How to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle with Weightlifting and Good Nutrition

Enhance your training, transform your body and optimise your fitness.

How to lose fat whilst maintaining muscle mass? Its a tricky question, but with the right combination of nutrition and weightlifting workouts, it can be achieved. This article will provide you firstly with nutrition tips and understanding, then a selection of weightlifting workouts to burn fat and improve your skills, strength and ability. Make sure to choose the right equipment for weightlifting.

One of the most desired dreams of average gym goers and athletes is learning how to lose fat whilst building muscle mass. The body cannot turn fat into muscle, however, it can enhance fat burning while maintaining lean muscle mass by choosing the right diet and exercises with strength components. Weightlifting is an excellent way to help achieve this goal. 

The first law of thermodynamics states: When energy passes, as work, as heat, or with matter, into or out from a system, the system’s internal energy changes in accord with the law of conservation of energy. It means that the body cannot produce more energy than it gets, which rules out building muscle and losing fat at the same time.

However, our body is an adaptable organism and this adaptability is managed by hormones. In a hormonally favourable environment, the body can switch into a mode where it preserves muscle mass and uses stored fat for energy.

BURN FAT

The main hormone responsible for directing energy into muscles is insulin produced by the pancreatic cells. When the muscle cells are refilled, insulin directs the excess energy into fat stores. Insulin blood level can be manipulated by diet, activity and sometime it is the result of medical conditions, such as diabetes. Therefore insulin sensitivity is the key to losing fat while building muscle mass.

Insulin is released into the blood, when there is too much sugar. Low carbohydrate intake keeps the sugar low and insulin is not triggered, therefore it won’t store the excess energy in fat tissue. Insulin sensitivity can also by improved by exercise. According to a study published in the Journal of Sport Medicine, a single bout of exercise can increase insulin sensitivity for up to 16 hours post workout.

HOW TO LOSE FAT AND IMPROVE PERFORMANCE – WHEN TO EAT CARBS

Before workout the athlete loads up on carbs in order to provide energy into the working muscles. Many professional athletes manipulate the carb intake during the day. Cutting out junk food and including more natural food, fruits and vegetables will help you produce positive changes in your body composition.

Several studies showed positive fat loss results while maintaining muscle mass on a low carb diet. The body maintains its energy requirements by using the fat stores. Sufficient protein intake is essential and supplementation with BCAA can prevent muscle breakdown and improve insulin sensitivity.

Obviously, you can afford a low-carb approach if you do a sedentary job and hit the gym 2-3 times a week. But a professional athlete must include more carbs in his diet to fuel the multiple workouts. However the idea of cleaning up the diet and focusing on quality foods applies universally.

BUILD MUSCLE

Testosterone is important for the growth processes in the body, including building muscle mass. Any type of exercise increases testosterone levels but lifting weights has bigger effect. It was proved by research on exercise physiology at the University of Southern California (USC). Dr. Todd Schroeder, associate professor at USC, listed heavier loads and shorter rest periods as the main testosterone boosters. Apart from building muscle mass, testosterone, improves body´s efficiency to burn fat.

Intensive workout uses up the energy stored in the muscles and also breaks down the muscle fibers. Naturally, they respond to this stimulus by repairing themselves in order to get stronger and more resistant. Sufficient dose of protein, which is the main building block, and healthy fats that take action in healing mechanisms, is needed. Therefore protein intake of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight is recommended, while also focusing on healthy fats, such as fish oil.

HOW TO LOSE FAT AND MAINTAIN MUSCLE WITH WEIGHTLIFTING

Intensive workouts cause that the metabolism to continue working at faster speed for hours even after the workout has finished. Drop sets, supersets, complexes and interval training are all great formats to call out the hormonal response and to increase the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR). It also results in the post-exercise after burn effect, when your metabolism stays elevated up to 36 hours post workout. 

Barbell exercises such as squats, deadlifts, presses and weightlifting have huge muscle recruitment potential. Dynamic movements activate the fast-twitch fibres, stimulation of which is important for strength and speed development. By practicing them with heavy load (squats, deadlifts) or at high speed (cleans, snatches) your body is using large part of the muscle fibres. Adaptation mechanisms cause that you won´t lose the mass because it is required for the performance. 

A stable base for lifting is essential. Choose the right equipment to support your training.

How to lose fat – These principles are also used in weightlifting style functional fitness workouts. They leave practically no time for recovery in between the sets, which forces the body to adapt to the conditions. When controlled, these changes can have positive effects on losing body fat and building work capacity of the organism.

Add the following workouts into your programming. 

WEIGHTLIFTING WORKOUT WITH EMPTY BAR

This EMOM will look easy at first glance, but you will regret that thought once you are half way through. Don’t put the barbell down for the entire 20 minutes. This has the additional benefit of fatiguing your grip strength as well.

  • Complete as many rounds as possible in 20 mins with an empty bar:
  • 5 Deadlifts 45/35 (ie. the bar)
  • 5 Hang cleans
  • 5 Push presses
  • 5 Back squats

TIP: Learning your preferred positions to ‘rest’ while staying under load/tension for long sets is crucial. This will help tremendously when working with heavier sets.

HOW TO LOSE FAT – THE BEAR COMPLEX

An infamous and punishing workout, this will test your strength, power transference, technique and mental toughness.

  • 5 rounds for load
  • Complete 7 unbroken sets of this complex:
  • 1 power clean
  • 1 front squat
  • 1 push press
  • 1 back squat
  • 1 push press

CrossFit-Athlete

Rules

Complete all 5 movements to complete 1 repetition of the complex.

Complete the complex 7 times, unbroken (without letting go of the bar or resting it on the ground) to complete 1 round.

Complete 5 unbroken rounds, increasing the weight and resting as needed between each round. Score is max weight used for your 5th unbroken round.

THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT FOR WEIGHTLIFTING

The adidas Powerlift 4 continues the lineage of this hugely popular training shoe. The high-density die-cut midsole wedge is weightlifting-specific, and I found that it provided me with great stability when lifting.

Lace closure with a hook-and-loop instep strap combines to create a custom lockdown fit. 

The strap is easy to lock into place and does not come undone once fastened. I tested these through weightlifting workouts, bodyweight WODs including pistols, air squats and wall balls alongside heavy strength training sessions. They felt stable, secure and responsive in every setting.

The open forefoot and flexible toe design offer breathable comfort and feel much more responsive than many other weightlifting shoes. The canvas upper allows for movement without any loss of stability. 

SNATCH PARTNER WORKOUT

  • 5 minute AMRAP
  • 61 kg (135 lb) power snatches
  • The first person completes 5 snatches while the other rests. Alternate like this for the full 5 minutes.

SNATCH LADDER

MEN – includes Masters Men up to 54 years old

Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:

34 kg (75 lbs) Snatch, 30 reps
61 kg (135 lbs) Snatch, 30 reps
75 kg (165 lbs) Snatch, 30 reps
95 kg (210 lbs) Snatch, as many reps as possible

WOMEN – includes Masters Women up to 54 years old

Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:

20 kg (45 lbs) Snatch, 30 reps
34 kg (75 lbs)  Snatch, 30 reps
45 kg (100 lbs) Snatch, 30 reps
54 kg (120 lbs)  Snatch, as many reps as possible

Learn how to lose fat – The combination of heavy loads, multi-joint exercises and intensity switches the body into a fat burning mood while preserving active muscle mass.

Combined with diet rich in protein and healthy fats with limiting carbohydrates, it has synergic effect on the body´s ability to maintain muscle mass while burning fat. Imporve your training now. 

How to Lose Fat

SOURCES

  1. Schroeder ET. and col., Are acute post-resistance exercise increases in testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 necessary to stimulate skeletal muscle anabolism and hypertrophy?, Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013
  2. Anssi H Manninen, Very-low-carbohydrate diets and preservation of muscle mass, Nutr Metab (Lond). 2006
  3. Borghouts LB, Keizer HA., Exercise and insulin sensitivity: a review, Int J Sports Med. 2000