Can You Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time? (Part 2)

Feb 15, 2019

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Balance hormones and fuel bodies to build muscle while still burning fat.

This is a two-part article, if you missed Part 1 go here:

Build Muscle and Lose Fat FactsWhen your goal is to reap the benefits of both anabolic and catabolic states while avoiding the negative aspects associated with each, here is what you need to know.

First, it is not necessary to obsessively count calories consumed while you follow the plan to gain muscle and lose fat. It can be effective but when so much focus is placed on hitting a daily caloric total the variable nature of metabolism is often overlooked. Our caloric requirement changes daily based on how we are training, how many calories we have recently consumed, how we are absorbing our nutrients, hormone signaling, sleep patterns, cortisol levels, and a myriad of other factors. So while there is some merit to counting your calories and eating at maintenance levels, this method does not require it and benefits from the ability to be intuitive with your body.

There’s also a few things you should know before you start:

1. Prep Week

You should go through at least a week of tapering carbs down and becoming fat adapted.

2. When it Won’t Work

Once you get to be single digit body fat it’s about just preserving lean muscle mass and this plan will not continue to help you both lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

3. Intermittent Fasting

This is when you abstain from eating for 14-18 hours after your last meal and will provide all the benefits of catabolism such as the mobilization of body fat for fuel as well as lowered insulin and glucose levels. Previous wisdom suggested eating several  meals throughout the day. It’s now known that eating six times a day provides no benefits at all.(1)

Intermittent fasting also provides a few hormonal benefits that help to counter the negative effects of being catabolic. One of the drawbacks of catabolism is the decrease in leptin levels. Leptin is a regulatory hormone that controls metabolism. Short term fasting has been shown to have no effect on leptin levels but dramatically increases the release of hormones it typically regulates, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase metabolism and fat burning.(2) Another benefit of fasting is a large increase in muscle sparing growth hormone which further fights the catabolism of muscle tissue.(3)Also brief periods of fasting elevate mood(4) and decrease the feeling of hunger, likely through decreases in the appetite-regulating hormone ghrelin.(5)

4. Optimizing Nutrient Timing

Carb back-loading occurs almost accidentally as a result of the fasting period, but there is evidence that shows carbohydrates may be less likely to be stored as fat when consumed later in the day.(6). The theory is that insulin sensitivity is greatest during the day, so any carbs consumed  before a workout during that time are more likely to be stored as fat. Therefore, the majority of carbohydrates are consumed later in the day post workout when they are more likely to be stored as glycogen in the muscle tissue.

5. Carbohydrate Cycling

Build Muscle and Lose Fat FactsPeriods of carbohydrate restriction increase your “metabolic flexibility”. This is when your body is efficient at burning body fat and does not rely solely on carbohydrates for fuel. Our body’s mechanisms of using free fatty acids for fuel are very similar whether you are getting them from your diet of from your body fat. If you want to burn fat while sparing lean muscle tissue, you must lower your carbohydrate consumption and keep fats at a moderately-high level. This has been shown to have a more positive effect on nitrogen balance and muscle retention then a lower fat higher carb diet around the same amount of calories.(7)  But if carbs are kept low for too long muscle mass is lost as well.

If your goal entails a decent amount of muscle mass, you will need to make sure that you have adequate glycogen storage for the intense efforts required in the weight room. This is accomplished through a refeed every 4-6 days. During a refeed large amounts of carbs are consumed to replenish depleted glycogen stores preventing muscle catabolism. The other benefit of this refeed is an increase in leptin levels which increase satiety, metabolism, and fat burning while preserving muscle.

Now, having covered some of what you need to understand before starting – Here is a pattern you can follow to achieve the desired results:

Day 1:

This is a “normal” day with a goal of ending in a slight caloric deficit. Intermittent fasting during the day and consume a meal with a few carbohydrates pre-workout if desired. Do your workout and then most of your carbohydrates should be consumed during the first meal following your workout. Eat until you are satisfied without worrying so much about tracking carbs. You should aim for 100-150 gs of carbs.

If you work out early in the morning try it while fasting with some branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s). Wait at least two hours after your workout before eating. This means you’ll spend the first part of your day in a fat burning catabolic state, and the second half is mostly in an anabolic state of growth. Since glycogen stores are up from previous (refeed) day, your demanding workout should be include more volume and anaerobic bursts, and targeting a large muscle group this day, and HIIT cardio is a good choice too.

Day 2:

Same as above although your workout should be lower volume and less anaerobic than what you did on Day 1.

Day 3:

This is an intermittent fasting day but do not consume any carbs at all until your last meal of the day. When you do have carbs, keep the total under 60g total carbs. Day 3 should be a larger caloric deficit than the first two days and would ideal as a rest you’re your energy levels may be low since this is the most catabolic day in the routine. Ideally you will be burning fat all day. Your body should produce ketones to spare muscle tissue and provide energy. If a workout is performed, it must be very low volume and not high energy. Some like an enjoyable walk or stretching would be ideal.

Day 4:

Refeed! No fasting at all, instead, eat a lot of carbs. Limit fat intake and consume 2-3 times the number of carbs you ate on day 1 or 2. This caloric surplus will replenish glycogen stores and maintain stable levels of metabolic signaling hormones like leptin. All of that is vital. Perform some HIIT this day or the next to take advantage of those full glycogen stores. This is a very anabolic day, and the extra calories and carbs can be used to fuel intense workouts, or to fuel recovery as well if you also make it a rest day.

Repeat cycle until you’ve hit your goal or are in the single digit fat percentage.

Additional notes

When lifting weights, they should be heavy and in the 1-6 rep range using compound movements. Most of the hypertrophy that occurs will be myofibril instead of sarcoplasmic. Which means you should not expect large size increases. This, however, is the best method to maintain muscle you have gained. Workouts following a refeed can increase reps, but use lighter weights and high reps can create muscle loss when in a caloric deficit, which is why doing it right after a refeed is the best option.

Adjust your schedule or add days as needed. The goal is to end up with a slight deficit each week. Remember though your caloric and carbohydrate requirements to maintain lean muscle are always changing. For example, as you get leaner, shorten fasting periods and consume more carbohydrates on refeed days. Likewise, you can adjust so the refeed day is the 5th day – or lower the amount of time you refeed from a full day, to part of a day.

Keep your protein intake amount to at least 1gm per pound of your bodyweight.

Cardio workouts other than the HIIT day are optional. Cardio workouts while fasting should be slow and steady.

MCT oil can be used while fasting to aid fat stores being used while sparing glucose and muscle.

Likewise, BCAA’s are recommended during fasting workouts to prevent lean muscle catabolism.

BCAA’s stimulate protein synthesis – which is essential for building bigger, well-defined muscles FAST. Not only does it speed up your recovery time and reduce fatigue, it also helps you to burn more fat. BCAA’s provide even better results when paired with

Also, eat the most natural and nutritious foods available. When reducing fat and building muscle your hormones will function better when you get your from real food instead of processed junk. The best protein sources during this process are grass-fed beef, eggs, and wild fish. The best fats are from animal sources, coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee or grass-fed butter. Vegetables and tubers should be the main source of carbs, but adding in some grains is okay if your system tolerates them.

The best workout time is soon after you break your fast with a few carbs or with an intra-workout drink that contains easily digestible carbs. If your workout is later, save most of your daily carbs for pre and post-workout. And if you have an early workout while in a fasting state break your fast closer to the 12-hour mark after your last meal.

It is good to work out while fasting at least once a week. The ideal is to do this the day following a refeed when your supply of fuel and intensity is high, or it can be done during a period of low carb intake maximizing fat burning.

If you lose muscle mass while following this plan, then first decrease the amount of energy and time you are in workouts. If you are still losing muscle mass increase the amount of carbs you take in on days 1 and 2.

This is the basic plan, but listen to your body. Building muscle and losing fat at the same time is possible if you optimize your hormones, and consume enough of the proper fuel to preserve and build muscle. One effective way at giving your body the hormonal support that it needs is with natural supplements which help your body increase testosterone naturally, so you don’t crash and burn.

The BCAA capsules will help you to maximize your workout, while helping to virtually eliminate the fatigue that might prevent you from going all out the next time you hit the gym. Most importantly, they enhance muscle growth while helping to burn fat faster. When stacked with their Testosterone Booster and the above protocol, which will help with recovery time between workouts as you target specific muscle groups, you can expect to get big and lean faster than you ever imagined.

Always do your own research on this, but the above supplements do a fantastic job of explaining how and why they get you the results you are looking for, and they back it up with a solid satisfaction guarantee. Results matter, and if you like the results from my recommended protocol, or even if you have questions, let me know in the comments section below.

This is a two-part article, to find Part 1 go here:

Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.

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