You have probably asked the question is it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time ?
I mean, that is all of our goals isn’t it.
You probably don’t want to just lose weight, you want to look a certain way as well.
It is a great question to have pop into your head and I am here to cover it all for you here in this article.
I want to make sure you leave this article knowing exactly where to take your fitness journey from this point forward.
That means you have to read the entire article. Keep your eyes peeled to your screen.
Cool, let’s dive in.
Is It Possible To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?
Before We Dive In…
I want to set up some preliminary guidelines before hand so we are both on the same page.
First and foremost, the only way to lose fat is to be in a calorie deficit.
This means you are intaking less calories than your body is burning. This is mainly done through nutritional changes.
No detox teas, no fat burners, no water fasts or smoothie cleanses.
You eat in a calorie deficit and you lose body fat.
If you want to know how many cals to eat to lose fat, head HERE for my free calorie calculator.
Let’s talk now about building muscle.
Normally, the only way to build lean muscle mass is through being in a calorie surplus.
This means you are intaking more calories than your body is burning.
Yet building muscle and losing fat differ in this aspect.
To lose fat, all you have to do is be in a calorie deficit.
To build muscle, simply being in a calorie surplus is not going to magically build muscle.
Eating more calories than your body burns is going to get stored as body fat if it has no use for those extra calories.
Weight training builds muscle.
Your body builds muscle by adapting to a stress you put on it which makes it have to build muscle to survive.
Your body is way smarter than you are, I promise.
If you are lifting heavier weights than you were 2 months ago, or doing more reps than you were 2 months ago, your body has to build muscle to keep up.
You are providing a stress great enough that your body had to adapt. It adapts by growing stronger, more defined muscles.
This is where having a structured strength training program comes into play.
You build your muscles through being in a calorie surplus but also following a progressively overloading strength training program.
What do those words mean? Great question, they basically just mean over a period of time you are performing more and more work.
You are doing more sets, more reps, lifting more weights, etc, like mentioned above.
If you do those two things of being in a calorie surplus and following a strength training program, then your body builds muscle.
These seem like two polar opposite things.
On one end of the spectrum you are eating less calories than your body burns to lose fat.
On the other end you are eating more calories than your body burns to gain muscle.
So then is it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time?
Yes, yes it is. Let’s talk about how right now.
Is It Possible To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?
Scenario #1 – You Are Brand New To Strength Training
The first possible way of losing fat and building muscle at the same time is if you are a rank beginner to strength training.
When I say beginner to strength training, I am not talking about Zumba classes or random HIIT workouts.
I mean if you have never truly followed a progressively overloading structured strength training program where you have a mapped out plan of how you will progress week to week and month to month, then you are a beginner.
If this is you reading this right and you are asking “is it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time”, then for you my friend yes it is.
Let’s refer back to what we learned earlier.
For your body to build lean muscle mass you have to provide a stress great on your body that your body has to adapt to.
If you are a rank beginner and you have never truly followed a structured program before, your body has not ever been introduced to that stress before.
Therefore no matter what you do your body is going to have to respond to the stress you are providing it.
Think of it as if you go from lifting 0 lbs to 5 lbs, your body is going to have to adapt to that 5 lb stress you are putting on it to survive.
These are normally referred to as “newbie gains” and trust me, enjoy them while they last because they certainly do not forever.
I wish they lasted forever.
Think about it, if it were that easy to build muscle and strength, we would all be walking about deadlifting carbs and picking up buildings.
At some point these newbie gains wear off and you will need to then tap into that calorie surplus we talked about earlier to build muscle.
So How Long Does This Last?
The newbie gains phase last normally anywhere from 4-8 months.
That is the time frame you are going to gain the most strength, build the most muscle, and see the most results.
This is why this time period is by far the most important to make sure you are doing things in the most optimal way possible.
Make sure you either learn how to create your own structured strength training program or get with someone who does.
Again, because your body has no choice but to adapt to the stress you are putting on it.
Therefore in this instance, for those 4-8 months you will be able to build muscle while losing fat.
Feeling left out because you aren’t a beginner? Don’t worry, this next one may apply to you.
Scenario #2 – You Have Taken Extended Time Away From Strength Training
The second possible way of losing fat and building muscle at the same time is if you have taken extended time away from strength training.
This is usually apparent in people who have had a surgery, did not have access to weights for whatever reason, or just had life get the best of them for a little.
I know you may fall into this category as so many of us do.
But how long is an “extended time”? Let’s talk about it.
How Long Is An Extended Time?
Are we talking 2 months, 5 months, 5 years?
I would say if you have taken anywhere from 6-9 months away from strength training that would qualify for being an extended time away.
This is essentially the same concept as reason one.
When you take an extended time away from following a structured strength training program, you are no longer putting a stress on your body that your body has to adapt to.
This essentially de sensitizes your body to the stress. It isn’t being applied anymore so your body does not have to worry about and adapt to it.
Therefore when you re introduce following a structured strength training program back into your life, your body says “welp, guess we have to start adapting to this again”, leading to building muscle.
Your next question will be “how long does this last though?”.
Great question, I would say similar to if you were a complete beginner but a bit less.
Since you are not completely new and you body has some recollection of what is going on, I would say anywhere from 3-6 months is the time period where you could be in a calorie deficit yet still build muscle as the same time.
Okay really is this answering your question of is it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time? I feel like I am spitting some pretty good info here.
Moving onto the third option which is something called body recomposition.
Scenario #3 – Body Recomposition
The third possible way to lose fat and build muscle at the same time is something called body recomposition.
This basically insists you don’t eat in a calorie deficit nor a surplus.
You eat at maintenance calories, you follow a structured strength training program, and over time you will slowly lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
While there isn’t an overwhelming amount of scientific research peer reviewed research studies out there on body recomposition, I can tell you this.
If watching paint dry and watching grass grow had a baby, it would be body recomposition.
It takes a looooooong time.
Due to this being true, I personally am a believer in if you are no longer one of the two scenarios listed above to pick being in a calorie deficit and losing body fat, or being in a calorie surplus and building muscle mass.
In the amount of time it takes you to recomp, you could have lost significantly more body fat while building significantly more lean muscle mass.
Your next question probably is “well okay if I am not either one of the two scenarios above, and body recomp is not your preferred method, how do I know if I should go into a calorie surplus to build muscle or calorie deficit to lose fat?”.
Man, you got some good questions, let’s cover that one right now.
If “Is It Possible To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time” Has Switched To “What Do I Do Now Then?”
Okay. You aren’t a rank beginner to strength training, you haven’t taken an extended period off of lifting, and you know body recomp isn’t the most optimal way to go about this.
What do you do now?
If you are neither of the scenarios above, my advice to you would be to first go into a calorie deficit and get down to a lower body fat percentage.
This is because if you are above the optimal body fat range for your gender and you go into a calorie surplus your body is not going to optimize those extra calories for muscle building as much.
They are more likely to get stored as body fat as opposed to get used to build muscle.
So what body fat percentage is optimal for you?
If you are a male reading this I would go into a calorie deficit and cut down your body fat to about 12-15% body fat first.
If you are a female reading this I would go into a calorie deficit and cut down your body fat to about 18-22% body fat first.
** Please note, this doesn’t mean you should not be looking to strength train if you are not this low of a body fat percentage. You should always strength train. This is simply stating you should go into a calorie deficit with your nutrition. **
Again, if you want to know what your calorie deficit is head HERE to get my calorie calculator.
On top of that if you want to know what to do once you get to that body fat percentage to start to go into a surplus, head HERE to watch my reverse dieting guide.
What If You Aren’t That Body Fat Percentage Yet?
Don’t worry, you still can be on the right track with these 3 things below.
If you are not yet that body fat, you know you need to be in a calorie deficit, but you want to look the best you can.
Do these 3 things below.
Eat High Protein
Protein is so beneficial for so many reasons.
The first is it is the most satiating nutrient. This means it will fill you up the most and help with your hunger levels.
If you are less hunger you will stick to your calorie deficit better and be able to lose fat.
On top of that, protein is the only nutrient that can build and retain lean muscle mass.
It is also next to impossible to store as body fat, even in a calorie surplus.
How much protein should you eat?
The equation to find out how many grams of protein you should eat in a day is take your current body weight (in lbs) and x by anywhere between .8-1.
So for example, 150lbs x .8 is 120g of protein.
All of this will help you continue to develop that look you are going for while in a calorie deficit.
Whether my online coaching clients are looking to lose fat, build muscle, or maintain, their training programs don’t change a ton.
No matter what you should be looking to include strength training anywhere from 3-5x a week.
You should be looking to lift close to the proximity of failure as well. For example if you have a set of squats for 10 reps.
That 8th, 9th, and 10th rep should be a challenge. It should not be a walk in the park.
Head HERE to figure out how much weight you should be lifting for your workouts.
This will help retain the lean muscle mass you currently have and help aid once again in that look you are looking to attain.
Don’t Go Too Low In Calories
I will say if you followed my calorie calculator you won’t have this problem.
But if you choose not to listen to my free information I am giving you…..
The reason you don’t want to go too low in calories, in the context of this article, is because you are going to lose lean muscle mass.
When you go too low in calories your body is going to lose fat, but it is also going to lose muscle.
This will not help you in your quest to attain that look you are chasing.
You will end up more as “skinny fat” and no one I have ever met really has that at their goal look.
Is It Possible To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?
Alright don’t lie you googled “ Is it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time” but did this article answer that for you?
Didn’t I tell you I was going to have you leaving knowing exactly what to do moving forward no matter the situation you are in right this second.
All joking aside I truly hoped this article helps.
If you have any questions for me on any of the material above drop a comment here below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in possibly working with me so I can take all of the guess work out of it for you and get you to your goals, head HERE to fill out my coaching application form to see if we may be a good fit for coaching together.
Look to hear from you soon.