How many times have you heard the question: How do I lose fat while preserving muscle at the same time? With summer about to hit full swing, there's no question that this is the hottest of "squat-rack talk" topics. And just like every other testosterone-charged male, you've already started your hardcore diet to develop the kind of head-turning muscle that demands attention.
For many people, getting shredded can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, by dieting, you'll reveal a killer six-pack, tons of deep cuts and ultra-fine striations.
But if you're not careful, you'll probably lose a ton of your hard-earned muscle in the process. Does this sound familiar? Then you need to pay serious attention to what you're about to read. Follow these tips and this summer you'll be more shredded... and bigger... than ever!
Carb Timing Is Everything
The biggest mistake that dieters make is drastically cutting their carbs or going on the infamous "zero carb" diet for long stretches at a time. You'll definitely lose weight by restricting your carbs, but not only will you feel weaker and look softer, you'll also sacrifice your precious muscle in the process.
Without carbs, your body seeks other sources of energy and one of the first places it turns is your muscles! Eating the right kind of carbohydrates and knowing when to eat them is key to ensuring positive metabolic activity and replenishing muscle glycogen stores for greater energy.
For starters, you need a good source of slow-digesting carbohydrates to fuel and sustain your muscles. Refined carbs such as white potatoes, sugar and white bread rapidly spike insulin levels and overload your system with a ton of nutrients - potentially leading to fat storage.
Slow-acting carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes are perfect for dieters as they provide a slow, steady release of nutrients.
It's also critical that you break up your carbs evenly over 6-7 meals per day to regulate your blood sugar levels. The only time that you should be consuming fast-digesting carbs is immediately post-workout when your glycogen levels are depleted and your body needs to quickly re-charge for maximum recovery and growth.
Cycle Your Carbs
Now that you know the importance of carbohydrate timing, another popular and effective carb manipulation method that will melt fat fast and maintain muscle is carb cycling. Typically, carb cycling involves maintaining a low to zero carbohydrate diet for anywhere between 3-4 days followed by a high carbohydrate diet for 1-2 days and then repeating the cycle.
The premise behind carb cycling is that you deplete your carbohydrate stores, allowing your body to exhaust muscle glycogen and burn body fat. Then, to prevent excessive lean muscle loss or catabolism, replenish glycogen stores by eating starchy carbohydrates. Repeat this cycle for as long as it takes to achieve your desired goals.
Generally, people following this diet are able to cut 1-2 pounds per week and, most importantly, are able to avoid a prolonged catabolic state associated with long-term low-carb diets.
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Fat Isn't Your Enemy
The biggest misconception is that fat consumption should be avoided at all costs while dieting. Of course, you want to stay away from sources of saturated and trans fats, but your body still needs essential fatty acids.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats in particular support a number of important physiological processes. Essential fatty acids also aid in increasing immune system support. Cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout and sardines as well as extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil and almonds are excellent sources of healthy fats.
Protein Is Paramount
When on a low-carb diet, nothing is more important to maintaining lean muscle and promoting an anabolic state than protein. Your protein intake should be approximately 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, for example, if you weigh 185 pounds, you need to consume between 185 to 278 grams of protein per day.
While trying to hit that amount, be sure to include the highest bio-available protein source on the planet, whey protein. A whey protein supplement is an excellent way to increase your protein intake throughout the day. But beware, not all protein supplements are created equal.
Choose a protein supplement that has an advanced nitrogen delivery system designed to maximize amino acid peptide delivery and sensitize muscles for maximum protein uptake.
In fact, researchers at a third-party laboratory compared an advanced whey protein formula that's engineered to harness the muscle-building powers of both insulin and nitric oxide to regular whey. Researchers found that the advanced formula was able to build a great deal more muscle in just 28 days (2.74 vs 0.11 lbs.).
Amino Acids: Critical To Maintaining Anabolism
Ask yourself: when you diet, do you ever feel like your muscles are soft and flat? Isn't the point of dieting supposed to be to reveal shredded, rock-hard muscle? Well if this is the case, you're not alone! The answer is simple, you're just not anabolic enough.
To maintain the dense, shredded, muscular look you need to maintain a positive nitrogen balance as well as stimulate maximum anabolic activity - which is incredibly difficult to maintain when restricting calories and nutrient intake. Consuming carbs, protein and fat is absolutely essential, but it isn't enough! That's why it's important to take an amino acid supplement.
In a clinical study conducted at the University of Texas, researchers discovered an exclusive amino acid blend that, in conjunction with a carbohydrate solution, caused a shocking increase in muscle uptake of a key marker of protein synthesis (phenylalanine), which is muscle growth occurring at the cellular level!
On top of that, dramatically elevated phenylalanine uptake was also observed by researchers from blood samples taken one hour later, indicating that accelerated muscle growth was still occurring at the cellular level. With a superior amino acid supplement, you'll be able to increase anabolic activity for a prolonged period of time.
Nothing is harder than getting shredded while maintaining your hard-earned muscle. It's the dream sought by many, but attained by few. Now that you're armed with a little knowledge on how to get a rock-solid, peeled-to-the-bone physique, go ahead and grab the swimming trunks and get ready to hit the beach!
By incorporating all or even some of these tips into your plan of attack, you can be certain that you'll achieve your ultimate goals - fast!
- Swain, M., et al. (2000). J. Amer. Coll. Nutr, 19(5)A706.
- Tipton, Kevin, et al. (2001). Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 281, E197-E206.