who say they have no time for keeping fit.

9. Diet

Diet is just an important part of fitness than anything else, so don’t underestimate this fact.

Eating the plant based diet for bodybuilders and exercisers in general will help you greatly in your quest for lean muscle mass.

Lots of antioxidant rich plant based foods will fasten your recovery times, strengthen your immune system, give you plenty of energy to train, and help you to build out the body you have always wanted.


Exercise truly is a very important part of keeping your body and mind healthy for a life time.

Underestimate this fact at your peril.

That’s why ZestForever have teamed up with Nutritional Experts and a Fitness Trainer to bring you our Exclusive ZestForever Fit Program.

This inexpensive program is the fastest, easiest and by far the CHEAPEST way to learn new eating patterns and exercise routines that you can easily incorporate into your life, for a lifetime.

weight loss program

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18 thoughts on “How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle – Top Diet & Exercise Tips”

  1. Hi Stefanie,
    Thank you for the great information especially about the fat-burning foods. I did not know bananas speed up your metabolism and have eaten them sparingly because of the calories. I love avocados too and did not know they contain so many different vitamins and minerals. I love to exercise but the last two years I have had major problems with my elbows, do you know of any type of exercise that would strengthen elbows and help underarms?

    1. stefanie taylor

      Hi Dana,

      Yes it is great to know that all them scrummy foods on the list are actually proven fat burners. But I guess like with anything it’s all about moderation. Avocado is fantastic as I have eaten half a day for months and have lost about 7lbs weight along with eating a lot of the other fat burning foods. And I have done nothing else different.

      I am not a P.T. but know quite a lot about sport and would say to stop impact on joints and to tone your arms I would definitely try swimming as that targets that exact under arm area you are talking about.

  2. Hey! I really liked your suggestions for how to burn fat and build muscle. Your suggestions make it seem easy to incorporate some form of exercise into your day. I especially liked the hula hoop suggestion (believe it or not, I cannot hula hoop, but I bet that I could burn a lot of calories trying to learn).

    Are there any exercises that you have found particularly good for increasing energy??

    1. Hi there,

      Yes hula hooping is great and definitely made a massive difference to my stomach after I had been doing it everyday for a about a month so I can’t recommend it enough! If you practice it you should be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly.

      As for  energy increasing exercises, I think personally I notice the most difference in my energy levels after a gym session or some kind of weight bearing exercise as it just seems to spark off the release of energy more than other more tiring long cardio exercises. BUT shorter bouts of intense cardio release energy, for example 10 mins of fast spinning on an exercise bike or running up and down the stairs. Also, going for a run on the beach always wakes me up as I think it has something to do with getting all that fresh pure oxygen into your lungs and body.  

  3. I agree that building muscle is the way to go. It’s not always easy for everyone to do – I think some bodies are just more predisposed to carry more muscle mass than others. However, whenever I go through periods of inactivity I can ALWAYS feel the atrophy and it’s just the worst feeling. thanks for all the great suggestions like hula hooping for fat burning!

    1. Hi Penelope, Yes I agree that some of us have to work harder than others to do this as we are all made differently. Personally, my body works best with plant protein, hence why I eat mainly a plant based diet these days which is definitely helping me to get the body I want. Thanks for reading.

  4. Hey Stefanie,

    I enjoy reading this article of yours! I can see that you have shared some good ideas on different exercises for weight loss. I like using kettle bells. I do go to gym so they are convenient to use. Hula hooping seems to be a good idea too. I remember playing it all the time when I was a kid.


    1. Hi Kien, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I too love to do all these exercises as they are just so easy to do in the comfort of your own home, which is always a plus point for me. Yes I will check out your article and your ideas. Thanks

  5. Yes it’s so important to keep muscle mass up, especially as we age which is why we have to make sure we get enough protein. This counts especially on a plant based diet when it is harder to reach protein requirements. And also when in training it is important for cutting fat and keeping the body in fat burning mode. Thanks for reading.

  6. I absolutely love this post, and I am a big believer in building muscle mass. I have been dealing with back problems for most of my adult life and I finally have an understanding of building a strong core to help with my back problems.

    The one thing I really took out of your article is plant-based protein. I have heard a lot about plant-based protein but have never really given it much thought. I always thought it was a fad that would pass. Well, it hasn’t gone away, so now I am thinking there is something to this. It just occurred to me when you talked about inflammation.

    Do you think that reducing my animal protein intake would help reduce inflammation which may be contributing to my back problems? Thanks for sharing this awesome article, I really got a lot out of it.

    1. Hi Steve, wow, thanks for your great comments and I am so glad you found this information helpful. As you have back problems that means you will most definitely have inflammation (as you obviously already know) so a plant based diet, and more importantly plant proteins would be very beneficial to you to help keep your inflammation down. Please read my post about the plant based diet for more information

      Also, another great thing that may help with your inflammation would be turmeric which is one of the most powerful known antinflammatories. You should make this up yourself with all the other elements for absorption such as black pepper and fats.

      If you would like the recipe for this so you can try it for yourself then I have a whole post on it I have all my family on this awesome stuff nd they are all reaping amazing benefits.

  7. Hello Stefanie. Another very informative article. You are so right about your body gets used to your exercises and you need to change it up, my doctor had told me that same thing some years ago. From one of your previous articles I started adding more protein in my diet and it’s really helping. I do really need to get back to the working out after becoming an online affiliate marketer I spend hrs sitting at the computer and no exercise.
    At 50 years old I want to try to look and feel my best and your articles are helping me do so.
    Again thank you for another great article.

    1. Hi David, I’m really pleased you are getting such value from my articles. Yes, I know what you mean about affiliate marketing; it does have you sitting on your butt for most of the day lol. Probably the worst kind of job in that respect!

      The thing is, I make sure to fit my exercises in around doing this and it actually makes you MORE productive, trust me. A fit body not only boosts your physical endurance but your mental endurance too. You probably need to test this out for yourself to really see what I mean. I always say to everybody that I just wouldn’t be to do this job without being physically fit and healthy, I just wouldn’t have the mental stamina for it. Anyway, that’s food for though for you.

  8. You gave good advice. Not many personal trainers saying you NEED muscle mass to burn calories more efficiently. And I am glad you mentioned HIIT training because that is the most efficient way to lose fat, not cardio training!

    Also, counting calories from antioxidant-rich food may seem like overreacting, but they are also calories that count toward daily intake.

    As a fitness and weight loss instructor, I’m telling each person I’m giving advice basically exactly the same things you just wrote. And it makes me happy to see more fitness instructors are following a proper plan for weight loss! Keep up the good work!


    1. Hey there, I’m really happy you agree with my advice. It’s good for it to be reiterated by somebody else in the same field as some trainers I have met have literally had no idea about actual diet. I once had a PT tell me to go ahead and eat as much chocolate as I liked as I would be burning it off anyway. While you can obviously burn calories off through exercise, I still wouldn’t recommend somebody to just eat as much rubbish as they like for the fact that that rubbish still has to be assimilated by the body.

      Yes, every calorie counts! If I don’t watch what I eat (even from the healthiest of foods) then I gain weight; it’s a bit annoying, but it just forces me to be mindful.

      HITT and muscle building are definitely my go to fat burners out of all the exercises, but I do like to vary things up so I don’t get bored. I also think the body gets used to the same exercise regimes day in day out so a change can sometimes kick off the fat burning mode again.

  9. I totally agree that 2019 is gonna be the year for plant based eating! And once people start to feel the benefits of eating healthy food, they’re going to look for a workout to accompany it. And, I think you really covered a lot of information about why choosing a workout (and supplements) that helps burn fat and build muscle is so important. I look forward to reading your next article!

    1. Hi Sienna, yes I have heard a lot of predictions of plant based eating and veganism really taking off and going mainstream this year, which is great news for me of course! It’s so important people understand the facts regarding this lifestyle as it needs to be gotten right if you want to stay healthy.

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