Wanting to Burn More Calories in the Gym While Maintaining Muscle?

Are you wanting to lose weight but still keep your hard earned muscle mass? Throughout the past decades there have been many new workout programs to do just that, but most people will continue to fail at them, because they do not want to stick to their diet or they get burned out on their cookie cutter program that was designed for someone else’s body type. What we need to realize is that there is no generic workout or diet plan that will work for everyone. We all have needs and they vary from person to person. In each exercise and diet regimen there needs to be a balance of healthy foods and good macros,  appropriate cardio, and resistance training designed by a professional for your specific needs.

Let’s begin talking about the most important and probably the most confrontational aspect – diet. With weight loss, you need to put your body in a caloric deficit, meaning you must consume less calories than you are burning, before you can see a difference. Even just cutting out a few hundred calories will help, if you do it for an extended period of time. It all depends on your goals and patience. Losing between 1-2 pounds per week is optimal. Of course there are ways to do it faster, like water cutting, or cutting out sodium or certain food groups entirely, but smaller proportion sizes are proven to work far better than limiting an entire macronutrient. This will help you maintain your diet as you are not completely cutting out certain foods. The longer you can go on this “diet” will prove that you are able to shift from an unsustainable dieter to a sustainable healthy eater.

Next item on the list is cardio. Good old cardio, don’t you just love it? Not! Cardio is a big player in the scheme of things but it is tedious. So, you have two main options. Either you can do steady state cardio or HIIT training by adding an elevated heart rate during while still performing strength movements.

Steady state cardio is the traditional way of training your cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Most people connect cardio and weight loss with being on a treadmill for hours on end. You will burn calories this way, but it might take awhile to see results or you may plateau pretty quickly as extended durations of endurance training can teach the body how to be extremely efficient in its energy use. This means that long periods on a treadmill can teach your body how to use less calories, which is not a great thing if you are looking to shed some stubborn fat.

HIIT training is going to be where we will integrate strength training with periods of higher intensity movements as to elevate your heart rate to a specific range dependent on your expertise level, fitness level, and your specific goals. HIIT training can be a more intense workout but will always be relative to the clients fitness levels.  During this training type our workouts will be cut nearly in half, all while still maintaining a higher caloric expenditure, but also still allowing us to gain strength and muscle. A simple routine with HIIT for just 20 to 30 minutes can yield the same caloric results of a 70 minute treadmill workout and the same strength gains as a slow 90 minute weight routine.

The final subject is resistance training. This is what will develop and maintain your skeletal musculature. Needless to say, if you want to maintain muscle while losing weight, you will need a lifting routine. Performing more strength movements than endurance exercises, in the long run, will help burn more fat and build muscle leading to a healthier body composition.

During any regimen that is designed for you to lose weight you need to be aware of two things: 1. Resistance training is physically and mentally challenging. 2. It is unrealistic to think you will maintain all of the muscle you have, If you are losing body weight. This is just the physiological way humans use the energy we have stored in our body’s. That is why I always design programs to have either strength or HIIT exercise routines in them. Never should your regimen only consist of cardiovascular training.

So how do you put all of this together? I will give you a an example of how to structure it all throughout the week.

Day one – Steady state cardio for 45 minutes

Day two – Legs , HIIT session

Day three – Chest and shoulders

Day four – rest day

Day five – Back and arms, HIIT

Day six – Core and accessory work, steady state cardio for 45 minutes

Day seven – rest day

This is just an example of how to structure such a program. Remember to keep your diet in check as well. I encourage you to experiment with programming. Something may work for you while another may not. You don’t know until you try. Give this program example a try and see if works for you!

Remember that this technically is a cookie cutter program and that everyone should consult a fitness professional so that they can assist you in designing a personalized program that will better fit your body type and lifestyle.


Justin Crossland, CPT

1 Comment

  1. Colleen Dohle on August 19, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    Excellent article, I think I’m on my way, definitely a personal journey!