5 Steps to Build Muscle & Lose Fat at The Same Time

Check out my client Bret’s transformation where he lost a whole bunch of fat

Is it actually possible to burn fat and build muscle at the same time? Well, there are dozens if not hundreds of studies that show that it can actually be possible even though it’s not necessarily optimal for everyone.

For example, 1 study on overweight police officers with an average body fat of 26 percent found that following a high protein low-calorie diet while also lifting weights for 12 weeks led to the police officers losing 15.4 pounds of fat, while simultaneously gaining 9 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks. (1)

Now, these police officers were obviously out of shape at the beginning of the study, making them prime candidates for what’s known as body recomposition,

Which is a phrase that essentially represents burning fat and building muscle at the same time, but even in another study that involved highly trained gymnasts that were put on a ketogenic diet that restricted them to just 1971 calories per day, which for this gymnast was a very low amount considering that they were training almost 30 hours per week.

Even under those conditions after about 30 days they were able to drop from 7.6 percent body fat down to 5 percent body fat while still gaining a little under a pound of muscle. (2)

So even though these high-level gymnasts were able to burn a little fat and build some muscle at the same time, for most people that have been training for a while and are getting close to their genetic potential they’ll most likely be able to see better results by focusing on either burning fat or building muscle independently.

Now other than people that have been training for a while, it also makes more sense to focus only on burning fat or only on building muscle one at a time if one of those goals is really important to you and you want to accomplish it as fast as possible. but aside from that, there are 4 groups of people that are especially perfect candidates for burning fat and building muscle simultaneously.

The first of these groups are beginners or newbies. If you’re relatively new to lifting weights, and you haven’t been training for longer than a year, then your body is much more Primed for muscle growth at this point. So even in a calorie deficit, your body will still be in a great position to build muscle.

The second is if you’re obese. Men and women that have very large reserves of energy stored in the form of body fat can pull calories from fat for fuel and still have plenty of energy left to fuel muscle growth.

Another scenario would be if you went through a detraining phase, so for example you had an injury or you just quit going to the gym for a couple of months. Here due to muscle memory, it’s much easier for your body to regain lost muscle even in a deficit. And the fourth category would of course be steroid users.

Even though I don’t recommend using steroids there’s no denying that due to changes to hormones like highly elevated testosterone levels, steroid users are much more likely to experience muscle growth even in a deficit.

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Now even if you’re not in one of these 4 categories but you still want to recap you can follow the same 5 steps that I’m about to go over, just know that you may see slower results than if you simply focused on just one goal at a time.

So the very first step is to determine the exact amount of calories you’ll need to be eating, and you need to base that around your primary goal.

Now, this may sound a little confusing even though we’re aiming to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, it’s still ideal to have one primary goal in mind. For example, if you’re currently on the leaner end of the spectrum then your primary goal should be to build muscle.

In this scenario, you would want to maintain a very slight calorie surplus of around 5 percent above maintenance.

This kind of surplus is so slight that it’ll still be possible for you to burn fat while taking in enough calories to fuel your workouts, get stronger, and build more muscle.

On the other hand, if you’re not that lean and you have a good amount of body fat to lose it would be better to set fat loss as your primary goal.

In this scenario, you would maintain a calorie deficit anywhere from a range of 5 to 30 percent lower than your maintenance levels.

So if you want to set fat loss as your primary goal and you’re currently obese with a whole lot of fat to lose you can set a larger deficit of 20 or 30 percent since your body will be able to get plenty of energy from your fat stores while still building muscle,

But if you’re already pretty lean and you’re just slightly skinny fat then you want to keep that deficit closer to only a small amount like 5 or 10 percent from maintenance.

By the way, to find your maintenance calories I’ll add a link for a calculator in the description below or you can very simply estimate your maintenance levels by multiplying your weight in pounds by 15.

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And once you have your maintenance number you would apply the percentages that I just discussed based on your goal.

Next, you’ll want to move on to step two which is to set your body recomposition Macros, and the most important of these macros to set correctly is going to be protein.

This is due to the fact that in order to build muscle you have to be in a positive nitrogen balance, which means that more protein or amino acids need to be taken in and built up in your muscles than the amount that routinely gets broken down on a daily basis.

And according to the latest research, it seems that you can achieve maximum benefits for muscle growth at around 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. (3)

Once you have this number calculated it’s pretty easy to figure out the number of fats and carbs that you should be eating on a daily basis as well, but you can also just use the macro calculator below to do it all for you.

Now one thing to keep in mind when deciding whether to go for a diet favoring more fats or more carbs is to just make sure that you’re getting at least 20% of your daily calories from sources of dietary fat because having any less fat than that could have a negative impact on your hormone levels as well as your overall health.

Other than that one isn’t necessarily better than the other for muscle growth or for fat loss, but instead they’re more so, interchangeable fuel sources so feel free to adjust your diet to be either higher carbs or higher in fat whether you’re in a deficit or a surplus.

Now step three is to focus on applying Progressive overload by getting stronger over time, and this could be particularly challenging if you’re trying to achieve fat loss and muscle growth at the same time.

This is because in order to stimulate muscle growth it’s absolutely crucial to expose your muscles to a higher level of the stimulus than what they’re currently accustomed to.

In fact, research has shown that the primary stimulus for muscle growth is creating sufficiently high and prolonged tension on your muscle fibers which is also known as mechanical tension (4).

So one of the best ways to increase mechanical tension is by lifting heavier and heavier weights over time.

Normally if you were just focused on building muscle and bulking up you would be able to eat a very large surplus of calories.

And that large surplus of calories would provide the fuel that your body would need to consistently get stronger and lift heavier weights.

On the other hand, if you apply only a small 5 percent increase in calories above maintenance it becomes a lot harder to get stronger.

And if you’re primary goal is fat loss and you’re putting yourself into a deficit, even a small deficit where you would subtract 5 percent from maintenance can make getting stronger even more difficult.

So these are things to keep in mind, because you may have to adjust your diet and take in more calories specifically around your training days to help you get stronger while still burning fat.

Other things you can do with the training side of things to get stronger at the fastest rate, is to focus on a variety of different rep ranges because research has shown that men can experience greater muscle growth by alternating their rep ranges rather than just always sticking to the same amount of reps (5) So you’ll want to switch up between a low rep range like 3 to 5 reps a moderate rep range of 6 to 10 reps and even a high rep range of 12 to 15 reps.

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Not only will this constantly introduced a new stimulus that will prevent your body from adapting but it will also help with muscle growth in other ways since high and low rep training each activates different muscle growth pathways (6).

Next, the fourth step ties into what I was saying before about evaluating your progress and your energy levels as you go and then making adjustments to stay on track.

For example, if you’re losing strength, or you notice that you’re losing a lot of weight, or your muscles are starting to look smaller, you’ll want to add some carbs or fats into your diet.

A good place to start is to try adding in either 40 grams of carbs or about 18 grams of fat and see how your body reacts by re-evaluating your energy levels, your strength levels, your workout performance, and of course what’s happening in the mirror and on the scale.

If you’re still losing too much weight or strength then repeat this process and add in another 40 grams of carbs or 18 grams of fat before re-evaluating again.

Now if at any point you have the opposite problem where you’re clearly gaining too much fat and you’re starting to look soft you would do the exact opposite, so subtract 40 grams of carbs or 18 grams of fat before re-evaluating.

And of course, if you find yourself somewhere in between you can just add or subtract a smaller amount, like 20 grams of carbs or 9 grams of fat to find that sweet spot where you’re building muscle and burning fat optimally.

But re-evaluating and making adjustments every week or two is absolutely crucial to staying on track with body recomposition.

Finally, the last step is to do your best to avoid the common mistakes that’ll sabotage your progress.

Namely not getting enough sleep and doing way too much cardio. In fact, many people will tell you that to accomplish both fat loss and muscle growth simultaneously you need to do both cardio for the fat loss and resistance training for muscle growth.

In reality, however, that’s not exactly how it works. And the first reason why is because cardio is actually not necessary for fat loss.

Even though cardio-based workouts are by far the best for increasing your cardiovascular endurance fat loss is almost entirely determined by your diet.

The second reason is that cardio can actually have negative effects on your muscle mass as indicated by a meta-analysis that found that adding cardio to a weight training routine reduced muscle growth effect size by 39 percent. (7)

So if your goal is to burn fat and build muscle at the same time your most likely better off keeping steady-state cardio like jogging to a minimum and instead of creating any sort of calorie deficit for fat loss through the optimization of your diet.

Now in regard to sleep not only can sleep help you build more muscle and burn more fat but if you don’t get enough sleep you will drastically impair your body’s ability to burn fat and build muscle.

For example, one weight loss study found that sleeping just 40 fewer minutes per day from Monday to Friday shifted the amount of weight loss from muscle rather than from fat from 20 percent all the way to 80 percent. (8)

Not getting enough sleep has such a negative effect on building muscle and burning fat because it reduces insulin sensitivity testosterone production and the proper absorption of nutrients.

But the good news is as I already mentioned it works both ways so by getting more sleep you’ll see much faster progress.

In fact, in a year-long study where participants supplemented with melatonin which is a sleep enhancer, they were able to gain pounds of muscle and lose pounds of fat even if they weren’t exercising or weren’t eating any differently. (9)

So to get more high-quality sleep you’ll definitely want to maintain a consistent sleeping schedule by trying to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time every day.

You’ll also want to avoid caffeine later on in the afternoon and limit the number of fluids you drink at night to prevent yourself from waking up to have to go to the bathroom.

That about wraps it ups guys, I really hope you enjoyed this video, if you have make sure you subscribe to the channel.

And if you’re looking for a simplified approach to burning fat and building muscle that’s streamlined and comes with a full workout plan, a video exercise library, a customizable diet plan, a recipe book, and an accountability coach to help guide you through the whole process,

Visit my website where you can get all of this for free just by putting your best foot forward and sticking to the plan. to find out more you click the link in the description below.

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My passion for fitness began when I was 14 years old. I naturally fell in love with training and haven’t stopped since. At 18 years I acquired my first personal training certification from ACE after which I opened my first of 3 transformation studios in 2011. I love to share my knowledge through personal training, my online courses, and youtube channel now with over 3,000,000 subscribers! I can happily say that we've helped over 15,000 people get in great shape over the years. I'm always here for my customers so if you need help don't hesitate to send your questions to support@gravitychallenges.com

Founder // Gravity Transformation, Max Posternak