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How To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time: Step By Step Guide

How To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time: Step By Step Guide


Many think it’s hard to lose fat and build muscle together due to conflicting diet ideas—eat more for muscle, eat less for fat loss. This assumes a problem with calories and goals. However, new evidence shows that with the right plan, like good nutrition and strength training, you can do both at the same time.

In this article we will dispels common myths and offer straightforward advice on nutrition, training, sleep, and supplementation. It’s not just about reaching a destination; it’s about making empowering and sustainable lifestyle changes along the way and you will have the tools to do it. Happy reading.

In this article

Key takeaways

  1. Dispelling Common Myths:
    • Challenge traditional beliefs that suggest conflicting dietary approaches for muscle gain and fat loss.
    • Eating smart and exercising can help lose fat while preserving or building muscle.
  2. Scientific Backing:
    • Recent studies support the possibility of achieving both fat loss and muscle gain simultaneously.
    • Evidence includes studies on caloric surplus, new lifters, overweight individuals, detrained individuals, and those using anabolic steroids.
  3. Bulk and Cut Decision:
    • Choosing between bulk and cut depends on individual goals, preferences, and starting physique.
    • Tailor the approach based on whether you’re overweight, skinny fat, skinny, underweight, or moderately fit.
  4. Nutrition Importance:
    • Calorie balance is crucial—understand maintenance calories, factor in physical activity, and adjust based on goals.
    • Macronutrients (protein, fats, carbs) play vital roles—optimize intake based on muscle gain, fat loss, or both.
  5. Training Approach:
    • Emphasize resistance training for muscle activation and overall strength.
    • Progressive overload and proper technique are fundamental principles for success.
  6. Cardio Integration:
    • Combine cardio with strength training for optimal results.
    • Choose activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or HIIT based on personal preference.
  7. Sleep and Recovery:
    • Prioritize adequate sleep for muscle repair, growth, and hormonal regulation.
    • Establish a consistent sleep schedule and a calming bedtime routine.
  8. Supplementation Strategies:
    • Consider supplements like protein powder, BCAAs, creatine, omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals.
    • Supplements should complement a healthy diet and exercise routine.
  9. Realistic Goal Setting:
    • Conduct a self-assessment and define clear, achievable goals.
    • Break down long-term goals into smaller, manageable steps.
    • Celebrate small wins and stay consistent over time.
  10. Conclusion:
    • The journey of losing fat and gaining muscle is achievable with the right plan.
    • Break free from myths, understand nutrition basics, incorporate strength training and cardio, and celebrate progress.
    • Consistency, patience, and adapting to your unique journey are key to long-term success.

Quick note and video


Also a big thank you to Jeff Nippard for inspiring me to write this article! I chose one of his YouTube video thumbnails as the featured image, and it perfectly encapsulated the essence of the content. Jeff’s evidence-based approach to fitness and nutrition has been a true source of inspiration. Grateful for his valuable contributions to the fitness community!

Courtesy of Jeff Nippard

Common myths that might stop you

Knowing these myths is crucial for your goal of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time. If you believe these wrong ideas, you might do things that don’t really help. By understanding and clearing up these myths, you can have a better plan for getting rid of fat and building muscle together. These are some of them!

  1. You can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time with the right plan.
    • Traditional beliefs suggest conflicting dietary approaches – a surplus for muscle gain and a deficit for fat loss. However, emerging evidence challenges this idea, revealing that with the right strategies, such as optimized nutrition and resistance training, it is possible to achieve both goals concurrently.
  2. Eating too much doesn’t mean more muscle; a balanced approach works better.
    • The misconception here is that a massive caloric surplus is necessary for muscle gain. However, studies show that a more moderate surplus can still support muscle growth without excessive fat gain.
  3. You can lose fat while keeping or even building muscle by eating smart and exercising.
    • Contrary to the belief that a strict caloric deficit is required for fat loss, a well-balanced approach with proper nutrition and exercise can lead to fat loss while preserving or building muscle.
  4. Doing specific exercises won’t magically remove fat from those areas; overall fat loss is the key.
    • Spot reduction is a myth. While targeted exercises can strengthen specific muscles, they don’t necessarily result in localized fat loss. Overall fat loss through a combination of diet and exercise is essential.
  5. While cardio helps, you also need strength training for muscles and overall fitness.
    • Some may think cardio alone is sufficient for both fat loss and muscle gain. However, a combination of strength training and cardio is more effective for overall fitness, as strength training contributes to muscle development and fat loss.
  6. Moderate reps in strength training are good for both fat loss and muscle gain.
    • The myth here is that only high reps lead to fat loss and low reps to muscle gain. In reality, moderate rep ranges can effectively contribute to both fat loss and muscle gain.
  7. Eating too much protein doesn’t mean more muscles; it’s about the right amount and overall diet.
    • Excessive protein intake doesn’t guarantee more muscle. The key is consuming an adequate amount of protein that aligns with overall dietary needs.
  8. Supplements help, but they can’t replace a healthy diet and good exercise habits. They’re like helpers, not the main thing.
    • While supplements can support your goals, they’re not a substitute for a balanced diet and regular exercise. They work as aids rather than primary solutions.

Scientific research that backs it up

Yes!, you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Recent studies challenge the idea that you have to choose between bulking and cutting. Evidence shows it’s possible for various groups, like new lifters and overweight individuals, supporting the idea of body recomposition—achieving both goals simultaneously.

And this are relevant studies that show why. There is plenty of evidence:

  • Garth et al. (2013):
    • Caloric surplus of 600 extra calories per day didn’t significantly increase muscle gain but resulted in over three times more fat mass.
  • Research on New Lifters:
    • New lifters can build muscle and lose fat simultaneously with basic resistance training and a reasonable diet.
  • Studies on Overweight Individuals:
    • Overweight individuals can build muscle while in a caloric deficit due to large energy reserves in body fat.
  • Studies on Detrained Individuals:
    • Detrained individuals benefit from the muscle memory effect, rebuilding muscle quickly after periods of inactivity.
  • Studies on Anabolic Steroids:
    • Studies on individuals using anabolic steroids show rapid muscle gain, utilizing fat stores for energy.

These findings collectively challenge the conventional wisdom of bulking and cutting, supporting the concept of body recomposition.

Bulking and cutting separately VS doing them at the same time. What should I do?

Choosing between a bulk and a cut separately can make sense based on personal goals. Yet, recent research supports the possibility of gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously (body recomposition). The decision depends on personal preferences, timelines, and priorities for muscle gain and fat loss. Here is a quick guide on what to choose depending on your starting journey phisically:

  1. Overweight or Fat:
    • Approach: Start with a cut to lose excess fat.
  2. Skinny Fat:
    • Approach: Begin with a recomposition (simultaneous bulk and cut) for balanced progress.
  3. Skinny or Underweight:
    • Approach: Focus on a bulk to build muscle and overall mass.
  4. Average or Moderately Fit:
    • Approach: Depending on goals, choose between a bulk for muscle gain, a cut for fat loss, or a balanced approach.

Remember, individual preferences and goals play a significant role, so adapt these general approaches based on personal preferences and desired outcomes.

Why nutrition is the key

Eating the right way is crucial to build muscle and lose weight together. A balanced diet that supports muscle growth while creating a calorie deficit for fat loss is essential for success in both goals. There are many things that you might need to know, but the basics start with these:

  • Calorie Balance:
    • It’s about balancing what you eat with what you burn. Calories in vs Calories out.
    • Eating less can help lose weight, and eating more can lead to weight gain.
    • And, eating in maintenance can help you do both!
  • Macronutrients:
    • Protein: Helps build and repair muscles.
    • Fats: Gives energy and supports hormones.
    • Carbs: Main energy source, especially during workouts

Let’s dive deep into each and how to make a successful plan 🙂

Step 1: Determine your maintenance calories


Determining your maintenance calories is a key step in body recomposition. It’s about understanding your body’s energy needs to strike the right balance between muscle gain and fat loss. By calculating this baseline, you gain practical insights into your dietary requirements.

Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to determine maintenance calories:

1. Understand Maintenance Calories:

  • Maintenance calories are the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight.
  • It’s influenced by factors like age, gender, weight, height, activity level, and metabolism.

2. Calculate Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

  • BMR is the calories your body needs at rest.
  • Use an online calculator for a quick estimate based on your age, gender, weight, and height.

3. Factor in Physical Activity:

  • Consider your daily activity level. If you have a sedentary job, you’ll need fewer calories than someone with an active job or regular exercise routine.
  • Multiply your BMR by an activity factor (e.g., sedentary, lightly active, moderately active).

4. Adjust Based on Goals:

  • To maintain weight, consume calories at maintenance level.
  • To lose weight, create a calorie deficit (consume fewer calories than maintenance).
  • To gain weight/muscle, create a calorie surplus (consume more calories than maintenance).

5. Monitor and Adjust:

  • Track your calorie intake and weight regularly.
  • Adjust calorie intake based on progress. If not gaining or losing as desired, make small adjustments.

Online Calculators:

Important Note:

  • Individual variations exist, so use these calculations as starting points.
  • Listen to your body and make adjustments based on how you feel and your fitness goals.

Step 2: Adapting calories to your goals


Adjusting calorie intake based on your primary fitness goal is essential for success. Whether you’re aiming for muscle gain, fat loss, or both simultaneously, personalized adjustments ensure that your nutrition aligns with your objectives, promoting more effective and sustainable results. Here is a quick guide:

  1. Muscle Gain:
    • Consume a caloric surplus, typically 250-500 calories above maintenance.
    • Prioritize protein intake to support muscle growth.
    • Include sufficient carbohydrates for energy during workouts.
    • Moderate healthy fats for overall health.
  2. Fat Loss:
    • Aim for a caloric deficit, usually 500 calories below maintenance.
    • Maintain a high protein intake to preserve muscle mass.
    • Control carbohydrate intake, especially refined sugars.
    • Include essential fats while managing overall calorie intake.
  3. Body Recomposition (Both Goals Concurrently):
    • Follow a slight caloric deficit or maintenance level.
    • Prioritize protein for muscle preservation and growth.
    • Manage carbohydrates and fats based on personal preferences.
    • Incorporate strength training to support both muscle gain and fat loss.

When choosing the ratio of macronutrients, a quick guideline would be:

  • Protein intake: 1.6-2.2g/kg of body weight, especially for those in resistance training.
  • Macronutrient distribution: Aim for 25-35% of calories from fats, 45-65% from carbs, and adjust as per goals and preferences.

Step 3: Training approach


Resistance training is crucial for keeping and building muscles. It activates muscles, boosts metabolism for fat loss, and improves strength. Additionally, it triggers hormones like testosterone, supporting muscle growth.

Achieving both fat loss and muscle gain simultaneously hinges on the crucial principles of progressive overload and proper exercise technique. Progressive overload, the gradual push for more intensity, fuels muscle growth, aiding in retention during fat loss. Meanwhile, mastering proper technique isn’t just about form—it’s a cornerstone for effective muscle engagement, minimizing injury risks, and maximizing overall results. Embracing and consistently applying these principles forms the backbone of a successful fitness journey targeting both goals

Here’s a quick example workout, starting fast is important, and you can improve as you go!:

  1. Strength Training (3 times a week):
    • Squats: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
    • Bench Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
    • Bent Over Rows: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
    • Overhead Press: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
    • Deadlifts: 2 sets x 8-10 reps
  2. Cardio (2-3 times a week):
    • 20-30 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or
    • 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity steady-state cardio (MISS)
  3. Example Weekly Schedule:
    • Monday: Strength Training
    • Tuesday: Cardio
    • Wednesday: Rest or Light Activity
    • Thursday: Strength Training
    • Friday: Cardio
    • Saturday: Strength Training
    • Sunday: Rest or Light Activity

Adjust weights and intensity based on your fitness level. It’s crucial to combine both strength training and cardio for optimal results. Consult with a fitness professional for a personalized plan ideally for the future.

See Also

Step 4: Cardio

Cardio is important in a routine for gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time. It helps with overall fat loss, improves heart health, and contributes to well-being. Combining cardio with strength training in a balanced routine is key for optimal results.

This can include activities like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The choice depends on personal preference, fitness level, and overall enjoyment to make it sustainable and effective.

Here are example routines for each type of cardio:

  1. Brisk Walking:
    • Duration: 30-45 minutes
    • Pace: Maintain a brisk, steady pace
    • Frequency: 3-5 times per week
  2. Jogging:
    • Duration: 20-30 minutes
    • Intensity: Moderate jogging
    • Frequency: 2-3 times per week
  3. Cycling:
    • Duration: 45 minutes
    • Type: Outdoor cycling or stationary bike
    • Frequency: 2-4 times per week
  4. Swimming:
    • Duration: 30 minutes
    • Style: Freestyle or any preferred stroke
    • Frequency: 2-3 times per week
  5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):
    • Duration: 20 minutes
    • Structure: Alternating between short bursts of intense exercise and rest periods
    • Frequency: 2-3 times per week

Step 5: Sleep and Recovery


Adequate sleep is vital for optimal results in a routine aiming to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. During sleep, the body repairs and grows muscles, and hormones crucial for these processes, like growth hormone, are regulated. Poor sleep on the other hand disrupts hormones, like cortisol, which can break down muscle and muscle growth. It also disrupts hunger hormones, making you crave more unhealthy foods. This disruption may result in challenges like muscle loss, fat gain, and difficulties achieving your desired body composition.


To improve sleep, stick to a regular sleep schedule, establish a calming bedtime routine, create a comfy sleep environment, avoid screens before bed, and cut back on caffeine. These small changes can enhance sleep quality and help with your muscle gain and weight loss goals.

Step 6: Supplementation strategies


Taking supplements can help when trying to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Proteins are important for muscle growth, BCAAs aid in recovery, and creatine boosts strength during workouts. Omega-3 fatty acids support overall health and may aid in fat loss. Vitamins like D and calcium are crucial, especially when cutting calories. But please remember, supplements should complement a healthy diet and exercise routine, and it’s wise to consult with a healthcare or nutrition expert for personalized advice.

To enhance your journey of losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously, consider adding these supportive supplements. This would be the basics list! :

  1. Protein Powder: Boost your muscle growth by easily meeting your protein requirements.
  2. BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids): Improve muscle recovery and reduce soreness, enhancing your overall workout performance.
  3. Creatine: Elevate your strength and performance during resistance training, contributing to muscle growth.
  4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Support your overall health and potentially aid in fat loss.
  5. Vitamins and Minerals: Ensure you get essential nutrients, including Vitamin D and calcium, especially if you’re on a calorie-restricted diet.

Step 7: Realistic goal setting

Setting realistic goals for simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain can be challenging, but it’s crucial to approach them with empathy. Understand that setbacks are part of the process, learn from them, and seek support when needed. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Here’s a beginner-friendly, step-by-step guide to set realistic goals for losing fat and building muscle simultaneously:

  1. Self-Assessment:
    • Take a moment to reflect on your current fitness level and areas you want to improve.
    • Consider taking simple measurements like waist size or using online tools for body fat estimation.
  2. Define Clear Goals:
    • Set specific goals such as losing a certain amount of weight, reducing body fat, or toning specific muscle groups.
    • Make sure your goals are achievable and realistic for a beginner.
  3. Break It Down:
    • Divide your long-term goals into smaller, achievable steps. For instance, aim to lose a few pounds or incorporate exercise into your routine.
  4. Learn the Basics:
    • Explore beginner-friendly fitness resources to understand fundamental concepts.
    • Focus on understanding the basics of nutrition, exercise, and recovery.
  5. Create a Simple Weekly Plan:
    • Develop a basic weekly plan that includes a mix of activities – simple home workouts, walks, or beginner-friendly exercises.
    • Gradually increase intensity and duration as you become more comfortable.
  6. Track Progress:
    • Keep a simple journal to note your activities, how you feel, and any changes you observe.
    • This can help you stay motivated and make adjustments as needed.
  7. Identify Challenges:
    • Think about potential obstacles, like time constraints or lack of equipment.
    • Plan simple solutions, such as finding quick workout routines or preparing easy, healthy meals.
  8. Celebrate Small Wins:
    • Acknowledge and celebrate small achievements, like completing a workout or choosing a nutritious meal.
    • Positive reinforcement helps build habits.
  9. Stay Curious and Learn:
    • Stay curious about fitness and nutrition basics.
    • Explore beginner-friendly content, ask questions, and gradually expand your knowledge.
  10. Consistency Over Complexity:
    • Focus on consistency rather than complex routines. Regular, simple efforts compound over time.
    • Be patient, and understand that progress takes time.

This beginner’s guide provides a straightforward approach, making it accessible for someone with limited fitness knowledge. It emphasizes simplicity, gradual progress, and building sustainable habits.

Conclusion

Embarking on a journey to simultaneously lose fat and gain muscle is an exciting endeavor filled with possibilities. It’s important to break free from common myths and embrace the empowering truth that with the right plan, you can achieve both goals. Understanding the basics of nutrition, such as calorie balance and macronutrient distribution, provides a strong foundation. Don’t shy away from learning about your body’s maintenance calories and adjusting them based on your unique goals.

In your fitness routine, incorporate the dynamic duo of strength training and cardio to maximize results. Celebrate the small victories along the way, as each step forward is a testament to your progress. Remember, it’s not about perfection but consistency. Allow yourself the grace to learn, adapt, and make fitness a sustainable and enjoyable part of your life. This journey is yours, and every effort you put in brings you closer to the vibrant, healthier version of yourself you aspire to become. Embrace the excitement, stay curious, and relish in the positive changes you’re making on this incredible path.

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