How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time: Can It Be Done?

I get a lot of questions about diet and fitness. No, seriously. I get A LOT of questions about diet and fitness. And I’ve consistently gotten this crazy number of questions for quite a few years now.

During this time, I’ve noticed that a handful of these questions seem to come up much more frequently than all of the others. And today, I want to answer one that is somewhere at the very top of that list…

How do you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

In order to answer this one, we need to begin with the big problem that causes people to ask it so often in the first place.

Two Little Facts… One Big Problem

If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you already know what I’m about to tell you. But if you’re not, please allow me to bring the following two facts to your attention…

  • FACT 1: Losing fat requires a caloric deficit, which means consuming LESS calories than your body needs so that stored body fat is used for energy instead.
  • FACT 2: Building muscle requires a caloric surplus, which means consuming MORE calories than your body needs so that new muscle tissue can be created.

Once you put these two facts side-by-side, you come to a very obvious and confusing problem: losing fat and building muscle require the complete opposite of each other in terms of calorie intake.

And it’s this realization that leads those of us who want to build muscle AND lose fat (ideally at the exact same time) to wonder just how in the hell we’re supposed to make it happen?

In fact, it leads us to wonder if it’s actually possible for it to happen at all? Can it even be done?

Well, let’s clear it up once and for all, starting with whether it’s actually possible…

Can It Be Done?

The answer is: YES!

Yup, seriously. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. In fact, I’ve even done it before myself. Anyone who says it can’t be done is 100% wrong.

That’s the good news.

The bad news however is that it’s not exactly something that everyone will be able to make it happen. Meaning, some people can do it… but most people can’t.

Let’s start with those lucky bastards who can…

Who CAN Do Both At The Same Time?

There are primarily 4 groups of people who can do it. In no specific order, they are:

  1. Fat Beginners
  2. People Regaining Lost Muscle
  3. Genetic Freaks
  4. Steroid/Drug Users

Now I’m sure #3 and #4 aren’t all that surprising. I mean, we all have an equal amount of jealousy and hate towards the people with amazing genetics for a reason, don’t we? They can do stuff we can’t do, and the stuff we can do they just do better, faster and easier.

And, as I’ve covered before, steroids and various drugs completely change everything.

So let’s ignore those two groups and look at the only two groups most of us will ever have a possibly of falling into: fat beginners and people regaining lost muscle.

1. Fat Beginners

The untrained state beginners are in when they start working out makes them primed for rapid improvements in virtually every area, especially strength and muscle. Noob gains are just awesome like that.

Now, if you combine this borderline superpower that beginner’s possess with an abundance of body fat, you end up with a magical calorie partitioning scenario that gives fatter beginners a short term ability to take calories stored on their body as fat and use them to build new muscle.

Basically, your body burns fat as a fuel source for muscle growth, essentially using your own body fat as your “surplus calories.” Like I said, it’s pretty damn magical.

Now how “fat” of a “fat beginner” do you need to be exactly to pull this off? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the fatter you are, the more capable you’ll be of doing it… and the better and more significant your results will be. The leaner you are, the less likely you’ll be to actually make it happen and the worse/less significant your results will be.

So, if you have just a few pounds of fat to lose, don’t get your hopes up too high. But if you have quite a bit of fat on you to lose, you’ll most likely have a short term ability to both build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

To do this, create a moderate caloric deficit, get the rest of your diet right (sufficient protein intake, etc.) and use an intelligently designed beginner routine focused on progressive overload (and work your ass off to make it happen).

While you definitely won’t be building muscle at the same rate you’ll be losing fat (not even close), you’ll still be able to make some decent strength and muscle gains while in a deficit.

But keep in mind, this is only a temporary thing. As time passes and you become less fat and less of an untrained beginner (and more muscular, too), you’ll lose this superpower and become human again just like the rest of us. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. People Regaining Lost Muscle

Similar to the fat beginner, there is another group of people who will be able to pull off a similar type of magic. In this case, the magic in question is largely due to the fact that muscle memory is very much real, and very much spectacular.

I’ve had the unfortunate luck of actually experiencing it first hand, as I once stopped training for about 3-4 months due to injury. I lost a bunch of muscle, AND I gained a little bit of fat along the way. As you can imagine, it sucked.

If there was one “positive” thing that came out of it however, it was getting to see what it’s like to return to lifting after a significant break and try to A) lose that fat, B) rebuild the muscle that I had previously built but now lost, and C) do both as fast as F-ing possible.

I don’t have the details in front of me, so I don’t remember exactly what happened or exactly how it happened. But, without a doubt, I was temporarily losing fat AND building muscle.

Each week certain measurements would consistently go up (like my arms) while other measurements went down (like my stomach). Strength came back at beginner speeds, if not faster (and my guess is faster). My weight was all over the place. Some weeks I’d lose, some weeks I’d gain, some weeks I’d maintain.

But in the end, there was less fat and more muscle on my body. And during the early stages, it was clearly happening simultaneously within the same period of time. I expected progress to go well, but it exceeded my expectations.

One of these days I’ll do a full breakdown of exactly what happened and what I did to make it happen, along with a complete week-by-week recap of how it all played out. It was pretty interesting, at least to me.

But the point I’m getting at here is that if you’ve built a decent amount of muscle, but then stopped training for a significant period of time during which some/most/all of that muscle was lost and body fat was gained, you’ll be able to rebuild that muscle WHILE losing that fat, at least for a little while. Just like with fat beginners though, this is only a temporary thing. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Who CAN’T Do Both At The Same Time?

For the most part… everyone else.

Certainly not at anything even remotely close to an acceptable rate, if any rate at all. I know it sucks to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Unless you happen to fall into one of the four groups mentioned above, the likelihood of you being able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time falls somewhere between slim and none. Or, to narrow it down even further, none and none.

But wait, what’s that you say? What about those who claim it can be done? What about those who claim they’ve done it themselves? What about those who claim it’s totally possible as long as you do it a certain way?

I had a feeling you’d bring that up.

But I’ve Seen Claims That It Can Be Done!

Yeah, I’ve seen those claims too. More often than not, it’s usually one of four things…

1. Bullshit

Do me a favor. The next time you see some fitness guru claim that “everyone else has it wrong… we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time,” take a second and let me know what happens next.

I mean, as soon as they are done explaining why it’s possible or how it’s possible (or more often just hyping the fact that it’s supposedly possibly), do they just so happen to have some kind of program, book, supplement or product of some kind that you can buy to make it all happen?

Yeah, what a shocking coincidence.

This is probably the most common format you’ll see this claim made in… when it’s part of the sales pitch/marketing of some shitty product. Like most of the stuff you’ll see in the diet and fitness world… it’s just good old lies, deception and bullshit put out there to get you to buy something.

You know, just like how you can use this supplement to lose 20lbs of fat in 5 days, or use this program to build 25lbs of muscle in 3 weeks. Whatever it is you need to hear to get your credit card out, someone will gladly be there to claim it. This is no different.

Add in steroid use, muscle memory, or both, and they’ll even have the pictures to “prove” their claim. They’ll just accidentally forget to mention the steroid use and muscle memory part, of course.

2. Stupidity

Then we have people who aren’t really lying like group #1 is, at least not knowingly. Rather, these are the people who have somehow come to believe that this is a perfectly achievable goal for everyone (usually as a result of group #1) and are now out in the world spreading their own stupid misinformation.

Again, this is as common as it gets. I’d estimate that someone says something wrong and stupid about diet and fitness every second of every day while thinking what they’re saying is in fact right and smart. But it’s not. It’s just a nice example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

So the next time you see someone claim that we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time as long as we just “eat clean,” or “eat 6 small meals a day to speed up our metabolism,” or “avoid carbs after 7PM,” or “get our post workout meal just right” or whatever else… ignore them.

Like the majority of the diet and fitness advice you’ll hear from the average person, it falls somewhere between “not quite accurate” and “dumb as hell.”

3. Semantics

Sometimes the claim can actually be 100% legit depending on exactly what the phrase “at the same time” means to you.

Are we literally talking about doing one while simultaneously doing the other? Or, are we just talking about building muscle and losing fat within the same period of time (e.g. 6 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, etc.)?

This seems like a silly point, I know. But, I’ve seen programs sold that claim they will allow you to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, only to go on to tell you to spend 10 weeks building muscle, then spend 10 weeks losing fat… and taadaaa!

Over the span of those 20 weeks, you’ve built muscle and lost fat “at the same time.” Not quite what you had in mind, was it?

4. The “Recomp”

And last but not least, we have various “recomp” methods.

These recomp (short for recomposition) methods typically involve alternating days of surpluses and deficits over the course of the week. The surpluses are put on training days to support muscle growth, and the deficits are put on rest days to cause fat loss. The goal at the end of the week is to break even and be at maintenance while (supposedly) making small progress in both directions.

So while there will be no real immediate change to your weight or your body, you’ll (supposedly) be making slow/tiny improvements in body composition over time. Meaning, less fat and more muscle.

Can this kind of thing work? I lean towards some combination of “maybe, kinda, barely and sometimes.”

The problem however is that if it does work, it will work so painfully and unacceptably slow that it will serve as a huge waste of time and effort for most people looking to build muscle, lose fat or do both.

I mean, if you’re only looking to make super tiny changes to your body, and you’re in absolutely no rush whatsoever to do it, it can maybe be an option to consider trying.

But honestly, for the majority of the population, it’s not really something I’d recommend at all.

But Then… How Do You Reach Both Goals?

It’s pretty simple, actually. You focus on one goal at a time and then alternate between them in a way that doesn’t interfere with the other.

Confused? Here’s what that means in English…

  1. You spend some period of time losing fat and getting lean. During this time, you should most definitely still be weight training intelligently so you can, at the very least, maintain your current levels of muscle and strength while body fat is lost. More about that here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle
  2. Then, once you’re as lean as you wanted to get (or at least lean enough to go into a surplus), you switch your focus over from fat loss to building muscle. During this time, you should most definitely still be paying close attention to your calorie intake and rate of weight gain, and really just be optimizing your diet and training in general so that you gain as much muscle as possible while keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum.
  3. Then, depending on exactly what your goals are and exactly how much muscle you want to build and how much fat you want to lose, you’d just keep alternating between goals until you end up with the exact body you’re trying get.

So even though you’re technically only focusing on one goal at a time, you’re never really ignoring the other. Instead, you’re always going about that one goal in a way that puts you in an ideal position for reaching the other.

Or, to put it another way, you don’t “old school” bulk and cut like an idiot. You do it the right way.

And if you’re wondering which goal you should focus on first, the right answer for most people most of the time is losing fat. More about that here: Should I Build Muscle or Lose Fat First?

Summing It Up

So, there you go. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, although there are only a small number of people who will be able to make it happen.

If you’re one of the few who can, be sure to take advantage of it and enjoy it while it lasts. You’ll be like the rest of us soon enough.

And for those who can’t, the worst thing you can do is attempt to anyway. Doing so will almost always result in a lot of wasted time and effort with little or nothing to show for it. Usually nothing.

The ideal solution is to simply attack one goal at a time as intelligently as possible, and then alternate to the other.

In the end, muscle will be built and fat will be lost… just not quite at the same time.

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  1. Eric says

    This is so wrong- if only people would buy my e-book, protein supplement, 16 week training program, pink dumb bell set, toning hand book, yoga mat, signature shake weight, antioxidant pills, my series of blu-ray training videos and a membership at my EricFit gym, you could all lose tons of weight while bulking up to Arnold type proportions in no time. Also for anyone interested in meeting a real live Unicorn, be sure to sign up on my Unicorn sight seeing tour, there are still some spots left! (It’s really cool, they poo rainbows)

  2. Terry says

    Thank you! You published this article at the perfect time for me… Tomorrow was to be my second workout day while trying to do both:( Now I’ll focus on losing the 15# I’ve put on while travelling and entertaining guests and just try to maintain muscle. Then, when that’s accomplished, I’ll switch to trying to build muscle. Although at 67, that has been a miniscule amount from my experience so far. Trying to figure out when I’ve reached the end of doing “progressive overload” before sustaining an injury will be my next challange.

  3. Mike says

    Solid article as always.

    There also seems to be a pervasive belief out there that you can build muscle and lose fat if you are doing CrossFit + the Zone Diet (or some comparable style of fitness and diet program).

      • Mike says

        Yeah I think you generally covered it in this article and elsewhere.

        The theory would be that:

        CrossFit = If you do Strength Training + Cardio Conditioning you will add muscle and burn fat
        Zone Diet = If you “eat clean” and get your macros right, you can eat a ton of calories too add muscle but not get fat

  4. Carla says

    Jay this is a great article! I had an idea this was going to be the “big” nightmare causing question LOL! I think I even asked you this question once before :) You’ve helped my understanding grow lots & lots! Thank you for all of your wisdom, honesty and research! I shared this one my page with “Wise Words From The Guru” on it :) Jay is a GURU! Jay is a GURU!

  5. Edmund says

    Solid article as always(: I love your articles and comments on things. They brighten up my day and improve my insight on fitness/nutrition that much more.

  6. Shamus says

    I started following your advice from last year November 2012. I committed myself and took a months leave to embark on this journey to gain lean muscle. I started bulking first, why? That’s easy, skinny guy weighing in at 58kg. In short first month bulked moved from skinny to 65kg and fat around my belly area, bigger leggs,arms,shoulders but not huge just bigger. Kept going at it and ended up to 69kg. Loosing weight is much more easier for me, from middle March to 4 June dropped in weight to 62kg. My abbs, legs, except chest (little gains-might be genetics) looks more defined and I felt stronger. I know I have said a lot about a number of things , but I just want to encourage people that they CAN do it. Its possible and following Jays basic first baby steps to start will help you make that change. Just a side note, in my first month I saw the most gains and progress because I was only doing that, took a month leave to commit. Commitment and guidance does wonders. Thanks Jay.

  7. Thomas says

    YES! Thank you! One of the most needed articles in my opinion.
    The thing is, there are quite a few people claiming it can be done who are anti-bullshitters in almost every other aspect (such as Scooby1961 on YouTube who really doesn’t sell anything and clears up with a lot of silly myths on his site as well). Most of them say that you CAN gain muscle and lose fat at the same time if you eat a perfect amount of protein and stay right below your Calorie Maintenance level.

  8. Dave says

    Great article as always Jay. Do you think that there is merit in calorie cycling when bulking to minimise fat gains. At the moment I’m eating maintenance on rest days and a surplus on workout days. It would be great if you could do an article on this at some stage :)

    • says

      Yup, I think there are some benefits (albeit small ones) to cycling calories in both a surplus and a deficit. I’ve been doing it for a few years myself… big fan. It’s definitely something I’ll be writing about in the future.

  9. a.j.killer says

    Hi! Another top notch article. I have passed my fat beginner stage (20% bf) and now I am at cca 13%. Of course my progress has stopped, but recently I have noticed the smallest decrease in strength – even though my calorie intake is as measured as possible since I cook everything I eat, I take 1.25-1.5 g of protein per pound, I lose 1.3-1.8 lbs per week, do no cardio at all and train with your beginner routine. So everything is there, it seems. Deadlift and Squat are fine, I even progress a bit there still, but with the upper body movements I lost a bit – for example, where I did 10, 9, 8, I am now doing 9, 8, 6-7. At first I was concerned, but then I thought of muscle memory. So my question is, why is it so important to lose fat so slowly and keep all of the muscle if I am going to regain the muscle easily due to the memory as soon as I start eating more? Wouldn’t it be more economic to lose a bit more weight, then my bf% goal would be reached sooner and I would regain the lost muscle promptly?

    • Jose says

      AJ Killer & Jay: this is a very good question i would like to enhance it a bit…

      We all know that muscle memory is real, but let me put it this way:
      If i lose 5 lbs of muscle being careless while cutting, will i regain those exact 5 lbs back fast? What if I only get half or less than that? I think its too risky. Losing fat is much faster (and easier) than gaining muscle.

        • Jose says

          Thanks Mohamad!

          Losing muscle while cutting is not only risky but also pointless. As Jay mentioned, you are only spinning your wheels and/or you will look worse at the end when you get there.
          BTW, Good answer Jay, i guess we sometimes forget about aesthetics because we are too focused on the goal itself, which is dumb and stupid because the primary goal is look good naked xD.

  10. Jose says

    Hey Jay, First of all, Awesome article (as usual).

    Let me share something!

    I came to know a very muscular individual who claims that he did that in the past.
    He’s got a very interesting training and diet log… the guy is very “dedicated”.
    When i started my bulking phase, he “suggested” to forget about the surplus and just eat at maintenance +- 100-200 all time.

    To me, this basically falls in category 4 “Recomp”, and while the gains he got are amazing to me. (High muscle, low fat) he says that it took about 10-20 years to look like that. The man is about 50 and im 25.

    I was tempted to do that but thank God you put this article and confirmed my theory: It “can be done” but is the LONG WAY to succeed and will be DAMN, DAMN SLOW.
    Talk about wasting your 20′s, 30′s and 40′s, to be ripped and muscular until your 50′s!!! That would definitely suck balls!!

    Anyways, great article, good job!

    • says

      Yup, exactly right. If you still have a significant amount of progress you’d like to make (meaning get a good deal bigger and/or leaner), then recomping definitely isn’t for you.

  11. Mohamad Atef says

    Great article and very informative.
    If you are a skinny fat beginner, then you’ve definately went over this over and over again. I have a question though.
    I was skinny fat when I started and I decided to bulk first then cut. It worked out well in the end. Now I’ve been out of the gym for around 5 months and I lost most/all of the muscle and gained lots of fat. So, I’m back to being skinny fat (damn crappy genetics). Should I bulk or cut first. I read somewhere that if you reach 20 or above BF your body will produce more fat cells and even if you lose the fat later those cells will still be there which would make losing fat harder and gaining fat easier. Is that true or total bull?
    Also, in my case, do I qualify in the muscle memory category, so if I cut will i be able to do both at the same time?

    • says

      In your case, definitely start back in a small deficit. You’ll be in the ‘muscle memory’ category, so you’ll make decent strength and muscle gains while in that deficit.

      And yeah, there is some truth to what you mentioned. Getting significantly fat at some point leaves your body in a state more “primed” for gaining fat than it would have been if you were never fat in the first place.

  12. Paul says

    Hi Jay, great article!

    Couple questions (unrelated to the article):

    - From what I’ve read, strength gains =/= muscle gain. Is that correct?
    - I’ve been getting headaches after bench pressing (it happens even with proper technique and breathing)so I’m taking a couple weeks off from working out and will probably head to the doctor if it persists. Have you had this happen to you, and do you have recommendations in treatment?

    • says

      1. Strength gains are the primary key to muscle gains, but it’s possible to get stronger without building muscle. Read this one.

      2. It’s something you hear people report every once in a while during certain exercises, usually as a result of not breathing properly. But beyond that, it’s hard to say. Checking with a doctor is a good place to start if you 100% sure you’re doing everything else right (I’d have someone watch you while you bench… you may breathe perfectly fine until the very last rep).

      • Paul says


        I was just wondering because I’m in a caloric deficit but have definitely been making progress in the strength department… I’m guessing it’s because it’s the beginning phase of lifting (at 3 months right now) but wasn’t sure it will last.

        Yeah, I’ll have to go see a doctor soon if the headache persists after the 2 weeks break from working out. It just stinks to lose all the progress made so far over the past few months in a span of a couple weeks.

  13. The Captin says

    thanks for all the great info!! I only have one question…how could I maintain muscle while being on the cross country team (im in high school). we run about a hour a day four days a week and the season is 2 and half months long…I really don’t want to quite the team but I also want to maintain my muscle…should I just eat more calories and focus more on protein and try to limit fat? or should I just accept the fact that ill lose some muscle during this time and try to regain it during the offseason? thanks.

    • says

      Eating enough calories to offset the calories being burned while running and keep you at maintenance (instead of a deficit) is definitely a good idea. Combining that with a sufficient protein intake and weight training intelligently to maintain strength (which maintains muscle) will put you in the best possible position to maintain muscle.

  14. Dave says

    Whilst I understand aside from the examples above, you can’t bulk and cut at the same time, but is it possible to ‘maintain’ body fat % levels whilst bulking??

    I am wondering whether I should now start my bulk whilst hopefully maintaining my current body fat % or whether to continue to lower my body fat prior to bulking as I’ll be increasing body fat?

    • says

      Unless you’re a genetic freak and/or using drugs, it’s pretty much impossible to not gain ANY fat whatsoever while in a surplus. You can definitely minimize fat gains, but avoiding them completely is highly unlikely. Some small amount of fat will usually come along with the muscle, even if you’re doing everything just right.

      Of course the more “just right” you do it, the less fat there will be.

  15. Emmanuel says

    Hey I’m a beginner that wants to gain strength, gain endurance, get leaner and lose fat. For endurance, would you recommend doing cardio? & If so, should I do it on the same days as weight training or in between?

    If you recommend cardio, how would I balance the diet to lose fat & gain strength? I’ve read this article, but I don’t understand how I would do the diet. Would I use calorie cycling, or would it be straight out deficit/surplus? I want to know because I want to lose fat first (needing a deficit), but I would also need the energy to do cardio for endurance gains?

    Thanks and great site!

    • says

      It would take a full article to answer most of your questions about cardio.

      But, trying to combine endurance and strength goals is usually not the best idea. Endurance and fat loss however will go together pretty well.

  16. Dennis Rivadeneira says

    I just want to thank you for your valuable information and the best thing is for free. Keep working like that I learnt much more today reading here than all the bullshit before. Sorry for my English I am not a native speaker.

    Congrats again!!!

  17. MaryBeth says

    Your honesty and straight forwardness is awesome! You make it easy to understand and to the point! Many people I know could benefit from your site, therefore I will be sharing the wealth.

  18. Robert T. says

    So is it safe to say you lose the super fast “beginner gains” after ABOUT 6 solid months of intelligent and progressive training?

  19. Robert T. says

    I may have wasted my potential beginner gains by having my calories too low….I have a physical job that may be interfering with my recovery from my workouts. I didn’t start gaining muscle and progressing until I increased the calories to 3,000 on 8 hour shift days and 3,500 calories in 12 hour shift days. This seems my sweet spot for now. Is it likely that someone with an office job may be able to make better gains because of having a physical job could cause overtraining?

    • says

      Having a physical job can definitely make muscle growth harder from the standpoint of calories (burning more calories at work means you need to eat more calories to compensate), and of course just the fact that you’re doing physical work for hours and hours nearly every single day means you may require lower amounts of frequency and/or volume and/or intensity to compensate and allow for adequate recovery.

  20. Jane says

    I weigh 149-150 lbs. and was trying to figure out how on earth to get 150 grams of protein in without an excessive amount of calories (as I am first trying to bring my weight down a little before I start maintaining and building muscle), and I read that the roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight is per pound of LEAN body weight. Is this accurate? Thanks in advance.

    • says

      In an ideal world protein recommendations would be based on “lean” weight. But since people have no idea what their body fat percentage is (and every practical method for figuring it out is highly inaccurate), it’s much easier to just tell people to shoot for about 1g per pound of total body weight. 1g per pound of target body weight can sometimes work too in the case of overweight people.

    • Song says

      1g Protein = 4g Calories you probably know that. To get 150g Protein and easy on the calories. I think you need to buy some Whey. Each serving have 25g protein and have 120-140calories.

      Have 2 Serving in a day that can boost up 50g proteins,

      BTW to get 150g is not easy…Okay you might able to do it in one day but. (i mean can you do it for 7days)

  21. AceOfSpades says


    Im currently dieting and wondering how often i should train. Im doing this workoutroutine where i train my big muscle groups almost 2x per week (5×5) However im having trouble recovering even tho Im not raising weights or reps to my following workouts. I understood I should be able to keep my strenght levels on diet also. Should I lift lighter weights every other time or drop training frequency to 1x per week to be able to keep my strenght and muscles up and running? Any suggestions? Thanks a ton already! :)

  22. Cy says


    I can say that all of the instruction laid out on his both website (best diet plan and this), is proven to work. The problem for all of us is we don’t have enough patience to let it happen. It is slow in relation to our view of fast. We are accustomed of 8 weeks training 6 pack abs thingy. I had some days too where I doubted his advice. That’s me. That’s not his problem. If we will realize that all takes time (even when you do it right), we will be seeing results. Most of us thought that MORE is good; Shouldn’t eat before workout too maximize fat burning. That’s non-sense. He is providing everything we need to learn about weight and strength training. With diet and proper eating education. We are so busy meddling about how much carb for this, how many reps, it is too easy for me, blah blah blah, my workout is not intense, I’m not getting any sore feeling, that’s a bit short workout dude, piece of cake. I promise you, I’ve had all that question.

    I’ve made a mistake in one aspect of all of his advice. I want results. FAST.
    I am not patient. 1 month of patient is all I’ve ever trained. After that, I came back to my old habits. I’ve missed 2 months of consistent progress, because I JUST want to get fit. I JUST KINDA want it. That’s the mistake. We JUST want it. We don’t want it badly.

    Believe me, I followed the proper eating plan of him 85-90% of the time (10% crash dieting because I was panicking not losing weight). From 174 lbs to 159 lbs. Not that much. But if you look at it carefully, I’ve already lost 14 pounds, whether it be muscle of fat. In just 1 month of 85-90% accuracy on diet. The problem is that CONSISTENCY. That is the challenge. You’ve got to be consistent on this for you to be able to see results. Also, we set UNREALISTIC expectation for a specific time frame. You can’t have the body you want in just want month. But dude, you’re 1-month stronger and closer to the body you want. Everything takes time.

    How about “I’m not getting any stronger.” why is that?

    You are. You keep track of sets and reps? No. You eat properly before workout? Maybe no.

    “But I can’t do a pull-up” I’m so damn weak.

    Yes. It’s either
    1. you’re not training wisely or
    2. you’re training too much or
    3. you don’t support that goal with proper eating or
    4. you don’t allow body to develop that neuro-muscular coordination.

    I strictly believe on that principle. His principle of CNS (central nervous system) recovery. Now, I’m just like a prodigal son going back to his old-fashioned advice. Good thing I’ve kept the weight from 162-164 lbs range. But I’ve lost all the things I can do back then while I was losing weight. I strong that time now that I’ve seen my current level of strength. Clearly, you won’t notice any progress because you don’t keep track of it. Or you don’t value those BABY STEPS. Those things you can’t do before.

    Guys, don’t f#$king give up. BABY STEPS. BABY.

  23. Song Li says

    Hi Jay,

    Can it be #3. Genetic Freak? I workout 4-5times, 25mins/2miles cardio/ 45mins workout. Eat around 2000-2500 calories.

    175lb In the beginning of the year. Currently August 4 2013, my weight still remain the same. But everywhere i gained more muscle, bigger triceps/biceps/ not girly chest, more leg muscle, better Back.

    So my question did i gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?

    • says

      I don’t know enough about exactly what happened during that period of time to really answer for sure.

      For all I know you could have just built some muscle and lost some fat during this period, just one at a time instead of simultaneously.

  24. Frank says

    Hi Jay,

    What pre-workout meal advice would you give for a first thing in the morning workout (doing post-workout as per your guide).

    I’m normally in the gym about 30-60 minutes after waking up.

    At the moment I typically aim for about 40g protein from Whey (I’m 160lb) and a very small high carb thing like a granola bar. I certainly can’t do much more than this as I easily get nauseous training on anything like a full stomach.

    Given the short duration for digestion, is my pre-workout meal a waste of time?

    Could I skip the pre-workout meal without much detriment or is training on an 8-10 hour fast a horrible idea!


      • Frank says

        Thanks Jay.

        Of course, I’ve poured over your pre/post meal section many times, but it only very lightly touches on training first thing in the morning.

        Took a look at the link. He seems to be suggesting that there is a specific benefit to fasted training.

        For me I’m just wondering if I can “get away” with little or no intake before training (post-work out meal is not a problem).

        Early morning training is the most convenient time for me and I don’t train well (nausea mostly) with too much in my stomach.

        The major points I’ve taken away from his article are:

        1.) Sufficient BCAA pre and post workout is the most critical factor.
        2.) Total calorie, carb, and protein intake can be left to several hours after training.

        Do you agree then that I would be well served with just a double-ish serving of ON Whey before training (keeping my stomach relatively empty but with sufficient BCAA) and then continue with a standard post-workout meal as usual?


        • says

          I think you’re over-complicating things a bit. Are you eating the right TOTAL amount of calories, protein, carbs and fat that you need to eat each day? If so, everything else (including pre/post meals) falls somewhere between minor detail and completely insignificant.

          If you prefer to (and are able to) eat around you workout, go for it. Put a decent amount of protein and carbs in both meals.

          But if you’d prefer not to (or are just unable to), then feel free not to. In that case, Martin’s article on fasted training has you covered.

  25. Frank says

    Hi Jay,

    Currently on a beginner workout routine for about 6 months. About two months ago, I started watching my diet and went into caloric deficit to trim down to a low fat level.

    Following much of your advice, and to my surprise, I found that I actually began progressing much faster than before (in deficit). I think this is likely due to a higher protein diet. Thanks for the site by the way!

    Doing a lot of research, I still find the issue of total protein quantity to be a rather contentious issue (real sources, not bro-science). I’m currently on 1g/lb (160lb). Quite a few reputable sources call this quantity overboard and would set something like 0.7g/lb as a max for someone training.

    What are your thoughts on any possible negative effects of higher protein diets (eg. kidney stress etc..).

    What’s more, protein is (gram for gram) the most expensive food source at the shops. Not exceeding necessary quantities is also a lot easier on the wallet!

    Just curious how you approach the issue.


    • says

      I don’t really think you’ll see much if any difference between a protein intake of something like 0.8g per pound or 1g per pound. Just like I don’t think there will be any meaningful difference between 1g or 1.2g per pound or anything similar. As long as you’re somewhere in this range, you’re fine.

      My general recommendation is to avoid going below 0.8g per pound and avoid going above 1.5g per pound… with an even 1g per pound being the easiest/simplest recommendation of all.

      As for negative effects, there is no research showing any issues with protein intakes in this higher range in people with healthy kidneys.

      • Frank says

        Thanks Jay,

        How do you feel about the need to spread the protein quantity over the course of the day.

        While I agree with your guide that meal frequency in terms of total calories is relatively unimportant, do you feel this is the case with the protein.

        After all, the amino acids derived from the protein have a limited lifespan before being burned. Presumably, 80g first thing in the morning and then another 80g last thing at night isn’t ideal. However, I’ve been unable to find any convincing info on how long amino acid levels in the blood remain high after a large quantity of protein.

        What do you think?

  26. Shawn says

    Hey I had recently stumbled on your site, and am really impressed on the information you had, and it showed a light to other people that claim they know what they are talking about, yet are clealy just ignorant. For that I say thankyou; but after reading this article I’m confused, Im 18 and by no means overweight 6ft, 154lbs, etc. I have a little fat on my midsection, which by taking your advice has reduced significantly to show a nice six pack, while dieting though, I have been lifting and I have been slowly increasing the weight with no fight or over fatigue from my muscles and I appear to be building muscle. Am I a “GENETIC FREAK,” or is that just beginners luck, if you could write back that would be really helpful.

  27. says

    Great article Jay, well structured too. I think it doesn’t leave any questions unanswered, especially for someone who has just started building muscle (and losing fat).

  28. Rob says

    I fall into one of those “regaining lost muscle” categories.

    Lets say at my maximum strength, I was flat chest pressing a 100lb dumbbell in each hand for 5+ reps. After a break from working out for 5 months (work and other issues) i could finally get back to the gym. I can now do that same exercise, but I can lift no more than 80 lbs, however the rate at which I am regaining strength is super fast.

    I just implemented a caloric deficit diet a few days ago, and have seen the benefits of losing the fat while gaining strength again. My question is at what point will I be out of this “regaining muscle” period. Do i need to hit my old 100 lb 5+ reps to exit this stage. Will exiting the regaining muscle period happen before that and when do I know?

    Basically, at what point do I need to switch to the maintaining to surplus diet when I want to start gaining new muscle and new strength that I didnt already have?

  29. MJ says

    Stumbled on your site yesterday, have read quite a lot by now and already have a question: :-D
    The reasoning behind any kind of cyclical diet (or carb cycling, even IF) seems to be that the muscle building periods and the fat losing periods can be really short. For instance, create a caloric deficit on rest days and you will lose fat on those days … create a caloric surplus on workout days and you will build muscle on those days. If such a daily “switch” was possible, wouldn’t this mean both CAN actually be done at the same time?

  30. Rob says

    Love it man. I feel that I’ve definitely adopted some of your mentality to the whole marketing in weightlifting and bodybuilding, especially this part right here

    “This is probably the most common format you’ll see this claim made in… when it’s part of the sales pitch/marketing of some shitty product. Like most of the stuff you’ll see in the diet and fitness world… it’s just good old lies, deception and bullshit put out there to get you to buy something.”

    So I would like you to see what I wrote in response to a email that was “concerned about my supply of cellular protein”

    “I understand that your business is about marketing. I understand that is all about trying to make money off their customers by advertising supplements in a manner which the consumer thinks they absolutely need the supplements advertised in order to meet their goals. You do so with misleading pictures and information.

    The amount of advertising and spam that I receive from is completely ridiculous. It is completely unwarranted, beyond annoying, and it is for advertising a product that I do not need in any way, shape, or supplement form to reach my goal. Your devious marketing will only work on uneducated lifters who think the only way to achieve a goal is to buy your product. But hey, what do you care? All you want is our money. What does that say about the integrity of It is wonderful to know that likes to take advantage of its customers.

    In case you truly were concerned about my cellucor protein supply, I did purchase more. Please visit the following link of any alternative source I will use to purchase this product in the future.,or.r_qf.&biw=1240&bih=602&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.LcBnj

    Thank you and good day
    -Angry Customer”

    Their response was to unsubscribe. :)

  31. ROBERT says

    Just read your article.. so I have a few ??’s I started this clean bulk diet.”thinking I was gonna end up with bigger arms and a 6 pack” I am eating like 5K calories 500 g carbs 500g protein 125 g fats per day. I have seen some differences on my muscles but I also see my waist getting alittle bigger. I am 5’7 @ 185 lbs before the plan.. 4 weeks into it I am at 192lbs. I like what I see on my arms and legs but my stomach is also taking a hit. I dont fall on any of those 4 people but maybe #2.. though I have already gained too much weight before starting this plan. What do you recommend, Should I bulk first since I am already eating for 3 people then cut? Or the opposite?

    • says

      Your main problem here is that you’re eating way too much and gaining weight way too fast. Ideally you should be shooting for a maximum of 2lbs gained per month if you want to avoid getting fat in the process. You gained 7lbs… which is waaaay too much and primarily body fat.

      Also, read this one.

  32. Andrew says


    I’m looking to start building muscle muscle/losing fat as a beginner. However, I’m afraid I’m not “fat” enough that it’ll work. I’m 5’10 165 lb. I have fat around my mid-section and chest, which I’m looking to get rid when I start. In this case, should I have a caloric deficit or surplus?

    Or…should I go all-in with the bulking (I have skinny arms and legs too), and then just cut instead? Because I’m not sure how much muscle I’ll gain/and lose fat from my midsection with the first thing I mentioned…

    Thanks a million!

  33. Remco says

    He, awesome thread you got here!

    Only 1 question..
    I have been losing body fat for the summer (have been bodybuilding now for 2 years)
    I have gone from 16 % to 13 % in about 2 months.
    The strange thing is i aint getting weaker and i dont lose KG’s
    I was 16% with 81 KG’s and now i am 13% with 81 KG’s

    I already knew losing fat and gaining muscle is impossible, but how do you explain this?


    • says

      In that case I’d double check the accuracy of those body fat measurements. To lose 3% body fat in 2 months with no change whatsoever in body weight, something sounds off.

  34. fatmandown says

    So my 375 lb no working out fat ass should be able to do both? I joined a gym yesterday and I would like to go 5-7 days a week. I thought about working two body parts a day.

    Back and biceps on day 1
    Chest and triceps on day 2
    Cardio on day 3
    Shoulders and legs on day 4
    Core on day 5
    Cardio on day 6
    Rest on day 7 then start over.

    How does this plan look?

  35. LarryM says

    I may be one of those genetic freaks, as I have succeeded in doing both at the same time. But it is hard, for sure!

    Anyway, I’d like to optimize my current routine – lose my last 13 pounds of fat while continuing to gain muscle. Here’s my conundrum: timing of workouts. I tend to do my strength training early morning, and cardio later in the day. But some sources suggest the opposite if you’re trying to lose weight/gain muscle. Thoughts on that?

    • says

      As long as you’re maintaining strength levels, consuming a sufficient amount of protein each day and not overdoing the cardio, I don’t think the timing of it will matter at all.

  36. Jay says

    So what if you ate at your maintenance level and then used progressive overload to get stronger? Have you ever tried this?

  37. andres says

    Hi. Somewhere you mentioned what is the best way to build calves. No sure if for beginners or in general. But I have chicken legs….I was wondering do you recommend. I currently do squats, but should I do calf raises (how many reps, etc?) Thank you.

    • says

      Squats alone aren’t really going to do shit for your calves. Want bigger calves? The first step is to actually train your calves. Exact sets/reps/exercises will need a full article to properly cover, though.

  38. Joe Hart says

    Hi. Thank you for this article, ive currently lost around 35 pounds and entered gym to stretch my body to prevent it from being loose. I walk around 20 minutes on treadmill and then work out. I still have a not so much belly fat and little chest fat (man boobs) at the gym they tell me I should do more sets but less weights in order to shape up then start the regular work out. So I want to take your advice please? Any help would be great

  39. Konstadinos says

    Hello there, and congratulations, you are really the best!
    I would like to ask you if somebody can replace strength
    (weight) training with some specific types of yoga such as power or bikram yoga where the work is being done with one’s body weight. They promise tones of benefits, but as for muscle building (maintaining) is it worth?
    I am a beginner (3 weeks) of strength training, doing diet and want to change my body composition, lose fat and maintain or gain muscle. 174 cm, 77kg, 27% body fat (the target is 10-12 per%).

  40. Gracy says

    How many calories should i actually be consuming?
    Well here’s the thing, I’m in herbalife since like December 2013 and i went from 155 to 140 pounds with the exercise they provide, not eating much or eating a bit healthy, and drinking their tea and shake about 4 times a week. However after just a month of returning to bad eating i gained all my weight back and more! I went up to 165pounds but now im actually eating healthy And doing exercise 2-3 times a day daily which consist of only cardio on some days and strength training combined with lil cardio on other days. After a week of that i now weigh 161 pounds. So since i exercise in the morning and late afternoon, should i be consuming more than 1200 calories? I get really hungry every 2-4 hours. Is it better to lose fat while building muscle right now? Or should i just focus on losing that extra weight for the moment?

  41. Victor says

    Great article, thanks.

    Do you reckon that one can alternate between the two goals as frequently as in 2 week intervals? (Considering 4 times a week gym, and adjusted diet in each interval with respect to the goal)

  42. yezekile says

    This is the best advise I have ever had ever since I started trying to find out on transforming my body honest and straight forward no bull shit just facts from crazy dietitians trying to rob a poor man like me off a shit salary the last money that I earn and starve me to death

  43. Chamila says

    Hi jay ,

    can you please tell us is there a way to calculate how many calories we burn . during a certain workout ? or what kind of intensity , volume we have to chose to burn certain amount of calorie ? I think this is important when we give a schedule to different kind of goals ( muscle building , fat loss )

    thanks ,

    Chamila …

  44. Sean says

    Hey Jay, If you are trying to cut weight first while maintaining muscle is there any set/rep regimen you recommend, should a weight variation not be done? Also, lets say we were still pushing our muscles to the extent you call “progressive overload”, but were still eating at a calorie deficit is the only real benefit an increase in calories burned? If so, is this increase in calories burned during the actual excercise itself from pushing your muscles that much harder during weight training significant? I’m 5’8 and 195 pounds I’ve been working out 6 days a week cardio and weight training for a little over a month now, and my primary goal is losing weight without muscle. I feel as if my muscles have most definitely grew signficantly, and my fat has gone down as well just not as fast I’d like. In this position do you recommend I simply stick to cutting and drop my weight regimen?

  45. Eric says

    Love the site. What about a diet like Lyle McDonalds Ultimate Diet 2.0 where he uses glycogen depletion and glycogen supercomensation? He does state that you may “just” lose fat and NOT lose muscle but that there is a decent chance you’ll actually lose fat AND gain muscle.

    • says

      When you add in some kind of cyclical approach rather than just being a straight deficit, things can change a bit.

      But generally speaking, unless you’re one of the exceptions mentioned in this article, any potential muscle gains with something like UD2 will likely be minimal at best.

  46. Andre says

    Hello Jay! Quick Question about calorie cycling.
    Supose you are cutting, and your calorie target is 2000 to achieve that. (Being maintenance around 2500).
    Would you have most days eating 2000 and every few days have a refeed at your maintenace level (2500) or you would have to eat lower than 2000 on the low days to achieve an overall same amount of calories in the end of the week?
    Oh, and ignore the quantities, its just because it is easier to explain that way.

  47. Emil says

    Hey Jay, I wanna ask a question about a variation of your second point (People Regaining Lost Muscle). Suppose everything is the same, but with one exception: you don’t have any workout experience, you just lost muscle because you ate very little for some period of time. Can you gain that lost muscle when you train to lose fat? I hope was clear enough with my question. :)

    • says

      If I’m understanding what you’re asking, the answer would be yes to some extent. Although it would likely be minor in comparison to someone who built muscle due to weight training and then lost that muscle.

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