3 Tips To Burn Fat Not Muscle

by Caleb Lee on January 11, 2009

If you think you want to lose weight, you’re WRONG — you want to burn fat not muscle! Why is this important? Am I just being argumentative?


Because here’s the truth, and pay close attention:

The numbers on the scale do NOT matter!

The Body Mass Index (BMI) or what weight it says you should be is complete and utter B.S. Forget it. All that matters when it comes to your bodyweight is your body composition. Are you healthy? Are you getting healthier? Do you have more muscle than fat?

With this in mind, here’s three tips to burn fat not muscle:

1. Always, ALWAYS do resistance training!

This is important, and it’s the reason I mention it in almost every article I write about losing weight or burning fat because it’s important for a lot of reasons. When you do resistance training, strength training specifically, you:

  • Increase all your other physical skills (endurance, speed, etc) because strength is the basis for all these
  • You keep yourself healthy by keeping your muscle’s strong
  • You are telling your body to “hold on to that muscle mass (because we need it to lift heavy stuff!) and burn the fat instead because we’re not getting enough calories to keep this current weight up!” in a nutshell.

The last point is important, because if you strength train while cutting calories your body will prefer to burn fat before it burns muscle for fuel even on VERY reduced calorie diets (scientific studies have proven this with 800 calorie per day liquid diets)

2. Avoid long distance, steady-state cardio.

Question: what do most people do for fat burning activities?

Answer: Run on the treadmill for hours every day.

Question: Who still looks the same after a year of training? The treadmill bunnies or the people who start lifting weights and decide to get stronger?

Answer: The treadmill bunnies.

Seriously, long distance cardio is not the most effective way to lose weight. High intensity interval training is what you should do on the treadmill, or bike, or jumprope, or with bodyweight exercises, kettlebells, etc… It’s more effective and a lot more fun.

Here’s a dirty little secret: it’s a LOT easier to not eat 1,000 calories than it is to burn it off on the treadmill! Speaking of calories…

3. Reduce calories, but not protein and fat.

In order to burn fat off your body, you need to create a calorie deficit (at least if you want to do it quickly). So what should you do?

First, don’t neglect your post workout recovery drink. That’s the REAL most important meal of the day (not breakfast!).

Second, low carb diets have taken a bad rap, but they work. Most people will drop a lot of weight when they restrict carbs. In fact, if you’re trying to eat the same amount of calories as usual, but do it ONLY by eating protein and fat you realize REAL quick that it’s harder than it sounds to eat a lot of calories.

Plus, if you’re a guy, it’s super important to keep your fat intake up because it helps keep your testosterone levels up, it’s good for your joints, brain function and a lot of other stuff. Read my post on the The Perfect Muscle Building, Fat Burning Diet Plan

So remember, stop trying to lose weight and put these three tips to use to burn fat not muscle instead!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig Walker November 8, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Some great tips! A few more, if I may:

- be patient, and lose fat at a safe gradual rate (about a pound per week) in order preserve muscle-mass and maintain a high metabolism.

- drink a cup of coffee about one hour before your cardio session in order to burn body fat more efficiently, and to help you train more intensely.

- ideally, cardio should be done first thing in the morning, before breakfast, in order to take advantage of your body's low carbohydrate/blood-sugar levels.

- perhaps an obvious tip: but don't forget to listen to your favourite music while doing cardio – as it has been statistically proven to help you workout harder and longer, which equals more calories burned!

- after your workout, wait for an hour before eating in order to take advantage of your body's 'natural' fat-burning state (without you even needing to do anything!).

- be very careful in the grocery store – particularly when buying oils, margarines, syrups, and other sauces (some of which can contain more than four times as many calories for the same kind of item).


Roy May 29, 2011 at 1:34 am

I lost 40 lbs in four months by eating only yogurt and fruit during the day and then just about anything in the evening. I was surprised at my will power. I ended up dehydrating myself so I drank fluids constantly, then I found out I had diabetes. I have regained about 30 of my lost pounds trying to learn how to control my sugar levels. I have to take meds now and am beginning to work out more which my doc says helps to sweat and burn energy. I have stopped the weight gain and intend on working out and eating smarter to lose fat smarter and not just weight. This information is another resource for me, thanks.


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