How to Build Muscle & Lower Body Fat Percentage

Build Muscle & Lower Body Fat Percentage
Build Muscle & Lower Body Fat Percentage (Image: Scoobytrash)

Getting a sculpted, muscular body with low fat takes dedication, persistence and effort. Building muscles and losing fat are two different processes and should be treated as such. Depending on your starting point, you can can begin either by bulking up or burning fat and transition to the other later.

Eat fewer calories. There's no way around the fact that burning fat means eating fewer calories than you burn. This puts the body in a catabolic, or fat-burning, state. It is essential to avoid starvation, as this actually lowers metabolism and causes the body to retain fat and burn muscle. To begin, cut 500 calories from your daily diet and cut another 500 a week later if you don't start to lose fat.

Do cardio. Lifting weights can build muscle, but it isn't particularly effective at burning fat. While trying to lose fat, exercise should be centered on cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, aerobics or using an elliptical trainer. Vigorous yoga and pilates can also be helpful for those unaccustomed to regular physical activity. Forty-five minutes, four times per week, is a good goal.

Drink water. Fat, like most body tissue, is primarily water. When excess water is retained, existing fat deposits can swell. The body actually retains less water if it is given a steady supply. Drink at least one liter per 1,000 calories everyday.

Set caloric goals. It takes calories to build muscle, which is why losing fat and building muscle are hard to do at the same time. When building muscle, you should be eating more calories than you burn. For men, a good rule of thumb is to multiply the body weight by 12; women can multiply their body weight by 11. The product is the bare minimum number of calories needed daily to start building muscle.

Eat the right calories. Focusing too much on food while losing fat can be distracting, but when building muscle, it's essential. Inevitably some fat will be put on while bulking up, but this can be minimized by eating the right foods and staying active. About 20 to 30 percent of your daily calories should come from monounsaturated fats (olives, nuts and avocado). Fifteen to 35 percent of calories should come from lean protein sources such as chicken, soy or legumes and whole grains. The remaining calories should come from carbs, but favor fruits and vegetables over sugary foods and "empty" calories.

Start resistance training. The only reliable way to build muscle is through resistance training, which means lifting weights or using strength training machines. Some isometric exercises, such as those used in martial arts or yoga, can also be beneficial. The training should be well-planned and regular, exercising all the major muscle groups in turn and allowing for adequate rest. Remember that muscle grows during rest, not in the gym.

Tips & Warnings

  • When calculating food requirements, remember that protein and carbohydrates contain four calories per gram, while fat contains nine calories per gram. Daily caloric intake should realistically reflect your level of activity. You should be eating more on work out days than on rest days.
  • Muscle is only gained when the body is in an anabolic state. While not strictly necessary, supplements that help induce and enhance anabolic states are available at most fitness and nutrition centers.

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