How to Gain Muscle, Burn Fat and Build the Body of a Superhero~ By Christian Finn
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Setting goals is an important first step when it comes to building a better body. However, as the weeks and months go by, it's easy to start chasing every rabbit that crosses your path and get distracted by all the new training programs and diets that you read about.

When you're too vague or general about what you want, or you're focusing on too much at any one time, your energy becomes dissipated and you end up getting nowhere.

If you want to set a "get in shape" goal that you stand a realistic chance of achieving, the most important piece of advice that I can give you is this:

Just. Choose. One. Goal.
Bill StarrI get a lot of e-mails from people who tell me that they want to get a six pack, do a triathlon for the first time and put on 20 pounds of muscle. All at the same time. And please can I drop everything and put together a training and diet plan for them right this minute.

Unfortunately that isn't one goal, but three. And outside of the genetic elite, most people simply can't train for three such diverse things at once and expect to see decent results.

Unless you're absolutely clear about the one thing you want to accomplish, you’ll end up with a training and nutrition program that isn’t fit for purpose. As a result, your progress towards each goal will be so frustratingly slow that it won't be long before you throw in the towel.

Maximizing muscle growth, for example, requires a surplus of calories. The size of the surplus will vary from person to person, but the fact remains that you must consume more calories than you expend.

Conversely, if you want to lose fat then you need to underfeed — to consume fewer calories than you burn.

Of course, that's not to say that the cardio you do to lose fat isn’t going to improve your fitness. Or that the resistance training you do as part of your fat loss program won't cause you to gain some muscle.

But for maximum progress, especially if you have a few years of training under your belt, you have to focus on one major goal to the exclusion of everything else.

Set a goal. Stick with that goal long enough to see results. Then set a new one.

Don't decide to bulk up and then give up after three weeks in a panic because you can't see your abs anymore.

If your primary goal is to build muscle, then it's quite normal to gain a little fat at the same time. Don't expect to stay extremely lean AND add large amounts of muscle tissue at the same time.

Conversely, it's unlikely that you'll lose large amounts of fat while simultaneously gaining a significant amount of strength and size. These things just don't happen unless you're a beginner, returning to exercise after a layoff, very gifted genetically, or using drugs.

How do you decide what your goal should be?
This is going to depend to a large extent on you and the way you want to look. But if you’re not quite sure which way to go, let me offer a suggestion.

If your body fat percentage is 15% or higher (20% for women), I’d suggest that you make losing fat your primary goal. There are three reasons for this.

Firstly, when your body fat levels are high, your fat cells are already full. If you start gaining even more fat as part of a "bulking" plan, those fat cells get stretched. This leads to the creation of even more fat cells, which is going to make it harder for you to get lean further down the line.

Second, the sweet spot for gaining muscle while still actually looking like you train is to keep your body fat somewhere between 10 and 15%. Once you get much above 15%, your appearance starts to suffer. Keep yourself in the 10-15% range and you’ll still be able to make great muscular gains while looking lean, strong and defined.

Third, when you stay within touching distance of a single digit body fat percentage, you’re never more than a month or two away from looking lean, mean and ripped.

How long will it take to reach your goal?
In truth, I have absolutely no idea. And there’s a good chance that you don’t either.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict exactly how your body will respond to a particular program of diet and exercise. The simple part is figuring out the direction of change (i.e. fat loss or muscle gain). What’s not so easy is putting a precise number on the rate at which that change will take place.

Some studies show large differences in muscle growth from person to person, even when factors such as training, diet and initial lean body mass are controlled for.

Or to put it another way, you and a friend of a similar build could follow exactly the same training program and diet for the next three months.

But individual variations in the rate of muscular growth mean that he might gain 10 pounds of muscle. You, on the other hand, might gain just half that amount.

Predicting your rate of progress is a little easier if you’re trying to lose weight. But it’s still far from straightforward.

As an example, an overweight (20% bodyfat or higher) guy starting a diet and exercise program can expect to lose somewhere between 2 and 5 pounds of fat in his first week.

However, your rate of fat loss will gradually slow down the closer you get to your goal. In the early stages of your program, you might be losing 2-3 pounds of fat per week. But as you close in on your target bodyweight, this will drop to perhaps 0.5-1 pound of fat loss per week.

Don’t worry too much if you don’t hit your target by a particular date. It’s far more important that you’re heading in the right direction.

Deadlines can be motivating. But they can also be incredibly demotivating if you repeatedly fail to hit them. Not because you haven’t put the effort in, but because they weren’t set properly in the first place.

Forget about deadlines. Instead, use action-based goals to keep you accountable.

As the name suggests, action-based goals are based on actions rather than outcomes. So if you want to build muscle, some of your action-based goals might be to train for a total of 45 minutes 4 times a week, eat at least 180 grams of protein each day, or whatever else you think is important.

Once you have your action-based goals, create a daily checklist and tick off each goal at the end of the day. Aim for 90% compliance. So if there were 5 goals per day, you’d have 35 goals each week (5 x 7 = 35). A 90% compliance rate means that you’d need 32 ticks each week to stay on course.

Then you need to act, measure and adjust your approach based on the results you’re getting. Don't stay wedded to a certain way of doing things if it's not working. It's the end result you're after.

Finally, don’t let yourself get distracted and confused by too many choices. Try to chase two rabbits and chances are that both will escape.

Want more? If you want unbiased reviews on the latest "hot topics" in the world of fitness, you're confused by all the conflicting advice out there, or you just want to know the best way to burn fat, build muscle and get strong, click below to check out Muscle Evo now.  

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