When it comes to weight loss, men and women are different. If we store fat in different parts of the body, and our bodies are different, and so are our hormones why would we be the same? A good example is testosterone, the muscle building hormone: men have higher levels of testosterone and thus have a higher muscle potential.
A pound of muscle burns between 35 to 50 calories a day. This means that if you gain one pound of muscle you burn up to extra 350 calories a week (one tenth of a pound), or over 5 pounds a year. Without changing your diet. Since we guys can build muscle faster, why not invest in building it?
You probably already know that there are two main types of exercise: cardio and weight training.
Dieters often focus on cardio: a session of cardio exercise burns more calories and it increases your metabolic rate for up to 2 days. Cardio also boosts stamina and general well being.
Strength training, on the other hand, burns less calories during the session. But for the next few days it burns more, as calories are spent to break down the muscle and then repair it and make it stronger. And unlike cardio exercise, strength training makes you gain muscle.
A good weight loss exercise program features both cardio and strength training, but usually it focus more on one or the other.
The traditional advice is to focus on cardio and when you don’t have that ugly fat (and for men that means as low as 3% fat) you can start focusing on building your muscles, because only then will they show.
Before that glorious moment where you reach an insanely low amount of fat, fat is covering your muscles and thus no matter how much muscle you put on you will still look flabby.
However, i’d like to argue in favor of a one month loading period. During one month you can easily gain a pound of muscle a week (assuming you are a man, women would have to limit their goals to half a pound), especially if you are not already loaded with muscle.
What this means is that if during the first month of your weight loss program you focus on building muscle then you can gain 200 extra calories per day which means you will burn 1400 extra calories a week, or about half a pound. Add that to a small adjustment in your diet and a cardio focused exercise program and after your loading period you will be able to lose 2 pounds a week easily.
Thus, during the first month of weight loss I recommend a weight gaining program! Sure you will be gaining weight, but you will feel much more energy and then you will be amazed at the record time you finally lose that stubborn fat.
What does a muscle gaining program look like?
For exercise focus on weight lifting. Free weights are best, especially with combination exercises, which are exercises that use your whole body instead of isolating a particular muscle. Lift as much weight as you can and have at least a rest day between workouts to allow your body to repair the muscles (you can do cardio or stretch during these rest days).
As an alternative to the rest day you can focus on the lower body in one day and the upper body in the next, but combination exercises are better if your ultimate goal is weight loss so you shoul focus on them in one day and then rest in the other.
For men over 40 it is recommended that you rest 2 days between muscle building workouts instead of one. Building muscle for you is harder, but the solution is resting more (the problem is your body can’t build muscle as fast as when you were younger) not working out more.
Nutrition is also very important.
First you want to drink plenty of water. You already know this is important for weigth loss but to gain muscle it is also very relevant: repairing muscle and processing protein consumes a lot of water
Then you should focus on increasing protein. Protein is necessary to build muscle and it puts your body in a positive nitrogen balance, necessary for muscle frowth. Use lean protein, like chicken, eggs, milk and turkey; you can also use protein shakes.
Now here is the catch – you need to increase calories. The only way your body will achieve optimal muscle gain is if you do. Eat 6 meals a day, especially after your workout, with a few more calories than your metabolic rate.
This may seem counterintuitive and counterproductive at first – you want to start losing weight immediately. But why not maximize your fat burning potential? You will only start losing weight in one month, but then you will lose it much faster, or you can eat like you do now and still lose weight.
But don’t forget that after this loading period you need to return to weight loss. Men tend to become obsessed with gaining muscle and forget that if they don’t lose the extra fat they will ultimately still look fat. Turn your focus to cardio training (though not abandoning strength), reduce calories, and keep the ultimate goal in mind.