You join the gym with hopes of cutting 5, 10, 20, maybe even 30 pounds. It seems easy enough; eat less and move more. Get a good calorie-burning workout and eat less calories by cutting back on fat or having better portion-control. You go four days a week; 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, some light stretching, and smaller portions at meal time. You lose a good 5 to 10 pounds in the first month! You feel great! But then what happens? You keep doing the same routine and your weight-loss comes to a screeching halt! What gives?
Despite losing weight, you likely didn’t differentiate between muscle weight and fat weight and there’s a good chance that you were losing a significant portion of lean muscle mass. Loss of lean muscle mass results in less calorie burning, exactly the opposite of what you set out to do.
Exercise is physical stress. Too long of a bout of exercise results in an increase in cortisol in your blood, which results in a drop in natural testosterone (both men and women benefit from increased testosterone) and your muscles are then devoured as fuel instead of that fat you’d prefer to be burning. Also, cardiovascular exercise does not place any stimulus on fast-twitch muscle fibers (these are the ones that affect an increase in lean muscle the most).
Let’s be honest, the goal most people in the gym have is to look fit and healthy while naked. To do that, focus on gaining lean body mass, organize your eating habits to feed muscles and starve fat, and burn those extra calories (excess body fat) with precision.
Now that you’ve hit your plateau, it’s time to revamp your program.
Step 1 – Eat breakfast!
Make sure to include a quality protein with breakfast, such as tofu, seitan, tempeh, almond butter, sprouted bread, or a protein powder like rice or pea . Aim for getting a minimum of 15-20 grams of protein with this first meal, as protein with breakfast has been shown to feed hungry muscles from the night’s fast, strengthen the immune system and stabilize blood sugar for steady energy to start the day.
An example of an effective workout for muscle building is below. This circuit can be done in less than 20 minutes. This will stimulate testosterone production and lean muscle increase.
- • 10 reps of each movement for 3 rounds in a circuit fashion of the following:
- • Overhead barbell push press
- • Assisted pull-up (body weight when you get there)
- • Barbell dead lift
- • Weighted walking lunges
Step 4 – Be sure to spread protein evenly throughout the day to ensure your muscles have all the necessary amino acids. This assists the body’s ability to use fat as energy, and not valuable muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. “Studies have estimated that for each pound of muscle that you add to your body, you burn an additional 35 to 50 calories per day. So, an extra 10 pounds of muscle will burn approximately 350 to 500 calories a day, or an extra pound of fat every 7 to 10 days, without making any other changes”
With over 5 years of personal training experience, Ed Bauer is a Fitness Nutrition Coach, and owner of PlantFit Training Studio, located in Portland, Oregon. He offers counseling on how to lose fat, gain muscle, and obtain optimal health on a plant-based diet. Bauer began his journey into fitness in 1995, with encouragement from his competitive power lifter father. He became vegan one year later after learning about the inhumane practices that are involved in raising animals for food. Combining these two interests led to an understanding of plant based foods and sports performance.