How To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time
Updated: Apr 15
Having been around bodybuilding most of my life I was often told “You can either choose to lose fat or gain muscle.” It was a common understanding that we can’t do them simultaneously. Well, in response to that statement I going to say “balderdash”.
I am going to direct your attention to the topic of “Body Recomposition” since there is a way we can lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Body recomposition refers to the process of losing body fat and gaining muscle mass. The goal of body recomposition is to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously. Unlike the traditional approach of "bulking and cutting" in which we intentionally put on a lot of weight first (muscle and fat) and then go through an intense calorie deficit and hours upon hours of cardio sessions to lose the fat and reveal the muscle underneath. I can tell you from my own personal experience, having to lose those extra pounds of fat after my bulking phase was challenging on numerous levels.
Since this is a “Three Pronged Strategy” that requires exercise, healthy nutrition and rest, I will briefly explain the nutrition aspect. The important factor in our nutritional approach, since I don’t like saying “diet”, is to eat healthy whole foods. Generally, every meal we eat should have plenty of fibrous vegetables and fruits while consuming at least 25 to 30 grams of lean protein and a moderate portion of healthy fat sources.
As I have previously spoken about in my other blogs, I am a proponent of Intermittent Fasting since this has additional health benefits. I encourage you to view those blogs for more insight. One key note I wish to convey is that body recomposition isn't about weight loss, it's about fat loss. On a body recomposition plan, we may maintain our current weight or even gain weight. But remember the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. I have always preached to my clients “the only people who should be using a scale to weigh themselves are jockeys! Let your mirror and clothes but your judge on how you are doing with your body recomposition.”
During body recomposition, what changes, instead of weight, is our physique. As we progress through our body recomposition, we may notice changes in our body, such as an overall firmer look or that our clothes fit differently. We may even gain weight, yet have a smaller waist and more toned physique. For example, I weigh more now than I did before I started exercising and eating healthier. However, I am more toned and my jeans have decreased a few inches in the waist size. I feel much stronger than before I began a resistance training program.
Please note that this is a healthier lifestyle choice and NOT a fad diet program. Healthy fat loss and healthy muscle gains both take time since this is our new way of living life. The slow, steady process of body recomposition offers sustainable results, so you will enjoy your new physique for as long as you maintain those lifestyle habits.
As per the topic of this blog, unlike traditional methods of weight loss that included a period of time were we had to maintain a very low-calorie diet with hours upon hours of cardio sessions, our body recomposition lifestyle will be based on a different health and fitness standard.
The following are some basic guidelines to achieve our desired body recomposition.
Low impacted cardiovascular exercise for fat loss. Consider such exercises as walking, jump rope, rowing machine, stationary bike, or treadmill walking at a 3% incline.
Resistance training to build muscle. After 40 years of weight resistance training I transitioned into Resistance Bands and I have never felt better! My previous injuries are almost non-existent and since my resistance bands fit into my gym bag that enables me to workout anywhere I desire.
Decrease in calorie consumption to lose fat. This is were I encourage you to consider Intermittent Fasting. It’s pretty tough to overeat when we are involved in this nutritional lifestyle.
Increased protein intake to promote muscle formation. As a proponent of eating whole foods, there are various protein based meals you can consider. Try to go as natural as you can, such as purchasing grass-fed meat or organic vegan foods.
Fat loss ultimately comes down to our calorie intake versus the calories we burn from an active lifestyle. To lose fat, we need to eat fewer calories than what we burn. As I have mentioned from my own experiences, combining cardiovascular exercises and Intermittent Fasting works wonders in fat loss. This will allow us the opportunity to lose fat in a safe, sustainable way.
To build muscle, we will focus on two main factors, which is resistance training and protein consumption. Resistance training is essential in changing our body composition since our muscles won't grow unless we challenge them. We need to consume the proper amount of nutritious whole foods to feed our muscles. Being on Intermittent Fasting we don’t necessarily need to worry on the amount of macronutrients we consume. However, it is important that we have at least 25 to 30 grams of protein to help maintain muscle mass and function. Without enough protein, our body will struggle to repair the muscle tissues that gets broken down during resistance training.
Various studies have indicated proper protein intake can help with losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. Research showed that certain test subjects who maintained a caloric deficit and consuming more protein than usual preserved their lean body mass. Whereas the test subjects who also had a caloric deficit without changing their protein intake didn’t fair as well as those who consumed more protein.
For some people this paradigm shift may be slightly confusing to their normal way of thinking. I know from my own personal experience it took me a while to come to grips with this concept since I was convinced I had to have a bulking phase followed by a shredding phase.
However, when it comes to our body recomposition approach all we have to do is figure out our maintenance calories, or how many calories we burn on a day that we don't exercise. On days that we do cardio exercise, we should consume enough calories to meet our maintenance number. Consuming maintenance calories on a cardio day ensures that we will be in a slight deficit to promote fat loss. The “fine line” is ensuring that our caloric deficit isn’t too extreme whereupon our body starts using muscle tissue as fuel. This will then defeat the purpose of our goal of losing fat while building muscle at the same time.
So, on days we do resistance training that involves working out for 30 minutes or more, we will consume more calories than our determined maintenance amount with our focus being on a slightly increased amount of protein. Depending on how much muscle we want to put on and how quickly we want to gain it, we should consider adding 5% to 15% to our maintenance calories. On days that we don't workout, we simply eat slightly less than our maintenance calories. Examine a similar formula of 5% to 10% decrease in our caloric intake. This number is called your "rest day calories."
This is a fun way to think about our new lifestyle. Each day, we consume new calories and our body must decide what to do with those calories. Our body essentially has three basic choices: immediately burn the calories for fuel, use them to repair and build muscle tissue or store them as fat. If we are serious about our body transformation then we will ensure we don't allow our body to store calories as fat. Therefore, we develop a lifestyle habit whereupon we instinctively know how many calories to consume for what our day is going to look like. This will ensure we are successful in our lifelong goal in achieving our desired body recomposition.
About The Author: Steve is a Christian Blogger, Videographer, and Personal Trainer who has a passion of bringing positive content while enhancing the lives of others through his blogs.