It’s almost time for Spring, and that means not being able to hide under bulky hoodies. You’re the guy whose wardrobe for the warmer seasons is packed with snug fitting T-shirts designed to flatter your hard-earned lean muscle tone. But winter usually brings with it a few extra pounds, unless you’ve managed to remain doggedly disciplined. Losing that light layer of fat without also losing hard slogged for lean muscle mass in the process requires more sophistication than simply going into a calorie deficit though. Here’s how to lose that burgeoning belly bump and still preserve your muscle tone.

A nifty trick is to increase your nitric oxide levels

Nitric oxide is a must-use not-so-secret weapon – this compound will see you sail through all the critical aspects of retaining your muscle while losing fat: better and faster recovery, reduced fatigue and more energy so you can maintain your reps even though you may be restricting calories. It’ll also help you use more glucose, enabling both strong muscle pump and  endurance routines resilience: you need both to lose fat but remain strong and toned.

Don’t just settle for any nitric oxide supplement though – and organizations such as Consumer Advisors can help you separate fad and gimmick products from truly effective ones. Great natural sources of this super compound include beets and dark green leafy vegetables.

Pack in the protein

Maintaining muscle is not about timing your meals correctly, eating organic whole grains or anything else. As far as zoning in on a food group goes, it is mostly to do with eating protein. That means eggs, beans, chicken, turkey, lean red meat, and so on. The exact amount of protein you need varies depending on which expert you consult, but the general consensus is about 0.8g to 1.3g of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re overweight, use your goal weight versus your current weight to do the calculation.

Do not dispense with carbs entirely though. However, you should remember to eat fewer carbs and fats on rest days, and make sure you eat more protein than anything else every day. Another proviso is that when you add up all your calories, there should still be a slight deficit – you are trying to lose fat after all.

Maintain the intensity of your strength training, but decrease the frequency of your training sessions

When you were trying to bulk up, you progressively added heavier weights and did repetitions through to failure. Now you’ll find that with a slightly restricted calorie diet, it will take more effort to lift the same weight levels and do the same number of reps (here is where that nitric oxide comes in handy!). But do them, you must. This is the equivalent of a reminder via electric shock to your body that your muscle mass is going nowhere – it is still required.

Still, you’ve cut down on other calories, so you will have less energy and be weaker. Your reps will decrease and you’ll find putting the same weight on the bar harder.

The first trick is to factor in enough recovery time. That means fewer training sessions. If not, you will lose strength, which equals losing muscle.

The second imperative is: decrease volume. Do not confuse volume with strength! Work out with the same heavy weights, but do fewer sets. Do the same rep cycle for each set, just do fewer actual sets.

Pay attention to pre- and post workout nutrition

You’re on slightly restricted calories and trying to lose fat – not strength. That means continuing to pay attention to what you eat before and after workouts. It remains critical even though many individuals make the mistake of ignoring this aspect, only to find they’re shedding fat and strength levels simultaneously.

Eat your protein with a decent amount of carbs – you’ll need the slow burn. Have this about 1 to 2 hours before training and after. The best time though for your carb intake is after your workout when your body is functionally at its best to handle carbohydrates. Depriving your body of carbs is dangerous – it will hurt your recovery and lead to lower quality workouts as a result.

Just make sure that overall, every single meal you will eat, added up, amounts to a pro-protein diet.

Yes, losing fat while retaining your muscle is slightly more technical but with a little planning and thought it is certainly achievable.