Some people want or need to lose weight but don’t want to bulk up. Exercises of any type will tone and build your muscles to some degree. However, there are specific exercises you can do to avoid gaining too much.
The best way to lose fat without gaining muscle is to reduce your calorie intake and stick to cardio. Think exercises that get your heart rate up like walking, running, and jumping rope. Nonetheless, your body type will determine how you respond to exercise.
This article discusses how to lose fat without gaining muscle through nutrition and exercise. You’ll also learn how different body types respond to calorie reduction and increased physical activity. Let’s get going!
How to Lose Fat
You may want to lose fat for personal or medical reasons. Perhaps both. Regardless, losing fat starts with creating a daily calorie deficit. Your body needs to burn more calories than it takes in. That said, when you cut calories, you can also lose muscle mass and tone.
That’s because your body looks to burn other fuel sources when it doesn’t get enough from food. As a result, your body will burn fat and muscle cells. This is why many experts recommend getting exercise, so your muscles don’t diminish or atrophy too much.
When you lose too much muscle, your metabolism slows down significantly. And this negates the purpose of dieting, which is to lose weight from fat. To determine how much you should cut your daily calories, start with how many you need to maintain your current weight.
You can use online calorie counters and recommendations. However, women should not eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day, and men should get at least 1,600. Anything below those thresholds will result in too much muscle loss and nutritional deficiencies.
How to Lose Fat Without Gaining Muscle
As long as you create a daily calorie deficit, there are three ways to lose fat without gaining muscle. The first is to clean up your diet and reduce calories. A second way is to increase your cardio. And the final way is to do a combination of both – reduce calories and do more cardio.
The first approach requires cutting more calories from your diet since you won’t be burning more through exercise. Say you’re a 45-year-old 5’5 female who weighs 155 pounds. You want to lose 20 pounds. You’ll need to eat between 1,200 and 1,400 calories a day to do this.
Now, if you take the second approach, your caloric intake will stay the same. However, you’ll either start exercising or increase the amount of weekly exercise you get. You’ll need to stay away from most strength training exercises to not gain muscle.
The final approach is often the most successful. Instead of cutting 500 calories from your daily diet, you cut 250. This is easier to do for most people since they don’t feel as deprived. Yet, you also start increasing your cardio activity. Do at least 30 minutes a day, even if it’s just walking.
What Exercises Can I Do To Lose Fat But Not Gain Muscle?
Before you start an exercise program, you should speak to your doctor or a medical professional. They can help determine if you’re healthy enough to do cardio exercises and recommend how much you should be doing.
With this in mind, even cardio exercises will tone your muscles and make them tighter. However, running and walking will not increase your muscle mass as much as bodybuilding or strength training. Some people can use dumbbells and resistance bands and not gain much.
Others will bulk up with dumbbells and resistance exercises that use their own body weight. But for the most part, here are some exercises you can do to lose fat but not gain muscle.
- Running and jogging
- Cross-country skiing
- Baseball and softball
Generally speaking, cardio exercises do not involve weights or resistance. Cardio burns calories and builds endurance by making your heart and lungs work harder. But high-intensity cardio like running burns more calories per hour than walking.
The Impact of Different Body Types
All you have to do is look around to see that people have various body types. We all know that person who can eat whatever they want and stay thin. But there’s another person we know who struggles to keep their weight down even with a balanced diet.
Quite a few people fall in between. They don’t have a hard time losing weight, but they can’t go crazy at the dessert table. The first body type is an ectomorph, the second an endomorph, and the third a mesomorph.
That being said, there are those of us who have a combination of body types. Ectomorphs don’t gain fat or muscle easily. Endomorphs, however, gain both easily and quickly. Ectomorphs fall somewhere in-between.
If you’re an ectomorph, you won’t have to do much to lose fat and not gain muscle. Eating good, clean nutrition is probably all you need. Ectomorphs may need to boost their cardio and trim sweets and processed foods for their diets. Endomorphs have to step it up more.
Endomorphs and Losing Fat Without Gaining Muscle
Because endomorphs can gain either fat or muscle easily, they have to extend more effort. This means cutting a lot of carbs and eating more protein. Endomorphs may have to do more cardio but stick with lower-impact exercises like the elliptical machine and walking.
Low-impact aerobics can also help endomorphs lose fat without gaining muscle. But while the ectomorph and mesomorph might get away with 30 minutes a day, endomorphs need 45 minutes to an hour.
Unfortunately, endomorphs tend to have slower metabolisms. And their body compositions already contain more fat than muscle. Plus, the calories they take in are more likely to convert to fat because of their sluggish metabolisms.
That’s why doing some strength training exercises can benefit endomorphs. Dumbbells and resistance training may build up enough muscle tone to increase the metabolism enough to promote fat loss. However, this is not something other body types will want to do.
The Role of Fiber in Your Diet
Like protein, fiber keeps you full. When you eat foods like beans and apples, you tend to not get hunger pains a few hours after eating meals. In other words, you feel satiated for longer. Compare this with foods that are high in simple carbohydrates and sugars.
You may feel okay for an hour or two, but you’ll soon come down from that high. It’s sometimes called a sugar crash. You may feel tired, weak, or feel like you need to eat again. Some people also hear their stomachs start to grumble or feel like they’re not full.
This can cause people to eat more calories than they’d like or should. Eating a fiber-rich diet helps keep your blood sugar levels stable and stick to your ideal caloric intake. While fiber doesn’t have as many nutrients as protein, you should get a certain amount.
Grown females need between 21 and 25 grams of fiber each day. Adult males need a bit more – between 30 and 38 grams. People with specific health conditions like IBS and diverticulitis may need more.
How Often Should I Exercise?
Current guidelines suggest people need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. If your exercise is strenuous, you can cut that time down to 75 minutes a week. What you do for a job can also impact how much exercise you need to do in the gym.
For instance, if you have a highly physical job in construction or delivering products, you may not need to exercise each day. You may also be able to count some of the time on your job as part of your weekly total. Remember minimum guidelines may not help you lose weight.
So, you may need more than 150 minutes of moderate physical activity to lose fat without gaining muscle. Getting in 150 minutes a week comes out to 30 minutes five days a week. You might want to try upping your activities to 45 minutes or 30 minutes six or seven days a week.
Most people find it easy to walk 30 minutes to an hour each day to lose fat without gaining muscle. Walking gets your heart rate up but isn’t strenuous. If it’s too hot or cold to walk outside, you can use a treadmill. Treadmills also let you adjust the speed and incline.
For many, losing fat without gaining muscle is possible by watching what they eat and doing moderate cardio exercises. However, some body types may need to put more conscious and dedicated effort into losing fat. Some light strength or resistance training may be necessary.
Endomorphs might also need to cut sweets and simple carbs from their diets and exercise for at least an hour five days a week. Just remember that how many calories and exercise you need depends on age, sex, height, weight, and goals.