Q&A: Building Muscle & Burning Fat at the Same Time

Eric October 14, 2010

This weeks questions are very related, but I’m going to answer them separately anyway.  They both have to do with building muscle WHILE burning fat, but are a little different.  Keep your questions coming to thehotbodsquad@gmail.com

Q: So I’m trying to bulk up with chest, back and arm workouts but I want to trim down my stomach. People ask me why are you taking things to bulk up and things to trim down at same time. I take blade hardcore as a fat burner but I’m also talking to bulk up (Whey Protein, Creatine, L-glutamine, Susta-Test Depot XTR 2400 (testosterone booster) NO-xplode before and ZMA at night). Is this okay? Does it matter when I take the fat burner? Also is Blade Hardcore a good or bad fat burner?

Paul – submitted online

Read our response, and another question after the break….

A: Paul, I can’t speak specifically to Blade Hardcore, since I’ve never taken it.  In researching it, I found that bodybuilding.com has discontinued carrying it, which is usually a sign that it’s not very effective.  The ingredients make it appear to be no different than any other fat burning caffeine pill, but from various feedback online some people had real issues with it not working very well.  So the question is, is it working for you?

As far as your two other questions, that stack sounds like a good stack.  The ZMA alone will do wonders for your body!   And fat burners are best taken approximately 30 minutes before cardiovascular exercise to maximize your calorie burn.  You can also take a fat burner when waking up to increase your calorie burn while you have an empty stomach.

Keep in mind that it’s possible to sabotage all the effort you’re taking if you’re not eating clean.  It’s impossible to lose fat WHILE building muscle IF you’re not eating right!

The Squad

Q: [I’m] really loving your blog.  I was hoping you could help.  This isn’t one question exactly, but more of a situation.

First, the upside. About six weeks ago, I started a pretty straightforward bodybuilding routine using dumbbells where I can, and a Total Gym for the rest. As I’ve read so many times, I use as much weight as I can handle, to top out at 5 or 6 reps per set, 3 sets per exercise, 2 to 4 exercises per muscle group, 2 muscle groups per workout, and 3 workouts a week. I’m AMAZED at how quickly I’ve seen the results, especially in my arms. I’ve never had guns in my life, and six weeks later, I got ’em, and they keep getting bigger. I can’t believe it.

Second, the downside. I’m in my mid 40’s, and like a lot of guys my age, I’m pretty soft around the midsection. If I wasn’t doing resistance training, didn’t worry about muscle, and went solely by the scale, I know I’d be about 25 lbs. too heavy. Scale numbers can’t matter to me now with the muscle building, but I do know I have to lose body fat, and a lot of it. I watch what I eat very, very carefully. But I’ve been reluctant to do much cardio, and very reluctant to do any formal calorie-restriction (dieting!), as the last thing I want to do is lose muscle that I’m working so hard (successfully) to build.

Can you guys point me in the right direction? I just don’t know how to reach my goals, other than just keep pushing hard on the bodybuilding work, and hope the weight stabilizes on its own with time and careful eating. But that doesn’t seem like the most informed plan of attack.

Mark  – Denver, CO

A: Mark, it sounds like you’re already headed in the right direction, so congratulations on the success that you’ve already had!

I think your question basically boils down to how to build muscle and burn fat at the same time.  Much like the previous question, this seems to be your theme.  The steps that you’re taking are what you need to do, and I’d just make some minor adjustments.

You said that you’re reluctant to do much cardio, I assume that’s because you don’t want to lean out the muscle that you’re working so hard to build.  That’s a wise choice.  However, I would suggest to you to do cardio that doesn’t take you over 60% of your max heart rate (your MHR is roughly calculated as 220 minus your age.)  Don’t cardio at a low intensity still allows you to burn the calories necessary, but it isn’t so intense that you burn muscle to do so.  My cardio consists of a light jog when I wake up (best to do fat burning on an empty stomach so that you can pull the energy from your fat, not your stomach) and an hour on the treadmill post-workout walking at a 4.5 speed, doing intervals with a 15% incline.  Because my cardio is immediately following my workout, I ALWAYS drink my protein shake before I do my cardio in order to protect my muscle from eating itself for energy.

As far as your midsection, it sounds like you have the right idea.  Keep doing what you’re doing and you will lose fat.  The more muscle you build, the more that muscle will burn the fat for you- so really focus on building the muscle in your core so that muscle will help you.  Calorie restriction can be tricky, especially when you don’t know how many calories your body is consuming to begin with.  Only about 10% of the population knows how many calories they burn/consume on a daily basis, and less than 1% of the population is actually right.  Try restricting your carbs for a couple of weeks, and get your body to start burning fat for energy instead of using carbs.  You don’t want to restrict your calories, but restricting where they’re coming from is a big start.

Keep in mind that it’s going to take time to get where you want to be.  Bodybuilders restrict their diets for 4-6 months before a show in order to get down to 3-4% bodyfat, and that’s by following a very strict, and regimented diet and routine- and they’re not starting off in a bad place either.  Keep up what you’re doing, and hopefully some of the pointers that I’ve given you can get you there sooner!

The Squad

If you have a question, send it to thehotbodsquad@gmail.com

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