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Lose Fat and Keep the Muscle in 6 easy steps
By Frank Melfa of bodybuildingbyfrank.com

If your goal is to lose some fat, but keep your muscle, then following these 6 easy steps can help you reach that goal. Also, your bodyweight may not always be a good indicator of fitness. You can be a male weighing 170 pounds at 5 foot 9, but your bodyfat is 30%! I?d rather see you at 180 pounds of solid muscle. In that case, you should know your bodyfat percentage. You can read about that later in this article. In the mean time here are those 6 easy steps. You just need to consistently follow through on them.

Lose Fat and Keep the Muscle in 6 easy steps

  1. Restricts fat intake.
  2. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day
  3. Try to eat more protein and less carbohydrates
  4. Avoid meals after 8:00 p.m.
  5. Exercise with weights.
  6. Incorporate aerobic activity such as biking, jogging, or stair climbing.

Restrict Fat Intake: To lose fat, you need to first restrict your fat intake. Remember, one gram of fat is about 9-11 calories compared to 4 calories for every gram of carbohydrate or protein. Also, if you are taking in excess calories from protein and carbohydrates, then they too will be stored as fat.

Below is a list of foods high in fat and low fat substitutes. Many fattening foods are now replaceable with non-fat or low-fat alternatives. They may not taste quiet as good, but are good enough to satisfy your palate. Once you make the change, your taste buds will not recognize the difference. For example, when you substitute skim milk for whole milk, you will not even remember how whole milk tastes. More importantly, you will be restricting your fat intake substantially by making a few changes. For example, by substituting skim milk, no fat margarine, and no fat salad dressing, you already cut out about 20 grams of fat! That is 200 calories by three simple and realistic substitutes.

Foods high in fat

Potato chips, nuts
butter
margarine
peanut butter
mayonnaise
whole milk
cheese
salad dressing
bacon or sausage
French Fries
rich sauces
pizza

Substitute

pretzels
jam or all fruit jelly
Non fat margarine
low fat peanut butter
low fat or non fat
skim milk or 1% milk
cheese made with skim milk
non fat dressings
lean red meat
baked potatoes
canned tomatoes
pizza with no cheese

Eating small, frequent meals will help speed up your metabolism (Metabolism is how fast and frequent your body burns calories), but more importantly, you will be eating less. Your body uses small portions of food more efficiently preventing most of it to be stored as fat.

Try to eat more protein and less carbohydrates: I?m sure everyone has heard of the Atkins Diet by now. With this diet, you eat only protein and fat and virtually no carbohydrates.I believe in the concept of this diet, but I don?t believe in totally restricting carbohydrates. If your goal is to increase muscle tone or size as well as lose weight and fat, then you need complex carbohydrates in your diet to help fuel your workouts and tone muscle. I think the Atkins diet works because most people consume a great amount of carbohydrates and little protein. As a result of eaating no carbohydrates, you consume fewer total calories which results in weight loss. Anyway, to keep it simple, just try to eat at least 3 protein meals per day. For example,

Breakfast: 3 eggwhites, one whole egg, and2 ricecakes
Lunch: chicken on a Pita
Dinner: burger with cheese and no bread

Don?t? eat after 8:00 pm: Consume your calories during the most active times of your day. If you are a nine-to-five person, avoid meals after 8:00 p.m. Most people skip breakfast, eat a quick lunch, eat a huge dinner, and end with late night snack. Eating breakfast immediately jump starts your metabolism in the morning. The lack of eating during the day causes your body's metabolism to shut down wanting to preserve energy and fat rather than burn it. By dinner, you are probably starving and ready to eat a horse. The huge dinner and late night snacking overload your digestive system with food that your body cannot possibly break down and use. Even low-fat foods in large quantities will eventually get stored as fat.

Lifting weights will help increase your muscle density. People with more muscle have an easier time losing fat. Muscle requires more energy than fat for the body to sustain. Fat just lies there getting fatter while muscles use energy and burn calories. A pound of fat contains 3500 calories and burns 2 calories a day to sustain itself. A pound of muscle contains 700 calories and burns 75 calories to sustain itself. There?s no guarantee that lifting weights will make you lose fat. You still need to eat right. You do not need to lift heavy weights; use light to moderate weights.

Aerobic exercise is an important catalyst to losing fat, but once again, without the right eating plan it will be difficult regardless of the amount of exercise you do. Exercises such as stair climbing, biking, jogging, and rowing, combined with a good eating and weight lifting plan can prove to be an effective strategy to losing fat. Twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week is more than enough.

Measuring Body Fat

Your body composition is basically made up of lean mass and fat mass. Lean body mass includes your muscles, bones, and internal organs. Fat mass is well, fat.

Although I think using a scale is a common sense approache to measuring weight loss or weight gain, it doesn?t measure fat loss or body composition. Even so, I?m willing to bet that if you are overweight, and a scale shows that you lost 20 pounds, I can guarantee you lost fat.

The most commonsense approach to measuring fat loss is to just look at yourself in the mirror. If you notice that you lost your love handles after working out consistently and eating right then who cares what the scale reads. The optimum thing you want to do is maximize your fat loss and minimize your muscle loss.

Why do we need to measure our body composition if you can simply look in the mirror?

I guess the answer to that question depends on your goals. If you are an athlete or bodybuilder, I still think that the commonsense approach is best. Most likely, you will have so little fat on your body, that you will be able to see if you are losing fat rather than muscle. When I competed in bodybuilding contests, the mirror told me the entire story. But if you just want to fulfill your curiosity and find out approximately how much of your body is fat, then you need a body composition test. To tell you the truth, I was very curious myself and had one performed before I started losing weight for a contest and one when I lost the weight. But I?ll tell you more about that later. If you are obese and losing weight then you want to be sure that most of your weight loss is fat and not muscle. This is a good reason to want a body composition test.

Before we get into the most accurate methods of measuring body fat or body composition, I would first like to define the terms, overweight and obesity.

Although overweight and obesity are related terms they do differ in meaning. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tables (universally used) define overweight as an excess amount of total body weight whereas obesity refers only to excess body fat. This helps us explain why a muscular person with very little body fat can be overweight, but not obese. For example, during the off season of my bodybuilding career, I consistently weighed well over 200 pounds at only five feet eight inches tall, but I only carried about 12% body fat.

Even though I wasn?t obese, I was overweight. Studies show that overweight and obese people die sooner than people who are not. Even though my body fat was only 12%, I still ran a long term health risk. My heart worked much harder at 215 pounds than at my current body weight of 170 pounds.

There are three common methods for calculating body fat or body composition:

  • Underwater weighing or Hydrostatic Weighing
  • Bioelectrical Impedance
  • Skinfolds Calipers

As I indicated before, your body composition is made up of lean body mass (muscles, bones, organs) and fat mass. The results of these tests provide you with a number that represents a percentage of your body fat in relation to your body composition. For example, a result that reads 19% body fat, means that 19% of your body consists of fat. The remaining 81% is lean body mass.

Underwater weighing is the most accurate way to measure body fat. You are lowered from a swing into a special water filled tank. Before entering the water, the air in your lungs needs to be exhaled. Your body weight under water is compared to your regular body weight.

The concept here is that because lean body mass is heavier than fat, it sinks while fat floats. With the use of scientific formulas, your body composition is determined. This method is not only expensive, up to $150, but is not easily accessible.

Bioelectrical impedance can also be very accurate if performed properly and it is more accessible than underwater weighing.. Electrodes are attached to the ankles and wrists for an electrical current to run through your body. The concept here is that electricity runs through lean body mass easier than through fat. So, the easier the current runs through the body, the less body fat you have. The machine itself works like a computer and provides you with a printed copy of the results. This method maybe available at most health clubs for a fee ranging from $10 to $20 dollars each time.

I used this method to calculate my body fat before I started dieting for my contest and again a few days prior. On January 8, 1990 I weighed 205 pounds. My body fat was 13% or 26 pounds of fat. I was 87% lean or 179 pounds of lean body mass. On April 11, 1990 I weighed 172 pounds. My body fat was 2% with only 4 pounds of fat. I was 98% lean with 168 pounds of lean body mass. I can?t say this is healthy, but necessary for bodybuilding.

The most common method for measuring body fat is with skinfolds calipers. I also used this method to confirm the results of the bioelectrical impedance. This method is performed by pinching and measuring the fat from certain areas on the body. The sum of these pinched sites determines your body fat by scaling them according to sex and age.

The most common sites pinched:

  • Back of the Triceps
  • Below the Scapula
  • Abdomen, near the naval
  • The suprailliac, located above the hip bone
  • Chest, between the nipple and shoulder
  • The middle of the thigh

The accuracy of this method depends on the person who conducts it, and the calipers. The pinched sites need to be accurately measured. If you use this method, try to have the same evaluator perform the procedure for consistency and accuracy. The calibration of the skinfolds calipers can also determine accuracy as well. If the needle is not set exactly on "0" it will affect the accuracy of the results, similarly as if a scale is not calibrated properly.

A good caliper could cost well over $100. You can buy a pair inexpensively for about $20 with a respectable amount of accuracy. One home testing kit called, Accu-Measure is an inexpensive, and convenient way to measure your body fat. It comes equipped with a durable skinfold caliper, easy to follow instructions, and a body fat interpretation chart. It is simple and accurate because you only need to measure one area of your body, the suprailliac. The suprailliac, is an area where most of us carry fat, located about one inch above your hip bone. (See below for ordering one). Also available is the Digital Bodyfat Caliper that offers even more accuracy and is also easy to use. See below.

Other sites measured such as the biceps or the pectorals, do not carry as much fat.

Diet is the main determinant of fat. Research has shown that less than two percent of obesity in the United States is linked to dysfunctional glands. Fat is decreased through proper dieting and exercise.

You can not spot reduce fat on the body. Some people think that exercising a certain area of the body will rid the fat from that area. Unfortunately, that is not possible. Sit ups and other abdominal exercises will not give you a leaner stomach. It will help firm the muscles, but not the fat. Fat is not capable of being firmed. Unless you get rid of the fat around the abdomen, you will not see a wash board stomach.

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