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how do you lose weight but keep muscle???


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i love going to the gym, and i have become pretty built, but i need to lose some weight. the problem is i think i would be a lot more cut if this layer of fat would disappear, i can FEEL the muscles i just have a hard time seeing them. also, with this extra fat, it is making me look thick rather than fit and inshape. i was even thinking of cutting back my gym time :(

does anyone know how i could critique my workout and diet so i keep the muscle but lose the fat? i currently weigh 160 at 5'9"...my goal is to be 145 by thanksgiving.

my workout routine consists of cardio 40 min 4-5 times a week (ellipical set #10 resistance for 20 min then running in the park for 20 min).  i use weights about 4 times a week. i lift 20-30lb dumbells depending on the position. i eat between 1300-1700 cals a day, depending on how hungry i am.

i dont know what i should do differently, i feel like my goals seem doable, but i am having a hard time seeing results with my current plan...please help! im stumped....
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Hi I'm at about the same place. Because my workouts are so intense if I eat less then about 1400 cals I feel weak. I worked so hard to get my muscles I don't want to lose them! I think we're supposed to eat a few more calories on weight training days in order to fuel our muscle recuperation. It's also important to keep sufficient protein levels. I'd like to hear from someone with experience on this though.
I would say, and mind you I'm no expert, but form my research, I suggest doing your cardio in intervals.  Do some research on interval training and HIIT.  Do this three times a week.  Once a week, do a long cardio session at a steady pace - 1 hour run, a long bike ride etc.  Then keep lifting HEAVY.  Keep eating with a caloric deficit - the smaller the deficit the slower the fat will come off, but the more muscle you will preserve.  This way, 15lbs by ThanksGiving is aggressive, maybe aim for 155??  Also, and I don't know if you have time to do this, but, double workouts 2-3 times a week work magic!!  Do weights in the morning and a cardio session at night, or visa-versa.  I like spin class at night, that way I don't have to think of what to do.  The double workouts melt the fat off of you.  Make sure to get a rest day in there or you'll burn out.
Just as katethegreat said, I too am no expert, but from my research, that layer of fat you speak of is only going to be rid of with a necessary DIET  (i know the dreaded "d" word, but what i mean is where your calories are coming from protein/carbs/fat) and making sure you are not overtraining.  An article, in fact, this whole website I found to be very helpful:

http://www.intense-workout.com/overtraining.h tml

In my opinion, 1300 calories is nowhere near enough for the amount of activity you are doing in your exercise!!!  I'm thinking your body is holding onto that fat on purpose because it thinks it's starving...but that's just my opinion.  I would even recommend talking to a nutritionist or a professional trainer if one is available to you.....

I hope this helps!  Good Luck!!  (I am also in the same boat as you, I'm trying to "alter" my diet/exercise plan so that I can start seeing results!)
Excellent article, Holly!!  I am new to this forum and I see a lot of users that talk about how much they do and how little they eat and they're often complaining about not seeing results.  I think people have the mindset that more is better and sometimes it really isn't! 

Thanks for sharing!!
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One of the best ways to maintain muscle during weight loss is to keep the intensity at which you work out.  Some lift lighter weights during lower levels of calories.  While this is understandable, if your body deems muscle as unnecessary, it lets it go (atrophy).

The other point is making sure you feed your body properly.  I'd agree that you might want to up your food intake, or stay closer to your 1700 mark.   Weight training up the metabolism usually for 48 hours afterwards.  From the rate you workout / cardio, I'd say your metabolism is constantly sped up due to all the activity.  If you don't give your body what it needs for energy & maintenance, it will get it from your existing tissue, and lower your metabolism to decrease weight loss, as Holly explained.

When I work out & do cardio the same day, that's about 800 calories I'm down.  I always try to eat it back, although it can be hard.  I dunno what I'm going to do when I start my bulk phase. =)
Go Holly! 

Adding to what she said, think of it this way...right now you are making the changes to your body that will set the stage for the rest of your life.  Your body will adapt itself not only to the amount of exercise you are doing by getting fitter and building muscle (which is the goal of exercise right?) but also it will adapt to the number of calories it has to work with in a given day by lowering your metabolism so it can use the calories more efficiently.  

The point of a low calorie diet is that your body resorts to eating itself to make up for the lack of calories...but you body cannibalising itself does nothing to raise your metabolism, the rate at which your body uses calories all day long. 

Anyway, point is I think you can get fit and slim down by exercising and eating low cal but you can't raise your metabolism by exercising and eating low cal.  And if seems to me that having a high metabolism is what makes the changes permanent. 

I don't know what the formula is or how much calories to eat.  I just note down my calories, eat when I'm hungry in small meals and try to get 30% or less from fat and found that I end up eating about 2300 calories a day, no matter what I end up eating that's what my body seems to want.  And I exercise 4-6 times a week and I lose weight.  73 pounds so far.  

I anticipate that as I get fitter and build muscle I will end up eating even more a day as my metabolism raises...we'll see. 

As others have stated, I am also by no means an expert.  I've been working out 4-6 days a week for about 2 months.  I started tracking things on this website in mid-July and have lost 8-10 pounds in that time frame.  Which I'm very excited about.

I do a minimum of 30-60 minutes of cardio 4-6 times a week with a mix of modes between treadmill, eliptical, and bicycle.  I always do some interval training in there (higher resistance, incline, effort for a minute or two, followed by lower resistance, incline, effort for a minute or two).

I lift weigths to retain muscle, tone, and gain strength.  I lift probably 4 times per week for about 30-60 minutes (depending on schedule).  I've moved from some of the machines to a mix of machines and free weights.  I've just found that the free weights seem to work my muscles harder.  I've identified weak areas of my body and targeted them to strengthen (i.e. hamstrings way stronger now).  I've seen definition begin to form in my arms and legs.  Still have large amounts of fat to lose in other areas to see definition.

I'm a big guy so my calorie intake is larger.  I am usually in the 2700 range, but based on my rough calculations I'm burning 3200-3500 daily so there is still a deficit.  I've cut out some bad things like soda and mix in a salad now and then.  Definitely have focused on getting more protein in 150-200 grams per day.  Found thought that I need to keep my fat intake at least at 20% or my body does not like things too much.  One thing I am trying to figure out now is how to cut down my sodium intake which is going to take adjusting my diet to less processed foods I think.

Overall, it has been a grand experiment.  Make tweaks, monitor or results, make another tweak and monitor again.  It can get real easy to over analyze what is going on and make drastic changes, but then it is hard to know what caused your results.

Anyway this is a summary of what I have been doing and I think it is working pretty good (at least right now).

Everyone has an opinion on this, so here goes mine. It's very important that when exerciesing with the goal of dropping your body percentage, to work out regularly in short, but very high entensity sessions.  If doing so correctly, your mebabolism will be elevated much higher during the time you aren't working out.  The actually weight you are lifting, or settings on a machine are really not that important.  For cardio, I do 20 minutes of HIIT 2-3 days per week.  My goal is to maximize my heart rate as much as possible at the end of the intervals.  I can really feel the difference in my energy and appitite level for the next 24 hours or so after working out with just a different heart  rate of 5-10 beats per minute.  For example, I know that when I hit a heart rate of 175bpm on my final interval, I will feel much more energized than if I was only able to hit 170bpm.  It's also important to get your heart rate down in the resting intervals.  As you get in better shape, your heart rate adjust up with activity level much faster. 

As for wieght training, the key is to mainly focus on the larger muscles, and last rep of the last set of a particular muscle you need to go to falure.  All the other reps are really just to mainly warm you up so you can take fail on that final rep. 

If you think about the above training methodology, has a similar profile to how a track and field sprinter works out.  It's my understanding that Sprinters typically have a lower body fat percentage than participants of other events, inluding long distance and marathon runners.


Heavy, low rep strength training for you whole body (especially main movements), plus high protein intake and moderate/small deficit.

I like ajaro's take on this: big whole body movements, small deficit. 

Right now, I'd guess that your dumbbell exercises are working your extremities rather than core or large multi-muscle groups. If you switch to that type of thing, with heavier weight, your muscle will be preserved just fine as long as you don't lose weight too quickly.

My personal belief is that the cardio doesn't hurt at all (in the amounts that you are talking about), helps you eat more food at your desired deficit, which increases the chance that you will meet all your nutrient requirements, and (of course) it increases the health of your heart and circulatory system. It also increases the mitochondria in the muscle cells, and the number of capillaries that feed them blood and oxygen.

Just don't use cardio to achieve too big of a deficit, and don't let it replace your weight training.

hello there, I'm Nalani and I'm actually a personal trainer. I'm 5'10, 185 pounds and about 12% body fat. I'm not your typical trainer that got all my information from some book and has never stepped foot in a real gym.

I use to weigh over 275 pounds and I managed to drop down to 160 and then add 25 pounds of lean muscle in less than 4 years. there is no true science behind it all since everyone's body is a little different but I can tell you from my experience of trial and error that I have a good concept of how to shape your body.

it sounds to me like you have the working out part down, you have muscle to work with and your body is burning calories efficiently. what I found is that once you have muscle to work with it allows you to tweak and peak your diet to shape your body in any way you desire. it sounds like you are not getting enough calories and perhaps not managing where you are getting your calories from.

you can do all the cardio and weight training you want but it is the diet that makes the real difference and gets you true results.

muscle needs protein! your muscles are made up of 70-75% water and protein, carbohydrates are nothing more than fuel for the body so too many carbs if you aren't burning them will store as fat. once your body uses the glucose it will go after the next easiest thing for fuel, since fat is harder for the body to break down it will go after amino acids first, yes.....muscle, your body will actually cannibalize and eat itself. I recommend tweaking your diet. a good way to go about it is to try and eat close to 1g of protein per pound of your targeted body weight. so if you want to get down to 145 pounds I would shoot for somewhere between 125-145g of protein. adjust your carbs and fat according to how your body burns feels. perhaps take in around 10-15% of your total caloric intake of fat and the rest carbs. try this and see what it does for you.

145g protein = 580 calories 200-250g carbohydrates = 800-1000 calories 25-30g fat = 225-270 calories total caloric intake is between 1605-1850 again, there is no real science behind it all but this may be a good starting point for you, the way your body looks is 90% of what your eat and that is the truth!
another thing I forgot to mention is how often you eat. if you eat smaller portions but frequently then your body burns calories more efficiently apposed to eating larger meals fewer times a day. when you eat larger meals fewer times a day then your body tends to hold on to fat because it assumes you are not going to feed it again for a while so it is much like when a bear goes into hibernation, it will store fat because it will be a long time before it will eat again so it stores the fat for reserve energy. trick your body into thinking you are going to feed it so often that it has to burn it quickly. I eat over 3500 calories a day between 6 meals and to be honest since I have started getting in shape it has been so much harder to gain lean mass than lose fat, losing is the easy part! just have to eat right.
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