I have been working out for years, but only recently examined my food intake relative to exercise.

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My two goals seem more and more conflicting. I have been working out for years, but only within the last 6 months have I seriously examined my food intake in relation to my exercise goals. I do 1 hour of aerobics each morning and lift for about 1 hour each night. On weekends I usually only do one or the other, but not both.

I started 6 months ago at 145 pounds and am 5 feet 6 inches. I then decided to increase my caloric intake to gain muscle weight. I also dropped my fat intake to less than 15% of my diet. I made the mistake of increasing calories too much. I gained 15 pounds in 4 months, but too much of weight gain was fat.

Just a month or two ago I changed course to focus on getting rid of as much fat as I can. I switched to a caloric deficit of 100 to 200 calories less than my required caloric intake daily. I also dropped my fat intake to less than 8% daily. Now I have visibly lost the bodyfat that I gained. However, I worry that I’m not eating enough to gain muscle.

What can I do? Must I work on my dual goals individually?

For a female of your height and activity level, 145 pounds is a healthy weight! It sounds as though you are in very good shape and are not overfat, but your goals appear to change your fat and muscle percentages. Why not maintain your weight at 145 and increase your exercise program to decrease body fat (aerobics) and increase muscle (weight training)? As you decrease body fat, you will see more muscle definition and the results of your hard work.

You can work on exercise and modifying what you eat simultaneously. You experienced what the average American has, eat very low-fat, disregard calories and guess what? You gain weight, some of which is body fat because the rate of gain exceeded your body’s ability to put on muscle which is determined by your weight training. Calories still count and when you exceed your body’s calorie expenditure through metabolism and exercise, your weight goes up no matter how low-fat you eat.

Have you tried the Healthy Body Calculator® to see how many calories per day you need to maintain your weight versus gain? Use this as a starting point. I would also recommend you visit an exercise physiologist or certified trainer to help design a weight training program to reduce body fat and increase muscle. They would also help you gain muscle definition without looking like a body builder unless that is your goal. I would also suggest you get a baseline body fat analysis first so you can monitor your success towards your goal. Then repeat monthly at the most frequent.

Eating only 8% of calories from fat is extremely low and can be dangerous. Although it is healthy to follow a low-fat eating plan, low-fat is considered about 25% of calories from fat. Fat is essential to provide fat-soluble vitamins in food, produce hormones in the body and to synthesize essential body compounds. We need the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic in food we eat for these vital roles. I do not recommend that you eat only 8% of calories from fat and would encourage you to eat at least 25% of calories from fat.