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:
- Fat Beginners
- People Regaining Lost Muscle
- Genetic Freaks
- 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…
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.
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.”
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…
- 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 and in my new program: Superior Fat Loss
- 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. (UPDATE: I just put out a new program designed entirely for this exact purpose. Check it out: Superior Muscle Growth)
- 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.
101 thoughts on “How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time: Can It Be Done?”
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)
I’m convinced! I just have one question… do we get to ride the unicorn?
Basically, the way this works, I will tell you anything is possible for the right price. 🙂
You sir have mastered the art of being a fitness guru.
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.
I always aim to clairvoyantly time my articles perfectly. 😉
But yeah, at 67, gains in muscle mass aren’t going to be huge, especially if you’ve already been training fairly consistently up until this point. For most in your age range, it typically becomes more about maintaining lean mass rather than building more.
But hey, on the bright side there is always TRT 😉
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).
Yup, pretty much a combination of reasons #1 and #2 (bullshit and stupidity).
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
That theory is pure nonsense from top to bottom.
Great article ! You already addressed this in the past but never in this much detail.
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!
Ha, thanks Carla. Happy to hear it!
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.
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.
Glad to hear it man… glad progress is going well!
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.
Scooby’s not exactly right when it comes to certain things. This is one of them.
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 🙂
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.
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?
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.
AJ and Jose: I asked a very similar question in a different article and Jay answered. Look for it in the comments.
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.
Thanks for the reminder dude… I knew someone just asked something like that within the last month.
Like Mohamad mentioned, he asked something similar recently. See my answer here.
And by the way, a loss of 1 rep like you described on only a couple of exercises (while strength on others is going up a bit) isn’t something to be all that worried about, assuming of course you’ve been in a deficit for a while already.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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).
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.
It’s actually possible to make strength gains in a deficit at any stage… just WAY easier/consistent/likely to happen as a beginner.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Thanks man, glad to hear it!
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.
Glad to hear it!
So is it safe to say you lose the super fast “beginner gains” after ABOUT 6 solid months of intelligent and progressive training?
I honestly can’t put a specific time period on it other than that it’s “short term.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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)
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! 🙂
Read this guide from beginning to end.
It covers everything you need to know, including training frequency.
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.
Good stuff dude, thanks!
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?
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%).
Yoga won’t do shit for building muscle.
Thank you very much 🙂
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?
Read the diet guide, it will answer everything.
Also, Herbalife is nothing but a bullshit scam. Stop wasting your time and money on it.
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)
Yup, though I personally view that sort of approach as being inferior for most people.
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
Glad to hear it man!
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 )
Google something like “calories burned during running” or whatever activity you’re doing. You’ll find your answer.
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?
Read this one.
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.
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.
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.
You basically need to determine what you want your total net deficit to be for the week, and the adjust as needed to make it happen.
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. 🙂
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.
Hi, Thanks so much for your good help. I just lost 25 pounds in four and a half months. I started feeling weaker so I searched how to lose fat and not muscle and found you. I learned i was eating about half as much as I should and was indeed losing muscle (maybe more muscle than fat). I am happy with the way I look (body wise. face not so much). Am I right in assuming that from here on I just need to follow your basic guidlines to get my muscles a little bigger.
These guidelines will in fact be a damn fine place to start.
A question… Im female, 1.64cm and weigh 60 kg (lost 2 kg) i was eating 1.380 cals whiles training to build muscle. Id do lower body one day, then upper body the next. Then active rest. Then Upper again, lower again, then rest 2 days. So 4 weight training days a week, Unfortunately i thought that loosing fat whiles gaining muscle was possible so i was working on that. Iv been pushing myself each time i go to the gym to beat my previous record be it by adding weights or adding an extra rep. Everything was going great, i was getting stronger each time… Until A few days ago, i actually noticed that im getting weaker!!! As i benched pressed 90 kg instead of d regular 110. So i figured it must be cos im under eating? Im not sure wat to do now as i really dont want to gain more weight but i wanna grow muscle!! 🙁 Wat do u recommend i do? Should i slowly add more calories into my diet? Do u do private couching? Thanks
This would mainly depend on what your body fat percentage currently is. Do you have any *accurate* estimate? (Accurate meaning no bio-electric scales, they suck.)
I weigh 120 pounds, am 5’6, and have 24% bf (tested hydrostatically). I want to focus on losing about 10 pounds of fat (or at least mostly fat and little or no muscle), and then add on some muscle once my body fat is much lower. I have a pretty decent calorie deficit (about 500 daily), but am really inactive because of an office job and college classes. I have time to go to the gym, and I don’t care whether or not I do cardio, but I want to maintain the most amount of muscle possible. From reading your website it seems that lifting heavy weights is the way to go. I’m eating a gram of protein per pound of body weight and trying to stay at between 1000-1200 calories daily. I’m very disciplined and don’t mind going to extremes or feeling uncomfortable in order to reach my goals.
Do you have any recommendations on how I should go about doing this? Anything I might want to know that I’ve left out? To me it looks like I’m doing everything correctly, but who knows.
Love your website, and thanks!
My only recommendation would be to do exactly what I suggest in this article (especially sufficient protein + heavy intelligent weight training).
I’m 5’6 and weigh 116lbs also 24% body fat. It happened through excessive cardio and eating too little. Would you recommend I purchase your muscle building program? I really want to gain msucle. I look very thin, but no muscle tone. I was thinking of starting jamie Eason live fit, but I’m seeing some red flags with how fast it progresses. What would you recommend?
I’d recommend Superior Muscle Growth to pretty much everyone who wants to build any amount of muscle. If you don’t feel ready to buy something like that, just reading the free stuff available of the site will certainly be more than enough to get you moving in the right direction.
I wish I had read this before I started a program several months ago which I now realize is a ‘recomp’ program. I’ve made some decent gains and I like the way my body is shaping up but I’ve lost very little body fat. Progress has been very slow and I would have given up ages ago except that I love the lifting. I’m going to do a period of calorie deficit to get a bit leaner, but I wondered if you recommend continuing with progressive overload while in a deficit?
If you are able to progress in a deficit, definitely go for it! But if not, the goal is to at the very least maintain your current levels of strength. Additional details here.
I weigh 195 an am a total noob to this workout thing. I weigh 195 an would like to weigh 175-180. My question is would I eat like a 175 lb guy at bulking levels(+250) calories, woyld be an okay way to lose weight an still achieve muscle gains or am I just being crazy? Thanks,
Create a moderate deficit based on your current weight/maintenance level, and combine it with a proven beginner program.
Thanks for killing the words of other folks that were causing me some confusion.
I’ll be following your workouts an diet advice exactly, I’ll have some before an after pics for ya, when I hit the 3 month mark, an 6month.
You’ve written a masterpiece here, thank you for putting all the necessary information into one place!
Thanks dude, looking forward to seeing how well you do!
I’m 5’11” and weigh 150lbs. I’ve recently had my body fat measured at approx 18%. I guess I’m what you would consider skinny fat. Although I’m fit and don’t look fat with clothes on, I could certainly be leaner.
I started at the gym about 4 months ago, assuming that it would be easy, but have made little progress. On many exercises I’m lifting the same weight as when I started. When I realised this, I started researching the topic and have found your website to be very useful. I now realise my lack of gains has been caused by not eating enough.
My ultimate aim is to tone my stomach and lose the love handles, while maintaining (and ideally gaining) strength for playing rugby. Would your advice be that I should cut first down to <13% body fat before bulking?
If I do this, is there any way I can avoid dropping chest size (I don't want my suits to look too big) and maintaining strength? Does this rely on continuing to lift weights and eating protein? Should I carb cycle, with maintenance calorie intake on exercise days, and a deficit on non-exercise days?
Also, should I avoid too much cardio exercise and only use calorie deficit to cut body fat?
Your help would be much appreciated. Cheers.
Regarding losing fat without losing muscle, read this.
Regarding cardio, read this.
I also find it kinda hard to believe that you are 18% body fat at 5’11 150lbs. Sounds almost impossible. What method did you measure your BF with?
Thanks. Those articles are very useful. I think I’ll push on with cutting until Christmas and see where I get to. It’s great to understand now why my progress has stopped, and that my target should just be maintaining strength.
BF was measured using a bioelectrical impedance machine available through my employers occupational health offering. It seemed fairly sophisticated, and to be honest, comparing myself to BF photo charts, seems fairly accurate.
Bio impedance is actually pretty well known for its inaccuracy. Here’s a good article about that.
Thank you for this lovely article. I am 5 feet 6 inches and i weigh 245 pounds. I am bodybuilding since the past 3 months with great results. I feel my muscles bigger and stronger. The only problem is that i don’t know how to lose the weight. Just a week ago I cut completely on sweets – yes I used to eat chocolates and cakes once a day at least – and I am monitoring my food intake but I am not going a great job at it. I am trying to make sure however to eat enough protein and to not eat processed food like biscuits and stuff. I need your advice on how to lose weight. All I want is to still myself slim and keep my newly developed muscles. Thanks in advance.
Read this one.
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