Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle

Tom Venuto

This book explains how to burn the fat through workouts while feeding your muscles with proper nutrition instead of starving your body in a non sustainable way. It proposes to lose fat by improving your body composition rather than simply losing weight. Be advised, this is not a quick program; it’s a lifestyle change.

My rating: 4/5 · I really liked it
8 min · June 14, 2018 · Amazon

My Notes

To improve your body (getting leaner and healthier) you need to work on different areas. Achieving a very lean body is the result of a lifestyle change.

There areas you need to work on are the following:

  1. Mental training
  2. Nutrition
  3. Weight training
  4. Cardio training

To obtain permanent results you need to adopt new, healthier habits that you can maintain for the rest of your life. These habits include the way you think, the way you eat, and the way you move.

Know yourself. Not everyone has the same body type. Not everyone responds the same way to exercise and nutrition.

Know your predominant body type:

  • Endomorphs are the large, fatter types that have difficulty losing body fat.
  • Mesomorphs are the mostly muscular types that gain muscle with ease.
  • Ectomorphs are the lean, skinny types with fast metabolisms and extremely low body fat.

Prioritize body composition over body weight. The best way to measure your body composition is to measure your body fat percentage.

You can’t achieve excellence if you’re aiming for average. When two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, average isn’t so good. — Tom Venuto

Body fat percentages:

Rating Male Female
Competition shape 3% - 6% 9% - 12%
Very lean 7% - 9% 13% - 15%
Lean 10% - 14% 16% - 20%
Satisfactory 15% - 19% 21% - 25%
Improvement needed 20% - 25% 26% - 30%
Major improvement needed 26% - 30% 31% - 40%

Mental Training

Don’t try to become better than someone else; become better than you used to be. — Tom Venuto

Things you control:

  • Your overall lifestyle.
  • Your mental attitude.
  • Who you allow to influence you.
  • How much, what, and when you eat.
  • What type, frequency, duration, and intensity of the exercises you do.

Set goals with these characteristics:

  • Specific. How many pounds of fat will you lose? By when?
  • Measurable. You need to know if you’ve hit your goal.
  • Big. Average is no longer good enough.
  • Realistic deadlines. The speed at which you pursue your goals has to be realistic.
  • Long-term and short-term. Keep working towards those long-term goals while achieving your short-term goals.
  • Affirmations. Your mind will interpret them as things you must do.

Read your goals at least twice a day and keep them always in your mind. Visualize your goals every time you read them.

If you feel frustrated or discouraged, focus on your daily goals, not on the huge amount of work ahead of you.

Don’t choose conflicting goals. It’s too hard to gain muscle while losing body fat. Focus all your energy in the most important one and then focus on the other one.

When you accomplish one of your goals make sure you:

  • Celebrate or reward yourself.
  • Keep a list of your achieved goals.
  • Set new goals.


Discipline is doing what is hard and necessary rather than what is fun and easy and doing it when it’s necessary, whether you feel like doing it or not. — Brian Tracy

About Calories

To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume each day. To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn each day.

Calorie quality is as important as calorie quantity. It’s not enough to be in a calorie deficit or surplus. You also need certain macronutrients distribution and nutritive foods.

Control and keep track of your calories all the time, even with your occasional cheat meals.

Be serious about counting calories otherwise you cannot adjust week by week effectively.

Learn to listen to your stomach. Notice when it’s full. Never stuff yourself.

Your basal metabolic rate (Katch-McArdle Equation) is:

Your total daily energy expenditure is your basal metabolic rate times your activity level:

  • Sedentary: 1.2
  • Lightly active: 1.375
  • Moderately active: 1.55
  • Very active: 1.729
  • Extremely active: 1.9

Choose a deficit between 15% and 30% below your total daily energy expenditure for healthy, long-term fat loss. The leaner you are, the smaller the deficit.

Don’t do extreme calorie deficits. Your body can’t tell the difference between dieting and starvation. On starvation, your body will easily store energy as fat, decrease energy expenditure, decrease your metabolism, and increase food-seeking behaviors.

About Macronutrients

What you eat occasionally has little impact on your health or body composition. What you eat every day is what matters the most. Take it seriously. — Tom Venuto

You need a proper balance between protein, carbs, and fats. And, yes, you need to eat all three macronutrients.

A good starting point is 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. Try to hit your target macronutrients daily within 5%.

Every meal should contain lean proteins with a starchy and a fibrous carb.

Eat four to six times a day and divide the calories you need between these meals. It helps avoiding snacks because you’ll be eating every few hours.

Plan your meals and budget your macronutrients as if it were a money budget. Don’t eat unplanned calories as you would avoid unplanned expenses.

Eat protein and carbs before and after your weight training workouts. Eat 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass both before and after your workouts. Carbs should be at least the same as protein.

Drink a lot of water. Don’t get dehydrated. When in doubt, have a glass of water.

Drink water when you wake up. Drink 500 milliliters of water anywhere between 2 hours to 20 minutes before your workout. Drink 200 milliliters every 15 minutes during workouts. Drink 500 milliliters after your workout.

Protein: The Muscle Builder

Foods that contain all essential and nonessential amino acids in the exact ratio and amounts are called complete proteins. Highest quality proteins comes from animal sources.

The key to maintaining muscle is eating enough protein and being conservative with calorie deficits. Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Maximum 40 grams of protein per meal.

For muscle growth you need adequate proteins, surplus calories, and progressive weight training. Eat 1.1 to 1.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Carbs: The Daily Energy

Carbs are the energy you need for short, high intensity exercise, such as sprinting or weight lifting.

Don’t eat refined carbs. Don’t eat refined sugars. White sugar has no vitamins, no minerals, no amino acids, just pure calories.

Prefer fibrous carbs over starchy carbs.

For starchy carbs, prefer whole grains and unprocessed starches.

Fat: The Good and The Bad

You need fats to maintain normal anabolic hormone levels. Healthy fat slows digestion, which helps control blood sugar and insulin.

Saturated fats comes primarily from animals. They lack essential required fatty acids, so you must balance them with unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats comes primarily from plants.

Essential fatty acids Omega-3 (fish oil) is usually missed in diets. Eat between 1.5 and 2.0 grams of combined DHA/EPA if you’re losing fat.

Avoid hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, and trans-fatty acids.

The blacklist:

  • Fried foods.
  • Cookies, crackers, biscuits.
  • Pies, pastries, frostings, doughnuts.
  • Corn chips, taco shells.
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, refined vegetable oils.
  • Packaged backed goods.
  • Margarine.

Weight Training

I don’t go to the gym to maintain; I go to the gym to improve. And if I want to improve, then today I must aim to beat my previous workouts and do something I’ve never done before. — Tom Venuto

Do progressive resistance training. Whenever possible, lift more weight, do more reps, do the same workout in less time, or increase the workload.

Target 8-12 repetitions. If you hit 12 repetitions, increase the workload so you go back to 8.

Rest between sets so you can do each set at your fullest.

Five sets of five reps is a very popular strength workout.

Do each movement under control and never bounce back.

Always warm up before each workout. Start with one or two light, nonfatiguing sets of each exercise before doing your heavy work sets.

Never push through “bad pains” or injuries.

Static stretching is for increasing flexibility, not for warming up.


Cario is any exercise that’s rhythmic in nature, involves large muscle groups, raises your heart rate and breathing, and that you can sustain for extended periods of time.

It can be running, walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, skiing, etc.

Pick the cardio you enjoy and mix it up if you want.

Do 5-7 days of cardio a week for fat loss. Do 3-4 days of cardio a week for maintenance.

Burn 400-600 calories per cardio workout.

High intensity interval training helps reduce the workout duration while keeping burned calories high and boosts your metabolism for hours after the workout is over.

The best time for a workout is when you feel most physically energetic, mentally focused, and motivated.

Consistency is more important than schedule.

Vary intensity, volume, weight, and other variables to avoid letting your body adapt to cardio.

Feedback Loop

There is no such thing as failure—only feedback, only results. — Tom Venuto

Weight yourself on the same scale, at the same time of day, and wearing the same amount of clothes.

Measure your body fat every Monday and make adjustments for your current week depending on your previous week’s results.

The trend over time is more important than any one-week fluctuation.

Don’t fix things that aren’t broken. If what you’re doing gets you to gain lean muscle or burn fat then keep doing it. Adjust as results starts to change.


Same Lean Mass; Decreased Body Fat

  • Don’t change anything.

Same Lean Mass; Same Body Fat

  • Track calories more carefully.
  • Increase calorie burn from cardio.
  • Additionally you can reduce calorie intake 100 to 200 calories per week.

Same Lean Mass; Increased Body Fat

  • Track calories more carefully.
  • Track exercises more carefully.
  • Reduce calorie intake 100 to 200 calories per week.
  • Additionally you can increase calorie burn from cardio.

Decreased Lean Mass; Decreased Body Fat

  • If it’s the first time, it may be water weight.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough protein specially before and after workouts.
  • Increase calorie intake 100 to 200 calories per week.
  • Make sure your weight training is consistent, intense, focused, and progressive.