Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time are often seen as mutually exclusive goals. This need not be the case but if it’s not happening for you naturally you may need to be more strategic with your nutrition and lifestyle. Much of which involves doing the basics well and consistently.
1.Optimise your insulin response
In terms of gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously being sensitive to the effects of insulin is paramount. Individuals with a high degree of insulin sensitivity are those who seem to be able to eat whatever the want, stay lean and put muscle on effortlessly. Conversely, insulin resistance aside from predisposing a number of degenerative conditions, will promote fat gain and decrease your ability to build muscle.
Without doubt some people are genetically gifted in this department but there are numerous things you can do to stack the cards in your favour.
Get your high starch, high energy carbs around your training. The rest of the time get your carbs form low sugar fruits and high nutrient fibrous vegetables. This alone is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do alter your body composition quickly. The leaner you get and the harder you train, the more carbs you’ll be able to utilise effectively. The reverse is also true.
When it comes to protein, quality is foremost. If the animal you eat isn’t eating it’s natural diet don’t expect the best results.
Balance omega 3 to omega 6 ratio by supplementing with good quality fish oils.
Cover your basics by supplementing with magnesium, zinc and vitamin D. These are all necessary for optimal insulin metabolism.
Eat adequate high quality fats in the form of cold water fish, avocado, raw nuts, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and macadamia nut oil
Eliminate processed sugar, confectionary and “Frankenfoods”
Get adequate sleep - see below
Train intensely - see below
2. Give your body a reason to change
Your body is built for adaptation, use this in your favour. Funny how this seemingly simple self-evident fact gets forgotten or overlooked. If you’ve ever seen someone start a job where they do a lot of manual labour such as concreting you’ll have witnessed this firsthand. The first couple of months to a year they can stack on muscle and torch through fat at an unbelievable rate. Fast forward a few years - assuming no other training or nutritional intervention - and you’ll see them gain fat and regress physically.
If the physical stimulus is the same why does this happen? The simple answer is the body adapts to facilitate survival not appearance. In the example of our labourer, once the initial adaptations have occurred the body will do whatever it can to make it easier and conserve energy. Constantly adapting and physically remodelling is an energy expensive biological exercise. This also explains why the 5k run you might have started a few years back doesn’t seem to do much anymore. Metabolic adaptations to steady state cardio happen quite quickly but that’s another post altogether.
Train harder. No one ever achieved an amazing body flopping around on an informercial machine for a few minutes or just going through the motions. Not to be coy but if you’re current training isn’t stimulating change, you’re not being challenged. Find someone who is training harder than you are now and train with them.
Focus on using your training to put muscle where you want it and let the nutrition take care of the fat loss.
Planned variation. All high-end training protocols share the principle of planned variation. Whether you periodise between weeks of accumulation and intensification or use a rotational style of training like Neil Hill’s Y3T, plan some basic variation into your training.
Get out of your comfort zone with different training styles. Whether it’s track sprints, swimming, adult gymnastics or Bikram yoga, throw something different into your schedule. Once you’ve adapted change the variables or move onto something else altogether.
If you want a free dose of all natural anti-ageing, fat-burning, rejuvenating hormones get some quality sleep. No supplement, diet or training program can replace healthy sleep but how many people really get it? The truth is lack of sleep has become a commonly accepted fact of modern living to the point where insomnia is worn like a badge of honour.
Here’s how to sleep better:
Start each day with a shot of lemon juice and 1/4 tsp himalayan rock salt to optimise the cortisol cycle. Cortisol should be naturally higher in the morning and slowly taper off throughout the day.
Allow some time to wind down at night. Turn down the lights, turn off the all electronic devices and give your brain and body some time to relax.
Sleep in a pitch black, cool room with as little noise as possible.
Eliminate caffeine after 2:00pm
Ditch the alcohol
Don’t train intensely within 3 hours of going to sleep. A walk is fine.
Don’t take work and worry to bed.
Remove phones, tablets or laptops from the bedroom.
Supplement with magnesium prior to bed and/or have a soak in epsom salts