I’ve been writing about diet and fitness since 2001. I’ve written countless articles about how to gain muscle, and countless articles about how to lose fat. But, if there is one question I still get asked more than anything else, it’s definitely this…
How do I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?
I must get this question emailed to me at least once per day by someone who wants to not only gain muscle or lose fat, but instead do BOTH. And not only that, they want to do both at the exact same time, and they want to know what diet and workout will best make it happen.
If you’re reading this, then you probably have the same goal in mind. You’re not interested in how to do one or the other, you want to know how to do both as quickly and effectively as possible.
So, let’s get it all figured out right now, starting with the biggest question of all…
Is It Possible To Do Both At The Same Time?
The honest answer to this question is both yes and no. Why? Because some people can do both simultaneously, and some people can’t. Here’s what I mean.
The following people ARE capable of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time:
- People using “assistance” (meaning steroids).
- People who gained a lot of muscle at some point in their life but then stopped working out and lost most (or all) of it.
- Overweight beginners.
The following people are NOT capable of doing both at the same time:
- The majority of the population (pretty much everyone else not mentioned above).
I know, it sucks to hear that, but it’s the honest truth. It is just not possible for most people to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time at anything close to an acceptable rate. I know there are various diets and workout programs out there that claim otherwise, but like most things in the fitness industry, it’s just lies and bullshit used to get your money.
But wait, don’t feel too bad or give up hope just yet. I want to tell you why it can’t be done, and show you exactly what you need to do instead to reach both goals successfully.
Why Can’t Most People Do it?
To lose fat, what do you have to do? You have to eat less calories than your body needs (a “caloric deficit”). To gain muscle, what do you have to do? You have to eat more calories than your body needs (a “caloric surplus”).
Now, did you notice something there? Yup, they are complete opposites in terms of calorie intake. To gain muscle you need more calories, and to lose fat you need less calories. Trying to do both at the same time would be like trying to sit and stand at the same time. It just can’t literally be done simultaneously.
This is why most of the people who try to do both at the same time will usually fail to do either and eventually give up. And this of course brings up the next important question…
What’s The Solution? How Can I Do Both?
After hearing this, the next thing everyone always wants to know is how do you actually reach both goals (gain muscle AND lose fat) if you can’t do both at the same time? Well, it’s pretty simple. You DON’T do them at the same time.
Instead, you set them up in phases and alternate between them. Let me explain…
The Muscle Gain Phase
In the diet and fitness world, most people call their muscle gaining, weight gaining, size and strength gaining phase the “bulking up” phase. People often incorrectly take this to mean eating as much as possible and trying to pack on weight as quickly as possible. This is dead wrong.
Instead, the true goal of a muscle gain phase is to build as much quality lean mass as you can while at the same time keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum. Basically, the goal is to gain muscle without gaining excess fat.
To do this, your daily calorie intake is increased so that weight is gained at an ideal rate of no more than 0.5-1 pound per week (more about that here: Weight Gain Diet). As far as weight training goes, the goal in this phase is using an intelligently designed muscle building routine and working your ass off to make as much progress as you can and get stronger on every exercise.
The Fat Loss Phase
On the other hand, most people call their fat burning phase the “cutting up” or “dieting down” phase. People again incorrectly take this to mean drastically reducing calories, adding in a ton of cardio, and switching from heavy weights for lower reps to lighter weights for higher reps. Once again, this is dead wrong.
Instead, the true goal of a fat loss phase is to lose fat as quickly and effectively as possible while at the same time keeping muscle loss to an absolute minimum. Basically, the goal is to lose fat while maintaining all of the lean muscle you built.
In this phase, your daily calorie intake is decreased (and/or cardio may be increased) so that weight is lost at an ideal rate of about 1 pound per week on average (more about that here: Weight Loss Diet). As far as weight training goes, the goal in this phase isn’t so much to make progress (without the extra calories needed, you probably won’t) as much as it is to just work your ass off to maintain your lifts.
If the weights you are lifting are staying the same and strength is being maintained, it’s a good sign that you aren’t losing any muscle. However, if they decrease, it’s a good sign that the opposite is happening (which is why purposely switching to lighter weights/higher reps is the worst idea possible).
How The Phases Differ and Stay The Same
In each phase, the main difference is just total calorie intake. Protein intake would usually remain about the same (1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is a good place to start), and fat would consistently stay at around 25% of your total calorie intake (including fish oil supplements). Carbs would then be used to make up the difference (more carbs to create more calories, less carbs to create less calories).
Your workout routine would also stay pretty much the same. Whether you’re in the phase where you’re trying to gain muscle or lose fat, there is no significant difference in what works best when it comes to weight training. Therefore, no big changes need to be made at all.
Just try to get stronger and progress as often as possible in the muscle gaining phase, and then try to maintain all of that strength as best as you can during the fat loss phase.
Pick A Phase And Then Alternate
Now that you understand the basics of how your diet and workout routine need to be set up when you want to both gain muscle and lose fat, the next thing you need to figure out is which phase to start with first. Here’s how I usually answer that question…
- If you are currently leaner (or just plain skinny), it’s mostly up to you and whichever goal is more important to you right now.
- If you are currently fatter (or just plain fat), starting off with a fat loss phase first is definitely the right idea. Trying to do a successful muscle gaining phase when you’re in an already fat state is just a recipe for disaster. Definitely get leaner first.
From there, you basically just need to give that first phase enough time to actually work. When it does, just switch on over to the other phase for a while and give it time to work as well.
Depending on how much fat you have to lose and how much muscle you want to gain, you’d just keep on alternating from phase to phase until you have the body you want. In the end, you won’t actually be doing both at the same time, but both goals will end up being achieved successfully just the same.
Now for the last question you probably have…
How Do I Make Each Phase As Effective As Possible?
What I mean is:
- What’s the exact workout routine that will work best for you in each phase?
- What’s the exact diet that will work best for you in each phase?
- How do you avoid gaining excess fat while you gain muscle?
- How do you ensure you don’t lose quality lean muscle while you’re losing fat?
- How long should each phase last?
Honestly, answering all of these questions properly would require a whole separate article.
However, after years of people asking me those exact questions and tons of others about how to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, I have finally created one ultimate solution that covers it all.
I call it The Ultimate Fat Loss & Muscle Building Guide, and in it I provide all of the answers, details and facts that make up the highly proven workout and diet system I’ve used to help countless men and women completely transform their bodies. Now it’s your turn. Learn more here.