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Losing weight is great but if you want to look smokin’ hot, body fat is where it’s at.

When you embark on a weight loss journey, it’s  almost guaranteed that you will be saying  “Bon Voyage!” to some muscle mass and for women over fifty, that’s a recipe for disaster. You can counter act this phenomena by losing weight slowly, eating an adequate number of calories, pumping up your protein intake, and working out. The goal with any weight loss plan is to lose fat and maintain as much lean mass, or muscle, as possible.

How fast should you lose weight?

Almost everyone agrees, losing weight at a rate of one to two pounds a week is the best plan for taking off fat and keeping muscle. Dropping weight any faster puts you at risk of losing more than fat. You’ll wind up losing muscle and bone mass too, which translates into a slower metabolism and increased risk of osteoporosis for women over fifty.

How many calories should you eat to keep your muscles?

Most women can successfully shed pounds on a diet of between 1200 and 1500 calories during weight loss. If you are a work out junkie, that may not be sufficient. A good rule of thumb is that you never want to run more than a one thousand calorie deficit per day.  So if  you are planning an especially long run or playing a strenuous sport you’ll want to keep an   eye on your calorie totals.

And keep in mind that it isn’t just the quantity of calories you consume that counts when it comes to muscle maintenance, it’s quality too.

Besides eating, it’s really important to drink enough water in order to help flush out the muscle soreness. Say goodbye to boring water!

Why is protein important to lose weight?

Protein is the not so secret weapon in the war on fat.

First, protein satisfies hunger and takes longer to digest so you stay feeling full longer and are less likely to snack or go back to the kitchen to refill your plate.

Second, protein helps regulate the blood sugar bounce you get from eating necessary carbohydrates by slowing how fast your body absorbs their sugars. (That’s why I suggest you always pair a protein with your carbs.)

Third, protein is essential to repairing and strengthening your muscles after you exercise. Working out builds lean muscle mass which increases your resting metabolic rate or the ability to burn calories doing nothing. Booyah!

Fourth, it takes more energy to digest protein which means you burn more calories eating. Awesome.

Fifth, protein helps ensure you burn fat, not muscle. Research shows that in order to effectively burn fat, your body needs a nudge from either protein or carbs. Eating protein will help preserve your lean muscle mass while your body eats your fat.

If you want to lose fat and nourish your muscles, you MUST eat enough protein. Balanced nutrition is essential to building muscle and burning your stored fat.

Click here to download our collection of high-protein breakfast recipes!

What can I do to burn more fat?

Build more muscle. The key to maximizing your fat burning ability is to increase your muscle mass. You do that by strength training and eating a balanced diet that is heavy on lean plant and animal proteins and fruits and vegetables. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more calories you burn.

Want to burn more fat? The secret lies in building more muscle, especially if you’re over 50.

So how do you nourish your muscles?

First answer is before AND after you workout.

Most folks work out first thing in the morning. It’s just more convenient to get up and get it  done before you get on with the rest of your day.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, that means working out on an empty stomach and that is like sending your body an engraved invitation to break down muscle instead of burn fat.

When you work out, your body gets its energy from the carbohydrates you eat. The carbohydrates get converted to glucose and the glucose you don’t use immediately is converted into glycogen and stored in your liver and muscles. If you don’t fuel your body,  it  has to break down the muscles to get to the stored glycogen for energy. To rebuild those muscles, your body needs more fuel.

What should you eat before you work out?

To maximize your fat burning potential, you need to eat a meal that contains carbohydrates, fiber, protein, and healthy fat about an hour to an hour and a half before you work out.

Some good pre-workout breakfast combinations include:
  • Greek yogurt with walnuts and berries
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies and avocado
  • A breakfast smoothie
  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit
  • Whole grain peanut butter toast with sliced bananas
Some good afternoon and evening pre-workout suggestions include:
  • Grilled chicken and mixed veggies
  • Grilled salmon and sweet potatoes
  • Water packed tuna with whole wheat crackers
  • Turkey avocado wrap
  • Whole wheat pasta with chicken and broccoli

What should you eat after you work out?

After you have worked up a good sweat, you’ll need to replenish your body with another light and healthy meal. Your post workout meal helps strengthen and rebuild muscles after they’ve spent their glycogen during exercise. So within thirty minutes to an hour after you finish crushing your workout goals, you’ll need to eat again.

Make sure your post workout snack combines protein and carbohydrates to refill your energy stores, rebuild your muscle, and ramp up your metabolism. Research shows that waiting two hours to fuel up decreases your muscles ability to replace their stored glycogen by as much as 50%. Plan ahead and pack accordingly.

Try these post workout snack ideas:
  • Peanut butter banana protein shake
  • Sautéed veggies and non-GMO tofu
  • Black beans and brown rice with avocado
  • Two hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit
  • Hummus with whole grain pita wedges
  • Grilled chicken and pineapple skewers

Final Thoughts

The key to keeping your body focused on losing all that wiggly, jiggly, deadly fat is to nourish your muscles at every meal and before and after every workout. Whenever someone sets out to lose weight, the goal is to burn fat. No one wants to lose muscle and bone, particularly women over fifty. That’s just a byproduct of getting slim.

Fight back by setting reasonable weight loss goals. Don’t try to lose ten pounds in two weeks! Eat enough calories and protein to make sure your body is targeting fat, not muscle, and strength train. Any weight bearing exercise that helps you build muscle counts.

Those beautifully sculpted, well-nourished muscles will help you keep you burning fat and living the happy healthy life you deserve!

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