Cutting fat and gaining muscle. How do I do it?

Is there any research in to proportions of carb/fat/protien intake that is ideal for reducing fat while gaining muscle (getting lean)?

I’m a 30 year old female in good shape. I eat relatively healthy and exercise daily. By exercise, I mean I run 30 kms a week and am training to road race (cycling) in the spring (90 minutes twice a week currently, to be increased as the winter season progresses). I also do yoga two or three times a week, though this amount of yoga is new - it was previously about once a week. I don’t weight train but am adding two to three weight session a week on to my routine right away.

Anyhow, I’m chubby. I must be eating too much of the wrong thing, or my proportions are wrong, or my long history of eating disorders has really messed me up. If I want to race in the spring, or beat previous tri times, I need to slim down.

What do my meals need to look like? What should I add or change about my routine? I feel like I should know this, but it’s getting frustrating because I’m having trouble figuring out what I’m doing wrong.

With your current regime I’m surprised you are chubby…but beauty has always rested in the eyes of the beholder.

Where are the silent carbs coming from, if there are any? Meaning where do you get carbohydrates where you may not know it? Alcohol for one.

History of eating disorders is not something I can comment on however, someone will be along soon who can.

Basic rule of thumb, is to burn more calories than you take in.

Recent studies are showing anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad - so if you can try and eat organic as much as possible. The less ingredients in something the better, more leafy greens, higher fiber intake [meaning get regular] no Soda of any kind, and again limit all processed foods.

Yeah, I’m wondering if it’s the carbs too, though I eat as few as possible. I think I may have to start journaling my intake because I must be missing something.

I don’t drink, so it’s not that. I eat a well as I can. Breakfast is cottage cheese and some sort of berry; snack is almonds and fruit; lunch is usually tuna/crackers and a soup of some sort; snack of veggies or yogurt and fruit, or maybe a granola bar; dinner is 1/2 protein, 1/2 carbs (like a chicken breast and a bunch of roasted peppers). My downfall is that I usually eat dessert, which is something like fruit with home made whipped cream. Then I might have some popcorn or Skinny Sticks before bed.

Maybe too much fruit? I do eat a lot of it.

Also, I drink a TON of water. Sometimes upwards of 3L a day in straight water, plus tea in the evening.

Fruit has a bunch of sugar in it and was one of the hardest things for me to let go when I started to really focus on losing weight. I went the simple route of cutting calories (I eat about 1300 a day for a -5 lbs a week) but one I started looking at how many calories were in fruit it was easy to give up an apple for an extra 2 ox of meat when I was hungry.

In general if you want to build muscle eat lots of protein and since I’ve started lifting again I’m doing a reduced calorie diet tied in with Adkins. It’s been effective in that it’s slowed down my weight loss even though my number of calories has proportionally decreased.

Your individual metabolism, and ED history which has no doubt affected it, do have something to do with why you’re holding on to extra body fat even though you’re exercising like crazy and eating ‘healthy’, but IMO about 80% of body composition is diet, plain and simple. You’re doing it wrong, do it right and you can cut down your BF% to the coveted ‘athletic’ or ‘fitness’ levels (15-24% - lower than that, for the vast majority of woman, is extremely difficult to achieve without IMO ED behaviors).

Try the below, just for a month. I predict you’ll see a visible difference in your body and lose some fat, even in such a short time.

  1. Eat a diet relatively low in total carbohydrates. 150g daily as the upper limit; people with lots of fat to lose usually need to aim for closer to 50g per day to see steady weight loss. However, you’re endurance training and right now you’re probably fueling your work-outs with tons of carbs, so I would start with restricting to 150g daily. You might feel not-so-great for one or two weeks, then your body adjusts to not having a constant influx of sugars.

  2. Don’t cut calories, you can’t afford to at your level of activity, just lower the carbs. Replace carbs with natural fats as the majority of your calories. Fats are not bad for you; they are essential for health, and while you can achieve an ideal body composition eating low-fat, your health and well-being will suffer. If you have been scared away from fats from real food by all the ill-informed anti-fat propaganda out there, at least you can agree that trying this for a month is not going to make your heart asplode. :stuck_out_tongue:

  3. Get plenty of protein (optimally from natural nutrient-rich sources like meat, seafood, eggs, dairy products. I hope you are not vegetarian or vegan!). As an athlete and someone trying to build muscle mass, 1 gram per pound of your body weight is a good rule of thumb and what I aim for myself. If you can’t manage that much, try for a minimum of 80g protein daily.

4.Incorporate weight training, the more the better. Lift as heavy as possible, fewer reps, and focus on the ‘big’ moves that utilize your whole body (overhead squats are a huge favorite of mine). Yoga and other body-weight exercises are good too. Plain ol’ push-ups and pull-ups are fantastic for building strength and muscle. Tons of cardio is not good for fat loss, but due to your training goals, you can’t exactly cut back on that in the long-term.
This type of plain can have somedramatic results. Not so dramatic for me, as I didn’t have extra body fat to lose, but I feel AMAZING and now that I am really working out (I ate this way for almost a year without doing weights or yoga, both of which I’m doing a lot of now) I am packing pounds of healthy muscle-mass onto my too-thin frame.

I eat very little refined sugar, and I also gave up grains as I have digestive issues - my only starchy/sweet foods are fruits and potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, other veg. This is kind of optional, as long as you keep total carbs low. But if you drink beer or soda, I would cut that out first - alcohol, and fructose-laden sugar-drinks, will pack on the fat, particularly in your belly, like nothing else.

Wonderful, rhubarbarin! Yes, I do need to be careful about how I go about this because of my ED history. It’s been about a year and a half of full recovery, but I always worry that I’ll fall in to old habits.

I’ll start journaling to see where I fall with regards to my carbs, and I agree, I need carbs to fuel my regime. I think I’m close to 80g of protein, but once I get in the habit of journaling, I’ll get a better idea of where things are. I’ll also start lifting heavy - any links you can share with some good routines?

In your link, are you the story, or the blogger? Both are awesome, and I love before and after pictures (maybe I’ll do the same!).

Thanks for your input.

Start weight training, definitely. I’d recommend getting a copy of the New Rules of Lifting for Women (which are fairly cheap on Amazon, I think), which has been my weight lifting bible.

To gain muscle, you will have to lift heavy things, period. Lifting heavy things also means you will burn more calories while “resting” (aka not working out), and will make your shape look dramatically different in a way that just cardio will never achieve.

Don’t believe the meme about how women should lift light things lots of different times to “tone” muscles. Muscle is muscle and it’s nearly impossible for women to “bulk up” the way that men can, because of different testosterone levels. Lift heavy things. You’ll look and feel amazing.

I am neither in the link. :wink: I am a long-time follower of Richard’s blog though, and pretty much do as he does. is also a favorite resource of mine.

Oh, another thing to keep in mind; the degree of weight/fat loss you desire, might not be compatible with your athletic goals for the next 6 months. If you’re gearing up to race, make that your priority, and make sure you’re hitting the goals you need to re: athletic performance. Fat loss should happen incidentally. You might have to take some time off the cardio in order to get your composition where you want it.

I was still typing my novel when you made your other post- I suggest for tracking your macronutrient intake. To me, this:

reads like:

You’re not eating badly at all - I think your body is just more sensitive to the effect of that glucose and fructose than the average bear. Which is often true of people who’ve had eating disorders, or even those who have dieted a great deal in the past. Regardless of the mechanics behind it, which we don’t fully understand, there are a lot of people out there who can eat what any skinny person would consider a healthy and moderate diet, and still carry a lot of excess body fat.

As for lifting, Mark Rippetoe is my god and he has plenty of free vids on youtube.

I’m a lot more muscular and strong than I used to be. I’m still a fatty, but doing well with losing weight while increasing muscle mass. (Warning: it can lead to scale-related violence, so I’d recommend tracking any weight loss by measurements as well, which helps give a broader picture. Body fat percentage, too, if you can manage it.)

There are lots of tips and tricks to maximize your progress, but the really big thing is strength training. What are you doing for your sessions? How do you feel the next day? Remember, slow and controlled movements, and you should be trying to reach muscle failure - as SecondJudith said, lifting difficult weights, not lots of reps. There’s lots of ways of doing this other than free weights, too - kettle bells, resistance bands, even water dumbbells. If you’re not sure how to use the machines or whatever you decide to do, I’d strongly recommend getting a session or two with someone who does, or even better, join a class. No sense hurting yourself.

One other recommendation: eat fast-absorbing protein (I use whey protein powder) shortly after weight training workouts. You can lift weights all you like but your body still needs the protein to build muscle fibers.

IMHO, fruit is fine. It is sugar, but as long as you’re watching your calories, sugar isn’t likely to hurt you. You can lose weight on Twinkies if you want. I just choose to not eat quite so much sugar because it makes me extremely hungry, and thus makes it very difficult to follow my diet. Have you considered tracking your caloric intake in detail – e.g. weighing and measuring how much of each thing you eat? You might be surprised. I know that I can easily, easily put away a lot of health food in a day if I don’t keep track of what I eat. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t really have the off switch for food.

The nice thing is, though, if you put on some muscle then your base metabolic rate goes up.

Thanks for the advice! Don’t worry, I know women don’t bulk up like men do and am not afraid of heavy weights.

My weight routine usually consists of whatever the Crossfit routine of the day is, or what my husband tells me to do. I only do it twice a week though, for maybe 30 minutes. Should I increase to three a week maybe? I also have a weak core, and although all my other activities help, I really need to strengthen up. Could I commit to one day of core (back and front) training, or should I do something every second day? My core does get a good workout daily, but not great.

ETA: I’ll keep you guys posted too, if you want. I’m going to try the diet and weights changes for a month and see what happens.

Starve yourself to the weight you should be and then once you get there it will be easy. Trust me I did it in wrestling, I do it now.

I assume this is a joke, but that’s a pretty insensitive thing to say to someone a year and a half into recovery from an eating disorder.:dubious:

This is also the best way to gain back all the weight you lost plus some extra in less than 5 years.:smack:

Jeez, no doubt. I starved myself down to illness once, I don’t really want to test myself again. That’s part of the reason I have trouble getting rid of the fat now!

Since my surgery in July, I’ve lost almost 20 lbs, and I never intended to.
Here’s how I did it:

  1. Eliminate all trans fats. Besides being a good thing by itself, it has the side-effect of eliminating all kinds of junk food from your diet.
  2. Cut Saturated fat done to the minimum practical. I try for under 6 gms/day.
  3. Eat lots of Fruits and especially vegetables.
  4. Eat whole grains.
  5. Eat lots of fish. This is where I get much of my protein.

Work out 5 days/week, an hour a day. Mixture of Aerobic and weightlifting.

Doing this, I have gone from wearing 36 inch waist pants to 32”. I am starting to be able to see my Abs when my stomach is relaxed, and I’m get some vascularity in my arms.

beowullf, this seems to be exactly what she’s doing (except with more aerobic exercise than weight-bearing), and she’s not losing any weight.

Yeah, that’s close to the diet I currently follow, except my protein is usually chicken, not fish. Thank you for the great input though, and congratulations on your weight loss!

I started entering my food in to today and after lunch I was up to 148g of carbs (and 60g of protein, yeah!)! So, there I go! I’ll have to start cutting back on a few favourite foods and see how it works out. It’ll probably lower my calories too - I’m eating between 1800 and 2200 depending on how much activity I do in that day (today I did 90 of cycling training and 90 of yoga today, and I’m at about 1400 calories so far, just about to have dinner).

Tomorrow I start with weights!

beowulff, I can’t fault you for thinking so, but your assumption that saturated fat should be cut is outdated; saturated fat is not harmful.
Fruits, as they have been bred to in modern times, are just little bags of sugar.
Grains, also, are problematic.

BTW, rhubarbarin, great analysis.

I’m sorry I didn’t realize that was the situation. I meant you no insult.

That being said I still stick by my original answer. It has worked for me numerous times and still works now.

Back a few years ago wrestling in college, I had to lose a little weight. Came into the season weighing around 135. After preseason maybe lost a few pounds, and the rest of the weight down to 125 was done by just not eating and especially dehydrating myself.

The trick tho came after I hit 125. I could eat what ever I wanted. My body just adjusted.

Still works for me today. Don’t see how I can proven wrong

Oh, please don’t cut out more calories – if you’re lifting (which is really fun and a great way to get in shape, I’m glad you’re doing it), you should be eating more food, not less! Reducing calorie intake is a great way to slow down your metabolism and make your body hang onto its fat reserves for dear life, and you won’t see any change at all. 1800 is below rock bottom of the range I would suggest for an active woman (of medium height/weight) – you should be aiming for 2000-2300 at absolute minimum, otherwise your body will panic, start hoarding and stop working efficiently. It will be much, much harder to lose fat and build muscle if you don’t feed your body properly.

Also, Scotty Mo, could I suggest that if it’s something you’ve had to do “numerous times” it probably isn’t a very effective long-term strategy for non-wrestlers? I’m familiar with wrestling culture and the weight tricks wrestlers have to go through, and call me crazy but I don’t think it’s very sensible or healthy to not eat and dehydrate yourself unless it’s for a very specific and short-term goal, like “making weight” is. That’s not what the OP is after.

Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if Saturated fat turns out to be OK, but for now, all the mainstream research I’ve read (including this comprehensive meta-analysis) says that Saturated fats are to be avoided. Since (AFAIK) they are not necessary for human metabolism, I’ll just play it safe and keep doing what seems to be working.