Build Muscle and Burn Fat in 30 Days

Reshape your physique without shifting your metabolism into slo-mo with this targeted plan


Woman Preparing To Deadlift


How would you like to lose a serious amount of body fat in one month without marathon workouts or an unhealthy crash diet? It’s not as impossible as it may sound, so long as you tighten the screws on your meal plan and understand that the short 30-day window leaves no room for slacking.

"You can drop body fat and gain muscle more easily when you’re new to training, but it gets more difficult as you progress because the lower your body fat, the harder it is to preserve lean muscle mass," says Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D., a certified strength and conditioning coach and an assistant professor in the exercise science department at Lehman College in the Bronx, NY. But there are steps you can take to maximize your results while minimizing muscle loss. We’ve got your road map to help you shed fat and keep your metabolism humming. Follow it for one month and you’ll soon notice a difference in how you look and feel.

1. Maximize Your Training Time

To burn as many calories as possible in a single strength session—and make the most of your minutes in the gym—focus on using a variety of multi-muscle, multi-joint exercises. "Exercises like squats, presses, push-ups and rows effectively target the large muscle groups, which provides the great effect on fat burning," Schoenfeld says.

2. Scale Back Cardio

Spending too much time on the treadmill can have an adverse affect. "Doing a ton of cardio when you’re in a caloric deficit can lead to overtraining," says Schoenfeld. "It’s basically a starvation mechanism—your body demands energy and will rebel if it doesn’t have the capacity to properly recover." This can affect your body hormonally, he adds, by reducing testosterone, causing muscle breakdown, while increasing levels of cortisol.

Prolonged cardio sessions have another downside. While they help to burn fat, it can come at the expense of lean muscle tissue, as your body burns both to fuel endurance sessions, explains wellness expert and celebrity trainer Jackie Warner. "That’ll keep you skinny fat—not strong."

3. Fuel Up Properly

Warner suggests a pre-workout meal about a half hour before training. Choose one that’s filled with both fast- and slow-digesting carbs, such as a cup of oatmeal with some fruit. Post-workout, look for a combo of carbs, protein, and healthy fats, such as eggs, whole-wheat toast, and a few slices of free-range turkey. And don’t skip or go too long between meals. "Skipping meals means your body burns sugar, fat, and then muscle," she adds.

Cutting calories too severely translates to muscle breakdown. A simple formula to try: "Pick an ideal body weight, and multiply it by 13 to 14," says Schoenfeld. For a 125-pound goal, that’s 1,625 to 1,750 calories a day.

Three protein-rich meals a day will be enough to give your muscles the anabolic effect they need to get stronger. You can have smaller meals more often, but "studies have shown that there’s really no thermogenic benefit from this strategy," adds Schoenfeld.

4. Sleep More

Quality sleep energizes the brain and body—and odds are you’re not getting enough of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even labeled sleep deprivation a public health epidemic in 2014. Earlier this year, the National Sleep Foundation revised its sleep recommendations: Adults ages 18 to 25 are now suggested to nab eight to 10 hours of sack time, whereas adults ages 26 to 64 should still aim for seven to nine hours. In addition to sapped energy levels and diminished focus, a lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain, as well as an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity.