Here at HTBM, we tend to present information slanted toward people who are looking to bulk muscle onto an already muscular or lean frame. However, We don’t want to leave anyone out and a lot of the people looking for information on muscle gain also need help with weight loss.
For the most part, working out is working out. However, there are some things that you should be prepared to experience a little differently than others if you’re looking to slim down as well as bulk up.
Watch Out for How You Watch Your Weight
Before we get started on working out for weight loss, you might want to think about how you measure success – particularly if you’re planning on losing weight from body fat while building muscle. That’s because muscle is more dense than fat. That’s one of the many reasons that your body mass index doesn’t actually say everything about you.
Suppose that you’re watching scale numbers. You’re working out hard, gym every day, eating right, after a month you’ve “lost” five pounds. You might have lost more than five pounds of body fat, but the scale doesn’t tell you that you’ve also put on weight in muscle. In other words, “weight loss” and “fat loss” aren’t always one-to-one.
So, how do you gauge your progress?
Because muscle is more dense than fat, when you gain weight from muscle and lose weight from body fat, your body still gets smaller – a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. So, keeping track of things like clothing size changes might be a better indicator of how you’re doing.
No matter what numbers you use to gauge your progress, celebrate the little things and remember that real and sustainable health goals take time. Working with a healthcare provider can help you set and achieve healthy and sustainable goals on a healthy and sustainable timeframe.
Work With a Healthcare Provider
If this is your first HTBM article, you should know that we include this disclaimer in most of our articles, no matter who the intended reader is. If you are planning on starting a muscle building or weight loss diet and/or workout routine that is different from your current lifestyle, you should talk to your doctor first and maintain a relationship with them going forward if you can.
As we’ve said, to a degree, working out is working out. However, the more you work out the more likely you are to run into elements of a diet or workout routine that vary based on things like
- Biological sex
- Pre-existing health conditions
- Prescription medication
- Substance use – including Alcohol and Tobacco
- And, yes, weight.
Having a close relationship with your healthcare provider will help you understand how to workout and eat efficiently and safely. Your doctor can also help you find more resources to get started, maintain your efforts, and branch out into other health goals like quitting smoking or drinking if applicable.
Remember to Incorporate Cardio
As is the case with the above tip, we tell everyone this: be sure to incorporate lots of cardio and aerobic exercise into your workout routine. These exercises aren’t always a favorite of weight lifters – particularly beginning weight lifters, because they don’t directly translate into immediately visible muscle growth.
In the short term, however, these exercises are going to burn more calories faster than weight lifting will, making them more effective weight loss exercises.
If lifting weights is really your goal, then look at these exercises as getting you more ready to meet that goal. And, incorporating aerobics and cardio into your routine doesn’t mean that you can’t also get to lifting right away. We’ll get to that later.
Another great thing about cardio is that it’s easy to ease into. You can start out with brief, leisurely walks and work your way up to more ambitious jogging or running sessions.
This can help your body adjust but it can help your mind adjust too. For a workout program to be effective, you have to stick with it – and that’s harder if you push yourself so hard that you dread your workout or can’t bring yourself to workout regularly.
This article is a more holistic approach to getting started with working out for weight loss, but if you want to jump right into the best exercises for weight loss, HTBM has you covered.
Pick Exercises That Work With Your Body
Calories aren’t the only thing that you should think about when you schedule your exercises. You want to select exercises that work with your body rather than against it.
A theme in this article is that you probably don’t know your own strength. Lifting weights is great because it’s extra work but every time that we move we’re working our muscles so you might have a lot more muscle than you realize already. Further, your weight is an asset that you can use on your fitness journey – that goes for everybody.
There’s an entire class of exercises called body resistance exercises that pit your muscles against the force of gravity on your own body weight. These exercises are a great way to get started with working out – particularly if you don’t have easy access to a gym or gym equipment. Some of them also double as stretches and flexibility exercises.
You should also be thinking about exercises that you can moderate for intensity and that aren’t too tough on your joints. Hugely under-rated exercises in this category are biking and swimming.
Lift Weights For Weight Loss
Weight lifting is a great activity for people looking to for muscle building and weight loss. Any time that you do work, your body is burning calories. And lifting weights is a lot of work – whether you’re looking to tone with smaller weights moved more times, or build muscle with heavier weights moved fewer times.
Building muscle and weight loss is also going to help you reset your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active – it burns energy even when you aren’t actively working out. So, once you start tipping the scales towards more lean muscle mass, it’s easier to keep them tipped.
If you’re working out from home, free weights can help you get the most variety into your workout with the smallest financial investment. However, cable machines are more user friendly – particularly to people who are new to lifting. So, if you have access to them they might be a good place to start.
This is also a good place to dispel the myth of targeted weight loss. You lose body fat when you burn energy. Your body doesn’t care where the energy comes from. In other words, you don’t lose weight from your belly faster if you have a workout that targets your belly.
In fact, targeting one area of your body for aesthetic purposes is only likely to cause health problems down the road. Your muscular system and skeletal system are intimately connected. If you target your abs and don’t care about your back, chest, and legs, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.
So, however you work out, make sure that you get a well-rounded workout and always prioritize your health over your appearance. Don’t worry – the two aren’t mutually exclusive if you work out responsibly.
Don’t Forget Your Diet
Your doctor is probably going to tell you this, but we’re going to tell you too: working out isn’t the whole battle in terms of weight loss – you have to eat healthy too.
Having the right diet is about giving your body the nutrients that it needs to build muscle without giving it the junk that it turns into fat. Your body stores extra carbs and calories that you take in through your diet but don’t burn off through activity, leading to weight gain, so you should be thinking about burning more energy but you may also need to think about taking less energy in.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to actually eat less food. However, you should be looking at eating foods that are more rich in nutrients than they are dense in energy. A lot of more natural foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats, while a lot of manufactured foods are just empty calories.
Technically, you probably could lose weight by just working out and not changing your diet. But, that’s an uphill battle for the same reason that losing weight by changing your diet and not working out is an uphill battle.
Form a Network
The final tip for this article is to be sociable.
We’ve already covered how you’re more likely to stick to your weight loss plan if you enjoy your workout and (most) people like spending time with people who have common interests. Whether you work out with your workout friends and partners or share your fitness journeys over the internet or over the phone, there are real benefits to having a companion in this project.
Not only that, talking with others about your weight loss and muscle building journey can be informative. Sites like this one try to give you the best possible information, but the fact is that everyone’s body is different. The more people you discuss health with, the more well-rounded your understanding of health and fitness will be.
Working out with others isn’t for everybody. And that’s okay – until it isn’t. There are some times, like when you’re trying to up your weights or identify your one rep max, when having a spotter is practically a medical necessity. But if you prefer to work out alone it’s okay to have days that you work out by yourself or activities that you do alone like running or swimming.
See You at the Gym!
Hopefully, this article has helped you look a little further into what your fitness journey might look like as you pursue muscle gain and weight loss. These fitness goals are different for everybody and your exact road won’t be just like anyone else’s.
But, you can navigate it effectively and safely by forming a network, working with your doctor, minding your diet, and following the rest of the weight loss tips laid out in this article. Happy Lifting!