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Gain Muscle & Lose Fat at the Same Time!

It IS Possible!

Posted by JoeHurricane - February 25th, 2015

Everyone who gets into fitness has at least one goal in mind. It might be to train for a sport, to lift heavier weights, or it might be to tone up a bit to impress that cute girl who is always at the gym. But there’s one extremely common request people have when they start hitting the gym: “I want to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time”. Some people will tell you it’s pointless and can’t be done, that you either have to focus on putting on weight first, then cutting down, or drop some fat before you start lifting to pack on some size.


Those people are WRONG. Can you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? Yes. Is it going to be easy? No. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? Lean gains are what we are talking about – putting on some quality, lean muscle, not only with minimal fat but actually reducing fat as well. Obviously there are a few different factors to consider when you travel down this road, such as your diet, lifting schedule and cardio. It might take longer to hit your desired goals, but once you have everything in check, you will love the results and it will all be worth it.


The Importance Of Diet

Like anything to do with losing weight or gaining muscle, your diet is going to play a key role in helping you reach your goal. This time it might not necessarily just be about how you divide up your macros, but also about how to structure your eating patterns during the day. Naturally, you have two options for losing or gaining weight – eat in a deficit or eat in a surplus. When striving for lean gains, you might have to ask yourself what your most pressing concern is (losing fat if you are seriously overweight or gaining muscle if you are skinny-fat), but generally the idea is to eat in a caloric surplus.


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This is because to gain muscle, naturally the body needs to take in more energy than it is burning in order to replenish and rebuild your muscles. What you need to focus on is HOW MUCH of a surplus you eat in. Anywhere from 250 - 500 calories above your maintenance level is the general rule, but when you are trying to simultaneously lose fat AND gain muscle, this probably doesn’t apply.


Instead, try eating in a surplus anywhere between 100 - 250 calories. If you eat more than that, you might not necessarily put on fat, but you will likely have a harder time losing it. At the other end of the scale, if you ate in a deficit, you would be able to lose fat but would have a hard time piling on muscle.


Sorting Out Your Macros

Once you have your surplus sorted, you need to figure out the best way to arrange your macros – your protein, carbs and fat – to achieve your daily calorie goal. While all three are still going to be essential no matter what your goal, arranging how many grams of each macronutrient you get will significantly affect your chances of putting on muscle and losing fat.


Carbs are the main macro you will need to manipulate. Your diet should consist of lots of protein, moderate-high levels of fat, and only a relatively small amount of carbs. You can’t just cut out carbs altogether, because you want to eat enough to be in a caloric surplus, but you won’t need as much as if you were purely looking to gain muscle. Approximately 1g carbs per pound of LEAN BODY WEIGHT is a good starting point, though you can potentially start at 1g per pound of OVERALL BODY WEIGHT. For those who are significantly overweight, I advise you abide by the LEAN BODY WEIGHT rule.


Protein should make up most of your diet, because excess proteins, unlike carbs, are not stored as body fat, which means you can eat more protein than you need to. This is also the reason you should limit your carb intake. Your MINIMUM aim for protein should be 1.2g - 1.5g protein per pound of OVERALL BODY WEIGHT, but you can eat more than this. This ensures you get all of the protein you need to support muscle growth.


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Lastly we have fat, which should make up the rest of your calories needed to hit your calorie goal. There is no specific ratio for how many grams of fat to eat, but it should be a reasonable amount to make up for the fact you have cut down on your regular carb intake. If you want to, and if it is more convenient, you can also eat more fat rather than protein, as fat doesn’t make you fat – just be sure to stick to mostly monosaturated fats and healthy saturated fat like coconut oil.


Eating Schedules

There are at least a couple of ways you should go about eating. One option is to eat 5 - 7 small meals a day, spread about 2 - 3 hours apart. This way you aren’t packing all of your food in at once, instead you are limiting the amount of work the body needs to do to digest food, and providing a slow release of energy throughout the day.


You also might want to try and eat most of your carbs around your workout time. Carbs before and after your workout are super important, to provide energy and replenishment. The main thing with your timing of carbs is to avoid eating them late at night. At dinner you can probably get away with a little bit. But when you start snacking on high-carb treats late at night before bed, all you are doing is giving your body energy which it won’t use while you are sleeping, and will instead store as fat.


Another option you have is to try Intermittent Fasting (IF). This is where you choose a specific eating window, say an 8 hour block from 12pm-8pm, where you eat all of your calories. IF helps the body deplete glycogen stores, therefore basically forcing the body to use fat for fuel. For more on this topic, check out Erica’s article via this link: Intermittent Fasting (IF)


The Importance Of Cardio

You need cardio to lose fat, and in case you’ve heard otherwise, cardio DOES NOT directly hinder your ability to gain muscle, if utilised correctly. If you choose to do long bouts of cardio, such as marathons or 10 mile runs for all of you cardio, it will aid your fat loss, sure…but it won’t be good for building or maintaining muscle.


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The most common cardio for aiding muscle growth and retention is High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT doesn’t take long, just 15 - 25 minutes is sufficient, and doing it 2 - 4 times a week is plenty. The short bursts of intensity and short periods of rest combine superbly – the intensity helps to increase your metabolism, so you keep burning fat for longer once you have finished training, and in the short rest periods, you recover enough stamina and energy to continually push basically as hard as you can. HIIT doesn’t just have to be cardio either, you can do weight training with little to no rest to simulate the same thing.


Now, this isn’t to say you can’t go for long runs, but think of it this way – what do you see when you look at a long distance (e.g. a marathon) runner? A pretty lean dude, but also a skinny dude with little muscle. Compare that with a short distance runner (e.g. a 100m sprinter) and you get someone with low body fat levels, but plenty of defined, big and powerful muscles. Stick with HIIT for the majority of your cardio, but definitely don’t be afraid to do some long distance stuff too.


Something else to consider is fasted cardio. Instead of having something to eat before you train in the morning, do your training first, then come home and eat. By training fasted, you are more likely to dip into your fat stores for energy, instead of just using carbs that you might have eaten prior to your workout. This can apply to weight training too.


Conclusion

There are a few things to think about when it comes to gaining muscle AND losing fat, but the most important point is that it is possible. It will take hard work, and if you are expecting something quick and easy, lean gains isn’t it. But wouldn’t you rather build a lean body all at once, rather than ‘bulking’ to then just ‘cut’ it all away? The end result will be more or less the same, the overall time frame will be similar, and it’s important to remember that once you have fat cells, they never disappear without operations. Lean gains are hard to get, but nothing worth having comes easy.


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MEMBER COMMENTS

Amin_C


Thank you for this article, Jordan. Enjoyed the read. I have a question and an objection. First the question:

What do you think happens to excess protein? If someone adopts a high protein diet with little training, where does all the extra protein go? Down the toilet?


Now for the objection: I believe this statement is misleading and imprecise:  "If you want to, and if it is more convenient, you can also eat more fat rather than protein, as fat doesn’t make you fat "

While excess calories from protein may or may not be stored as fat (controversial topic), excess calories from fat certainly will. More precisely, excess calories from the sum of carbs and fat will lead to unwanted weight gain (fat storage).


I believe you can find studies to support this, but if you're still not convinced, ask yourself this: If excess calories from protein doesn't get stored as fat, and excess calories from fat doesn't get stored as fat, what are the chances of having so many people being SO overweight?


kip86

Weight is NOT determined by the calories in - calories out theorem.

This Keto Podcast proves it.  Eat fat up to 80% of calories can come from fat, sit at home on the couch all day and watch the weight come off.  Going to the gym is the last resort for weight loss.  Eating pork rinds and drinking pop is how I went from 280 to 180.


http://ketotalk.com/2016/12/45-very-low-ketones-while-fit-cold-hands-feet-sleep-raising-ketones-salt-excessive-calories/

Amin_C

Madame Curie's daughter explained to her mother that the teacher had asked them why Archimedes' principle did not hold true in the case of fish. "How did you answer?" Madame Curie asked her daughter. Her daughter replied: “some school children said that when you place a fish in a full fishbowl the displacement of water is less because the fish has scales, because fish blow out bubbles, because the fish will drink some of the water, because unlike inanimate objects fish have gills that can convert water to oxygen, and a ton of other imaginative answers." "But you, how did you answer?" the mother demanded of her daughter? "I simply tested our teacher's claim by trying it out with the fishbowl we have at home and I saw it was not true what he wanted us to believe. The water displaced just the same with fish as with any other object."


(Archemedes' principle establishes that all bodies submerged in a liquid occupy a volume of liquid equivalent to the volume of the submerged body. In other words, if we fill up a container with liquid to the top of the container and then place an object in the container, the water would spill over the top of the container, and the volume of this displaced water would be equal to the volume of the object itself.)


@kip86 :I went over the podcast. In all honesty, I could not find any single argument that would cast the slightest doubt on the first law of thermodynamics. To my knowledge, no other podcast or any phenomenon anywhere in the universe observed by man until this date violates or works around this law. It's like trying to detach from your shadow, defy gravity, create something out of thin air, or make nothing out of something; it just ain't gonna happen.


Unfortunately for our age, as knowledge continues to expand and new fields emerge and get more and more technical and diversify with rapid speed, you will see more and more "experts" arise who have not had enough acquaintance and practice with the very basics of science that have lead to these diverse fields in  the first place! One example is when nutrition "experts" claim absurdities such as white rice and white potatoes being simple carbs (The claim is all over the internet). Both are starches, and if you refer to the biochemistry chapter of your college chemistry book, you will see that all starches are classified as complex carbohydrates by definition.


Another example is the guru in this podcast; towards the end of the podcast he keeps mistakenly using the term "weight loss" when what he really means is "fat loss". (I truly hope so, otherwise his statements won't even make sense) .  Regarding his claim that thermodynamics doesn't apply on the plate but only at cellular level, I'm actually kinda happy that he comes out to make such an explicit claim because it is so easy to disprove this. Thermodynamics (the first law at least), applies rigorously both at the macroscopic level ( "on  the plate" as he referees to it) AND cellular level, you just have to be consistent with your definitions and formulation of the equation. This is why physicists use mathematics in place of words to express  their ideas; rigor and consistency with definitions and rules.


I will reply to the second part of your post in a separate comment.


I invite you to go back and listen to the podcast again and substitute "fat loss" for "weight loss" when he discusses thermodynamics.


(As a side note, I'm not against fat consumption, we produce lipase for a reason! so I use it. You know what else we produce? Amylase, both in the mouth and pancreas, so I say use that as well)

Amin_C

 "Eat fat up to 80% of calories can come from fat, sit at home on the couch all day and watch the weight come off"

Yes, so long as you are in a caloric deficit, weight will come off. You could achieve the same results with 100% fat as well, or 100% carbs. You could eat starch all day and watch the weight come off (starch solution diet), you could eat fruits and vegetables all day (fruitarian diet) and watch the weight come off, you could just eat honey all day and watch the weight come off. All of these situations follow the first law of thermodynamics. So does every other phenomenon in the universe.


It seems to me that for some reason you are associating "effortless weight loss" with "healthy"; if a diet can let you lose wight without much exercise, it must be healthy. But what if our bodies were designed to store some fat for times of famine or intense activity? It is plausible to think that a healthy diet is one that allows for under 20% body fat when sedentary, so you have something to burn during activity or famine. That's a pattern you see in animals as well (camels are the classic example). Not long ago they thought people who were fatter were better nourished and healthier.


Another point about the podcast: Just because you feel good now, doesn't necessarily mean you will continue to feel good down the road. There are many things than can make you feel good short term but aren't healthy. This is why physicians do things like tracking blood tests and coming up with ranges for blood marks, so they can have a measurable, traceable tool for predicting the likelihood of various diseases  beforehand. And no, 293+ cholesterol is not healthy according to current mainstream medicine. "feeling good"at present is not a reliable criterion for evaluating long term health. Your blood work needs to be within acceptable range.


 

jafarakos

amazing article dude...really helpful sorting things out.! ;)

Saiyan95

Great article. I have a question in regards to the 100-250 above the BMR for lean gains. Is that your BMR in motion or at rest or the average of both?

JoeHurricane

For lean gains, I'd say you can go 100-250 over your BMR in motion to begin with. If you notice that you're gaining too much weight, or not enough weight from that, then either increase it or decrease it accordingly :)

Glad you liked the article!

energon19

Nice article @joehurricane

Loosing fat while gaining muscle is what everyone (including me) wants.

One thing most people around me tend to forget, although it won't amount to much, is that you have to maintain intensity during your workouts. Not only does it activate your muscle fibres and help in preventing injury, it kicks up your metabolism up a notch and aiding in fat loss while building muscle. 

#HTH

Scott_Herman

yeah, it makes mind muscle connection EVEN MORE important!  Need to activate as many muscle fibers as possible!

JoeHurricane

Thanks @energon19!


Yeah intensity is definitely important! Intensity has to be at a certain level if you want to really tear those muscles down!

nr1989

Great article. I do feel, still, unsure exactly what the lifting program looks like when trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. In another article ("http://muscularstrength.com/article/Five-Things-You-Should-Know-If-You-Want-To-Build-Muscle") Scott Herman writes that there is no optimal number of sets and reps for muscle growth. But when trying to gain lean muscle, I'm guessing perhaps the right side to err on is a greater number of reps with lighter weight with more reps? Or I could have this completely backwards. Thanks for your help!

JoeHurricane

It really comes down to your genetics @nr1989. Some people respond better to high volume, others grow muscle better with heavy weights and low reps. You just need to find what works for you.

In terms of going for muscle gains AND fat loss, you can still stick with whatever method of training works best for you, then just make sure your diet is on point and you are doing some cardio, maybe even some circuit training too, to help boost that metabolism.

Hope that helps man, glad you liked the article! #HTH

Scott_Herman

Well it depends on your muscle fiber type.  Some people respond to more reps to build muscle better while others respond better to low reps.

For example, I need a lot of volume so to build muslce I do 3 to 4 sets of 10-12 reps per exercise.

Have you seen this video yet?


MattMiller

My question is about cardio. I read that if you do cardio to where you are out of breath and on an empty stomach and hungry that it will start using your muscle as fuel? I am at 10% body fat, skinny fat" so what would be best for me? I workout in the mornings from 10-12:30 with about 20 min cardio sessions. I usually do HIIT.

Adawg38

I always train fasted. Regardless if it's good or not, like Scott said it's a controversal topic. I do it because I train at 5am and don't have time to eat nor do I want to eat then immediatley train. I am able to still game muscle and strength each week so I know I am not burning up muscle and yes that's just me but I immediatley take a shake after my workout then eat breakfast right when I get to work. My train is 45 mins and cardio 20 mins and at those numbers I'm not worried about using muscle for fuel. Maybe at 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours training and 1 hour cardio I may be more concerned. All it is is fasted training. 16/8 IF you eat in an 8 hour window and don't eat for 16 hours then train and imediatley fuel your body and the eating window starts. You are training fasted, the numbers may be different as well as the benefits from IF 16/8 but in a sense are similar. Even if you train at lunch before you eat you have fuel from shakes and breakfast so why would your body tap into your muscle? As long as you fuel your body immediatley afterwards there should not be an issue.

JoeHurricane

@whisper I totally agree, especially with your point about having less energy and therefore a less intense workout - that's why I never do anything fasted, I just don't think I would have the energy.


@adawg38 I suppose if it is working for you, then it's all good.

JoeHurricane

@whisper I totally agree, especially with your point about having less energy and therefore a less intense workout - that's why I never do anything fasted, I just don't think I would have the energy.


@adawg38 I suppose if it is working for you, then it's all good.

overclocked

hi, i wanna ask two important questions about this article

1. i go to gym 20.00 pm at night and so i eat post workout meal about 22.00 pm .  the carbs that i eat in this time storaged as fat or not ?

2. how many clories i take in total ? 

JoeHurricane

Hey @overclocked!


1. If you work out late at night, It's OK to have carbs afterwards. Whenever you workout, you want to have a balanced meal afterwards with protein, carbs and fat, and that goes for night workouts too. The carbs you eat post-workout will have a purpose - going primarily to helping your muscles recover. It's when you have already had your workout earlier in the day, and then eat loads of carbs at night which serve no real purpose that they are stored as fat.


2. Well, that depends on your goals, and your own body. It's a lot of trial and error. Check this out: http://muscularstrength.com/article/Eating-Metabolism-One-Size-Doesnt-Fit-All

Mike_Misiulis

Thumbs up @joehurricane  Great  Read

JoeHurricane

Thanks @mike_misiulis, glad you enjoyed it!

Scott_Herman

I am going to share this article tomorrow morning @joehurricane.  People are going to love it!

walkercoq

Awesome article! Thanks alot!

Scott_Herman

I agree!  Was very well written!

JoeHurricane

Thanks @walkercoq ! Hope it helped you out!

>>>>>>