zen habits : breathe

How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

This is a guest post by Mehdi, author of StrongLifts.com.

After my previous post 7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit, Leo asked me to write an 8-week program to build muscle and lose fat.

However, I believe that to have long-term success, the plan must become your lifestyle. It must become a habit.

Therefore this article is not an 8-week program. It’s a list of simple ways to build muscle and lose fat. Tips that worked for me and my readers. And guess what: you will be able to build muscle and lose fat in 8 weeks using these tips.

Build Muscle. The fastest way to build muscle is to get stronger. The stronger you are, the stronger you’ll look. Get into strength training. Do barbell exercises that hit several muscles at the same time: Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press, etc.

Start with an empty barbell. Learn the exercise technique. Increase the weight gradually. If you don’t know where to start, check out the Beginner Strength Training Program: it takes 3 times 30 minutes a week.

Nutrition. You need solid nutrition to get stronger and build muscle. Keep the nutrition healthy and you’ll lose fat. Some tips:

Eat foods that come in their natural state. Avoid anything that comes out of a box. Avoid trans-fats. Limit junk food consumption to once a week. Quit drinking soda. These simple tips will make a big difference in a very short time.

Lose Fat.
Strength training will build muscle while decreasing your body fat. Eating healthy will further decrease your body fat. If you need to lose a lot of fat or if you’re impatient, these tips are for you:

Whatever you do: don’t starve yourself. Fat is emergency storage for your body. If you don’t eat your body will hold the fat and burn muscles. That’s the opposite of what you’re after. Only cut calories if you don’t progress.

Women. Building muscle, losing fat and strength training for women is same as for men. The only difference is women have other hormonal profiles than men. Meaning women will always have less muscle mass and more body fat than men.

But the approach is the same. Follow these tips and you’ll get results. You won’t get bulky if you don’t overeat and stay away from steroids.

Vegan & Vegetarian. Leo is a vegan, and other readers of Zen Habits are also vegans or vegetarians. You’ll find plenty of examples of vegans and vegetarians who built muscle. It can be done. But you might have less results than meat-eaters.

Red meat contains saturated fat and cholesterol which raises your testosterone levels. Testosterone is needed for muscle. Ask your doctor for a blood-test. Eat red meat for 2 months. Do another blood-test. Compare testosterone levels.

Eat lots of dairy products: milk, eggs and cheese if you’re vegetarian. Don’t let the fact that you’re vegan or vegetarian serve as excuse. You can build muscle.

Motivation. The best way to keep yourself motivated is to set goals & track your progress. The classic scale is not your best tool. Here are better ways.

I advise you to keep an online journal. Put it on Zen Habits Forums or on StrongLifts.com Forum. You’ll get feedback & you won’t feel alone anymore in what you’re trying to achieve.

Expectations. Don’t believe the hype in the magazines. You won’t get ripped in 8 weeks. However you can build muscle and lose fat in 8 weeks.

As I wrote in the leading: 8 weeks is a start. It learns you that you can transform your body if you want to. One of my readers lost 40lbs fat & built 20lbs muscle in 10 months at age 55. You can do it. If you want to. Persist and you’ll get there.

Mehdi is author of StrongLifts.com, a blog helping you build muscle & lose fat through strength training. Popular articles include the Beginner Strength Training Program and the Anabolic Diet.

Read more about simple productivity, focus and getting great things done in my book, The Power of Less.

Also see:

Become a breath-taking reader: rss | email | twitter