Can You Lose Fat or Gain Muscle Without Losing or Gaining Weight?

People who want to improve the way their body looks or performs have all sorts of potential problems that can prevent them from reaching their goal.

But sometimes, it’s the specific goal itself that is the problem.

I want to look at 2 such examples of this right now and show you why these goals exist and what you’re supposed to do about them.

Problem #1: I Want To Lose Fat Without Losing Weight

Something you’ll often here from “skinny-fat” people (people who are kinda skinny, but still not really lean or “toned“) is that they want to lose more fat so they can get leaner, but they don’t want to lose any more weight.

This might be because:

  • They’re already skinnier than they’d like to be, and they certainly don’t want to get any skinnier.
  • The number they see on the scale is already lower than they’d like it to be and they don’t want to see it get lower.
  • They’re happy with the weight they’re at, but unhappy with their body fat percentage.

In my experience, this seems to be more of a guy problem, although it’s definitely an issue girls deal with too. But usually you’ll see a guy of average height (say 5’9-6’0) who is maybe 150-160lbs or so. They want to gain muscle and get bigger, but at the same time, even though they are fairly skinny right now and weigh less than they’d like to, they’re still not as lean as they’d like to be.

Basically, in a shirt they appear skinny and small and like they probably don’t have much body fat on them. But take that shirt off and you’ll see a nice amount of belly fat covering the six pack they wish they had.

And so they have a dilemma. They want to get leaner and see their abs, but they don’t want to lose any more weight and get smaller overall. How do they do it?

I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first look at the other similar problem.

Problem #2: I Want To Gain Muscle Without Gaining Weight

If the first problem is usually a bit more common among men, then this problem is usually a bit more common among women. Although again, guys deal with it too. And that is, when you would like to build more muscle, but you’re happy with your current body weight and don’t want it to increase any further.

This might be because:

  • The idea of watching your weight go up (usually after you worked so hard to make it go down) doesn’t sit so well with you mentally/emotionally.
  • You have some kind of “goal weight” in your head that you are happy with, and that’s the weight you want to be at when you have your ideal body. You don’t want to exceed it.
  • And then there’s the always fun issue many women have, where they want to build some more muscle in all the right places, but the reality of actually adding X pounds of muscle “weight” to their body scares them (ya know, because they’ll get “big, bulky and manly“).

Basically, you’re happy with your weight, but unhappy with the amount of muscle you have.

So once again there is a dilemma. You want to get more muscular and build some more lean mass, but you don’t want to gain any more weight. How do you do it? Let’s find out.

The Solution To Both Problems Is…

It’s actually pretty easy, and the solution is identical in both cases. The way to lose fat without losing weight and gain muscle without gaining weight is… you don’t.

Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s a tiny fact that people with these goals seem to forget or just not understand in the first place.

And that is, muscle and fat both weigh something.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you add or remove weight to or from something, the overall weight of that “something” (which in this case is your body) has to change.

So the people who want to lose more fat without losing any more weight are gonna have a tough time. It’s going to be pretty hard to drop 5lbs of fat from your body without seeing a 5lb decrease in your body weight. The same goes for the people who want to gain 5 more pounds of muscle, but don’t want to see their weight go up any further.

Now I know the average skinny-fat 160lb guy who still has fat to lose in order to see his pretty abs doesn’t want to hear that he’ll need to get into the 150s in order to reach the level of leanness he desires (maybe even the 140s!), but sorry… you will.

You just don’t have enough lean mass on your body right now for you to be that lean at a higher body weight.

And I know the average 120lb girl who is finally happy with her weight but would love to add another 5-10lbs of muscle to her body doesn’t ever want to see their weight on the scale go back up higher and higher week after week. But, like it or not, you will.

You just can’t gain the muscle you want to gain without this happening.

But Wait, Aren’t You Forgetting Something?

This is the point where you’re supposed to think I’m just some idiot who is overlooking a very simple and obvious way of solving these problems.

Supposed Solution #1

To lose fat without losing weight, a person would just need to gain an equal amount of muscle at an equal rate. Duh! So for example, if a person could lose 1lb of fat per week while simultaniously gaining 1lb of muscle per week, their weight wouldn’t change and they’d successfully solve this problem.


In theory, this is 100% correct. And in a magical fantasy world, this is how it would always work. But in reality, it’s just not going to happen.

The average rate of muscle growth is significantly slower than the average rate of fat loss. So unless you plan on losing fat about 5-10 times slower than you easily could or should, then you will damn near ALWAYS lose fat MUCH faster and MUCH more consistently than you will ever gain muscle.

And having this conversation in the first place assumes that losing significant amounts of fat while building significant amounts of muscle AT THE EXACT SAME TIME is even possible. With a few rare exceptions (mainly fat beginners, people regaining lost muscle and steroid users)… it’s not. More here: Losing Fat And Building Muscle At The Same Time

So while the idea of losing fat while simultaneously replacing that lost weight with muscle at the exact same rate and in the exact same ratio is a beautiful one… it’s also one that just isn’t realistic.

So if you want to get leaner, you’re just going to have to accept that your weight will need to decrease for it to happen. If you’re unhappy with your weight at that point, focus on building more muscle.

Supposed Solution #2

The same thing applies to the people thinking they can gain muscle without gaining weight as long as they just lose an equal amount of fat at the same time.

Now this idea again suffers from the same issue as before, which is that most people just aren’t going to be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time (especially at anything close to an acceptable and tolerable rate). But in this case, there’s another issue preventing this theory from becoming reality.

Many of the people looking to add muscle to their body without their weight increasing are often already quite lean and happy with their current body fat percentage. Meaning, there’s just no more fat left for them to lose to counterbalance a gain in muscle.

So how exactly does a person who doesn’t want to lose any more fat go about gaining muscle without gaining weight? Simple… they don’t. So if you want to add more muscle to your body, you’re just going to have to accept that your weight will need to increase for it to happen.

Choose Your Goals Wisely

Like I said at the very beginning, there are all kinds of reasons for why people fail to reach their diet and exercise goals. The easiest way of all is by setting a goal that either isn’t possible or is just so completely unlikely that it might as well be impossible.

And in all honesty, trying to lose fat or gain muscle while your weight stays exactly the same are perfect goals to set if you enjoy spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.

Need Help With Your Diet And Workout?

Don't waste another minute of your time searching for what to do. I've already done the research for you and created step-by-step plans that work. Select your goal below...

  • I Want To Build Muscle
    If you want to build lean muscle without gaining excess body fat, spending all of your time in the gym, using a diet or workout that isn't customized to you, or doing myth-based nonsense that only works for people with amazing genetics, check out: Superior Muscle Growth
  • I Want To Lose Fat
    If you want to lose body fat without losing muscle, feeling hungry all the time, using stupid restrictive diets, doing 100 hours of cardio, or struggling with plateaus, metabolic slowdown, and everything else that sucks about getting lean, check out: Superior Fat Loss

Get Your Perfect Workout

It takes less than 60 seconds...
Take The Quiz
About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

89 thoughts on “Can You Lose Fat or Gain Muscle Without Losing or Gaining Weight?”


    • A typical ‘body recomposition’ diet where you’re alternating days of surpluses and deficits but still ending up at maintenance for the week will work unbearably slow for the average person (think extremely tiny changes over long periods of time)… assuming it actually works at all.

      Your weight will most likely stay the same, but most people will not get anything close to the fat loss/muscle growth results they were looking for or are capable of getting.

      AKA: lots of wheel spinning.

      • Hello there.


        I noticed that in the very first response that you gave to Jim you said that a body recomposition diet is a diet that has surpluses on somedays and deficits on others. Now, I’m ignorant when it comes to this workout stuff, so I’m just ASSUMING that a body recomposition diet is the same as a carb cycling diet… just with a different name. The reason I’m assuming this is because… well… they sound the same. Highs on some days, and lows on others.

        So SINCE I’m assuming that, you can probably imagine how confused I am because in another article of your’s titled “How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle – Burn Fat Not Muscle” in the 6th way that you suggested people can lose fat and not muscle, you said that you’re a huge fan of carb cycling… yet in your response to Jim, you didn’t seem to think it was all that effective.

        Again, I’m well aware that “body recomposition” and “carb cycling” could be different things, but I guess I’m just an uninformed dumbass. They just sound the same to me.

        Hope to hear from you.


        PS: I’m obsessing over what you said because I take everything you say as gospel. Why? Well, few people are as helpful and detailed as you. You’ve made my life so much more easier you don’t even know it. Thank you.

        • Thanks for the compliments dude. Now please allow me to call you an uninformed dumbass in return. 😉 Carb cycling and recomposition diets are 2 very different things.

          With a recomp diet, the typical goal is to end up at about maintenance at the end of the week after alternating days of surpluses and deficits throughout the week in some way… with the purpose being to lose fat/build muscle at the same time.

          Carb/calorie cycling can be and is very often used completely separate from trying to do a recomp. It’s used all the time when the sole goal is just fat loss or just muscle growth… which is what I’m a fan of.

          Carb/calorie cycling is something that could also be a part of a recomp diet though. But, it’s not actually a recomp diet. Two separate things.

          • OHHHHH, okay I see now.


            I get it.

            Thank you for clearing that up for me.

            Do you by any chance have an article or something where you talk about carb cycling in more detail? I really would like to read anything you have to say about the subject.


  1. Okay, I’m one of those skinny guys you described (I’m 50 yrs old, 5-10 168 Lbs). Started in January 2012, with the Zone Diet while doing cardio and lifting weights 3 days a week. I went from from 196 to 168 lbs in about 4 months. I have continued to eat healthy while lifting weights 3 times a week with cardio 20-30 minutes at each workout. I purchased “The Best Workout Routines” from your site on 7/26/12, and have been doing the “Option A” routine increasing my gym days from 3 to 5 days a week. I can see my abs and I’m defined from my previous 3 day workout routine, but I don’t seem to be building any real muscle mass. My doctor simply says to exercise less and eat more. I would like to be around 175 lbs and am looking for answers other than “eat more” to gain that muscle mass. Any other suggestion, or is it that simple to eat more? If that’s the case, the question is eat what? Thanks……..

    • A few things. First, congrats on the fat loss. 28lbs in 4 months is pretty damn good.

      Second, “Option A” of which routine?

      Third, how much stronger have you gotten since you’ve been using this routine and trying to build muscle? How much have you progressed in weight lifted on various exercises? Just “doing” a routine isn’t going to accomplish much. The key is progression.

      Fourth and possibly most important in your case, muscle can’t be built out of nothing. It requires a caloric surplus. So even if you’re doing everything else perfectly, muscle can’t be built if you’re not eating enough to support growth. As for what to eat, have you read my diet guide yet? It covers everything:

      • Thanks for the quick response. I will try to answer your questions:
        1. I’ve been doing the Bodybuilding 2.0 (Version 2) Option A Rotating 5th Day, since July 30. Before that,I was basically working my entire body 3 days a week with cardio since January 12.
        2. I have gotten stronger and I’m able to lift a lot more weight then when I initially started back in January. I started keeping a log since beginning your workout routine and I have increased the weight lifted in each exercise over the past 6 weeks. Unassisted pull-ups have increased from 10-8-6 to 3 sets on 10 on 9/11. I need to add weight Sunday.
        3. I will review the link you attached. Your advice is pretty much what my Doctor said, but it seems hard to sufficiently increase the calories when eating healthier food such as vegetables, fruit, almonds, fish and chicken since they all don’t have an abundance of calories. I have added a whey protein and almond milk drink after each workout. I stopped eating sweets, and limit myself to low fat dairy like 2%cottage cheese, almond milk, and no breads except for sprouted breads. Thanks for the advice and I will definitely read your diet guide. Thanks again……Terry

        • 1. Got ya.

          2. Sounds good to me… keep it up.

          3. This seems to be your main issue. You just need to eat more calories (not tons more, just enough to create a small-moderate surplus and support growth). Your diet sounds very high in quality and very low in crap, which is great. But, it also sounds like you SHOULD be having trouble getting enough calories in. Protein, vegetables, etc. are great and extremely important, but it’s going to be very hard to get as many calories as you need with those types of foods alone.

          Do you like oatmeal? Rice (brown, white)? Potatoes (white, sweet)? Assuming your protein/fat intake have been set to sufficient levels, these are the perfect foods to add to your diet to meet your calorie needs. That link from before explains all of this way better.

          • I just want to comment on point 3 here. If you have a choice between healthy food which won’t get you the needed caloric surplus and unhealthy food which will give much more calories, which one would you rather have?
            I know the right choice is healthy food with enough calories, but for someone who hates to cook it is difficult to maintain both.

          • Depends on a few things, including your definition of “healthy/unhealthy food.” To some people, white potatoes are “unhealthy.”

            But ignoring that, if your #1 goal is muscle growth and you absolutely can’t get enough “healthy” (by whatever definition) calories in to support that goal, then some “unhealthy” calories will be needed.

            More often than not though, what a person in this situation really needs is just convenient calories rather than unhealthy calories. PLUS, these are usually the same people who almost always need to rethink their definition of “healthy foods.”

          • Thanks for the informative answer. I guess one has to find balance between OCD like behaviour and total indifference when it comes to both calories calculation and healthy/unhealthy categorization of food.

  2. Skinny fat is the worst body composition you can have. You have the worst of both worlds. Fortunately, with good planning, this can be overcome!

  3. Great article as usual. This problem is faced by many many people. I started out as skinny fat. After a month of cutting, I got bored and I started bulking and it was my best decision. A bit of fat here and there won’t harm as long as these muscles keep getting bigger. I recommend to all skinny fat people who want to start lifting weights, to start bulking first. For a beginner, build as much muscle as you can while it is still easy. After passing the beginner stage, start cutting and get ready for amazing results. One more thing, I’ve been bulking for 5 weeks and in 3 of them I managed to lose fat while still building muscle. Of course I have to thank this amazing website for the great results.

    • Thanks man, awesome to hear everything has been working well.

      And just to add something to what you were saying. Once a person gets lean, they sometimes get waaay too attached to that level of leanness and try to build more muscle without gaining any fat whatsoever. 99% of the time, these people never build a pound of muscle either.

  4. I started the muscle building routine back in march weighing 160. No true ab definition showing
    and body composition was horrible. Followed every bit of advice you had from body weight of protein creatine and now dextrose mixed in with post workout etc and my body composition and strength have improved dramatically. For instance i went from barely getting 205 3 sets at the same rate within the 6-8 rep range to this past week getting 230 for 3 sets at 8, 7, and 5 and my abs are popping. But here is the thing i weigh now 157…. how is this even possible?? Im not minding it at all just confused how it hasnt really affected my weight as much as it has everything else.

    • First, awesome progress!

      Second, it’s hard to say for sure without seeing before/after pics, but it sounds like you lost a decent amount of fat and built a decent amount of muscle. And at this point, your weight has ended up 3lbs below where you started, only with a significant improvement to the composition of that weight.

      If you were a beginner when you started back in March, it’s possible some amount of these body composition changes happened simultaneously (beginners are one group who can make this happen).

      • I owe it all to this site. I wasnt a beginner, but fell more into the overtraining like a tard category working every bodypart on diff days without getting nearly the amount of nutrition i needed. Yea i could care less about my weight. Im standing at a massively tall 5ft 6inches lol. Its just all about what im looking like in the mirror for me. All this free info you give is much appreciated!! Total life changer

        • Yup, even if you weren’t technically a beginner, you’ll often see similar amazing “beginner gains” when you switch from only ever training/eating like crap to training/eating well.

          Awesome to help the site helped you make it happen!

  5. Ok, so it’s clear that in order to lose fat and build muscle, you have to focus on one at a time. At what point then do you switch? How much fat is too much to gain while building muscle? How much muscle/strength is too much to lose while losing fat?

    What’s the OPTIMAL point at which to switch from one to the other?

      • Thanks Jay, I read the other thread as well as your reply. Basically, it sounds like you’re saying to stay in the 10-15% BF range. The obvious question is how to measure that accurately, and as you talked in your other article, it’s hard to do. In terms of appearance, at what BF% do most guys start to show a 6pack? At what point do you start to get that “cut” look? I know it’s different for everyone, but as a general rule?

        Also, there’s some people out there who feel that everyone has a BF% below which their body goes into starvation mode and strength/performance starts to be severely compromised. Basically, they’re saying that the concern with 6pack abs detracts from most people’s strength goals. What are your thoughts on that?

        • I personally haven’t had my body fat tested in quite a while. I just estimate based on what I’m seeing in the mirror/pictures combined with waist measurements (which is my main measured indicator of how fat I am or aren’t) and just how I feel in general.

          Regarding when you’ll start to look “cut,” that really depends on your definition of “cut.” But in general, most guys will have a visible 6 pack as they hit single digit body fat levels.

          As for your other question, that depends. In terms of performance in most sports, the top athletes on the planet are usually lean as hell… not just 6 packs… 8 packs. Doesn’t seem to hinder their performance and in fact usually helps it (more speed/explosiveness/endurance when lean vs fat).

          But then if you look at someone who only cares about benching/deadlifting/squatting a ton of weight, the strongest powerlifters usually aren’t what anyone would consider “lean.” Then again, they’re not trying to be lean. Their trying lift heavy ass weight and do whatever is needed in their diet/training to make that happen.

          The idea of “starvation mode” is something else altogether, but that’s also gonna need it’s own full article to cover.

  6. Hi Jay,

    Glad to know my question on that other thread was useful to others! Quick follow up question: overall, do you recommend/personally spend equal time on bulking and cutting phases, or do you tend to spend more time on one or the other?


    • Like I mentioned in that reply to you, I really don’t base much on time when it comes to this stuff. There’s no real thought put into trying to bulk for X amount of time and then cut for X amount of time. It’s really just whatever happens in order to stay within those guidelines/individual preferences I mentioned.

      But, generally speaking, you’re almost always going to spend a lot more time bulking than cutting. Muscle growth is a significantly slower process than fat loss (even more so if you’re trying to avoid getting too fat), so it’s rarely ever going to be a 50/50 split in terms of time spent doing each.

      Here’s an example using numbers pulled from nowhere. Let’s say someone gains 10lbs while bulking. Let’s say it was 5lbs of muscle and 5lbs of fat. Let’s also say they gained about 2lbs per month, meaning the bulking phase lasted 5 months. Now let’s say they want to cut and lose those 5lbs of fat. Let’s say they do it at a rate of 3lbs lost per month. In this case they’d end up cutting for just under 2 months.

      That’s 5 months bulking vs 2 months cutting.

      Again this is just an example using random numbers which can vary quite a bit based on bunch of factors, but it usually ends up with a similar ratio of time spent bulking vs cutting.

      • Thanks for the reply. I know you’re not big into going by time, but it’s helpful to know approximately how long to expect things to take. Also, cutting is WAY less fun that bulking, so it’s good to know it doesn’t need to be half the time!

  7. Just discovered this website and I got to say it is the best I’ve read. Congratulations and keep up the great posts!

    I am actually dealing with “Problem #2″. On March, 12 2012, I weighted 216 lbs. I am only 5’10″ so I was borderline obese. I decided to follow eating habits that created caloric deficit and went out for 3 mile runs only 2-3 times per week for four months (doing NO weight lifting). By July 15, I weighted around 180-182 lbs. You can imagine how good I felt about myself and the hard work I put. This is the best I’ve looked in YEARS!!! I stared a so-called “maintenance” diet which means I give myself more “treats” than I did during those 4 months of weight loss. In other words, my “diet” is not as strict as it was before although I kept a lot of the “healthy” eating habits such as drinking a lot of water, eating nonfat milk, zero-calorie sodas, etc.

    My goal, then, was to maintain my weight at around 182 lbs, but at the same time I felt that I had lost a lot of muscle everywhere. Also, I wanted to shed the fat I had left on my chest and abdomen, so I signed up at a gym about a month ago. I am working out 3-5 times a week where I do 30 minutes of intense cardio, a 10-minute flexibility workout, and 20-30 minutes to pushups/pullups, situps, and moderate weight lifting. From a good source (my wife), I know I have definitely built muscle everywhere (upper and lower body) and maybe lost some fat in the right areas. The “problem”? I’ve gained about 7-8 pounds. The past week I have weighted 188-189 lbs. I really want to tell myself that it is only muscle and reading this comforts me bit. Still, the mental/emotional toll is VERY real folks.

    • Thanks for the compliments, and congrats on the fat loss!

      Regarding what you mentioned, you’re right and potentially wrong. If you are 180ish pounds, and you successfully build muscle, then you’re pretty much guaranteed to go up in weight from that 180ish amount. Assuming you wanted to build that muscle, then you should definitely not worry about the fact that your weight has now increased as a result. This is a good thing, even though your mind might not instantly register that it way.

      At that same time, the potential issue is whether it was “only” muscle. That’s where things become tricky and closely monitoring progress through more than just scale weight (measurements, mirror, pictures, etc.) becomes extra important.

  8. Ok, I’m in a bit of a dilemma here. I have about 9 months out of the gym due to an operation on my spine. It all went well and I’ve been back in the gym for about a month and getting bigger/stronger again. The simplest way I can explain it is, I don’t care about my weight. What I do care about is how much fat I have. I’m sitting at about 26% at the moment. I train hard and heavy 3 times a week and want to do slow cardio on my weights days and HIIT on my off days. I’ve not done much cardio till this point as I just wanted to concentrate on getting some muscle back. I’ve lost a little bit of fat but no where near what I want. So, do I stop weight training altogether and just do cardio? Or keep doing weights too but lower my cals? Confused. Thanks in advance!


    • So you’re looking to re-gain lost muscle while losing fat? If so, this will be temporarily doable. Create a moderate caloric deficit (through diet is my preference, but cardio can be used as well if preferred) and use an intelligent weight training routine aimed at progression.

  9. Hi, I fall into the category of “not much upper body muscle at all, but some stomach/abdomen fat” -skinny fat! I don’t mind at all if my weight goes up or down,but I want to lose fat and gain muscle. Are you suggesting that this IS possible, just not possible to keep the weight the same? I.e. If i go to the gym 2 times a week to do weight training, and I eat at maintenance, will I lower my body fat % and gain muscle at the same time (even if my weight changes)? Thanks!

    • Unless you’re a fat beginner, someone regaining lost muscle, or using steroids, you’re mostly going to get nowhere if you try to reach both goals at the same time. So unless you happen to be one of those exceptions, you’ll do best focusing on one goal, then alternating to the other.

      As for which to do first, read this.

      • Cheers for the quick reply! I currently weight roughly 70kg, and I would say i am just below 20%bf. so i’m not fat, but not super lean (small layer of fat covering abs, plus some on belly) I have really small arms (can’t arm curl more than about 10kg) and am generally quite weak in my upper body, so I don’t really want to lose any of this while cutting, but would like to lose fat.

        You said in a reply to a comment (on the page you linked) “As far as weight training goes, if you’re a beginner, continue using the beginner routine. You’ll actually be able to make some good strength progress (and possibly build some muscle) while you’re in that deficit losing fat. One of the perks of being a semi-fat beginner.”

        Do you think I should create a deficit and hope that muscle still increases as fat decreases, or would this most likely result in a loss of muscle as well?

        Thanks, and sorry for all the repetitive questions!!!

        • If you’re training correctly, it definitely won’t result in a loss of muscle. If anything, it would just result in much slower/lesser muscle growth than if you were in a surplus. But at 20% body fat, I really wouldn’t consider a surplus an option just yet.

  10. Hi. First of all, great article. I just have a question though..I fall info the catogery of skinny fat with a bf percentage of 52 and I weigh 113 lbs and my height is 5”6. my body composition is terrible and I have just started weight training to change it. I’ve been eat a healthy balanced diet for the past few weeks and I was just wondering because I’m a “skinny-fat” person who is underweight, will I be able to lose my fat and gain muscle at the same time? I don’t really care about the number on the scale but I do care to have a defined and toned body.

    • I’d question your body fat measurement here. At 5’6 and 113lbs, I can’t see anyway that you’d be 52% body fat. That’s like, obese. And no one over 4 feet tall is going to be that fat at 113lbs.

  11. Hey there, first thing first i need to give props to you and your website because by far this the the one and only website that provides all the top-notch info about bodybuilding without any gimmicks and bull . I followed your 4 days split upper and lower body workout routine and it does really work well with me ! i noticed that with this style of routine, my strength goes up though it’s not much but hey need to do it one step at a time right. i Just want to ask you that after i’m in a calorie deficit, and my weight now is around 71- 72 kg. It is just fluctuated around that number. i want to go a little bit lower as i want to have my six pack appeared, i never had them even once in my life 😀 But the strange part is that when the first time i reached around 71-72 kg and now it’s already like 2-3 weeks since that time, but my abs start to show a little bit of lines . That means my bf has gone lower but my weight remains the same. I wonder why could that happen ? btw i’m about 181 cm tall

    • Could be a bunch of things. Unless you have pics or took body fat measurements in which case we can clearly see your BF did in fact go down (and it’s not just your imagination) while your weight stayed exactly the same (even losing 0.5lb can make a visual difference once you’re lean enough), it’s hard to say.

  12. Hi,
    I am 49 years old, and used to work out two hours a day five days a week until I was 41 years old. However, I hurt my neck trying a new abs exercise with a wheel device, and had to go to physical therapy for a while. Once I started physical therapy for my neck (after discovering I had two slipped in my neck), it seemed easy to get back into the workout routine again.
    However, I have never gotten back into the routine and have now gained up to 188 lbs. although, while working out everyday my weight was maintained at 155 max. it would be one of the best gifts in the world to find out I can start working out again and become lean + gain some muscle weight. Nevertheless, I am afraid I am now too old to get back into the shape I once was, and it is destined for me to remain 188lbs. or more for life.
    Let me give a bit of a synopsis on how I gained some of this weight…my job went from being very active to sitting at a desk ten hours a day. While sitting at the desk and continuing to eat the same amount of food the weight gain started. I also had a doctor who had put me on an antidepressant that normally makes people lose weight, but made me gain weight. The doctor has now changed to antidepressant, and put me on an ADHD drug, which is great at killing my appetite until around 4pm everyday. Once it is 4pm I am starved to death, and eat snacks + my partner is in the habit of eating dinner at 8pm or later. Since I have no clue how to cook, and am at someone else’s mercy for dinner, it is hard to eat earlier.
    I eat a huge breakfast everyday (three thick pieces of French toast with coconut oil and soaked in egg whites) the egg whites equal about six eggs + cottage cheese with fresh fruit every day.
    Is it possible for me to get back to 155-160 lbs. again at my age + get lean with some muscle tone? I do not ever want to be a large man with huge muscles, but it would be grand to look like I used to.
    PS I did not ever start working out with weights until I was 38 years old, and it really made me feel great to constantly get the looks I did (yes I’ll admit I am vain) all men really are…:-)

  13. Hey, I’m 17 5’4 and weigh 166 I recently was 177 so obviously I lost weight by just watching what I eat. But my main concern is I don’t want my legs and arms to get skinnier, most of my body fat is all over my torso so what do I do? And once I lose that should I focus on getting a 6 pack?

    • You can’t control where body fat gets lost from (or gained on), so even though all of the fat you want to lose might be on your stomach, your body has a pattern of fat loss that’s already predetermined by your genetics that can lead to fat being lost from other body parts as well. This can’t be changed.

  14. I understand that fat loss comes easier than muscle gain. Here is my dilemma:
    I am 5’5″ 121 pounds. After two kids in the last few years, my abdominal muscles are weak, and I have been working out at the gym to build muscle [to get stronger all over]. Since I have started working out I have noticed my arms have gotten flabby, and yet my face is getting too thin. People have commented to me that my face looks too thin, and I agree, and yet I now have pockets of fat in my arms which were not there before- something my workout partner has also noticed-, and stomach fat. A woman recently asked me when I am “due”- I am not pregnant! I am thin enough where a small amount of fat, combined with a meal, makes me look pregnant. Anyhow, I am uncomfortable with losing any more weight as my face is already so thin, yet I can feel that I am one of those skinny-fat people in that I am not as toned and fit as I would like to, or should, be. What is the best solution for me? Thanks!

    • If you want to lose fat, you have to do what’s needed for fat loss to occur… even if that means you might lose fat from a part of your body that you no longer want to lose fat from.

      There honestly is no other solution.

  15. Hello,

    I have been working out and eating at a deficit for months and have not lost anything. I have not lost a single pound in over a year. Can you please help me figure out what I am doing wrong?

  16. Your article was very informative thank you. I am one of those women who although I am happy with my weight I still want lean abs without the idea of losing weight. Now I know this is not possible I will re-evaluate my training programme.

  17. Hi,
    I could related a lot to problem #1. Very nice article.

    So I am a guy standing at 6.1 and weighing 185. My body fat is approx at 17% (high). So would you recommend that I reduce it to about 15 with calorie deficit and dedicated cardio all work-out days? And once I am down to somewhere around 15% (by when I maybe down to 175 lbs perhaps), then get into heavy weights and calorie surplus?

    thx for your help…

    • I’d recommend getting leaner than 15% before going into a surplus to build muscle… ideally closer to the 10-12% range. And to do that, I recommend a moderate caloric deficit combined with a sufficient protein intake and an intelligent weight training program. Cardio is purely optional.

      • Thanks… So in other words – to burn the 5-7% fat first, I continue with weight training (lifting weights) and just create a moderate calorie deficit. I can certainly expect whatever muscles I have now to fade away too temporarily during this deficit?

          • Hi,
            Over the last month I have created a deficit and seen fat reduce (and weight too). Problem is while my fat has reduced from 16.5 to 14.5, I have already lost almost 10 LBS. I guess I have been losing good amount of muscle too? Also, the weight loss makes me almost look weak & too lean. Do I continue with this approach assuming it’s a temporary phase & then start the bulking process in a month or so?

  18. Hi,
    First off, I found this article very helpful, but I’m still not sure what to do. I’m a 5’8, young, female with a very high metabolism, so naturally I’m very skinny. My BMI is appropriate for my age/height, but I fall into the skinny-fat category, I’d like to loose at least some of the fat in my abdomen and, overall, become stronger. I’m in my mid-teens so I don’t feel comfortable going to a gym because the people there are mainly adults or people in their late teens, I also don’t know if it’s appropriate for such a young person to go to the gym and be trained, etc. I’d like to try exercise routines found online, but I’m, yet again, not sure if they’re appropriate for young people. My doctor says that I’m supposed to get a regular amount of physical activity, but I don’t know if that means kicking a ball around or doing specific routines every day (obviously my knowledge of exercise for my age group and how it differently effects the body is very limited). If you have any suggestions as to if I should even be concerned about this (since I’m a teenager and I’m still growing), or if there are any kinds of activities that would work for my situation, like yoga or something.

    • This depends solely on your goals. If you want to build muscle and get stronger, you need some form of strength training.

      If you just want to be “in shape” and have some endurance and improve cardio conditioning and that sort of thing, then there are dozens of different activities you could be doing.

  19. Hey,
    Great article it was very helpful, I know you said its nearly impossible to gain muscles mass and lose fat at the same time.However i’m essentially a beginner to doing weight training seriously, and i’ve been at a caloric deficit for about the past 10 weeks and have reduced my body fat by about roughly 2-3 percent and my weight has slightly decreased, but at the same time i’ve been doing weight training session 4-5 times a week and have seen a increase in the amount i’m lifting, for example my Squat increased by about 30 kg and my bench press by about 20 kg.So my question is am i putting on muscle mass at the same time if the amount im lifting is increasing or could it just be my strength increasing? And if i am putting on muscle mass how long can i continue putting it on and losing fat at the same time?

  20. Is there a way to gain muscle while keeping a low body fat %?(It is 6% but I don’t have blazing abs like most people at that %).

    • There is a way to significantly minimize the amount of fat gained while in a surplus building muscle, though virtually no way to prevent ANY fat from being gained whatsoever.

      But stay tuned. I have a book coming out soon that I think you’re going to like.

  21. Hi,
    I came across your site a few weeks ago and just wanted to say thanks for the awesome helpful information! Im actually about to start your program this week. I had a few questions maybe you could answer! Id say im about intermediate level, Im currently 5’3 145 lbs 18% BF and im stuck as to what i should do bulk or cut? I would like to add muscle to my lower body and lean out a few inches on my midsection ultimately. And lately i feel like im not recovering in between my workouts fast enough, im still pretty sore on my second workout of the week and im not sure if maybe im not getting enough protein or something like that? Any advice you have would be appreciated, thanks!

    • A female at 5’3 145lbs with “a few inches” to lose on her midsection is almost certainly above 18% body fat and most likely well into the range where focusing on fat loss first is the right idea.

      As for soreness, there are a lot of potential reasons for that, some of which are diet/training related, some that are sleep/stress related, and others that mean nothing other than some mild soreness that is fine to train through.

  22. Hey,

    I came across your website 4 months ago and I was very grateful. I ditched my trainer who I realized had been getting me to do all sorts of nonsense and took up your beginner’s training program. Kudos on a great job.

    Hope you can help with a question. I was exactly in the skinny fat category – 5’11 and 175 lb and a total beginner to weight training when I started 6 months ago. Since then, I’ve lost 22 lbs and made decent steady strength gains. Squat and Deadlift up by 75 lb and Bench press up by 45 lb. Nothing spectacular I know but quite personally satisfying. Now though, I’m beginning to hit a bit of a plateau. Weight loss has slowed down – I was losing a pound a week steadily which seems to have halved now. Also, I’m not making the steady progress I was used to lifting weights – whereas earlier I used to manage some increase every week, that’s not so regular any longer.

    I don’t think I’m doing anything different. I’d estimate my current body fat% at 17 and I’m guessing I’ll need to get it say 12% before I start adding a bit of bulk. Do you think I’m doing something wrong or maybe I need to do something different?

      • Thanks…I did guess it’s probably the very first reason in your article – the fact that I’ve been in a caloric deficit for the last 4 months but my steady progress in spite of that has likely lulled me into thinking my beginner status would keep me going for a bit longer.

        I guess I just have to suck it up and keep maintaining the weights I’m at till I get to a body fat percentage that allows me to get out of this deficit and hopefully make some progress again.

        Thanks again for the quick response.

  23. Thank you! I was really excited after reading the second paragraph which described me and my situation perfectly. I wasn’t too sure if losing any more weight would be good, because I’ve already gotten to the point that I’m about 5 pounds less than the average for someone my age and height, but still don’t exactly look like it. I was really confused, but this cleared all that up.

  24. Hi I’m a female 5’7 and 133 lbs. I’m 23.5% body fat. Let’s just say 24… I should definitely focus on fat loss first correct? And train in a way doni don’t lose muscle? I’m just making sure 🙂

  25. Found this page whilst searching for a related but different problem (lets call it problem #3):
    “I Want To Gain Muscle Without Losing Weight”

    Seemingly not many people think like me…

    When I was younger I was often told by doctors I was underweight for someone 6′ 2″ but as I got older I gradually went from about 130 lbs as a teenager, to 155lbs in my 20s and finally ~190lbs ish today at 33.

    Whilst I do have that skinny-fat issue of a belly having developed, I am also frequently told I look better and healthier than I ever have before, simply by having filled out across the rest of my body and face etc. I would gladly keep the belly forever if I can avoid losing most of the weight elsewhere, or instead turn it into muscle.

    My main goal is the better balance my overall shape, rather than definition. I’ve never being naturally all that broad, so my newly plumper hips, thighs, ass and belly area, now looks wider than my shoulders/arms. Abs be damned. I just don’t want the body shape of a women.

    My biggest concern is eating. I’m clueless to it all, as never needed to be concerned about calories for most of my life. Plus, I have a fairly small appetite, so the idea of eating ~250 grams of protein a day, based on my research, seems impossible.

  26. Hi Jay, I am a 59 year old female. I am 5′ tall and weigh 154 after a 13 lb. weight loss over 6 months. I use the insanity upper body work out every other day and then do 45 min. on a treadmill. I started with 3 sets of 8 with 8 lb. dumbbells, I am now at 3 sets of 8 with 15 lb. dumbbells for the 1st and 2nd set and 12 lb. for the 3rd. I just ordered a set of 17.5 dumbbells. I have had 5 back surgerys with 2 fusions in my cervical and 1 in my lumbar so all I do for my lower is treadmill. I make sure I get my protein (tuna, chicken, mahi mahi, venison) and get my carbs from a protein bar, vegetables, nuts and potatoes. I am satisfied with my progress as I have also been on meds. for hypothyroid for 17 years. I am totally committed and would love your input as to whether I am doing something I am going to regret down the road, I am self taught and my gym is upstairs. 1st visit to your site and love it. Laura

  27. Hello! I am a female 5’4 100 pounds and 25% body fat. I just started bodybuilding and using iifym. im going to focus on compound heavy free weights to gain muscle and lose body fat. I am at at 300 calorie surplus. Does this sound right to you ? Am I super skinny fat ? I look good but I am very weak with no muscle. Any advice is helpful. Thanks so much

  28. Great article!

    I’ve been eating at a deficit of about 20% below maintenance for a couple of weeks, but I’m a bit unsure if that’s recommended for my body fat percentage. I’m at about 14-15% body fat, looking to lose as little muscle as possible, as I’m nearing my goal of 10-12% (so I can start my “bulking” phase).

    Does 20% below maintenance sound a bit excessive to you, or am I in the clear?

  29. Hi Jay, I have been reading tons of articles on “skinny fat” AMD found yours to be one of the best. Still, there is one point that is hardly adressed. Fat and very low weight. I am glad you touched it, but a question remains. For Information purposes: I am 6 ft tall. In January 2016, I started out with 200 lbs. With a caloric deficit and an hour of bodyweight exercise three times a week, I have now arrived at 160 lbs. Depending on the method used, my BF ranges from 20 to 25 %, and my belly looks quite fat (waist measured at 36 in) . So I guess I might look lean at 145 lbs which would be close to underweight or even lower . Over time, I became stronger but without a lot of hypertrophy. A BIA test said that my lean mass is already on the verge of being too low. Friends and family implore me to stop dieting – I can understand them as I look skinny wearing clothes. My doctor agreed and said I needed someone kind of reserve for illnesses etc., either fat or muscle. Would it be a mistake to try to gain muscle at 100 calories above maintenance? Psychologically I guess I would do much better by gaining now – inevitably fat and muscle- and cutting later. On the other hand I would maybe cut now if that was really the only effective way.

Comments are closed.