I must get asked these questions a hundred times when training members at the gym or during initial assessments with potential clients. Can I lose fat and gain muscle at the same time? Are they one in the same or completely exclusive? How do I get rid of these “love handles” and mid-section weight? What is the best program for me to lose weight but still maintain strength and muscular definition? All of these are very valid and well thought out questions as you know they have been a concern to these people for an extended period of time. I usually take a two step approach when responding as I find it very effective in accurately answering their questions. My first response is to get a better understanding of the person and what their past has been like in terms of injuries and physical exercise? What goals and aspirations do they have? What motivates them and what do they enjoy doing? In using articulate probing questions, you build a rapport with the client while also providing valuable information to structure a suitable program. Indeed it would be easier to have a “cookie cutter” paradigm but each individual is unique and every body type and past experience requires a program that is specific to their requirements.
The second approach involves describing how the body works and the intricate details of our complex human anatomy. I have been fortunate enough throughout my coaching career to help many clients lose a great deal of weight while also building lean muscle that makes them look better, feel healthier and be functionally sound. This is by no means an easy process but very rewarding for the individual and their extended family. To my knowledge and based on scientific evidence, you cannot convert a fat cell to a muscle cell. They are exclusive of one another. Therefore, you will need a high percentage of aerobic/cardio exercise built into your routine complemented with an appropriate nutrition plan. The second part of your program will also rely on more anaerobic exercises that allow your muscle fibers time to stretch and grow. By concentrating on specific body parts, you will be able to lift heavier weight and really pack on some dense muscle. The real caveat is in tying these two mutually exclusive styles into one program for the client. This can be done splitting days throughout the week where a couple of them are metabolic/functional augmented with cardiovascular activity and a couple of them are body part centric to really enhance the muscle cells. You can also do this by having the client perform a type of “Crossfit” program where you mix them in together on the same day. This will yield a continuous program where the heart rate is elevated throughout the session while still lifting your bodyweight or other apparatus in the gym. You see the more muscle you put on, the greater the propensity to burn overall calories. As we all know, a calorie is simply a unit of energy.
The final point that must be made when it comes to losing fat and the unwanted “love handles” is to develop a proper nutrition plan. You can spend countless hours at the gym with resistance training and cardiovascular activity but you really won’t achieve the results you want unless you are cognizant of the food you eat. This involves the calculated balance between proteins, carbohydrates and fats. This will differ for some people but a general relationship is 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. You can’t necessarily target train the fat around your midsection but proper aerobic activity (fat burning zone) couple with abdominal building exercises and healthy food will propel you forward and have you looking healthy and fit.
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