How To Gain Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time
Gain muscle and lose fat at the same time – can you do it? Yes, and it isn’t that complicated, but you have to be very strict about your diet.
Gain Muscle And Lose Fat?
We first of all have to discuss how you lose weight and how you gain muscle mass.
The process of losing weight is very, very simple: eat fewer calories than you burn. As long as you follow this rule, you will lose weight. It doesn’t matter how you do it and can choose whatever diet works best for you.
For your muscles, three things decide if they increase in size, no matter if you are on a diet or not:
- You need to encourage them to grow by doing strength training with enough resistance
- They work best during workouts when carbohydrates are available as a fast fuel source
- They finally need protein to increase in size, because muscles are made of protein
So here comes the rub: if you want to lose weight, you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. If you want to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, you have to fulfill the above three and still limit your daily calories.
Can we get these together and play nice?
Taking Care Of The Protein
Let’s say you weigh 200 lbs and want to lose 2 lbs of body weight per week. You will have to limit your daily calories to about 2,100 kcal.
At 200 lbs you also need one gram protein per pound of body weight. One gram protein has four calories, which means you’ll have to have 800 kcal worth of it. Get that and you’re left with 1,300 kcal you can still spend.
Sounds simple enough, right? But you can’t have high protein food high calories or you overshoot your daily calorie allotment. And you can’t have low-calorie food low in protein or you won’t get enough protein.
You could, for example, decide to eat chicken breast – high in protein, not many calories. But for how long can you eat chicken breast without anything to go with it? Yet boom goes your calorie limit when you add some sauce, rice or fries to it to get it down.
Taking Care Of Carbs
At least the carbs you can easier take care of. Carbs are important for your workout efforts, no matter if you’re on a diet or not. Because carbs are “fast fuel.”
When you do low maintenance tasks (watching TV, sleeping), the body uses its “slow” energy reserves, the fat cells, to provide energy to maintain your body. This works nice if you want to lose weight and don’t ask for a lot from your body.
But if you need peak power output for high intensity stuff like weightlifting, fat is like driving a sports car with the fuel being converted from raw oil to gasoline right in your trunk. The more demanding a task, the more your body will rely on carbs to do it.
To not limit your workout performance during a diet have some carbohydrates 30-60 minutes before you start exercising. Bananas are an excellent source for them, as they provide you with carbohydrates and more nutrients on top. And one banana has only 100 kcal.
When we put it together, what you need to lose fat and simultaneously increase in muscle mass is…
- Restrict calories
- Still fulfill your daily protein needs
- Provide carbs one hour before your sessions as fast fuel source
- Work out
Yes, it’s just four steps. But they require some big self-control. It can be done, but now you know what you are up against and why so many guys claim it’s impossible. Being on a diet is hard, limiting your food choices to those high in protein and low in calories is even harder.
Good News For Overweight Beginners
Do you have to go through this? Not if you are a beginner. If you are overweight and start working out, your biggest strength gains won’t come from your muscles having to increase in size. They come from your brain learning to use the existing muscles better.
All you need to do is understand the explanation of calories from above and start with the home workout plan I posted here.
“Catabolic” Vs. “Anabolic”
Last but not least let us address these two terms, because when the topic of gaining muscle while losing fat mass comes up people often throw them around. And say a lot of nonsense.
Especially (self-appointed) workout pros will tell you that you can’t gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, because the body supposedly can only be in either “catabolic” or “anabolic” state. Check for example this enlightening explanation at the Muscle & Strength Forum.
In truth, both processes always happen at the same time and together form your “metabolism”:
- Catabolic means the breakdown of stuff to use as energy or to get the building blocks to construct something else
- Anabolic is the process by which this stuff is then build
If either of them came to a standstill, you would be dead. As a practical example think about your body being able to break down and digest food (catabolic) and at the same time letting your hair grow (anabolic). Muscles are either catabolic or anabolic, too, and when you work out, your encourage your muscles to be anabolic and increase the size of their cells.
The confusion some muscleheads finds themselves in about this is that they think if one body system in is in one state, the rest in the same state. They believe when during a diet the fat cells are in catabolic state (getting broken down to fulfill the body’s energy needs), the muscle cells have to be too.
But your muscles give zilch about the fat cells, as long as there are enough fat reserves to keep the processes in the rest of the body going and they getting those three things discussed above.
Picture courtesy of Anton Kudris.
YES! I have always been ale to do both at the same time. Like anything else.. people want it all now & fast & you need patience & hard work! 🙂
Absolutely! And the mechanisms to get you there actually are simple, but you have to stick to them – which is the real hard part.
hy evilcyber i’m vry skin guy i’m 44 kg
cn u giv me easy to gain weight
becoz i hav try mny Weight Gaining Supplements but No used sit the same
i used MEGA MASS 4000 ,2 Serious Mass and TRUE-MASS
i change my gym tim 3 for last 6 months
Bro, The only way to gain weight is eat more.Eat more calories than you burn.I assume you have very high metabolism.If 3 meals doesn’t show any progress,add another meal.keep increasing your calories(macros) till u see some weight gain.Get into a habit of eating try to eat something every 2-3 hours.try eating your favorite foods which will increase your appetite.(Don’t worry you will not be chubby.). Supplements do help to build muscle but make sure you buy good products.There may be mixed and low quality weight gainers.(Assuming you are from Sri Lanka).Avoid cardio related exercises till you put on some weight.Follow a workout rutine based on compound exercises.(squats,Dead lifts,pull ups,bench presses etc..) Cheers machan 🙂
There’s something that always keeps bothering me.
What about very skinny people who want to gain muscle mass and keep their body fat low at the same time?
It’s esp interesting for underweight persons like me (e.g.).
I’m about 169lbs and 6″2′.
Still keep the carbs low ?
You have to work out, get enough protein and calculate the TDEE as close as possible while keeping an eye on your body fat percentage.
There is not much room for error, if the BFP already is low.
hello my name is lucy , im 14 and sporty, i play badminton 4 hours a week, swim 2 hours per week, walk a good amount everyday as well as horseriding once a week.
i had 3 months work of hard intense training preparing for the bronze badminton nationals but unfortunately had a bit of a dramma and ended up with appendicitis and having a 2 hour opperation. it’s now been 5 weeks since my operation and have just started play my badminton again. but my fitness level is pretty bad. i’m struggling to keep playing at a good level of intensity for a good amount of time. i get out of breath fast .. i’m looking for exercise plans or exercises to build my fitness up. what type of exercises should i be aiming to do.. i need some guidence to help get me back up to my normal itence standard again. also i was 9 stone and my arms,legs,back and belly was very toned up but over the month where i couldn’t do any sport i gained just over half a stone and my toned muscle isn’t really as toned now … i also have gained a lot of ‘bad’ fat around my waist and thighs could you please help and tell me how i can loos my unwanted fat,tone up again and improve my fitness allowing me to do a high intensity sport for longer periods of time.. bearing in mind i have had problems with my knees and also sprained my back 2 weeks ago so i need a guidence of strengthening exercises too .. thank you for your help. i have also been reading about nutrition and things i really have no idea wht would be the right food that i should be eating or the wrong food tht i should stay away from. need some guidance thanks.
Heah Eliska, you had a long break and your body has to get used to it again. Start with about half the amount of fitness you did before the surgery and slowly add to it.
The process of toning itself I explained here:
hello, I’m about to start exercising, I weight 180. I’m not fat but I have a belly that I want to get rid of and at the same time I want to start getting healthy and make exercising a habit. my question is about diets, I never understood anything about carbs, etc. what kind of diet do you recommend or what advice would you give me?
oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014….
Hey Patrick, happy new year to you too!
Here is weight loss explained:
And here is a home workout you can do:
But keep in mind you can’t spot-reduce fat:
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and answer my questions. Much appreciated