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Workout and diet tips to gain muscle and lose fat

If you want to gain muscle and lose fat this New Year, splitting up upper and lower body days with a healthy mix of cardio can help you achieve your goals.

For beginners, walking through the doors of a gym for the first time can be daunting. 

Where do you go? What should you do? How do you use all these machines? 

The gym is full of people with all different levels of experience, from the novice to the avid body builder. When starting on your fitness journey, focus on yourself, and don't worry about all the surrounding noise. If you've made it through the front doors, you're already on the right track. 


It's also important to acknowledge that the gym isn't the only place to get fit. 

There are plenty of other workouts you can do outside the gym to keep yourself active. 

The first step to any workout journey is to establish what your goals are. Once established, you can create a workout that best adheres to those precise goals. 

One common goal for workout beginners is to either gain muscle, lose fat or maybe do a little bit of both at the same time. 

"I would say that it's most optimal to pick one of the goals," Jessica Isaacs, RD, CSSD, a Los Angeles-based registered sports dietitian and Red Bull wellness adviser, told Fox News Digital. "Either to target building muscle or losing body fat, but you can strategically do both simultaneously, it's just going to be a slower process."

When it comes to fitness goals, it's important to be realistic with yourself about what your journey could look like. 

Having unrealistic goals about how much weight you're going to lose off the bat, or the amount of muscle you are going to gain, can quickly lead to disappointment and frustration.

"For most people, a realistic weight loss goal is probably only going to be about four to eight pounds a month and muscle gain, maybe one to two pounds a month," Isaacs explained. 

One familiar struggle of many beginners with working out is not knowing what workouts to do and when to do them. For these specific goals, it's vital to focus on strength training, while mixing in a good amount of cardio. Isaacs also noted that it's important to give your body days to rest. 

"I would say strength training three to four times a week, focusing on heavy weight, moderate rep range, focused on hypertrophy for muscle building, and then also adding in some cardio training two to three times a week," Isaacs said. 


"That could be a combination of steady state cardio days, running, cycling, and hit training. Then also rest days, I would say, are important to include in there too. You need time for the body to recover and repair muscle in order to grow it," Isaacs continued. 

Isaacs recommends a simple and yet effective workout split that could look something like this: 

Monday: Upper body and cardio 

Tuesday: Lower body day 

Wednesday: Rest day 

Thursday: Upper body and cardio 

Friday: Lower body day 

Saturday: Rest 

Sunday: Cardio only 

When it comes to cardio, it doesn't always have to mean running on a treadmill, but it can be. There are plenty of ways you can mix it up. Doing cardio is great for weight loss, but it also has tons of other overall health benefits, like heart health, lung function and blood sugar regulation, Isaacs noted. 

"The most effective workout is the one that you'll stick to," Isaacs said. 

"I would find forms of cardio that you enjoy. It could look like a lot of different things. It could be rowing, it could be hiking, it could be walking on a treadmill, it could be walking on a treadmill at an incline, it could be running, jogging, cycling, swimming. All of these are forms of cardiovascular activity. High intensity interval training is an effective way to lose fat as well, and that's periods of explosive high intensity training with short rests in between. That could be plyometric work, like box jumps, mountain climbers, burpees and sprints."


Working out is one part of achieving fitness goals, and eating right is the second half. Both of these need to be done in conjunction in order for real results to come through. 

If you're working out consistently, but your diet does not align with your goals, or vice versa, you won't get the results you want. 

With diet in particular, you'll really want to narrow it down to one specific goal, either gaining muscle or losing fat, but there are certain factors that should be present with either one of these goals. 

"With either of them, we want a balanced diet, really focusing on being mindful of portions, and then a high daily consistent protein intake is important," said Isaacs. 

These two goals do have differing dietary approaches to them, so you'll want to narrow your goals down a bit more when it comes to what you're consuming on a daily basis. 

"One thing to keep in mind is that lean muscle mass is more metabolically active than other tissues, so people with more muscle mass are going to burn more calories at rest," Isaacs said. 

"So if you have that goal of putting on more muscle, then you're going to be burning more body fat at rest than if you have less muscle mass. If it's mostly weight loss, but you still want to kind of focus on building muscle, I would create a small daily calorie deficit. And then, if it was building muscle, I would look at a small surplus and your daily calories."


What you eat isn't all that's important, it's also when you eat. For a productive workout, you want to fill your body with proper fuel before you begin. 

"It's really important to fuel effectively around our workouts and make sure that we're maximizing our workouts," Isaacs said. "Carbs pre-workout are really important to fuel your workouts and also moderate caffeine intake can really be helpful to maximize endurance and elevate your workouts."

Working out in general can be a difficult habit to get into. Often, it's easier to get discouraged and give up than to persevere and keep going. Reaching your goals is a long battle, and then maintaining that progress is another challenge. 

"Accountability and support is helpful. Maybe you join a class, maybe you get a workout partner, maybe you post on social media about your progress, if that is helpful for you," Isaacs noted. 

"Give yourself grace as well, if you need to take a day off, if you need to take a break. In the big scheme of things, this can be a long journey for people. One bad day is not going to blow your whole progress, so giving yourself grace is important as well."

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