Many of us want to lose fat, but not necessarily weight—I mean, who wouldn't prefer lean, sculpted muscles instead (especially with summer tanks just around the corner)? The whole lose fat/build muscle equation can get kind of tricky, but building muscle is super important for boosting your metabolism and keeping bones strong.
Here are 6 fitness tips to help you lose fat and build muscle (you know, in a bulk-free sort of way):
1. Don't be afraid of weight training
Picking up a dumbbell doesn't mean you're going to end up with biceps of herculean proportions. Training with heavy weights on a consistent basis (shoot for three times a week) is necessary to build muscle and lose fat while you're at rest.
2. Eat protein pre-workout
According to fitness expert Jill Coleman, it's best to eat 20-30 grams of whey protein 30 minutes before strength training. This encourages your body to power through the workout using fat stores while preserving your muscle. Nix pre-workout carbs, otherwise the insulin will get in the way of your body burning stored fat.
3. Eat protein and (some) carbs post-workout
To make the most of your workout, your body needs protein to repair muscle, and a little bit of carbs to help build them (but too many carbs will end up stored as fat). Coleman recommends 20 to 30 grams of protein and 20 to 30 grams of carbs depending on your size.
4. Lighten up on the cardio
Make sure you're doing more weight training than you are cardio. While cardio is important for muscle growth, weight training should be your top priority for boosting muscle mass. For example, strength train three times a week, and do light cardio one day a week—but if you're doing both on the same day, don't do your cardio first. Word is it will fatigue your muscles and up your chances of getting injured.
5. Don't overdo it
And not just because you're not into the whole Hulk look: Working out too much doesn't give your muscles enough time to recover. The recovery period is crucial to your muscle-building process, as it's the time your bod puts your workouts to good use by developing new muscle fibres. Instead, target certain areas of your body per sweat session. For example, make Mondays upper-body day, Wednesdays lower-body day, etc.
6. Get a good night's sleep
For most of us, a good night's sleep sounds like a fantasy, but it's super important for both fat loss and muscle growth. Make sure to log the recommended seven hours for best results.
What fitness tips have helped you lose fat and build muscle?
Related on Organic Authority
Image: Exercise photo via Shutterstock