Learning how to burn fat and build muscle in a healthy way will set you on the path of getting that body you’ve always desired. In this post I will show you the quickest easiest way you can make these changes, and more importantly, changes that become habits so that you can stick with them for life – such as how to combine the right foods and exercise for that magic and winning combination.
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. I was never happy and it just seemed no matter how hard I tried something was missing.
It seems the body can adapt and get used to the same old foods and exercises day in and day out. At first you get great results, but then over time and as the body adapts things start to come to a standstill and 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 time, effort and money into these virtuous acts. Frustration sets in and sometimes this can cause you to give up completely when really you just need to make a few tweaks and changes to your exercises and diet plan. Like they say ‘a change is as good as a rest‘, and this is true for your body also.
Adding the right foods in:
Adding into your diet specific foods to help burn fat is a great place to start and will give you that boost you need. The more you can add in the better, but remember to add them towards your daily calories/fat count and not just have them as an extra, you will find a great list of these foods here: ‘Best Foods for Burning Fat’.
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 even when you are just lounging about in front of the TV, so of course it makes sense to build muscle mass up through resistance and strength training. In order to do this you need to make sure you are eating enough protein from different sources.
Since turning to the plant based diet for health reasons, I have found plant sources of protein to be superior to animal, mainly because they are less acid forming and more alkaline which lowers inflammation in the body (too much inflammation may be the root cause of many chronic health issues). Plus they just make you feel ‘cleaner‘ in your body, making you feel lighter and healthier with a clearer mind.
This has been my experience, but of course you should experiment for yourself as there are so many different protein sources, and you should always vary things to be sure you are getting the full amino acid profile your body needs to synthesise muscle mass.
Obviously what works for one person does not necessarily work for another as we all have different constitutions, which is why I encourage you to experiment to find what works best for you. For more information on plant based eating and the best protein sources you may find my post ‘Best Plant Protein Foods’ interesting, as it will give you an idea of the amount of protein there are in specific foods and which are the highest scorers.
Other amazing benefits of having adequate muscle mass:
There are just so many benefits to having good amounts of lean muscle mass on your body that they make the aesthetic benefits look secondary in comparison (yes honestly), it is just astounding and will make you realise how very important it is to take the time of adding some muscle building exercise into your life.
BENEFITS OF LEAN MUSCLE MASS:
1. LOWER RISK OF INJURIES IN GENERAL
Building muscle mass in general means you will have muscle protecting all your major joints, this will keep you more stable not only during exercise but also doing everyday tasks, making you much less prone to injuries and sprains.
2. STRONGER CONNECTIVE TISSUE
Your connective tissue and ligaments will also become stronger and less prone to injury. This will also help protect your body from many age related joint problems, and also make you much stronger in general.
3. STRONGER BONES
Strength and resistance training will push your body into strengthening the bones as it adapts to the extra stress put upon it during training, meaning less chance of breakages. Having stronger bones also mean protection against many age related bone problems such as osteoporosis, which is much more prevalent as we get older and the loss of bone density accelerates.
4. INCREASED ENERGY AND VITALITY
Now that your body is adapting to the higher demands being put upon it, your endurance levels will increase, giving you a lot more energy and stamina for every day life. Lack of energy is one of the major issues of modern life and is often due to a combination of many factors, such as lack of sleep, too many refined sugars and junk foods, environmental toxins, and a whole host more.
This is why it is VITAL we do as much as we can for our health and exercise is one of the major things you can do to help negate some of the constant damage that is being put upon us. Also, a ‘Alkaline Plant Based Diet‘ will work wonders for cleaning out your system and detoxifying your body.
5. DECREASED RISK OF DIABETES
As exercise keeps your heart strong, your weight down, and your muscles strong, it stands to reason that all these things combined lesson your risks of diabetes. Also, people who keep themselves in shape physically are more likely to eat less sugar and junk foods, and if they do they will ‘burn’ them off as energy expenditure much more readily.
6. LOWERING OF BLOOD PRESSURE
Resistance training is by far one of the best ways to lower high blood pressure for 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 RELEASER
When you resistance train or lift wight, your body releases its own painkillers called opiates which are 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 or run walk in the great outdoors, the sights and sounds of nature coupled with breathing in deeply the fresh air, is also a great stress reliever.
As well as the reasons above, I cannot stress enough the importance of resistance training when it comes to fighting depression. A cascade of feel good hormones called endorphin’s will flood through your system making you feel stronger and more balanced in body, mind and soul. It really is true what they say that a strong body equals a strong mind.
9. BETTER SLEEP
This goes without saying, the more you tire the body out the more deep and restful sleep you will have. This one simple thing in itself can drastically improve your quality of life, giving you more focus, drive, energy, a stronger immune system, stronger mental strength and ability, and also will lower your risk of anxiety and depression.
Sleep will is also VITAL for healing the body after exercise and continual training when you are tired (and especially when coupled with a bad diet) can eventually lead to adrenal burnout, and all sorts of other problems can escalate from this. So to say sleep is important is an UNDERSTATEMENT!
10. STRONGER IMMUNE SYSTEM
When you exercise your body boosts its production of the cells that kill bacteria, so over time and with consistent training the immune system will get stronger and stronger. Just take caution that over training can have the opposite effect and knock your immune system temporarily. Be sure to build up incrementally so you don’t over do it.
Something that may help you on your fitness and health journey could be a fitness tracker. This gives you reminders to move, counts your steps taken every day, measures your heart rate, and tracks your sleep to let you know if you are getting enough of that good quality REM sleep that is so vital for health.
Creating accountability really works!
A fitness tracker will also create accountability by tracking everything you do. This way you can see where you need to make changes, and rewire those neural pathways which is a vital process in achieving long term success. I use the Fitbit Charge 2 because it is one of the newest in the range and of all the reviews I read many people were saying that of all the fitness trackers they had tried the Charge 2 was the one they always went back to. It has the best features, plus it is easy to use (which is it’s major plus point in my book) even for those who are not tech savvy like me.
This tracker helped me rewire my brain to exercise regularly AND get into a good sleep routine, and it’s guided breathing feature tracks your breath and helps you wind down for 5 minute intervals throughout the day. Very helpful and vital when your’e leading a busy life.
HOW TO BURN FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE:
HITT (high intensity interval training) is a fast all round fat burner, especially for burning that hard to lose belly fat as 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, but the fat burning effects can carry on for hours, even days afterwards.
Get your body into the 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 and shorter workouts with fast blasts of exercise will kick start the fat burning process much more effectively, and 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 and build up as you become more accustomed to it. Do not push yourself to the complete max during the short bursts, but instead keep it just under maximum capacity.
Pushing yourself to the limit can compromise the immune system and put a massive strain on your whole body, plus it may even encourage fat storage as the body enters fight or flight mode.
Another brilliant all round fat burner and cardio workout is boxing. A boxercise class or boxing session with a friend can burn up to 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, extra confidence in everyday life, and 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 and take it in turns to really let those frustrations out.
If you have no 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, and also many exercises you can do outdoors.
Take advantage of your surrounding areas as everywhere has something to offer. For example, I live by the coast where there are lots of cliffs and steps so I can do an amazing workout just by running along the beach, 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 then obviously you have other great ways to exercise that you should most definitely be taking advantage of, and you have the added bonus of all that wonderful fresh air to make you feel alive.
IN YOUR HOME:
If for whatever reason you can’t get outside then the home itself offers some great opportunities to exercise. You can invest in a kettle bell, which is fantastic for toning and building muscle and just happens to also be a MASSIVE fat burner. You can look online and find many different workouts to follow.
The best kettle bell 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). Also, the cast iron kettle bell will be an investment that will literally last forever.
I would start no lower than a 6kg 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. Also, you will probably find you will require a couple of different weights as some exercises are easier than others.
A wonderful cheap and easy belly fat burning exercise is hula hooping, and it gives you the best toned stomach EVER! I kid you not, when I started hula hooping regularly I got myself a serious flat stomach more quickly than anything else I had ever tried.
For more about how I did this and the best kind of weighted hula hoops to buy, please read my post ‘Best Ever Belly Fat Blaster’.
USING THE STAIRS
This one 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 great fat burning workout by simply climbing up and down for 10 minutes at a speed fast enough to get you puffing. This will work your thigh and buttock muscles, helping you to achieve buns of steel. In fact, this along with squats really is one of the best exercises you can do for this particular area.
There are numerous fitness DVD’s and 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 and keep up in time, so I definitely recommend these – they are also easy and fun to do with a friend.
OTHER HOME EXERCISES
One of my favorite free, easy, and super effective exercises is using a chair to do tricep dips, which uses your own body weight to tone the arms. And of course, it costs nothing to get down on the floor and do some push ups and stomach work, and having some good tunes playing in the background will give you the impetus to work twice as hard.
If you have any comments about this post I would love to hear from you and am happy to answer your questions. Please post them in the comments thread below. Thank you.