Here are a few things to consider when weight loss (fat) is your primary goal while retaining muscle.
1. Fasted cardio in the morning is ideal best because insulin levels are lowest, hormone sensitive lipase is fully active, the fat cell releasing enzyme while lipoprotein lipase is dormant, the storage enzyme for fat cells. GH is still coming off its overnight high, a major fat burning hormone, less blood glucose is in your blood stream to be burned, leaving fats as the go to substrate. Keep the session under 60 minutes long, 45 minutes is ample, to long and you eat up muscle tissue.
2. Do not consume carbs when you don’t need them, meaning that if you’re not about to work out or you just got done working out, don’t eat carbs! No more than 25 grams in a meal if you must have some. Give yourself the proper carbohydrate fuel to get through a workout and the carbs to recover, that’s it! Any other carbs taken in should be "run off" or carbs from veggies, cottage cheese, nuts, natural peanut butter or sources that are not true carb sources like starches and sugars.
3. Do not get hungry! Letting yourself get hungry causes loops to enter the diet, you get impatient and look for anything to eat. It’s human nature when you feel starved. Even if it’s the right thing to eat, you end up eating way too much of it. Eat often enough to stay full even if its lots of veggies and water.
4. Do not consume large amounts of fat and carbs together. This is a controversy in many fitness circles right now but it is my belief based on human metabolism and peoples over reliance on carbs. Carbs of any kind will release insulin (high glycemic more so) which acts to store anything in your blood stream. Fats normally get booted to storage since they don’t need chemical processing or active transport to become body fat. Plus the body prefers to use carbs (glucose) as energy. So my message is don’t eat them together in huge amounts. A few grams of healthy fat with complex carbs are ok (15g fat for every 50 grams carbs eaten at a sitting). Assuming you always eat a protein at every meal as well of course!
5. Take fish oils! They increase your sensitivity to carbs (allowing you to use more vs store more) and they assist with fat loss via PPAR-delta stimulation (a mitochondrial activator found in muscle). Allwyn Cosgrove, a very popular weight loss specialist and researcher is huge on fish oils to aid in fat loss (3-6g a day).
6. Screw the popular weight loss thermogenic products on the market. They all say proprietary blend which means nothing more than "some of this and some of that". Supplements to take before cardio that are known to assist with fat burning in amounts found to have an effect are:
-Caffeine 200mg (PDE inhibitor, beta 1,2,3 adrenergic agonist, acetylcholine antagonist)
-Yohimbine HCL 8mg (alpha 2 adgrenergic antagonist)
-Aspirin 81mg (inhibits alpha-glycerol-phosphate, the re-esterification enzyme of free fatty acids)
-Green tea extract (EGCG) 400mg (inhibits the breakdown of norepinephrine)
7. 60 to 30 minutes before bed eat 1-1.5 cups cottage cheese (2% or less) to fight hunger cravings and give your body some slow digesting casein protein to breakdown and use during the night, its void of sugar, low carb (lactose) and high protein, plus it’s got calcium which can help you sleep. No it won’t get stored as fat! Your body does not just turn off your digestive system at night people! If calories are controlled during the day and exercise is intense enough, you will process and use foods like this even at night.
8. Eat citrus fruits if you must eat fruits as they are acidic and raise insulin much less than most typical fruits (exception of pineapple). Plus they contain flavinoids such as naringin in oranges and grapefruit which also help with fat loss by extending caffeine’s effects. Do not eat grapefruit with prescription meds as it will amplify its effects in most cases.
9. Maintain some form of weight training at least 3x a week or your body won’t have a damn reason to hold muscle, it will burn muscle faster then the recession is burning away at the stock market if you’re doing cardio more than 4x a week. Too much cardio and no weights = a soft skeleton body in no time.
10. If long duration steady state cardio (45 minutes) stops working, throw in a shorter 30 minute intervals (hard/easy work rest periods) 1-2x a week and go with that as a plateau buster. Works every time for most!
11. Lastly, when you really feel like you’re hungry as hell all the time and weight loss is not keeping up, "REFEEDS" are far more effective then cheat meals or cheat days at kick starting your metabolism. Refeed’s are just 1 single very high carb meal of slow and medium digesting carbs. Eaten before bed (yes 1-2 hours before bed!) tricks your body into sucking up all these carbs all night long causing it to blunt any hint of starvation or metabolic slow down. T3, leptin, and a couple other hormones related to hunger and metabolic rate go through the roof because of the overnight presence of insulin (you won’t store much if your diet has been spot on over the week). This does have a limit however. The amount and type of carbs needs to be titrated to your bodyweight.
These rules only work when adhered to in the strictest sense. If you give the rules 100% compliance you will get 100% of the effect. If you give a half assed effort then you get half assed results. I don’t mean to be blunt but I do mean to be honest and straight forward. Results only come to those who do what it takes to get them, not to those who looks for short cuts and magic pills.