how to burn fat and build muscle

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 actually quick and easy ways to make these changes, and more importantly, help you to form habits you can stick with for life; this includes how to combine the right foods and exercise for that magic fat burning 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 muscle tone. I was never 100% happy, and infuriatingly it seemed no matter how hard I tried something was still missing.

 

Changing things up!

deadlifts

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 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 your time, effort, and money into these virtuous acts. Frustration sets in, and sometimes this can cause you to give up completely.

In reality however you may just need to make a few tweaks and changes to your diet and exercise regime; doing just this alone may be the missing piece of the puzzle that will 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.

 

Adding the right foods in:

citrus fruits

Adding into your diet specific foods to help burn fat is a great place to start, and will also give you the boost you need. The more you can eat of these high quality, antioxidant rich foods the better. But do remember to add them towards your daily calorie/fat count and not just as an added extra; they still contain calories and calories always need to be burnt off in order to NOT be laid down as fat.

 

BUILDING LEAN MUSCLE MASS:

muscly woman

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’re just lounging about in front of the TV; therefore it makes sense to build good amounts of muscle mass through resistance and strength training. This helps to keep your body burning up calories more efficiently all day, EVERYDAY!

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

 

Plant proteins:

dried pulses

Since turning to the plant based diet for health reasons, I have found plant sources of protein to be much superior to animal – mainly because they are less acid forming and more alkaline. Alkaline foods lower inflammation in the body, which lowers your chances of getting sick (this is because too much inflammation is often the root cause of many of today’s chronic health issues).

Not only that, but plant foods just seem to make you feel cleaner, lighter, and healthier, with a clearer mind and so much MORE clarity. It’s pretty hard to explain this awesome feeling, and something that can probably only be experienced on a personal level.

 

Different protein sources may work differently for everyone:-

plant based protein powder

This has been my experience, but of course you should experiment for yourself as there are so many different protein sources both plant and animal based. It’s always a good idea to vary where you obtain your protein, this will help you to be sure you’re getting the full amino acid profile your body needs to synthesize muscle mass.

Varying your protein is especially true if you are plant based or vegan because some plant proteins are lower on certain amino acids than animal proteins. But do not let this put you off as a little variation will make up for anything that’s missing – and plants are ultimately healthier!

Obviously, what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. We all have different constitutions, and this is the reason why you should experiment to find what works best for you.

For more information on plant based eating and the best protein sources, please read this plant protein foods list. It will give you an idea of the amount of proteins there are in specific foods, plus which are the highest protein scorers.

 

Other amazing benefits of having adequate muscle mass:-

bicep curls

There are just so many benefits to having ample amounts of lean muscle mass on your body; enough to make the aesthetic benefits look secondary in comparison (yes honestly).

In fact, these other benefits are just ASTOUNDING, and will make you realise how very important it is to take the time to add some muscle building exercise into your life.

 

BENEFITS OF LEAN MUSCLE MASS:

1. LOWER RISK OF INJURIES IN GENERAL 

cleaning products

When you build muscle mass in general means you will have extra muscle protecting all your major joints. This will keep your body more stable not only during exercise, but also doing everyday tasks thus 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 help protect your body from many age related joint problems AND make you much stronger in general.

 

3. STRONGER BONES 

human skeleton

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.

Having stronger bones also gives protection against age related bone problems, such as osteoporosis – something that is much more prevalent as you age when 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, and exposure to environmental toxins.

This is why it is vital you do as much as you can for your health now, and 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. An alkaline plant based diet will work wonders for cleaning out your system and detoxifying your body.

 

5. DECREASED RISK OF DIABETES

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 diabetes. And those who keep themselves in shape physically are more likely to eat less sugar and junk foods, and even 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. This is due to the simple fact that making your heart stronger enables it to pump blood around the body with less effort, meaning less force on the arteries and therefore the lowering of blood pressure.

 

7. STRESS RELIEF 

walking on beach

When you resistance train, or lift weights your body releases its own painkillers called opiates, which 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, this is due to the relaxing sights and sounds of nature, coupled with breathing in deeply that healing fresh air.

 

8. ANTI-DEPRESSANT 

As well as all the reasons above, it cannot be stressed 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 about a strong body equaling a strong mind.

 

9. BETTER SLEEP 

good quality REM sleep

This goes without saying; the more you tire your body out, the more deep REM and restful sleep you will be rewarded with. This one simple thing in itself can drastically improve your quality of life, and give you more focus, drive, energy, a stronger immune system, stronger mental strength and ability, and also will lower drastically 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 then all sorts of other problems may 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 your immune system will get stronger and stronger.

Just take caution that 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.

 

FITNESS TRACKERS:

climbing steps

Something that may help you on your fitness and health journey could be a fitness tracker. These will give you reminders to move; count your steps taken every day; measure your heart rate; and 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 really works!

A fitness tracker will also create accountability by tracking every activity you do. This way you can see where you need to make changes: these changes will then start to rewire the neural pathways in your brain – which is a vital process in achieving long term success.

GPS

I use the Fitbit Charge 2 because it is one of the newest in the range, and out of the reviews I read many people testified 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 (major plus point) even for those who are not tech savvy.

This tracker (which I still use daily) helped me rewire my brain to exercise regularly AND get into a good sleep routine. Plus, for good measure 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:

kettle bell training

HITT (high intensity interval training) is a fast all round fat burner, especially for burning that hard to lose belly fat. This is because 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!

mans torso

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 may not only compromise your immune system, but put a massive strain on your whole body. It may even encourage fat storage as the body enters fight or flight mode; therefore it’s best not to push yourself to absolute maximum capacity too frequently.

Please check out this ‘build muscle and lose fat workout’ for some ideas on how to do HIIT training.

 

BOXERCISE:

boxercise lesson

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 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. 

 

OUTDOORS:

man running on beach

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 and also so many exercises you can do outdoors, for instance, you should take advantage of your surrounding areas, as everywhere has something unique 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 as with most outdoor exercise, you have the added bonus of all that wonderful fresh air to make you feel alive.

 

IN YOUR HOME

KETTLEBELLS

kettles bells in gym

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, which 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.

 

What to buy:-

I would 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 you probably require a couple of different weights as some exercises are easier than others.

Check out this awesome video for a quick at home kettlebell workout.

 

HULA HOOPING:

A wonderfully cheap and easy belly fat burning exercise is hula hooping; and it just happens to give 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 information about how I did this, and the best kind of weighted hula hoops to buy, then please read more here about this belly fat blaster. If a toned stomach is your thing then you really need to read this!

 

USING THE STAIRS:

stair climbing

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 great fat burning workout by simply climbing up and down them for 10 minutes at a speed – make sure it’s  fast enough to get you huffing and 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 that particular area.

 

FITNESS DVD’S:

There are numerous fitness DVD’s out there, and lots of free tuition’s on YouTube from professionals if you need inspiration, such as the ones I have loaded onto here already. 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. They are also great fun to do with a friend.

 

OTHER HOME EXERCISES:

tricep dips can be done on a chair

One of the best free, easy, and super effective exercises is using a chair, or anything else of similar height (maybe the side of your bath before you get in for a soak, and to kill time whilst the water is running) and doing tricep dips to tone your arms. These 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. This always seems to work for me.

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Stefanie Taylor

I have studied nutrition for many years, and have since discovered that a plant based diet has been the most beneficial to my health and body. I have more energy and zest for life than I have ever had and this website is dedicated to helping others who wish to know more, and start out on this lifestyle.

14 Comments

Dana · 24/07/2017 at 1:41 pm

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?

    stefanie taylor · 24/07/2017 at 1:41 pm

    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.

asmithxu · 27/09/2017 at 6:39 pm

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??

    stefanie taylor · 01/10/2017 at 2:37 pm

    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.  

Penelope · 03/11/2017 at 10:47 am

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!

    Stefanie Taylor · 03/11/2017 at 11:30 am

    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.

Kien · 29/11/2017 at 3:57 am

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.

Kien

    Stefanie Taylor · 29/11/2017 at 10:45 am

    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

sarah · 23/03/2018 at 10:00 am

Wow, this is the healthiest approach to maintain a healthy weight by building muscles and losing weight. I really love your articles, so informative and useful. Everyone should read these useful article and think about whether they are maintaining their weight in the healthiest way or not? Perfect read I must say.

    Stefanie Taylor · 23/03/2018 at 3:34 pm

    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.

Christian Martin · 03/04/2018 at 10:42 pm

This is an excellent and well written article. Very informative and insightful. Great job!

Steve · 04/04/2018 at 2:52 pm

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.

    Stefanie Taylor · 04/04/2018 at 9:50 pm

    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.

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