How to lose body fat and retain muscle? Isn't that the general question that has plagued the fitness community? There are so many general answers to that one direct question. Have you found the one answer yet?
I teach balanced nutrition and training for fat loss, muscle retention, and increased health. I am not about extreme low-fat, extreme low-carbohydrates, or extreme high fat. My approach is to feed the body what it needs keep it healthy with a high metabolism.
What I would like to address right now are calories and fat loss. Many people are under the impression that calories must be drastically reduced to drop body fat. While calories do need to be managed to some degree, many people are going about it the wrong way.
Conventional Weight Loss
Are you familiar with the general formula of, "your body weight x 12", to establish your caloric content for a day? That formula will not establish anything except a setup for failure. It is very general and was designed as a quick fix for fast weight loss for those overweight.
Let's give that general formula a test drive. Let's say that you are 130 pounds and 18% body fat.
Your body weight x 12 is 1560
130 x 12 = 1560
That general formula states that you should consume 1560 calories to promote fat loss.
Finding the Formula That Works
If you are 130 pounds and 18% body fat, you have 23 pounds of fat and 107 pounds of muscle mass. With those stats, you need a minimum caloric intake of 1070 just for your body to function and survive (heart, lungs, brain, etc); this is not counting activities of daily living. One thousand seventy calories is your RMR (resting metabolic rate), the number of calories for your body to keep you alive. Any physical activity above this needs extra calories for fuel. Your body needs these added calories (food) to live, to survive, to fight off illnesses and diseases, to burn fat, to build muscle, and to aid in recovery.
Special Note: Fat loss plateaus are a result of extreme low calories!
Therefore, if you are 130 pounds, 18% body fat and holding 107 pounds of muscle mass, your RMR is 1070. Let's say you are very active. You work a physical job of working a day care chasing kids around all day and work out in the evening doing resistance training and cardio. That requires more calories obviously. For that physical activity level, you may need up to 1070 calories extra just to fuel your body, giving you a total daily caloric intake of 2140. (Multiply your lean body mass by 1 to get extra calories needed)
If you find this figure is too much after a week or two on this base, lower your calories 10%, to 1926 and see how your body responds to that. It may take a few weeks of trial and error, so don't throw in the towel if you don't see dramatic results overnight. You did not gain weight overnight, so it's not going to magically melt off overnight.
If you are slightly less active you can begin your caloric intake at 1712, giving you 642 extra calories to burn for activities of daily living. (Multiply your lean body mass by .6 to get extra calories needed for being slightly less active) From this figure, monitor your progress for a week or two and see which direction you need to go with your calories. Remember to give it at least a week or two to prove itself. Changes do not happen overnight.
If you want to lose body fat, begin deducting small caloric increments weekly from your BMR. You have to stay consistent for a week or two on any program. If you keep changing from one extreme to the next, you will lose control over your body and it will be in charge. Take back your control. Find out how much you should feed your body based on your lean body mass and activity level. Journal your meals and activity and give it time to take effect. Be consistent!! After a week or two of consistent scheduled meals and calories, make necessary tweaks on that. You have to control your body and force it to burn fat.
About The Author
Karen Sessions has been in the fitness industry since 1988 and is a certified personal fitness instructor and specialist in performance nutrition. She is a nationally qualified natural female bodybuilder, holding numerous titles in the southern states including two overalls.
Karen has written six e-books on fitness. She also writes articles for several fitness websites, and distributes two monthly newsletters regarding weight loss and female bodybuilding.