Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Building Muscle, Burning Fat

You may have heard that you can't build muscle and burn fat at the same time- if you haven't, well it's the truth. Your body can only do one thing efficiently - and that's why weighing yourself every morning doesn't make sense. I've mentioned it before in a previous article, but I'll say it again- measuring your body fat (with calipers, preferably) on a weekly basis is the smartest thing you can do if you want to measure your progress.

The scale takes into account water, muscle and fat - And there's no way to differentiate what was lost or gained over the course of a day. Your weight fluctuates up to 5 or 6 pounds from when you wake up to the evening. Body Fat calipers, when measured each week, can show whether the weight you put on is fat or muscle.

But, I digress. My point here is to establish the difference between fitness goals. Most people will state their health goals as "wanting to be more toned" or "lose 30 pounds." And while these are worthy goals, they're not fully informed. I used to think that weighing myself every day and limiting calories, while doing TONS of cardio would help me get that toned, slim look.

Something like that. I'm here to explain that anything those fitness magazines and infomercials, fat loss pill promises and fad diets are all false. The body doesn't work like that - unless you have amazing genetics, which very few of us do.

The trick to getting a toned, slim physique is simple. It's science. It requires a basic knowledge of physiology, of understanding the process of what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat, and then coupling this with practice of a solid workout program that combines weight lifting and cardio.

Now, it does get confusing out there- some people, websites, and publications will tell you to do high intensity cardio, others will say medium-intensity. Some claim that you should lift with supersets or circuits, while others will pressure you into pyramid plyometrics. The end result becomes an uneducated individual incorporating all of these different programs in an attempt to shred a few pounds of fat.

The point is these weight lifting and dieting tips are ALL correct - the problem is, it depends on what your goals are in what you should be doing. This is known to most fitness junkies as cycling.

Cycling is the idea of putting your body through phases - muscle gain, fat loss, or maintanence. The trick is knowing which one you want to do, and then executing a plan that will get you towards this goal.

I'm a very visual learner, so I thought I'd put some pictures in here to clarify my point. Here is my body when I was doing tons of cardio, some weight training, and basically limiting my calories in the hopes of bringing my weight down:

 I may be slim, but where's the tone?!? This was before I understood how to properly cycle- that is, gain muscle for a period of time, and then burn it off with a fat loss cycle directly after.

Here's another picture of me, during a muscle (or "bulking") phase. I gained about 5-6 pounds during this phase, and did it in about 2 months:

You can see some definite weight gain. I look, and feel, "puffy." But, I know it's all muscle because I used my body fat measurements and ate clean 100%, so I knew I was only putting good, clean food into my system. This is very important- I can't stress this enough.

Now, here's my body at the end of a fat loss cycle. I used calorie cycling, along with plyo-circuits and HIIT cardio to slim down the fat I had left on my body:

I hope this helps you understand the importance of knowing how to cycle through training programs in order to attain a particular look. You can tell when I am building muscle, I do not look toned. When I cut down into a fat loss cycle, I do get a more toned look.

Here's one last look - the pictures on the LEFT are the very beginning of a BUILDING CYCLE. The pictures on the RIGHT are the very end of the CUTTING CYCLE- there is exactly a 90 day difference between the photos on the left and on the right:

The important thing to remember is - YOU MUST build muscle FIRST before you can CUT DOWN in order to get a "toned" look.

1 comment:

Modified GRF 1-29 said...

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Hi! I 'm Karlene Murphy. A lover of food (especially if it's gluten and dairy free!), getting outdoors, lifting weights, travel, writing, and snuggling with my two puppies. My addictions include chocolate, coffee, cookies, and sharing my love of being HAPPY and HEALTHY! My passion is educating others - whether at my full time job as a high school Psychology teacher, or with YOU my readers. I have been in the fitness wold for almost 10 years, and currently am an Online Fitness Coach, Fitness Instructor, Pilates and Yoga and Aerial Yoga Instructor in Southern New Hampshire. Contact Me if you need help with designing your own fitness and nutrition program.

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