top of page

How To Burn Fat While Building Muscle, According To Our Experts

Let’s cut straight to it: one of the main reasons people attend our No1 Fitness Retreats is to burn off some of that excess fat that’s slowly made its way onto their bodies. It's also no secret that the pursuit of a healthier, fitter, possibly flatter body often involves shedding excess body fat.

The problem is, at least for most of our clients, trying to trim down without losing muscle mass can feel pretty daunting. From diet fads to exercise routines, to those “miracle” products that promise you overnight results, figuring out the secret sauce to burning off fat and protecting muscle is overwhelming.

The good news is: while it’s not always easy, it’s totally possible to burn body fat and gain muscles at the same time. Trust us: it’s something we’ve been doing for our clients since 2008. It just takes a little patience, some planning, the guidance of experts and consistency. But to help clear the fog and bring some clarity to your fat loss journey, we're going to break down the basics of burning body fat while building muscle using our science-backed strategies.

Understanding Body Fat: The Essentials

Before we dive into the "how," it's pretty crucial to grasp the "what" and "why." So, body fat (or adipose tissue) serves as an energy reserve. When we consume more calories than we burn, the excess energy is stored as fat. Of course, some fat is essential for normal bodily function, but that excessive body fat, well, that can lead to health issues.

The Difference Between Weight Loss and Fat Loss

Losing weight is exactly what it sounds like: it means reducing the number that pops up on your scales. But your total body weight is made up of lean body mass and fat mass, while your lean body mass is made up of muscle mass, water mass, bone mass, organs, and tissue. Therefore, if you lose weight, you could be losing fat or lean body mass.

That’s why losing body fat while gaining muscle requires somewhat conflicting approaches. The traditional path for losing body fat is caloric deficit via diet and exercise, while gaining muscle typically involves a caloric surplus, which supports the development of new tissue. And if that’s not complex enough, fat and muscle are closely linked, making it difficult to prioritise losing one without impacting the other. Difficult but definitely not impossible (just ask our clients).

Losing Fat While Maintaining (and Building) Muscle

Maintaining and building muscle while losing fat is a pretty similar path to just losing fat: you need to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, incorporating strength training into your workout routine. These are consistent routines that you can try to maintain on a daily basis. In other words: you want to think beyond a fad diet that promises quick results. But to spell it out completely for you, our Head Coaches and Trainers have created a walkthrough with your name on it:

Food is Not The Enemy

A calorie deficit does NOT mean eating as little as possible. In fact, when you’re at one of our retreats, you’ll get to enjoy three chef-prepared meals that contain a balance of protein, complex carbs, vegetables, and healthy fats, as well as protein and fibre snacks. Acting like food is the enemy is simply not the answer. After all, if you’re running on no calories (or on very little calories) your body is just going to take that energy from your muscles, resulting in loss of muscle mass.

Mix Up Your Workouts With Heavy Lifting

Burning fat while maintaining muscle means combining cardio and strength training. Seriously, It’s time to ditch those 2-pound dumbbells and start lifting heavy. Why? Because increasing the weight better stimulates the muscle growth needed to improve body composition. It also follows the core training principle of progressive overload, which is the incremental increase of stress placed on the body when training.

This is because muscle growth comes from forcing the body to adapt to new and more challenging stressors in training. If you’re not constantly challenging the body and giving it fresh stimuli to adapt to, then it will never grow or improve.

But here’s the real kicker: strength training keeps your body burning its excess fat stores long after you’ve finished your session. In fact, you’ll continue to burn calories for the rest of the day, even when you’re resting.

Get Into The Habit of Cardio Sessions

Aerobic exercise is one of the most key elements for losing fat, but it doesn’t have to mean a daily HIIT class (even if we do love a beach HIIT class at No1 Bootcamp). Yepp, high-intensity workouts are great, but there’s a lot of benefits to low-impact and low-intensity workouts too. We’re talking about our sunrise hikes, jogging, running, spinning, dancing, cardio boxing, swimming, jump ropes, battle ropes and everything else.

The point is: aerobic exercise doesn’t have to be hard, but it needs to be sustained, working up toward 30 to 60 minutes of consistent exercise. That said, if you’re just starting out, do it in smaller bouts that respect your limits.

Seriously, Strength Training is The One

Cardio is absolutely necessary for burning fat, but strength training is necessary for building and maintaining muscle, as well as burning fat. Seriously. Our structured and challenging resistance sessions are designed to be the most effective tools for fat loss and body recomposition. Not only because lifting heavy weights will expend an increased amount of calories session to session, but it actually builds muscle tissue, unlike cardio, which will increase your basal metabolic rate.” In other words, you can eat more and still lose fat.

Just remember: when you get into a strength training routine, you want to consistently switch things up rather than fall into a pattern, as that’s what will help you challenge your body and progress. We’re talking about changing up the reps, sets, weight, tempo, the total time under tension, your range of motion, rest times, angles, machines versus. free weights and, at the top of the pile, the part of your body being targeted.

Rest And Recovery Is Essential Too

Exercising regularly may be essential for losing fat and maintaining muscle, but that doesn’t mean you should work yourself to the bone. Rest is just as essential. In fact, overtraining and pushing yourself beyond your limits can cause excessive muscle protein breakdown, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

You also want to make sure you’re getting adequate sleep and lots of rest, which are vital for fat loss. You may not realise this, but sleep deprivation can disrupt hormonal balance, increase appetite, and decrease energy levels, all of which will hinder your weight loss journey.

Cool fact: even sleep loss of up to 3 hours can lead to us losing more than 50 percent less body fat during a planned phase of weight loss, and actually lose more muscle tissue too.

Get into Compound Exercises

Everyone is searching for an exercise where you get more bang-for-your-buck in the hunt for building muscle mass and burning more calories. That’s where Compound exercises come in. Think moves like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and any moves that stimulate the greatest release of human growth hormones, which help to preserve lean muscle mass. They’re also perfect for anyone in a rush given they work so much of your body so quickly.

Consistency: The Unsung Hero

The road to fat loss is not a sprint; it's a marathon, which is what makes consistency the unsung hero of fat loss and muscle growth. That’s why we urge all of our clients to establish sustainable habits and routines that you can maintain in the long term. Crash diets and extreme exercise regimens will simply lead to temporary results that can be detrimental to your health.

Mindful Eating Is The Key To Fat Loss

Starting with a healthy, balanced diet. Ideally you want to incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, while avoiding excessive consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats, as well as monitoring portion sizes as overeating can impede progress (something we teach you all about at No1 Fitness Retreats).

After that, it’s about understanding the power of macronutrients. Things like proteins, complex carbohydrates and fats, with each playing a specific role in your diet. For example:

  • Proteins: Essential for muscle maintenance and repair. Include lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and dairy in your diet.

  • Complex Carbohydrates: Your body's primary energy source. Opt for complex carbs like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

  • Healthy Fats: Important for overall health, but choose unsaturated fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts) over saturated and trans fats.

Time To Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is basically only eating for a certain period of time during the day. For example, those who follow the 16:8 plan eat for 8 hours a day (like between 8 and 12) and fast for the remaining 16 hours. This will help train your body to burn body fat, reduce insulin resistance and avoid metabolic conditions like diabetes, all of which is an effective way to improve body composition for many people.

Drink More Water

Drinking enough water is vital. Facts. Not just for losing fat and maintaining muscle, but also for just being healthy overall.It’s one of those things that so many people yawn at, but it actually impacts metabolism, performance and virtually every body function. What’s more, the water you drink also carries the nutrients we need to the cells and the cellular debris back from the tissues to the kidney, liver or back to the intestines to be transported out of the body. It’s pretty epic.

The Role our Fitness Retreats Play in All of This

From the moment we opened our permanent fitness retreat on the Norfolk Coast, we did it with the intention of empowering people to take their fitness journey to the next level, no matter where they were on that journey – and it’s all thanks to our completely bespoke and tailored approach to each individual from the moment you arrive. But as well as everything you have read above, all of which is championed by our world-class team of trainers, we have a few more secrets up our sleeves:

Mindset: The Ultimate Weapon

The power of a positive mindset cannot be overstated, which is why our trainers don’t yell or shout, they simply motivate you in the way that suits your personality. It’s about staying patient, motivated, and focussing on your long-term health rather than quick fixes. After all, small setbacks are natural, so we empower you to welcome that instead of letting them derail your progress.

Tracking Progress: Data-Driven Success

Monitoring your fat loss journey is essential, but understanding your body composition is the real key here, and it starts from your first day on our retreat where we measure your body composition using the most state-of-the-art machine: the InBody970. It’s a machine that provides us with over seven incredibly detailed metrics that we then use to get the most out of your stay.

On top of that, we encourage our clients to keep a food diary, track their workouts, and regularly assess their progress, all of which provides you with an insight into what's working and where adjustments are needed.

The Very Best Experts

Seeking professional guidance is the best way to maximise your fitness journey, and our trainers are the very best of the best. From our head coaches to our professional chefs, dietitians to yoga instructors, ,everyone is on hand to guide you, motivate you and offer advice tailored to your individual needs.

To Sum It All Up

Burning body fat is a science, but it's also a personal journey. No single method fits all, and there's no magic bullet. We know this better than anyone. Instead, it's about embracing the fundamentals of nutrition, exercise, consistency, and a positive mindset. Sustainable fat loss may take time, but it's the path to not just a leaner body, but a healthier and happier you.

Of course, if you want to put yourself on a fast-track to your fat loss or muscle mass goals, then get in touch with us today (and, yeah, we have plenty of discount offers to ensure you can afford to kickstart your fitness journey with us).

It's time to discover the life-changing magic of our No1 Norfolk Retreat for yourself and embark on a journey to better health, fitness, and overall well-being. For more information, fitness tips and nutrition tricks, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

bottom of page