Can You Build Muscle & Lose Fat at the Same Time?

Adam asks…

It’s impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. One requires a caloric surplus, the other requires a caloric deficit.

The only time both may happen is when an overweight individual first begins working out.

This is the reason that professionals go through cycles where they alternate between bulking and cutting.

Building Muscle. You need a caloric surplus to gain weight. And if you’re skinny you’ll want that weight gain to be muscle. But you can build muscle without gaining weight too. It comes down to:

  • Stress. Strength training stresses your body. Your body adapts to the stress by growing stronger & building muscle.
  • Nutrition. 1g/lbs protein daily at least to build muscle. Body-weight in lbs x 18kcal daily so your body doesn’t burn muscle for energy.

Losing Fat.
I wrote a full guide on how to lose fat fast in the past. Here’s the short version:

  • Burn More. Weight lifting & cardio burn calories. Muscle burn calories. More muscle means more calories burned, even when at rest.
  • Eat Clean. Don’t worry about calories. Quit the junk food, eat clean & avoid hunger. Track your body fat weekly using a fat caliper.

Bodybuilders play a different game. They cut to drop below 10% body fat. The lower you want to decrease your body fat, the more you have to look at the details. And one goal at a time is always easier.

But is not about bodybuilding. is about building muscle & losing fat while getting stronger. Besides, going lower than 10% body fat (15% for women) is impractical & unnecessary.

  • Impractical. Your body is not made to stay below 10% body fat for long. Body fat is emergency storage. Trying to get lower for extensive periods means lots of cardio & counting calories.
  • Unnecessary. Picture below: Russian strongman Michael Sidorychev. You can see his abs although his body fat is above 10%. Why? Because he’s strong.



Michael Sidorychev. Image credit: Pete90291

Building Muscle While Losing Fat.
Many reader have built muscle & lost fat without their body-weight changing. Arms, legs & chest got bigger. Waist got smaller. You can build muscle while losing fat. Just like you can build muscle without gaining weight. Or gain weight without gaining fat. Get stronger, eat healthy. Leave the details to the bodybuilders.

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