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Nutrition for Weight Loss: How to Burn Fat and Build Muscle


Posted by Dr. Scott Wilson | 01-Jan-2024

Every January, many of us resolve to improve our health and wellbeing through weight loss. However, in recent years, we’ve come to understand that improving our health and wellbeing is less about changing the number on the scale and more about changing our body composition. This means burning fat while also building muscle. What we’ve also come to understand is that improving our nutrition is one of the most important factors for achieving this kind of success. Beyond simply counting calories, this means understanding the relationship between what, when and how much you eat, and the impact it has on your body. In this article, we’ll explore the role that nutrition plays body recomposition and we’ll identify some of the key concepts you’ll need to understand in order to effectively burn fat while building or maintaining muscle.

Understanding Caloric Balance

The cornerstone of transforming your body lies in understanding the concept of caloric balance. Whether your goal is reducing excess fat or building lean muscle mass, caloric balance is the foundation of this transformational process. At its essence, caloric balance revolves around the fundamental principle of energy balance—balancing the calories you consume with those you expend.

  • Weight Loss and Caloric Deficit: If your objective is burning fat, you’ll want to aim for a caloric deficit. This means consuming fewer calories than your body expends throughout the day. Creating this energy deficit prompts your body to tap into its stored fat reserves for fuel, eventually leading to weight loss. However, it’s crucial to strike the right balance to ensure that this deficit is achieved sustainably, without compromising essential nutrients or energy levels.
  • Muscle Gain and Caloric Surplus: Conversely, building muscle necessitates a creating caloric surplus—a state where you consume more calories than you burn. A surplus provides the extra energy required to fuel muscle growth and post-exercise repair. As with a deficit, it’s important that this surplus is be managed carefully to avoid excessive fat gain while facilitating muscle growth.
  • Achieving Body Recomposition: Body recomposition, the simultaneous shedding of fat and gaining of muscle, requires balancing between these states of caloric deficit and surplus. This equilibrium ensures that you lose fat gradually while providing adequate nutrients for muscle growth, resulting in a leaner and more defined physique. Understanding this caloric balance is the cornerstone of effective body transformation. It’s not just about counting calories but about creating a sustainable and balanced approach to achieve your fitness goals.
  • The Impact of Your Metabolism: Your metabolic rate refers to the number of calories your body burns at rest. Factors such as age, gender, body composition, and activity level all influence metabolic rate. By knowing your metabolic rate, you can adjust your caloric intake accordingly to support weight loss, muscle gain or recomposition goals. It’s important to note that the quality of calories matters as much as the quantity. While the total calorie count is important, the sources of those calories play a significant role in body recomposition.

Macronutrients and Body Composition

What you eat, or the composition of your diet, plays a pivotal role in allowing you to achieve your goals. Macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats—serve as the foundational elements that fuel your body and influence body composition.

  • Proteins – The Building Blocks: Proteins, often revered as the building blocks of life, play a crucial role in sculpting lean muscle mass. Comprised of amino acids, proteins aid in muscle repair and growth. Ensuring an adequate intake of high-quality protein sources—such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes, and plant-based sources—is vital for fostering muscle development and preserving muscle mass during weight loss.
  • Carbohydrates – The Energy Source: Often misunderstood, carbohydrates serve as the primary energy source for your body, particularly during high-intensity activity. Opt for complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which offer sustained energy and essential nutrients. Balancing carbohydrate intake ensures adequate fuel for exercise and daily activity while managing overall calorie consumption for weight loss.
  • Fats – Essential for Vital Functions: Despite misconceptions, fats are essential for various bodily functions. Incorporate healthy fats like those from avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish into your diet. These fats aid in hormone production, cell function, and nutrient absorption. While fats contain more calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates, they are vital for overall health and sustaining energy levels during exercise and daily activity.
  • Striking the Right Balance: Understanding the role of macronutrients in body composition is about finding the right balance. Optimal ratios of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet are key to fostering fat loss, supporting muscle growth, and maintaining overall health. Achieving your body composition goals necessitates a balanced intake of macronutrients tailored to your body’s needs. Next, we’ll explore strategies to optimize these macronutrients for fat loss and muscle gain.

Meal Planning for Success

The cornerstone of an effective nutrition plan is meal planning and preparation. It gives you greater control over what you eat and allows you to be strategic in your selection of macronutrients—proteins, carbohydrates, and fats—for fat loss and/or muscle growth. For those aiming for fat loss, a balanced yet moderate intake of carbohydrates, coupled with a focus on high-quality proteins and healthy fats, is paramount. Meanwhile, individuals seeking muscle growth should ensure a sufficient intake of proteins, complemented by complex carbohydrates to fuel energy demands and support muscle development. Meal planning also saves time, prevents impulsive choices, and enhances adherence to your nutrition regimen which contributes to sustained success.

The Significance of Protein

As mentioned above, protein aids in muscle building, recovery, and preserving lean muscle mass during weight loss. Understanding the importance of amino acids in protein consumption is vital for body recomposition and weight management. Prioritizing protein-rich foods supports both muscle gain and fat loss, making it a crucial element of any nutrition plan aimed at improving body composition. Adequate protein intake also plays a significant role in preventing the loss of muscle mass, especially when combined with strength training. It’s essential to make good choices by including healthy foods like lean red meat, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and kidney beans to ensure you’re getting enough protein to support your goals.

Why Prioritize Whole Foods Over Processed Ones?

Prioritizing whole foods over processed ones is crucial for optimal health, weight management, and muscle building. Whole foods provide essential nutrients that support overall well-being, while processed foods often contain added sugars and unhealthy fats. Choose whole foods to reap the maximum nutritional benefits and to support your body recomposition goals.

Meal Timing for Optimal Results

The strategic timing of meals can significantly influence your body’s capacity to optimize fat burning and muscle building. When it comes to fat loss, eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day maintains your metabolic rate, preventing energy dips and aiding calorie burn. Consuming meals rich in protein and healthy fats earlier in the day helps to avoid hunger, potentially reducing overall calorie intake and aiding fat loss objectives. For muscle building, the post-exercise period, for example, serves as a prime opportunity to consume a protein-rich meal, facilitating muscle recovery and growth after intense exercise sessions. Coordinating carbohydrate intake around exercise sessions or periods of high activity aids in providing essential energy for exercise while optimizing the replenishment of muscle glycogen stores. Aligning meal times with your daily activities and activity schedule capitalizes on your body’s metabolic processes, enhancing their efficiency to support both fat loss and muscle development.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, when done properly, can aid in achieving weight loss and body recomposition goals. As the term suggests, intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, which can aid weight loss by regulating hormones and boosting metabolism. By restricting your eating window, you can control calorie intake, promote fat burning, and enhance insulin sensitivity, contributing to effective weight management and metabolic improvements. All of which is important for both fat loss and muscle building.

Effective Foods for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain

A key part of achieving success with fat loss and muscle gain is consuming foods that promote provide the most appropriate nutritional value. As mentioned, including lean red meat in your diet can assist in increasing protein intake, which aids in muscle growth and recovery. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are additional healthy options for meeting protein requirements. Legumes like kidney beans are another great option as they provide a substantial amount of protein and fiber, promoting feelings of fullness and supporting healthy eating habits. By making good choices like these, you can optimize your nutrition for both weight loss and muscle gain.

Full-Fat Dairy

Full-fat dairy products, are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, which support overall health. They also play a crucial role in protein intake and muscle building, which is important for body recomposition. Examples of full-fat dairy foods include whole milk, cream, full-fat yogurt, cheese, butter, and products made from whole milk or cream, retaining the natural fats present in dairy. Understanding the nutritional profile of full-fat dairy is important for effective weight management and body recomposition. With healthy fats and protein, full-fat dairy products are valuable for nutrition and wellness.

Eggs Are Considered a Superfood

Eggs are considered a superfood due to their combination of high-quality protein, essential nutrients, and amino acids. They support muscle building, recovery, and body recomposition. Including eggs in your diet can help you achieve your weight loss and muscle gain goals while also promoting overall wellness.

Salmon, Tuna and Tilapia

Salmon, tuna, and tilapia are nutritional powerhouses, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high-quality protein. These fish varieties provide essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair, supporting muscle building and fat loss goals. In addition, they aid in reducing inflammation and improving overall heart health. Incorporating these fish into your diet can be beneficial for weight loss and muscle gain, making them excellent choices for a healthy eating plan.

How Do Lean Meats Contribute to your Goals?

Lean meats, such as chicken breast and turkey, provide high-quality protein for muscle building and repair. With their low-fat and low-calorie content, they are ideal for weight loss and muscle gain. Including lean meats in your diet supports metabolic function, muscle recovery, and provides essential nutrients for strength and fat loss.

The Value of Plant-Based Foods

Plant-based foods play a crucial role in a well-rounded diet for muscle gain and fat loss. Including a variety of plant-based options such as quinoa, brown rice, chia seeds, kidney beans and legumes can provide the calories and essential nutrients needed for fat loss and muscle building.

Quinoa and Brown Rice

Quinoa and brown rice are nutrient powerhouses, providing sustained energy and aiding muscle recovery. Rich in fiber and protein, these whole grains support digestive health and muscle building. With their low-fat content and high nutrition, they are valuable for weight management and muscle growth. By incorporating quinoa and brown rice into meals, you can better control your appetite and optimize your nutrient intake. Their versatility allows for inclusion in a variety of healthy recipes for both fat loss and muscle gain.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds, known for their rich content of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and dietary fiber, can play a key role in promoting weight loss and muscle maintenance. These tiny powerhouses provide essential nutrients for energy production and optimal muscle function. Additionally, they support hydration and digestive health, ultimately benefiting overall physical performance and body composition. By incorporating chia seeds into your diet, you can effectively manage hunger and contribute to your fat loss and muscle building goals.

Beans and Legumes

Nutrient-rich options like beans and legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas, are abundant in protein, fiber, and vital vitamins and minerals. These options offer sustainable energy and nutrients vital for muscle recovery and growth. Incorporating them into your diet contributes to managing weight, promoting muscle mass, enhancing metabolic health, and supporting fat loss and muscle building goals.


Proper nutrition plays a critical role in achieving success at burning fat and building muscle. Understanding the fundamentals of nutrition, such as the role of calories and the importance of macronutrients, is crucial for reaching your goals. Prioritizing whole foods, consuming an adequate amount of protein daily, and incorporating intermittent fasting can all contribute to a successful weight loss and muscle-building journey. Additionally, incorporating plant-based foods into your diet can also have a significant impact. Of course, as with any program that affects your diet, activity level and overall health, it’s best to consult with a qualified health care professional before getting started, especially if you have any sort of pre-existing health concerns.

If you’re looking to lose weight and build muscle, we can help. Contact us today and let us show you why, at Physiomed…Healthier Starts Here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Nutrition and Weight Loss:

Q1. What are some common misconceptions about nutrition for weight loss?

Some misconceptions about nutrition and weight loss include the belief that cutting out entire food groups is necessary, thinking all fats are bad, and believing that skipping meals or drastically reducing calories is the best approach. Balanced nutrition and regular exercise are key for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

Q2. How should I balance my macronutrients?

To balance your macronutrient intake for weight loss and muscle gain, aim for a protein intake of 1 gram per pound of body weight to support muscle growth. Carbohydrates should make up around 40% of your daily caloric intake to provide energy for workouts, while healthy fats should make up the remaining portion, around 20-30%.

Q3. Are specific diets effective for weight loss and muscle building?

There are several diets and meal plans that can be effective for weight loss and muscle building. Some popular options include the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and carb cycling. It is important to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods, especially those high in protein, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

Dr. Scott Wilson

Dr. Scott Wilson is the Founder & Chairman of Physiomed; one of Canada’s largest franchised networks of inter-disciplinary healthcare clinics. A graduate of Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson founded Physiomed in 1994 and has since grown Physiomed to over 30 clinics in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. With hundreds of practitioners from over a dozen disciplines, Dr. Wilson and Physiomed have helped over 100,000 Canadians with physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, orthotic therapy, compression therapy and clinical conditioning as part of a program of rehabilitation and health optimization. In addition to helping patients improve their physical and mental well-being, Dr. Wilson has also mentored hundreds of practitioners to provide better care while enjoying more fulfilling careers. He is also a keynote speaker on many health related topics including how physiotherapy, chiropractic and health & wellness treatment can help with stress, weight loss, and unlocking the true potential within to achieve lasting physical well-being.

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