Top 5 Strategies For Maintaining Muscle & Getting Shredded This Summer!

1 - HIIT IT UP

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For me, HIIT training has always been my morning cardio workout of choice (HIIT is made up of short burst of intense exercise working at 90-100% of maximal output, broken up with short lower intensity recovery periods). Nothing works better in my opinion in such a small time frame, and HIIT training sessions can be that dynamic that each session can be different, keeping things interesting, and you motivated. Because let’s be honest who wants to just power walk on a treadmill for an hour…. SNOOZE! There continues however to be a constant battle of effectiveness between HIIT and steady state cardio, which to use, and how to practically build them into your training around your lifestyle.

In my opinion BOTH have their place. Let me make one point clear 1st, steady state cardio does tap predominantly into your body’s fat stores for energy, more so than HIIT, which draws more on carbohydrates for energy. This is the main point trainers will push for steady state, however there are other factors to take into consideration. When dieting down and trying to get into those low body fat percentages, having the time to be doing 1 or 2 long sessions of cardio each day as well as resistance training, is going to be difficult at best. This is definitely the case personally as I like to train 1 muscle group each morning and evening in addition (the ideal split and routine regarding resistance training, steady state and HIIT will differ from person to person). HIIT allows me to burn a higher amount of calories in a set time, requires more energy after my workout to fuel recovery (ref EPOC) and ramps up my metabolism for the rest of the day, keeping the fat burning process going at a higher rate than steady state for hours post session. HIIT also has other transferable benefits with regards to performance and body composition which include:

  • Stimulates GH release in a way steady state never will, which contributes both to increasing fat loss further and preserving muscle tissue
  • Increasing insulin sensitivity
  • Improvements in both aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  • Decreased fasting insulin

So when trying to work your training routine around your lifestyle, fat loss  goals and maintaining muscle mass HIIT is a tool I would without a doubt use as part of my repertoire of training styles.

2 - BIG WEIGHTS

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Why when it comes to dieting down in some sort or “lean dream” panic everyone ditches the heavy lifting for hypertrophy with endless circuits! Let me put it simply…. THIS IS NOT A GOOD IDEA! You should already have cardio sessions planned into your regime for fat loss so let these do their job. Your weight training needs to be geared around preserving muscle mass, otherwise at the end of the diet you may well have no fat but also NO MUSCLE! Basically put if you want to retain muscle you need to give your body a reason to want to, lifting heavy is the key. When dieting down as amino oxidisation increases along with the production of catabolic hormones (including cortisol) and due to your lack of calories muscle mass begins to decrease, this is NOT what we want! To offset this we need to boost the body’s anabolic hormones, specifically GH while increasing protein retention and muscle cell volume. Planning for this means incorporating compound exercises, keeping reps low, weights heavy, while dropping the majority of the other workout intensifiers (drop sets, negatives, supersets etc) your body is not equipped to recover from at this time. So to recap:

  • Keep workouts short but intense
  • Lift heavy
  • Drop and workout intensifiers

3 - RIGHT CARBS, RIGHT TIME

Carbs are the enemy right! I mean who managed to get lean and still eat carbs? People who dieted intelligently that’s who! In truth carbohydrates when dieting for fat loss can be both your best friend and worst enemy depending on the type of carbohydrate and its timing. 1st of all cutting carbohydrates is not the answer, any dramatic change altogether is not the answer! Adapting your nutrition and training effectively over time in line with your goals is effective for fat loss and muscle maintenance. Now the 2 most common questions about carbohydrate timing I get asked are:

“Should I have carbohydrates around resistance training if I’m trying to lose fat?”

AND

“Should I cut out all carbohydrates around CV sessions?”

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Around resistance training YES you do still need some carbohydrates post workout but NO you don’t NEED them pre! Having carbohydrates post workout when insulin sensitivity is at its highest is paramount as we want to make sure we are providing the working muscles with everything they need to recover. Carbohydrates will not only replenish glycogen (not stored as fat if utilised correctly) but they will also act as a shuttle, unlocking carrier proteins in the muscle cell membranes shuttling other essential nutrients into the muscle. The choice of carbohydrate must me simple and pre-digested so that it can be instantly absorbed. Pre workout personally I do not believe you need carbohydrates when dieting, however some will argue otherwise based on the diet structure they follow. Keeping in mind when this pre workout meal is consumed and the amount of time this would take to digest and hit the bloodstream you may have already finished some or all of your workout.

When looking at pre and post CV carbohydrate intake I would keep this to a minimal as I want my body to keep taping into my bodies fat stores for energy as much and for as long as possible. Any calories at these times would come from lean protein sources, healthy fats or directly from amino acids (ideally ketogenic amino acids)

4 - MORNING MOTIVATION

For me CV for fat loss is always something I do 1st thing in the morning…..FASTED! It is just simply the best time all round. Besides being a great way to start the day and kick both my brain and metabolism into action there are a few other key benefits when it comes to fat loss. Upon waking in a morning because you have been fasting throughout the night insulin levels are at rock bottom as well as blood glucose levels being at a low which is ideal for tapping into your fat stores for energy. Not only this but the bodies fat releasing enzyme lipase is full active and while we are still experiencing elevated levels of GH from our night time peak this is the ideal time to drill onto those fat stores. Just add in some BCAA’s and electrolytes to ensure you preserve muscle mass and stay hydrated!

5 - RE-FEED! Don’t CHEAT!

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It is VERY common practice now when dieting to have a routine cheat meal on a weekend, it’s the one meal which seems to be getting everyone through the week. But just because everyone else is doing it or because our PT say its ok is it really helping you towards your goal?

Some will argue that the psychological reset it provides during a diet has benefits and with some individuals I will agree. For those who are perhaps dieting for the 1st time and struggling with changes in the foods eaten and perhaps volumes it provides an end of the week reward for them to focus on which can be both motivating during the week and almost therapeutic at the time, which can reduce catabolic stress hormones such as cortisol. So yes it does have some benefits, but perhaps we should outline the main goals of this intake of excess calories and see if it is the best fit for purpose. There are 3 main goals when it comes to this intake and they are (I have only included physiological goals):

 

  • Maximise glycogen replenishment
  • Kick-start metabolism & hormone production
  • Minimalize fat storage

At this point with these 3 key factors in mind it becomes clear…. The only way forward with your end physique in mind is to RE-FEED! Having a re-feed based around carbohydrates maximises glycogen replenishment due to the blend of fast and slow acting carbohydrates it will contain. It will also minimize fat storage as fats in this meal will be kept to a minimum in addition to lower protein levels. Both of which are not necessary at this time, keeping you on track with your fat loss/muscle maintenance goals. By focusing this meal on carbohydrates it provides a huge metabolic shunt and kick-starts the production of T3 and Leptin which lead to further fat loss and reduced hunger.

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About the Author

My favourite training techniques and styles include Y3T, FST-7 Principle, DTP, HIT, 5x5 Strength Programs. Over the last 9 years I have submersed myself in a bodybuilding life style, training alongside competitive bodybuilders and fitness athletes to fast track my knowledge. I have made it my goal to try and test the most popular and effective training techniques/programs, diets and supplement stacks to be able to provide solid advice supported up by own personal experience.
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