1. High Intensity Cardio Intervals:
Long distance, low intensity cardio is to blame for “killing your muscle”. There is a reason that cross country runners have low muscle mass and football players have muscles on their muscles. Think of your cardio as how many times you can elevate your heart rate, instead of how long you can keep your heart rate up.
It takes a higher percentage of your muscle fibers to contract and work at higher intensities. At lower intensities, your muscles won’t fully contract. If you want your muscles to grow and burn calories at the same time, you need to activate your anaerobic and aerobic systems at the same time.
Try training with heart rate intervals. Do a bout of cardio at full intensity until your heart rate gets up to 85-90% of your maximum heart rate (max heart rate is 220 minus your age). Soon after your heart rate reaches it’s goal, take a rest, or significantly lower the intensity until you heart rate reaches 60% of your max heart rate. Repeat at least 8 times.
Here’s an example of an interval workout I did recently on an elliptical using my heart rate monitor to determine my interval length.
Short and intense bursts also burn more calories throughout the day called Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The same is true for your resistance training.
2. Compound, Full Body Resistance Training:
Your resistance training should consist of moving heavier weights with your entire body, not lifts that isolate one joint at a time. Studies show that full body resistance training, using more muscles groups at once, can help your body to release more testosterone and other muscle building hormones.
Not only does this type of training build bigger, more functional muscles, but it also burns more calories. It’s pretty simple, the more muscles you involve in every movement, the more calories all of those muscles will burn, during and after a workout.
Make sure that your resistance training requires your core to support or move the weight. If you’re sitting on a leg extension machine, all you’ll work is your quads. Do some one-leg squats instead and work on your core balance to burn more calories and gain more functional strength.
3. Snack All Day:
I’m a vegetarian as well, so I know that it can be a challenge to feel full throughout the day without stuffing yourself at each meal. Try to make sure that you never feel really hungry or really full. If you eat intermittently throughout the day, you’ll also burn more calories, without starving your muscles. Your body “eats” your muscle mass for energy when it goes too long without calories.
You should always have fruit, nuts, protein shakes (vegan), and other snacks and meals on hand, in your car, or at the workplace, to keep you from starving or making bad food decisions. My gym bag always contains at least 2 pieces of fruit, a bag of nuts, and a protein shake when I leave the house.
Grains are also not helpful when it comes to dropping fat. Grain is what I consider to be more of a dead food. You don’t need to refrigerate grain, and it spikes your insulin if you don’t eat it with fat or protein, and offer little in terms of nutrients. Of course you can’t eat 100% fresh fruit and vegetables, but you can minimize the grain and starch intake. There’s a reason that Sushi and Chinese food leaves you hungry in an hour; it’s the rice!
Make sure that your foods also contain a good amount of fat too. Fat is essential for a lot of processes in the body, but it also keeps you from craving grains and other belly fillers.
4. Supporting Supplements:
If you’re not eating meat or eggs, you could have a B vitamin deficiency, among other deficiencies. While I believe meat to be unhealthy and raised irresponsibly, I do think that there are important nutrients that you can find in meat. I take vegan protein, B vitamins, fish oil, and the occasional shot of creatine to offset my lack of meat intake.
Be sure that your exercise routines and diet has plenty of variety. Your body adapts easily to a repeated stimulus. You have to challenge your body to perform different movements with different intensity and varying duration.
If you’ve been on the same diet and training regimen for a while, your results may be plateauing.
If you’re eating the same thing everyday, you’re body gets bored and doesn’t get the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals it needs. I eat my foods seasonally, so that I get the spectrum of nutrients during the time of the year that nature intended for me to eat them. I don’t eat eggplant in the Winter because nature doesn’t make them then.