Hey Lifehacker, I've recently started going to the gym, but I'm finding it difficult trying to find a good workout/diet combination. What's the best combination for someone aiming to get rid of a bit of fat and putting on some muscle? Thanks, Future Fit.
So you want to go from bloated to buff, eh? Join the club. A recent global obesity study found that Australasians have the fastest growing waistlines in the world. Since 1980, obesity rates have leapt from 16 per cent to a whopping 29 per cent, while more than half of all Aussies are at least slightly overweight.
Unfortunately, combining weight loss and muscle growth into a single exercise regime is surprisingly complex. Body fat and muscle mass are two very different beasts -- fat is comprised of triglyceride molecules that enter your stomach and intestines when you eat food, while muscle mass is made up of chains of amino acids containing nitrogen.
You can't convert fat directly into muscle, no matter how hard you exercise. In fact, it's possible to be obese and muscular at the same time, as thousands of professional weightlifters and "strong man" contestants have demonstrated.
What you need is a strict fitness regime that combines healthy protein consumption with regular weight training. To begin with, you want to maintain a negative energy balance to reduce the excess fat on your body. This is achieved by consuming less energy than you’re using and will require you to count your daily kilojoules. There are plenty of fitness apps and gadgets that can help you to keep track and remain healthy -- read our fitness bands roundup for some suggestions.
Reducing your energy intake will help you to lose weight but is obviously less effective at putting on lean muscle mass. Building muscle requires regular resistance training combined with the consumption of protein-rich foods that exceed your total energy expenditure. You're probably better off concentrating on inducing fat loss first.
Once you're down to your optimal wight, you can start getting serious about the weights training and increase your portion sizes to consume more calories each day. (You can still focus on resistance-type exercise such as lifting weights, but you probably won't see significant muscle gains during the "negative energy" phase.)
It goes without saying that this is just general advice to give you something to think about. The reality is, you will need to speak to your GP and undergo a full health assessment to know where you stand. Also consider hiring a professional trainer and/or nutritionist who will be able to tailor a fitness regime to suit your specific needs.
If any readers have additional tips for losing weight and building muscle, let FF know in the comments section below.
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