If you’re anything like me, you want to have your cake (or Marshmallow Dream Bar! #MDB) AND eat it, too! We want the best of both worlds in ALL areas of our lives, and that includes nutrition and fitness. I hear from so many women who reach out to me and ask, “HOW can I lose weight—aka BURN FAT – and gain muscle at the same time?!” Well, you CAN have both the body you want and the aesthetic you’re striving for and the strong body composition you crave. The key is understanding the process and committing to consistency!

Watch the video below and/or read on for even more helpful info!

Losing fat, building muscle, or a combo of the two are three very different journeys. However, in order to be successful on any of these journeys, you MUST do these five things. I’m calling these THE BIG FIVE:

1. Consume sufficient protein. You MUST be eating enough protein. Protein is the foundation of not only building almost everything in your body (including nice, lean muscles), but it repairs your body too!
2. Eat enough food. No starvation, super restrictive diets here! You must fuel your body with enough good, wholesome nutrition so it can function properly AND help you nail your goal.
3. Train Consistently. The ratio of cardio to resistance training can be different based on your goal, so keep reading!
4. Have patience, patience, patience. And more patience.
5. Trust the Process.

If you want to achieve your goal and have the results last forever, you MUST do these five things—especially #4 and #5—consistently. Consistently, like all the time, even when it’s difficult, and especially when life gets in the way. And no, I realize we’re not perfect, but it is so important to be as perfect as possible in this process if you’re wanting to see results. So let’s dive just a little bit deeper into each of these transformation journeys.

Outfit Details: Lululemon Leggings (budget friendly here), Lululemon Lace Up Bra (similar here under $35), Reebok Sneakers

Journey #1: Build Muscle

And no, I’m not talking about big, bulky muscles. I’m talking about the muscle that looks healthy and toned. To gain this type of muscle, you MUST eat at a calorie surplus. Yes, I know. That’s a tough one to stomach (pun intended 😉 ). But to build muscle, your body MUST have the extra calories it needs to grow that muscle! Here’s the deal: You can eat at a huge surplus and gain that muscle quickly, but this will also add a layer of fat. Good to know, right? Or…you can eat at a less aggressive, slighter surplus and build muscle at a slower rate with a smaller fat layer. Neither is “bad,” it’s all about what you want.

So what’s a good calorie surplus to aim for? If, for example, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is 1500 calories a day, and you’re burning 500 calories a day working out/moving/living life, then you’re burning 2000 calories a day. So a surplus is consuming anything above that 2000 calories a day. For me, when I’m in the muscle building stage, I eat between 2200 (low carb day) and 2700 calories a day (high carb day) through carb and calorie cycling. These calories are aggressive some days (high carb days build that muscle!) and not so aggressive on other days (low carb days). It’s a good mix that has really worked for me, but you do what works best for you and your goals! And no matter what you do, remember that the smaller the calorie surplus, the slower the gains, and the more patience required. (Yes, there’s that P word again).

As far as working out goes, when you’re trying to build muscle, the focus is on very consistent resistance training and maybe some cardio, maybe not—depending on your overall goal. So lift those weights! And then lift some more!

Journey #2: Lose Fat

With fat loss, you MUST eat at a calorie deficit. That’s a must. So, going back to our example above, if you know your body burns 2000 calories a day, and you only eat 1750 calories a day, that puts you at a 250 calories/day deficit. Since 1 lb of fat = 3500 calories, it will take 14 days (250 x 14 = 3500) to burn 1 lb of fat. Make sense? And I hear you, “But Heidi, 1 lb every two weeks? It will take me FOR-EVER to lose this weight!” If you’d like to create a bigger deficit, then in this example, you could eat 1500 calories/day, which would create a 500 cal deficit and a 1 lb/week rate of fat loss. Just so you know, a healthy rate of fat loss is 1-2 lbs/week, so please don’t be tempted to create a huge calorie deficit just to get that fat loss quicker. We—and many experts—recommend that you never go below 1200 calories a day. Never! It can be dangerous, and it’s just not worth it! When your calories get too low, not only can your basic bodily functions be negatively affected, but you can actually sabotage your progress since your body is going to be hungry and unhappy! Plus, restrictive eating can negatively affect your metabolism and slow down your progress. Kind of not what we’re going for, right?

Referring back to those BIG FIVE I talked about above, with fat loss, you don’t HAVE to exercise as long as your nutrition is totally on point. But there are some great benefits to consistent exercise, and regular, consistent cardio (or Accelerators as we like to call it) will help create that calorie deficit to lose that unwanted fat. If possible, throw in some resistance training a couple of days a week if you can, but move, move, move that body to burn that unwanted fat. Even 5 minutes a day can make a difference!

Journey #3: Lose Fat AND Build Muscle (AKA, Body Recompositioning)

If this is your goal, here’s one piece of advice I know is going to be very hard for you to follow: Get rid of that darn scale! If you just can’t do this, then use the scale to tell you what’s going on with your body, NOT to tell you how to eat. Remember, this is a different journey than the other two. As you gain muscle (which is denser than fat) and lose fat, your TRUE progress might not be reflected in that number on the scale. And this can be frustrating AND can potentially send you into an emotional, food-laden tailspin if you’re not careful.

So, how can you gauge your progress if this is your goal? These questions work for all three journeys, actually:

  1. How do your clothes fit?
  2. How do you feel?
  3. How do your progress pictures look? Can you tell a difference? For this one to work, you’re going to have to take weekly pictures.
  4. Are your measurements changing? (More about this below).

And once again, #4—Patience—is going to play a HUGE part in your progress. And Trusting the Process. #brokenrecord

As far as nutrition goes, unlike the other journeys, to lose fat and build muscle, I recommend you eat at maintenance calories to maintain your body weight. Your body needs adequate nutrients to build those muscles, and you CANNOT create more muscle if you don’t have enough fuel in your nutrition tank. It just won’t happen, and your body could potentially even cannibalize the muscle you do have if your calorie intake is too low. That’s kind of going in the wrong direction, right? If you’re following The TRANSFORM App, we’ve done the nutrition figuring for you—you just have to follow the recommendations! #easypeasy Choose the “Maintain Weight” option within the app, and if, after a few weeks, you’re not seeing the progress you’d like (slow gains, losing too much weight), then bump to the “Jacked/Gain Muscle Mass” option. If this option becomes too aggressive at any point in time, change back to “Maintain Weight.” When you get to where you want to be, then change to the “Lean & Shredded” option. When you see a stall in your progress, go back up to “Maintain Weight.” It’s a beautiful process, and the app makes it super easy!

Another thing about The TRANSFORM App: If lose fat/build muscle is your goal, I would recommend the Women’s Physique program or the At-Home Body Sculpting program. These two programs were created just for you! They’ll help you break down those muscles so they can build back up and create those gains you’re wanting while also helping you lose any extra fat that’s hanging around.

Now for some general tips no matter what transformation journey you’re on.

1. Take your measurements. Regularly. I mentioned taking your measurements earlier, so how do you do this? At the minimum, take these two measurements every week:

  • Waist: Measure at your belly button.
  • Hips: Measure at the largest part of your butt or widest part of your hips—whichever is larger.

And if you really want to gauge your progress, also do these every week:

  • Left and Right Arms: Measure the distance from your elbow to the largest part of your arm. (Keep this measurement for future use). Then measure the circumference at this spot.
  • Left and Right Thighs: Measure the distance from just above your knee to the largest part of your thigh. (Keep this measurement for future use). Then measure the circumference at this spot.
  • Left and Right Calves: Measure the distance from just below your kneecap to the largest part of your calf. (Keep this measurement for future use). Then measure the circumference at this spot.

It only takes a few minutes to take your measurements, but when you see those inches going down (especially when that number on the scale isn’t cooperating), you’ll be so glad you got that measuring tape out!

2. Choose a program that you can follow for life. Not short-term until you reach your goal, but for life. The key word here is Lifestyle, not Diet. Which, if you think about it, Diet is DIE + a T, so eventually, if you’re following a “Diet,” you will go off of that Diet, and probably lose some, if not all, of your progress. Diet = short-term, Lifestyle = long-term. It’s as simple as that. You don’t want your eating plan to feel like a “Diet,” so you want a program that allows the right mix of healthy eating and your fave indulgences (or Daily Hugs, as I like to call them). That’s a Lifestyle plan, not a Diet.

3. No matter what your goal is, PLEASE remember that muscle gain and fat loss do NOT go up linearly. Oh no. There will be ups and downs, and more ups and downs. And that’s totally normal! So…once again…have Patience and Trust the Process.

4. Don’t forget about those oh-so-important NSVs (non-scale victories)! I mentioned this before, but I HAVE to mention it again. There are so many other ways to see your progress than that darn number on the scale.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You would not believe how important simply drinking enough water every day is to achieving any transformation goal! In fact, when one of our clients isn’t progressing, the first thing we ask them is how much water they’re drinking daily. Water has so many other benefits too!

6. Get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of shut-eye so your body can rest and get ready for an amazing tomorrow! And besides its help with transformation, sleep is so important for so many other reasons!

7. Eat 5 meals a day. This will keep your body primed, happy, and progressing towards your goals all day long, and it will help keep you from falling victim to those cravings that creep in when we get hungry.

One last thing: In the video, I promised to give you a calculator you can use to help you figure out the nutrition aspect of your journey. Click here for an amazing one that will help you figure your RMR + calories spent doing daily activities. It also gives you some calorie recommendations to match your goals!

Well…there you have it. Heidi’s tips on how to get the body you’ve always wanted, and more importantly, how to keep it forever! Guys, I know it seems like a lot. But I PROMISE you, once you get into the habit, it honestly becomes second nature. Plus, as you start fueling your body correctly, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel overall, and that will make it that much easier to stay the course.

Got more questions? Leave ‘em in a comment below. They might be the topic of future blog posts!



Related reading:

Why Most Meal Plans Suck and How to Find the Right One for You
Meal Plan Makeover: A Step-By-Step Guide to Un-Suck A Sucky Meal Plan
Macro Tracking For the Win! All of Your Questions Answered (There’s an awesome macros calculator in this one!)
Macros vs Micros: The Macro Myth Busted!
Are we sick of Donuts + Macros yet? Nope, and here is why…