Lose Fat and Build Muscle Without Trying

by Chris on August 27, 2012

A few days ago I posted on the Train Better Fitness Facebook page a status about losing body fat and building muscle without trying. The deal was if that status got 20 “likes” I would write up a blog post.

Well, it seems there was some confusion on what people needed to click and while the original post as of this writing was at 17 likes, I got at least a dozen more on other posts where I tried to direct attention to the original. Confusing already right? All I know is that my fans and followers responded, and I am a man of my word, so here is the promised post.

I often tell my clients and friends that if you want to improve body composition it is the little lifestyle changes that will have the most impact. Lots of people hit the gym hard for an hour or so but then go home and have such crappy habits that they end up running in circles and not getting anywhere near the physique they want. If you try to alter everything in your life at once you’re going to get overwhelmed and never get anywhere. Instead, take things one step at a time, one meal at a time and simply start making wiser, healthier choices. Sounds like common sense, but it’s often underestimated.

The things I’ve found most helpful are little changes. For starters, look at your diet. The important thing to remember is to take it one meal at a time. Don’t try to overhaul your entire diet at once. Just start making better choices. If you are a soda drinker (like me), this is the most obvious place to start. Not only is soda a crap ton of empty calories, it’s all from sugar – not helpful to losing body fat. However, those of us that like soda usually crave something bubbly or flavorful to drink when eating. Something that worked for me very well was swapping out soda for flavored seltzer, zero calorie soda or just plain water with a lime in it. Speaking from personal experience I see an immediate difference in body composition when I’m not drinking soda.

With food, making intelligent choices every time you eat is vital. Everybody responds best to different diets depending on their own particular physiology and you need to find what works best for you based on your body and lifestyle. However, what has worked best for me and others I’ve spoken with is minimizing carbohydrate intake while prioritizing protein and not being afraid of dietary fat. A commonly accepted guideline is to fill 1/3rd of your plate with a protein source, 1/3rd with vegetables and the last 1/3rd with a carbohydrate source. In my experience, however, most people would do well without that last third. The point is make intelligent, healthy food choices each time you eat. Don’t try to overhaul your diet – rather just look at it one meal at a time.

Now even if your diet is in line extra physical activity is always a good thing. Want to burn more calories without even thinking about it? Take advantage of what’s known as nonexercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT. That’s just a fancy way of saying whatever you do that isn’t in the gym. If you want to improve body composition you clearly should be strength training and using proper conditioning protocols, but there are little things you can do throughout the day to burn extra calories without trying. For example:

  • Stand up instead of sitting whenever possible. Work at a desk? Stand up while you do your work for at least some of the day. Play a lot of video games? Stand up while playing Call of Duty (that should add at least 3 hours of standing for some people).
  • Walk places instead of driving. This is a no brainer but it’s something that people really overlook. The body’s primary energy source while walking is stored body fat. Walking for 30-45 minutes daily burns of lots of extra calories and helps counteract some of the sitting that we do all day.
  • Do things the hard way! Park as far away as the parking lot will allow; take the stairs instead of the elevator; walk the long way somewhere. Lots of drops eventually fill the bucket.

And of course one of the best things you can do is just make your workouts more effective.

  • Time your rest periods while strength training. This adds accountability to your training and will most likely cause you to work harder and faster.
  • Do a handful of short, fast sprints at the end of your workouts. In study after study short sprint bursts have been shown as superior to jogging for fat burning.
  • Use compound movements like squats, deadlifts and unsupported pressing. These movements work so many muscle groups that your body will have no choice but to burn off lots of calories to get the work done.


Now I want to hear from you. Do you have any special things that you do to get a little extra work in without trying? Leave your comments below. Later on this week I will have the first in a 2-part series on something that I think everyone could use some work on.


steve t August 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I’m able to use my lunch hour for walks and then eat my lunch at my desk
try and take the internal stairs instead of the elevator
and I try and cut out rest time on my assistance exercises…that seems to keep my heart rate and breathing up

on the other side I keep trying to eat better by making those small adjustments you suggested….I’ll double up on veggies and drop the carbs on a few meals a week
eating more nuts and yogurt and concentrate on eliminating my junk food

once again nice article Chris
everybody needs a little positive reinforcement

Chris August 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thanks Steve. Those are great ideas as well. Keep up the good work.

John Roux September 6, 2012 at 11:08 am

Thanks for this encouraging article. I totally agree with the ” little lifestyle changes” approach as described by the following quote:

“A man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Chinese Proverb

Chris September 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Glad you liked it John. Thanks for dropping in.

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