The body is composed of muscle, fat, bone and water. It is muscle and fat that are the primary players in having a great body. To have a great, healthy body you need to increase your lean muscle mass and reduce your body fat. We will start with some of the myths, then go into some of the facts in building a great body.
The Myths of Muscle and Fat
Myth 1) Muscle weighs more than fat. Five pounds of muscle is equal to 5 lbs of fat, they weigh the same. However, the difference is the density of the two and how much space each will fill. Five pounds of muscle is denser and more compact. It would take 4lbs of muscle to fill the space of 1lb of fat. A person can have more weight of dense muscle and still look smaller than an individual that weighs less, but has more fat.
Myth 2) Eating fat will make you fat. If you are eating healthy fats such as olive oil, raw nuts or avocados these will keep you lean. The problem is the portion sizes. It is very easy to overeat nuts for example, consuming too many calories. Eating more calories than you burn will lead to fat storage. Consuming moderate amounts of healthy fats every day will help fill you up, so you are less likely to overeat.
Myth 3) Muscle can turn into fat and vice versa. The two tissues are entirely different and one cannot morph into the other. If you stop working out, your muscle fibers shrink and your fat cells can get bigger. The building (and breakdown) of muscle is based on how much and how often you use and challenge the muscle combined with nutrition to feed the muscle growth (protein). Fat cells increase in size due to an overabundance of calories in our diets.
Myth 4) You can spot reduce fat. Unfortunately, when you lose fat it comes from all over the body. You cannot pick one specific area to tone up (example – I want to lose fat from just the back of my legs), your body does not work that way. The areas that we have the largest amount of fat will take longer to see a significant difference due to the amount of fat we are trying to change.
Best ways to lose body fat and increase lean muscle
Fact 1) Watch your food intake. You need to eat more vegetables, fruit and lean protein, while minimizing if not eliminating processed, sugary, junk food. You need to follow a healthy nutrition plan that meets your goals and needs, and you need to consistently follow it 80% of the time.
Fact 2) You need to add strength training to your exercise program. The best way to add lean muscle mass is to lift weights. At least 2 to 3 times per week, using at least 8-10 exercises that work major muscle groups collectively. Use compound movements such as squat thrusters or barbell dead lifts. You also need to push yourself hard enough that challenges your body to perform a little bit more than it is used to working by the end of your exercise routine, where you physically can’t do it any more. Then all your muscle fibers will get the signal that they need to grow. You need to train consistently to add lean muscle mass that will change your body.
Fact 3) Make you cardio workouts intervals. Research has found interval training works best to burn more fat. Instead of doing long, low intensity elliptical type work, doing more metabolic, high intensity exercising reduces body fat and helps increase lean muscle mass. For example, jump rope for 60 seconds, rest for 20. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes. Groups of bodyweight exercises. For example, 10 burpees, to 10 air squats, to 10 mountain climbers, finishing with 10 squat jumps. Aim for 5-10 rounds.
Fact 4) Sleep more, aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. Your body recovers from all the stressors of the day while you are sleeping. If you don’t get enough sleep, it can increase the stress on your body and slow down your progress in reducing fat and increasing lean muscle.
Fact 5) Add a recovery day. If you are training hard every day without a day off, your body won’t be able to recover, you increase your chances injuries, and your muscles won’t have an opportunity to get stronger. A recovery day could be a long walk, a massage or a restorative yoga class.
Losing fat seems to get a lot of attention, but building muscle has a huge impact on your health and wellness. Not only will you get a great body, but adding muscle increases your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories at rest. Exercising will improve your cardiovascular capacity, so you can work out harder and longer. Building muscle will help you live longer which is a better predictor of longevity than BMI (height and weight) charts. The benefits of building a great body go further than just the outside visual aspects, you’ll be stronger, live longer, and feel better!
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