Can you lose fat and build muscle at the same time?

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How do you build muscle and lose fat at the same time? A lot of people would say you can’t. You have to build muscle and then lose fat, or lose fat and then build muscle. This process of losing fat then takes the steps of running, skipping, and starving yourself (skipping meals, not eating carbs like rice, eating salads only, or some other variant). And this ideology probably stemmed from the bodybuilding age which has now carried on into mainstream media. Bodybuilders still do this, probably because it’s the easiest way to tackle one variable at a time (assuming that they know you CAN actually lose fat and build muscle at the same time – which most people don’t).

Eating more food (than you need) to get stronger at an increased rate is a proven measure but along with it comes the side effects of storing a lot more fat than you would ordinarily if you just trained to get stronger but ate a normal amount of food that you need. So, the increase in bodyweight that you experience from eating more than you need and training hard at the gym is not 1000 kgs of muscle that you’re putting on, but rather 80% of the increase in weight is from fat (Garthe et al, 2013) – anecdotal number not exact.

If you over-eat or “bulk” as they call it in the bodybuilding world, you are gaining marginally more muscle, and a lot more fat. This is probably aided by the fact that people who over eat or “bulk” usually choose fat-rich foods to increase their calorie intake (because it contains more calories), which when eaten over the threshold of fat that the body needs, gets stored as fat at an extremely high percentage than if you ate e.g. too much carbohydrates. What I’m saying is, excess carbs turn into fat at e.g. 50% rate whereas excess fat turns into fat at a 98% rate.

For people trying to lose fat and keep the muscle on, a study took 24 athletes and found out that losing around 0.7% of bodyweight per week is a better way to get stronger and put on lean body mass (muscle) than losing around 1.4% bodyweight or more per week (Garthe et al, 2011).

From a scientific standpoint, losing weight slowly is a good thing. You would rather enjoy the process, get stronger AND lose weight, than just lose weight and hate the process.

For you to be able to lose weight (or fat to be more precise) AND build muscle at the same time, the following things need to happen. You need to:

·       Get a good duration of sleep (8ish hours) and good quality sleep – extremely important!

·       Reduce your stress points in your life if they are over active

·       Eat healthy (you can find more in my e-book about how to do this while living a normal life)

·       Continue to eat only the same amount that you have always eaten, but complete more strength training – and then after a month or two eventually decrease your calorie intake by 10% a day.

·       Your exercise program however long, should be80% strength training and 20% high intensity training – and YES there are ways to design this for you no matter how much of a beginner you think you are, or how many obstacles or injuries you have.

·       Eventually monitor your protein intake to be around 2-3x your bodyweight while having the rest of your food on your plate come mainly from carbs and a little from fat as well. Eating in the same plate everyday allows you to change the way your food looks on your plate without changing the quantity too much.

Getting good quality sleep and a good amount of sleep is extremely important. It can be the difference between having 80% of your weight loss come from fat or 80% of your weight loss come from your muscle (Wang et al, 2018).

So there you have it. Go forth and lose weight AND build muscle at the same time!



Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P. E., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2013). Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes. European journal of sport science, 13(3), 295–303.

Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P. E., Koivisto, A., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2011). Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism21(2),97–104.

Wang, X., Sparks, J. R., Bowyer, K. P., & Youngstedt, S.D. (2018). Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep41(5), 10.1093/sleep/zsy027.


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