How To Lose Fat And Gain Muscle At The Same Time

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Many people think it’s impossible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, but most people can. I’m gonna tell you how you can do it.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age.

I talked about this whole concept of body recomposition in a previous video.

This time I’m gonna share specific tips, so you’ll know how to get there.

And at the end, I’m gonna talk about the small group of people who won’t be able to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.

Get Enough Protein

The first thing you wanna do is get enough protein. I generally recommend 0.8 to one gram of protein per pound.

Protein is useful because it helps you to maintain and build your muscle mass. Having protein with your meals also keeps you fuller for longer. So you’re less likely to overeat on treat foods, high calorie foods that will cause you to put on fat.

I’m also gonna talk a little bit about how you need to set up your calories so that you can lose fat and build muscle.

Train With Weights To Lose Fat And Build Muscle

The next thing you need to do is train with weights.

You can drink all the protein shakes you want, but if you’re not giving the muscle some kind of stimulus, then they don’t have any reason to respond by growing.

So you need to do those workouts. Now this can be strength training. It doesn’t necessarily need to be weights.

Progressive Resistance Training

It could be body weight training that you’re doing progressively progressive resistance training. Meaning that as you get stronger, you increase your weights. Or if it’s body weight, then you’re increasing the intensity of the exercise. That’s the most effective way of building muscle.

The Challenge Of Building Muscle

Building muscle is actually harder than weight loss. So it’s something that you really need to focus on. If you do have that goal of having more muscle and losing fat, I normally recommend three to five weight training sessions a week. I’ve seen some complete beginners get results on two sessions a week, but that may be only for certain people.

So it’s best to do at least those three sessions.

They don’t need to be long. Generally, an effective efficient workout can be done in 45 minutes, perhaps five minutes at the beginning to warm up and then five minutes at the end to stretch it out a little bit. Hitting each muscle group twice a week has been shown to maximize muscle growth.

For many people, a full body workout three times a week is gonna get the best result. It’s also very efficient and practical. Not everybody has time to do four days a week or five days a week. So three weight training sessions a week could be enough if you’re already doing more than that though, there’s no need to cut it down. If you can manage those four or five sessions a week, you’ll probably get more muscle growth from that.

Burn Calories With Physical Activity

The next step is expend calories with physical activity.

And I’m not even specifically talking about cardio.

It is generally recommended that you get 20 to 30 minutes of cardio three times a week, at least, but walking can also be a good contributor to your calorie burn and for your health as well. Now, when you’re trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, it’s important that you set your calorie goal correctly. Now you may or may not be tracking your calories. Either strategy is fine.

Calorie Tracking To Lose Fat And Build Muscle

Tracking calories works for a lot of people and it doesn’t work for others, but there are other approaches as well. If you are tracking calories, whether or not you want to be in a calorie deficit or maintenance, when you’re trying to build muscle and lose fat, it’s gonna depend on where you are now and how far you are from your goal.

If you’re carrying quite a lot of excess weight, you might want to be eating in a calorie deficit.

So trying to give your body fewer calories than it needs to sustain itself.

Body fat is just your body’s internal storage of energy.

So if you don’t give your body enough energy in the form of calories, through food for it to sustain itself, as it is, then it’s going to use those energy stores, your body fat to provide that energy. And that’s exactly what you want. You wanna be burning off the fat.

So for a man, this might be someone who’s 25% or higher. In that case, you’ll probably wanna be eating in a calorie deficit for a woman about 30% or higher. So let’s say you’re a man who’s about 20% body fat. So that’s fairly lean. And you may be able to eat at maintenance, the amount of calories that your body would theoretically need to sustain itself as it is because you’re going to be trying to build muscles.

So your body’s gonna use those energy stores.

Estimating Your Maintenance Calories

The method that I usually use for estimating your maintenance calories is 13 times your body weight in pounds.

So if you weigh 180 pounds, then 13 times 180 is 2,340. So that would be your daily calorie intake to remain in maintenance. But because you’re going to increase your physical activity and try to build muscle, you may find that you start losing fat as you gain that muscle, but this will likely only work for someone who’s relatively lean and not carry a lot of excess body fat. Only a certain group of people is gonna be able to do this. If you haven’t really optimized your weight training yet. And perhaps you’ve only been working out once a week, or maybe you haven’t started working out at all in that case, you’re going to get that muscle growth. And you’ll probably be able to lose fat at the same time.

Who Can’t Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?

Now, the people who won’t be able to put on muscle and lose fat at the same time are going to be quite lean and they’ve already optimized their training.

So they’re already working out three to five times a week. They’re doing solid, progressive resistance training sessions. So as soon as they get a bit stronger, they push their weights up. They increase the intensity and they keep moving on. Basically someone who’s optimized their training and also optimized their nutrition. So they’ve already been eating enough protein. They’ve been eating adequate calories to fuel themselves and they’ve been training regularly. And that means that they’re gonna have a hard time putting on muscle while losing fat at the same time.

Strategies For Building Muscle

Now, if you’re someone who’s primary goal is to build muscle and you’re relatively lean already. You’re already working out progressively three to five times a week. You’ve already got all that protein in.

Then you’re probably going to need to eat in a calorie surplus to give your body extra calories from which to grow that muscle. It’s pretty hard for someone whose training and nutrition is optimized to be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Leaning Out After Muscle Building

Generally, when people are trying to put on a large amount of muscle, they’ll tend to put on a little bit of fat as well. It’s very difficult to keep that manageable, but what you can do is when you’ve got all that muscle you want. If you’re carrying a bit of extra fat, then you can just slightly decrease your calorie intake to help lean yourself out.

This is often what bodybuilders do at the start. They’re at their heaviest. And they’re leaning themselves slowly down. You’re trying to minimize your muscle mass loss by maintaining the strength training and by eating enough protein, that helps you keep the muscle, as you start to lose the body fat.

When your focus is building muscle and losing fat, you wanna maintain as much muscle as you possibly can while you’re losing that body fat.

Rate Of Weight Loss To Minimize Muscle Loss

An important guideline is that you don’t lose any more than 0.8 to 1% of your body weight per week. Any more than that, and you’re going to risk losing your muscle. And that’s gonna go against your whole purpose in this process.

Now, if you’re not tracking calories and I’m fine with that, a lot of my clients don’t.

I don’t personally track my calories right now, but it is important to at least keep an eye on your protein, which is for me, the most important macro to track. And that’s because not only is it gonna help with your appetite, which means that you can keep your calories at a reasonable place, but it’s also gonna help you retain that muscle. And as you’ve just learned, that’s a key part of this process.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 9-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training, chocolate, mountain biking, and ice cream...not always in that order of preference.
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