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How to Burn Fat but Preserve Muscle

by Melissa Bell
4 minutes read

You’ve build some muscle and decided to burn fat. They told you to change your workout routine and start doing high reps and low weights to tone, and hours of cardio every week. That’s certainly a great way to lose weight, but lose weight means lose fat AND muscle, too. If you spent months or years to build that muscle, you don’t want to burn it while trying to burn fat, do you?

Can You Burn Fat Only?

YES you CAN! It’s not easy but it’s achievable, and despite what personal trainers suggest, the solution is not spending hours on treadmills, or exercise bikes.

It’s proven that when you do lots of cardio you burn fat, but the downside is that you burn muscle too.

So you will lose fat, lose muscle, and eventually get smaller. Have you ever noticed that resistance runners (those that run marathons) are always skinny?

It’s physically impossible to maintain all your muscle if you do resistance training such as cardio, especially if combined with a workout routine composed of high reps and lower weights.

For our purpose that is a NO GO!


What’s the secret formula?

If you want to burn fat you have to change your life style:

  1. Reduce your calorie intake;
  2. High protein/low carbs diet;
  3. Lift heavy weights;
  4. Do SOME cardio.

Quite a bit different from what we usually hear, right?

Reduce Calories

There is no way to gain weight if you don’t consume more calories than you burn and the opposite is true when burning fat:

Calorie Intake < Calorie Burned = Fat Loss

You should reduce your daily calorie intake, starting with 250 calorie per day, and if you’re not satisfied, lower your calorie even more, but slowly. Some people will tell you that calorie burning is out of date and was wrong in the first place, and while some new research has merit, none disproves to lose weight you need less calories. Just make sure the calories you do take are healthy and good for you. Which brings us to:

High Protein – Low Carbs/Fats Diet

Be mindful of what you eat. Carbs are the main fuel for our body. Your body burns carbs before burning the fat reserves. If you lower carbs you have more chances to burn fat faster.

On the other hand you want to build or at least preserve muscle, so high protein intake will compensate the low carbs consumption.

Lift Heavy Weights

A protein based diet cannot build or preserve muscle alone – you need to work out. If you want to burn fat and keep the muscle, you have to communicate to your body that you really need that muscle.

If you do high reps you have to lower the weights. That way your body is trained for resistance and endurance, not strength and consequently doesn’t need to retain the muscle mass to be resistant.

On the other hand, if you lift heavy weights your body knows that it can’t burn muscle, otherwise the next time it has to lift those weights it’ll be unprepared for the stress.

The problem that you will have to face is that it’s hard to lift heavy weights when you lower your calories (less energy). This is why you shouldn’t dramatically lower calorie intake, and should increase protein at the same time. You might not be able to increase the weight, but you should do your best to lift at least the same weights every time you hit the gym.

Do Some Cardio

You only need to do some cardio, not hours of cardio. You can do between 20 to 30 minutes when you go to the gym, and only AFTER the workout.

Don’t do cardio before workout, otherwise you spend your energy there and you struggle when it’s time to lift weights. Save your energies for your workout, and then do some cardio to burn the fat reserves.

In all honesty, you don’t have to do cardio. Reducing calories, changing diet and lifting weights is enough to burn fat. However your heart is your most important muscle and it’s essential to train that muscle too. Some cardio will only make you burn fat faster, but too much cardio will make you burn muscle too, even if you lift heavy weights.

Choose the cardio machine that you prefer, treadmill, elliptical, stepper, exercise bike, etc., are all good with different characteristics and time required to see results. Keep this 4 principles in mind and you will have success.

We hope this article aids you in your quest to burn fat while preserving your muscles. If it does – spread the word!

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