there it is everyone.
You can build muscle at a calorie deficit, but not when you’re in starvation mode. Being at a deficit is fine if you’re in weight loss mode, as long as your body is getting adequate nutrition to sustain your activity level (and plenty of protein to rebuild your muscle). Creating too large of a deficit can be troublesome - it signals your body to store fat for energy instead of using it. This happens when we over-restrict or under-consume. All the body knows is that it’s not getting enough, and doesn’t know if and when it’ll get adequate amounts of energy. It slows down other body processes to compensate, and signals hormones to hold on to fat. Muscle, however, is expendable. If it needs to choose between using life sustaining fat, and muscle for energy, muscle wins.
If you notice a drop in performance (suddenly you can’t keep up, can’t lift heavy, or should be improving but are not), a decrease in overall energy, an ammonia smell after a tough workout or are staying sore longer than usual, it may be a sign you’re not eating enough to support your muscle growth. As we get closer to our weight goals, the calorie deficit should be smaller (meaning you can boost your calories a bit to keep your metabolism up, but keep them clean) and more emphasis should be put on food quality, and strength training. Too much cardio when we’re already eating at a deficit can burn away muscle you’re trying to build: muscle that’s the difference for overall fat loss. Eat clean, drink loads of water, but pay attention to signs that you may need to boost your calories.
Too much cardio without proper nutrition can burn away muscle. If your focus is building muscle and changing your body composition, your focus should be strength training and intervals - not cardio. It’s not all about exercise. For muscle growth you need to eat enough in general, and focus heavily on the protein.
All the cardio in the world won’t reshape your body. Those last little bits will only go away with resistance training, and a clean diet (clean meaning low on processed foods, high on protein & veggies, and fairly healthy. It does not mean calorie restrictive). You also don’t need to work out as often if you’re trying to build muscle. Work different muscle groups on different days, lift heavy, try yoga, and focus on intensity - not how long your workout is (cardio’s not bad - it just doesn’t need to be your focus to reach your particular goals). Pick 1-2 muscle groups to focus on per workout - there are plenty of ideas online, but if you need a refresher, you can always request a session with a trainer who can give you a strength program to follow. The best programs will work different groups on different days, allow you to rest some groups adequately between workouts and will challenge you in different ways. From what I can tell, you aren’t in weight loss mode: work harder & smarter during your workouts, but don’t focus on duration as much as intensity. Above all, listen to your body - remember that it changes during rest and not during our workouts.
A glute specific program can help you as will a boost in protein, but the trick will lie in lifting heavier & doing more challenging exercises. You need to tell the protein where it’s needed by challenging your glutes more efficiently. Don’t focus too heavily on cardio, make sure your training is balanced (hitting all groups), but give yourself a booty challenge to mix it up.
Building your glutes will help your hips, but there are moves you can include in your routine. Abduction exercises (raising your leg out to the side) can help whether you’re lying down or standing. Adding resistance bands around your ankles will help build strength there. Walking lunges and side lunges create instability that force your outer hips to work a little harder - add sufficient weight and a few sets of 12 are a great lower body challenge. I love pendulum swings, hip raises and yoga for hip strengthening. Plyometrics (or jump training) can significantly boost your booty & hips as well - think box jumps, squat jumps, split squat jumps, broad jumps (leap forward swinging your arms and launching) and power moves like explosive step-ups on a chair.
It takes time to build muscle, and you shouldn’t neglect your other areas. Our bodies respond incredibly well to challenge, so as long as you’re hitting your booty & hips 2-3 times a week, and keeping it tough, you should notice a difference.
A good way to plan your booty workouts is to choose 4-6 exercises, complete them in a circuit (12-15 reps each with a heavy enough weight, band or body weight), then repeat 2-3 times. Some days you might want to stick to the basics (deadlifts, squats, lunges) and some days you might want to try something new (plyometrics, yoga, pilates). It’s up to you! Rest up between workouts, eat enough protein and give your legs a break if you need to. Try not to work them two days in a row. :)
When it comes to ab strength, building it is much easier than seeing the results. Contrary to popular belief, abs aren’t made in the kitchen. They’re made in the gym. But they are revealed in the kitchen. You can’t see a six pack with fat on top of it. But to burn the fat, you don’t need to restrict even more: making changes to your diet that are cleaner, adding sufficient protein and making sure you’re strength training everywhere is key.
Targeting your transverse abdominal can get them pulled in tight (things like plank variations, side planks, mountain climbers, burpees etc), but none of that will matter if you still have fat on top. To burn more fat, you need to eat clean, boost your protein, limit (not eliminate, but limit) sugars & eat tons of veggies. You’ll also need to add muscle all over - you can’t spot reduce. Muscle burns fat, and the more you have everywhere, the better your odds of reducing your body fat percentage. (my pooch didn’t go away until I incorporated back, leg and chest exercises to my strength routine).
Core exercises should be just as important as the rest of your body: don’t train them every day, add weight or difficulty when you do train them, and eat cleanly so your abs can come out to play. Focus on body fat percentage, and not weight, and you should be fine. H.I.I.T training can be effective for fat loss: it burns more post workout than steady state cardio in half the time. Add intervals of high intensity to your cardio routine, and alternate cardio and strength training for best results.