A diet plan to lose fat and gain muscle can include two main components: Control calories and provide the right amount of essential nutrients. Balanced nutrition and sufficient calorie intake are critical, because without them metabolism decreases, leading to stored fat. In the same way, the body can't produce muscle tissue without adequate supplies of nutrients. A well-rounded diet consisting of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, combined with resistance training and aerobic exercise, can be a sensible, healthy way to lose fat and build muscle.
Get Adequate Protein
Protein is essential to building muscle. Protein also burns fat because it has a higher thermogenic, or heat-producing, effect during digestion. Body builders recommend consuming 1 g of protein per pound of body weight daily. Focus on low-fat sources of protein, including fish, lean meat, chicken and dairy products.
Don't Skimp on Carbs
Low-carb diets are popular because people who use them can experience some results quickly. This is because your body burns glycogen when carbohydrates are restricted. Glycogen has a high water content, so this initial weight loss is primarily water weight. Results are temporary and health problems can develop over time. The Mayo Clinic website recommends eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains to ensure balanced nutrition while dieting.
Reduce Sugar and Saturated Fat
The way to lose fat is to burn more calories than the body consumes. To lose fat and build muscle, both exercise and calorie consciousness are required. An easy and healthy way to cut excess calories without sacrificing nutrition is to avoid processed foods. Most contain a great deal of sugar, salt and saturated fat, none of which further your goal of losing fat and building muscle. Introducing dietary changes gradually will make the transition easier.
Start the Day Right
Always eat breakfast. Metabolism slows down when the body has been deprived of food for an extended period. Breakfast kick-starts metabolism and provides the nutrients your body needs to function optimally. Breakfast---and every meal throughout the day---should include both low-fat protein and a serving of complex carbohydrates. Vegetable omelets are one option, and protein shakes can be substituted in a pinch.
Timing Is Everything
According to fitness writer Damien Mase, when and how you eat is important. Eating six small meals instead of three per day is one option; the steady supply of nutrients serves several purposes. First, it can raise metabolism, to burn fat more efficiently. Second, it provides a constant source of energy, which helps ensure that what you eat is used as fuel rather than stored as fat. An added benefit of these regularly spaced, smaller meals is that between-meal hunger, cravings and the temptation to overeat are lessened.
What to Expect
Within several weeks of beginning your healthy eating and exercise regime, you should start to feel more energetic, without the peaks and dips that characterize a high-carb, low-activity lifestyle. Small physical changes will emerge, and you may see a few pounds slip away. By the sixth week of your new program, you may find you've lost 6 to 12 lbs. of fat and may have developed noticeable muscle tone. As with any new health care regime, seek the advice of a medical professional before getting started.
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