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Muscular But Have Belly Fat?

Jan 27, 2024

 So you’ve got muscle…great!

But you’ve got some fat around your midsection, which means that you’ve been consuming a little bit too many calories in order for your body to sustain itself.

Why Belly Fat Is Stubborn

As I’m sure you already know, belly fat can be very stubborn and it tends to be the last place where we lose fat, especially for men who store their excess fat in the midsection. If you want to lose fat, you need to produce a calorie deficit. And that just means that you’re burning off more calories than you take in. And while exercise may play a role in belly fat loss, we’re going to talk about that a little bit later, nutrition is where you’re going to get most of the results.

So what kind of diet do you have to do?

Do you have to do a diet?

A meta analysis (that’s just a study of studies) from 2014 showed that it doesn’t really matter whether you’re on a low carb or a low fat diet.

The weight loss is approximately the same.

What they actually said was:

“Significant weight loss was observed with any low carbohydrate or low fat diet weight loss differences between individually named diets were small.”

And here’s the kicker:

“This supports the practice of recommending any diet that a patient will adhere to in order to lose weight.”

Or lose body fat for that matter.

Why Adherence Matters For Fat Loss

So let’s talk about it here once for a moment, it basically means that you choose a diet or a pattern of eating that makes sense for you and that you can sustain for the longterm. And that’s how you can reduce your belly fat levels and keep them down. Most people have managed to lose weight for a little while. You’ve probably seen your belly fat come down just a little bit. You might have lost weight for a month or two months or three months, maybe even a year. But long-term adherence is being able to maintain your weight over many years.

That’s the real challenge.

And the only way to do that is to find a nutrition plan that works for you long-term.

People will tell you that diets don’t work and that reducing your calories doesn’t work, but it absolutely does. If you’re able to maintain it.

And that’s the question of adherence that we want to focus on. So you need to find a nutrition plan that reduces your calories enough for you to reduce your belly fat, but it’s also sustainable for you. And includes your favourite foods.

Because diets only work as long as you adhere to them.

Maintaining Muscle While Losing Belly Fat

Now, since you’re muscular, it means you’ve either done that through training or you have a bit of natural muscle and you definitely want to maintain that because it can be helpful in the long-term. So I definitely don’t recommend throwing that weight training out the window.

I recommend that you keep it up, but a maintenance plan two to three days a week is ideal.

Maintaining A Calorie Deficit

Once you find that way of eating for you, you need to maintain it.

Most of the time, people will go for that one or two or three months, and then they’re not able to continue. And then they start slipping. You probably will see some changes, but you can’t expect that those changes are going to happen too quickly.

You’ll probably see your arms start to look more defined before you see much difference in your belly fat, but you really need to get to the point where you’ve dropped the fat in the other areas. And then your body will start to access your belly fat stores. And normally people stop their weight loss efforts a little bit too early, just as they’re about to see that change.

Adding Cardio When Muscular But Have Belly Fat

A moderate amount of cardio can sometimes be helpful. You’re burning off some calories. Exercise is not highly effective for weight loss on its own, which is why I mentioned nutrition first.

And really that’s going to contribute to let’s say 90%. I used to say less than that, but the research keeps coming in that exercise is just not that effective for fat loss or for weight loss. So you do want to incorporate a little bit more, some regular activity. You want to be physically active, but then incorporate a little bit of cardio. This is both for your health and a little bit of calorie burn as well.

Bulking May Be The Reason You’re Muscular But Have Belly Fat

So I want to talk a little bit about the concept of bulking, which is what some people do when they want to put on a large amount of muscle.

They eat to excess and just make sure that they’re getting lots and lots of calories. But if you’re the type of person who’s carrying a bit of belly fat, that’s not necessarily the best strategy. If you’ve been eating a little bit too much in order to build that muscle, it’s time to scale it back so that you can use those fat stores.

I’m going to assume you want to maintain as much of that muscle mass as possible.

It’s been shown in research that when you’re in a caloric deficit and starting to lose weight, you’re more able to maintain your muscle mass. If you keep your intake of protein relatively high.

So I normally recommend 0.7 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight.

This is probably where most of the research shows that the benefit lies not much above one gram, a little bit less, perhaps some of the research goes down to about 0.6.

However, if you are dieting and in a caloric deficit, there has been shown to be benefit for keeping the protein intake slightly on the higher side. So if you’re 170 pounds up to 170 grams of protein per day.

Estimating Maintenance Calories

Estimating what your caloric intake is, is a little bit tricky. And there’s a lot of different approaches for this.

You can do it with numbers.

Normally we say that maintenance is about 13 times your body weight in pounds.

So that would be your approximate maintenance calories. So in order to lose weight, you would need to drop that down approximately 250 to 500 calories per day, depending on the speed of weight loss and how much you weight.

If you weigh 250 pounds, then your caloric intake is quite high in order to maintain your weight. If you only weigh 150 pounds, then there’s not a lot of calories just to maintain your weight.

This is one of the reasons why weight loss also becomes more difficult as you get lighter. As you lose weight, it’s harder and harder to maintain those lower calories.

Reducing Treats To Produce A Calorie Deficit

Another easy way of reducing your caloric intake is just say, if you’re having let’s say treat foods or what other people call junk foods every single day. Then you might cut that down and just do that twice a week, or just once a week on the weekends, if you decide to do that.

And perhaps you’re just cutting one small thing, maybe one high calorie latte, and that’s going to go out the door. Instead, you’re going to have a black coffee.

Just really minor things you can do without counting to reduce your caloric intake from day to day.

What To Do If You’re Muscular But Have Belly Fat

So let’s summarize the key points that I’ve made here, f you’re muscular, but you want to lose that belly fat.

  1. First of all, you need to get yourself into a calorie deficit and you need to maintain it for a period of time. So it may not be just a month or two months or three months. It may take longer than you think.
  2. Maintain some weight training. So two days a week for maintenance, I think is fine.
  3. Incorporate some cardio. That’s a little bit of calorie burn.
  4. Take in the right amount of protein because protein will help you maintain your muscle mass as you’re losing belly fat.

Please hit that like button if anything I said was helpful today. Subscribe and hit the bell if you like evidence-based fitness and nutrition information. And also check out THIS VIDEO to help you lose belly fat.

Ivana Chapman