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Building Muscle

Women's Guide to Burn Fat and Build Muscle: The Holy Grail

Why Build Muscle? I Don't Want to be Bulky.

Have you ever felt frustrated in your attempts to burn fat, change your shape, and improve your body composition? Whether you're young or old, these are things that a lot of women struggle with.

But It doesn't have to be as difficult as it seems. In my years as a physician, and experience working with athletes, I have found 3 key elements that will determine your success at burning fat, while at the same time, building muscle. Follow these 3 keys and you'll burn fat and build muscle in no time!

Why shouldn’t your goal be to just lose fat? That is a great question. First off, we are not talking about gaining muscle and being bulky. I am a Plastic Surgeon and I see a lot of women who are competitive athletes in my practice. It is darn near impossible for a woman to get bulky with muscle without adding anabolic medications (often illegal), to their systems.

So do not worry about bulking up with muscle. This false notion came from the 1950’s when coaches didn’t have their football players lift weights because they thought it would limit their flexibility and athleticism. Boyd Epley disproved this old wives’ tale in the 1960’s when he transformed the Nebraska Cornhuskers into a powerhouse.

Remember, your individual muscle groups will only respond depending on how much work you put into them. So if you concentrate on that booty, that is where you are going to see the most results.

We are talking about creating lean, defined muscle that is stronger, which allows you to exercise harder and more efficiently. Lean muscle also makes your body much healthier by improving glucose metabolism, insulin response, inflammatory markers, and your cholesterol profile.

Lean muscle also burns more calories than your other bodily tissues. This, in turn, will help you burn more fat, which is going to be a game-changer for your appearance and how you feel.

You're a Doctor... What About Lipo?

People often ask when I speak about the 'Burn Fat and Build Muscle Holy Grail of Fitness', “You’re a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Schneider, why not just do liposuction?” Liposuction is a great operation and I love the results. I also love the satisfaction and gratitude that my patients express. It is ideal for contouring areas that are diet resistant. However, liposuction is not ideal for someone who has 20 or 30 pounds to lose or more.

Women come to me because most of them have tried diet plans, workout routines, trainers at the gym, fat burners, appetite suppressants, and pre-workouts... and they always end up the same. They are not satisfied with their body image. Most want to decrease the fat around their middle, and really want to make that booty look great.

The Three Keys to Burn Fat and Build Muscle.

guide to burn fat and build musle for women

Usually, when a person is trying to burn fat and lose weight, they end up losing two things: they lose fat and they also lose muscle. They get thinner but that all-important muscle decreases at the same time. That is because dieting decreases the number of nutrients in your system that the body needs to maintain the muscle.

But there is a way to burn fat and build muscle and do it all at the same time. I am going to show you how and you will not have to starve yourself or spend countless hours in the gym. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work, it is not a magic pill, but if you can eat right, exercise right, and optimize your body’s natural muscle growth factors, you can accomplish it.

1. The Right Exercise to Burn Fat and Build Muscle

It is important for women to have adequate muscle mass. As we age, both men and women tend to lose muscle, and in fact, they may lose as much as 1% of their muscle mass per year after a certain age. Where women commonly see this muscle loss is in their buttocks, back, and arms. This, of course, creates the dreaded dropped butt, back rolls, and saggy arms. Losing some of the muscle you have can also lead to frailty, altered estrogen levels, and lower Vitamin D levels.

The goal of exercise is to make your body better both internally, and externally. There are several different types of exercises, and combining them in the right fashion will help you achieve your goals. We do not want to just do one or the other, and we do not want to do them at the same time.

Cardio and HIIT for Fat Loss

Low-intensity aerobic exercise, or cardio, will build your cardiovascular system, and it will help burn fat. It will also positively affect certain hormone levels. However, it will also increase cortisol levels, and this is bad. The goal ideally is to not have elevated cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the primary stress hormone, and cortisol will tend to increase the amount of fat around the internal organs (visceral fat). Women who are obese have demonstrated higher cortisol levels in clinical studies.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) will have a similar benefit as cardio, however, HIIT will have a much greater impact in a significantly shorter period of time. HIIT will also preferentially change your hormonal levels to a better fat burning profile (higher growth hormone levels, lower glucose resistance, lower cortisol levels).

A typical HIIT program would consist of running, stepping, etc for as fast and as hard as you can for 60 seconds, followed by resting for 2 minutes. Classic HIIT programs have you repeat these intervals for 10-15 minutes. This is classic interval training.

Interestingly enough, some recent studies have shown that a single, 2-minute bout of full-out HIIT is as beneficial as 10-15 minutes classic 1-2 interval technique.

Resistance Training for Building Muscle

Resistance exercise works differently than cardio or HIIT, and it is necessary in order to build muscle and build your strength. It will also significantly improve your metabolic profile (a test of your overall health). Studies show lifting weights dramatically reduces C-Reactive Protein, which is a marker of inflammation in your body, and it will increase testosterone and growth hormone levels.

I know what you are thinking... "I don't want testosterone as a woman!" Testosterone though will help you burn fat, increase lean muscle, and improve sex drive. Everyone needs testosterone to function at full, healthy, optimal levels.

Both aerobic and resistance exercise have significant benefits in helping you find the 'Burn Fat and Build Muscle Holy Grail. They create different changes to your hormone levels, and both are necessary for you to burn fat and build muscle.

However, we recommend not doing cardio and resistance exercise during the same workout session. That is because when you perform cardio and weightlifting in the same session, your body converts to only the aerobic exercise hormone profile, and you lose the benefits of the resistance session.

I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not do your cardio and weight training during the same session. You should do cardio and weight training on either separate days or at different times of the day if you have time to hit the gym twice a day. Separate your workouts to burn fat and build muscle!

2. The Right Diet to Burn Fat and Build Muscle

Let’s face it, no one likes going on a diet, and I am not recommending that you either starve yourself, eliminate all carbs, or go on a specific paleo or keto diet. However, you will have to modify what you eat and how you eat. Don't worry though, I am going to show you that it can be very satisfying for your tummy.

Protein Intake

Believe it or not, young men and women have the same muscle building responses to resistance exercise. This is called muscle protein synthesis. However, women, on average, are smaller to start with, and so their percentage of gains is much smaller.

Muscle protein synthesis requires that you eat adequate amounts of protein. Most women that I see just do not eat enough protein. The average woman in my practice (young and old alike, athletes and non-athletes), eat far less protein than the recommended daily allowance (0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). And this is far less than the modern recommended amount of 1.4 - 2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for those looking to build muscle.

For a 130-pound woman, under a 0.8 grams/kg recommendation, she would have to consume 48g of protein. A large chicken breast can contain anywhere from 30-40 grams of protein. Do you eat more than 1 large chicken breast a day? I doubt it. 1.4 grams/kg for the same sized woman is about 80 grams.

Women have specific health needs, and their bodies respond differently to exercise and nutritional intake than do men. Interestingly, studies show that women who combine resistance exercise with protein supplementation have a greater response in muscle protein synthesis than men do!

Women also have a higher body fat composition than do men. Moreover, women burn more carbohydrates than fat at rest in comparison to men. This means it's harder for women to burn fat as female bodies are more prone to burning sugars.

Learn about the various types of protein that you can consume in our in depth article on the best proteins.

Essential Fatty Acids

The fat that women store around their hips and thighs has a high concentration of DHA, a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid. DHA is used for a variety of purposes by your body, but in women, it is also used for the production of breast milk.

Because American diets are low in Omega-3, American women’s fat stores are low in DHA. DHA is an essential fatty acid meaning that you have to eat it, and you have to eat a certain amount of it. If your diet does not have enough Omega-3 in it, it may lead to overeating as the brain sends your mouth signals to maximize its Omega-3 levels.

how to burn fat and build muscle women


In addition to consuming perhaps more protein than you would normally, and definitely more Omega-3 fatty acids, you also need to bring your daily total calorie count below what your daily calorie burn is.

How many calories do you burn? For the average 135 pound, 5’4” woman, their daily calorie burn would vary from about 1700 calories a day if you were completely sedentary (meaning only walking to the bathroom or the fridge), to 2200 calories a day if you exercised moderately 3 – 5 times a week, to 2500 calories a day if you exercised vigorously 6 -7 times a week.

The calorie count I recommend to most of my patients is to make sure you eat 500 calories less per day than your daily calorie burn. How can you increase your protein and omega-3 intake, and make it delicious, and decrease your calories?

Easy, I recommend that you add an instantized (dissolves easily in water), 100% grass-fed whey protein powder to your diet. Grass fed cow’s milk is what grass-fed whey protein is made from. Grass fed whey protein has higher levels of Omega-3 and vitamins than does non-grass fed milk sources.

If you pick the right grass fed whey protein you will find that it is amazingly delicious and it will taste incredible when mixed only in water. Eliminating the milk or almond milk will also save you some calories. In addition, if it is super pure, you can satisfy your cravings for dessert by creating puddings and snacks with it.

Please refer to this article if you need help counting calories or to better understand what macronutrients are.

Dietary Recommendations

I recommend to all my patients that they take grass-fed Grass-Fed Ultra Whey twice a day. Taking Grass-Fed Ultra Whey twice daily will provide 54 grams of protein with only 280 calories.

Here is how I recommend taking it: our whey protein is instantized so you can mix it in just 5 ounces of water and drink it right after your workout. You can also mix it into a tablespoon of yogurt, or peanut butter, or almond butter and eat it as a pudding dessert. By creating a pudding or toffee you trick your brain into thinking it is a full meal even though you are consuming very little calories. I personally love the strawberry or coconut flavor mixed with almond butter.

I would also highly suggest that you supplement your diet with a high potency Omega-3. For most people, it will not only have an amazing effect on their mood, but it will satisfy your DHA needs, and help your physical recovery after exercise.

3. Muscle Protein Optimization to Burn Fat and Build Muscle

The third factor necessary for finding the 'Burn Fat and Build Muscle Holy Grail' is muscle protein optimization. Your muscle needs certain naturally occurring organic compounds to turn on the muscle protein synthesis system that will allow you to get stronger and prevent your muscle from breaking down.

Muscle Performance Optimization (MPO), when added to a proper exercise and diet plan, is a game changer. I have identified 4 key components to optimize muscle protein synthesis and spark your metabolism.

  1. Increase the energy inside the muscle cell. ATP is the molecule in all your cells that provides this energy. If we increase the ATP in the muscle cell, it will have more energy to fire more effectively.
  2. Decrease the amount of acid in the muscles. Muscles do not operate as well in an acidic environment, and you have probably heard that alkalinizing your system is beneficial. Scientists call the acid that builds up in the muscle with exercise lactic acid. Lactic acid
    decreases the endurance of the muscle.
  3. Decrease the amount of muscle that is broken down by both exercise and by a lower calorie count. Breaking down muscle is called catabolism, and if we can decrease how much catabolism occurs, your muscles will benefit.
  4. Increase the amount of muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is done through a protein system in the muscles called mTOR. Stimulating mTOR will turn on several systems that promote muscle protein synthesis.

When these 4 components are turned on and stimulated together, there is a large improvement in human exercise performance, and the ability to burn fat and build muscle simultaneously.

There are several naturally occurring organic compounds that are not hormones or hormone precursors, and that individually either increase cellular ATP, decrease lactic acid, decrease muscle catabolism, and/or increase muscle protein optimization. Some of these compounds are well known and their results are well known. The results of some of these compounds, however, have only been proven in athletes over the last several years.

Ingredient Synergy

This is something we call MPO ingredient synergy, and the result is a significant improvement in human performance in the gym, and in your body composition.

mpo ingredient synergy

The ingredients we are talking about are creatine, beta-alanine, HMB, HICA, and phosphatidic acid, and they have been combined at scientifically effective doses in Dioxyme MPO (Muscle Performance Optimizer). It's a game changer.

By putting these 5 ingredients together, we have created an entirely new class of supplement that increases your strength, power, endurance, and recovery when you exercise.

You are able to exercise harder, meaning you are able to burn more calories. In addition, it increases your endurance meaning that you can work longer, which as we all know, will build muscle and burn fat simultaneously.

And finally, MPO ingredient synergy provides for a faster recovery between sets and also between workout days. You will see less delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Not only do my patients love MPO, but both male and female top professional athletes in ice hockey, football, fighting sports, weightlifting sports, and track, swear by it.

MPO can work for you and help you achieve your goals. I recommend taking it about 30 minutes prior to your exercise. It works for both cardio, HIIT, and resistance training. It mixes simply in 6-7 ounces of water and can be drunk on the way to the gym.

One of my patients mixes it the night before with a little lime juice and sticks it in the refrigerator. She says when she drinks it the next day, she is sad when it is gone.

When you combine MPO with adequate protein intake, a mild decrease in your calorie intake, and a well-designed exercise program, you will see results you haven’t been able to achieve before. That's my doctor recommended 'Burn Fat and Build Muscle Holy Grail.'

Wrap Up

I am not saying you do not have to exercise: you do. But you have to do the right type of exercises. It is not as simple as doing 30 minutes on the treadmill at a fat-burning pace, but it really is not that complicated.

You also have to eat the right foods and the right quantities of food, and yes you should probably eliminate the chips and beer (#cheatday).

More importantly, though, you are most likely not eating adequate amounts of protein. In my experience as a physician, most of my female patients consume far too little protein. Amazingly, this will cause you to gain fat while your body hoards every nutrient it needs.

And you do have to take some key nutritional ingredients to turn on the right building blocks for your muscles. You may not have had success taking supplements in the past, but that is probably because you have not taken the right ingredients at the right dose.

References to Burn Fat and Build Muscle

1. Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and peak
oxygen consumption in obese dieting subjects. A Geliebter, M M Maher, L Gerace, B Gutin, S BHeymsfield, and S A Hashim Am J Clin Nutr September 1997 vol. 66 no. 3 557-563 Link

2. Dietary Protein and Exercise Have Additive Effects on Body Composition during Weight Loss in
Adult Women. Donald K. Layman, Ellen Evans, Jamie I. Baum, Jennifer Seyler, Donna J.
Erickson, and Richard A. Boileau J. Nutr. August 1, 2005 vol. 135 no. 8 1903-1910 Link

3. Catecholamines, growth hormone, cortisol, insulin, and sex hormones in anaerobic and aerobic
exercise. W. Kindermann A. Schnabel W. M. Schmitt G. Biro J. Cassens F. Weber Europ. J. Appl.
Physiol. (1982) 49: 389. Link

4. Mårin P, Darin N, Amemiya T, Andersson B, Jern S, Björntorp P. Cortisol secretion in relation to body fat distribution in obese premenopausal women. Metabolism. 1992;41(8):882-886. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(92)90171-6. Link

5. Donges CE, Duffield R, Drinkwater EJ. Effects of Resistance or Aerobic Exercise Training on Interleukin-6, C-Reactive Protein, and Body Composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010;42(2):304-313. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3181b117ca. Link

6. Acute hormonal responses to heavy resistance exercise in younger and older men. William J.
Kraemer, Keijo Häkkinen, Robert U. Newton, Matthew McCormick, Bradley C. Nindl, Jeff S.
Volek, Lincoln A. Gotshalk, Steven J. Fleck, Wayne W. Campbell, Scott E. Gordon, Peter A.
Farrell, William J. Evans Eur J Appl Physiol (1998) 77: 206. Link

7. Poudyal H, Panchal SK, Diwan V, Brown L. Omega-3 fatty acids and metabolic syndrome: Effects and emerging mechanisms of action. Progress in Lipid Research. 2011;50(4):372-387. doi:10.1016/j.plipres.2011.06.003. Link

8. Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperaminoacidemia-hyperinsulinemia in healthy young and middle aged men and women. Clinical science (London, England : 1979). 2011;121(6):267-278. doi:10.1042/CS20100597. Link

9. Maughan RJ. Creatine Supplementation and Exercise Performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition. 1995;5(2):94-101. doi:10.1123/ijsn.5.2.94. Link

10. Nissen S, Sharp R, Ray M, Rathmacher JA, Rice D, Fuller JC Jr, Connelly AS, Abumrad N: Effect of
leucine metabolite β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate on muscle metabolism during resistance-
exercise training. J Appl Physiol (1985) 1996, 81(5):2095-2104. Link

11. Someren KAV, Edwards AJ, Howatson G. Supplementation with β-Hydroxy- β-Methylbutyrate (HMB) and α-Ketoisocaproic Acid (KIC) Reduces Signs and Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage in Man. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2005;15(4):413-424. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.15.4.413. Link

12. Jordan T, Lukaszuk J, Misic M, Umoren J. Effect of beta-alanine supplementation on the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) during treadmill running: Pre/post 2 treatment experimental design. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2010;7(1):20. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-20. Link

13. Jäger R, Purpura M, Kingsley M. Phospholipids and sports performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2007;4(1):5. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-5. Link

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