Can You Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time? (Part 1)

April 01, 2015


Lose Fat and Build Muscle FactsThis is a two-part article, you can find the Part 2 at:

If you follow a traditional bodybuilding viewpoint, you may believe it’s not possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. That philosophy advocates distinct bulking and cutting phases. Then how do the muscle magazines show amazing results of losing large amounts of fat while simultaneously putting on an absurd amount of muscle. Can their claims be true? Here’s the scoop.

Body composition plays a big part

Those muscle mags are probably exaggerating the result, but, it can be done rather easily by certain people. If an overweight novice goes on a moderate caloric deficit and begins resistance training, they can reverse the effects of disuse of skeletal muscles while also losing large amounts of fat. In a 14-week study using overweight males the participants lost 16 pounds of body fat and gained 10 pounds of lean muscle mass.(1) Normally increases in insulin prevents your body turning fat to fuel, but overweight individuals tend to have some amount of insulin resistance. This resistance helps mobilize body fat as fuel while redirecting nutrients from fat cells to the muscle cells. Presto-change-o it’s like fat turns into muscle. However, once a healthy weight is attained, insulin resistance decreases, and the magic stops.

But the overweight beginner is not alone. Others also can build muscle and lose fat at the same time. A beginner with a healthy body fat percentage and no insulin resistance can also do so once resistance training is added to the routine. One study reported a group of men with no prior lifting experience dropped 6 pounds of fat and added 7 pounds of lean muscle just 10 weeks even though they started at approximately 12% body fat.(2)

Lose Fat and Build Muscle FactsStill another group can gain muscle and lose fat rather easily. These are deconditioned athletes who once had more lean body mass on them and then stopped training, putting on body fat. Many of those muscle magazines show dramatic transformation stories with these individuals. These participants had muscle memory making it possible to rebound to their previous shape. Originally your muscles develop and grow. In this process you develop more muscle nuclei to synthesize more proteins and control growth. When a deconditioned athlete stops training, his muscles atrophy and lose size, but he keeps these muscle nuclei. This enables a deconditioned athlete to build back faster than when the muscle was gained originally.(3)

There is one other factor that super charges your ability to lose fat and build muscle at the same time – testosterone levels. The higher your testosterone levels, the easier it is to lose fat and build muscle all at once. Most folks that work to increase testosterone – well you know who they are. Anabolic steroids DO make it possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time much faster than occurs naturally.

They also pose significant health risks.

Fortunately there is a safer route to increase testosterone, and thus “hack your hormones” to burn fat and build muscle fast – supplement with.

If you aren’t in the above categories

If you aren’t an overweight beginner, but you’re looking to gain an edge and build upon a decent foundation, the usual suggestion would be to bulk OR cut, instead of both. And if you need to do the extreme on either of those, than that’s what you should do because you will have faster progress. If you want to build a large amount of muscle, you should aim to be in an anabolic state most of the time. To do this, consume a caloric surplus and follow a traditional bulking protocol. This will gear your hormones and energy systems towards protein synthesis and an overall anabolic effect. Elevated insulin and glucose levels preserve your lean muscle but prevent you from burning body fat for fuel so fat gain is inevitable.

If cutting a large amount of body fat is your primary goal, then strive for a catabolic state. This means you expend more energy than you consume, which forces your body to burn stored fat. In a caloric deficit glucose and insulin levels are lowered, which allow for more fat burning. However, cortisol increases while testosterone and IGF-1 levels drop – this equals loss of muscle mass. Levels of leptin and other hormones of metabolic balance are decreased causing lower energy levels and more hunger. Fat loss will occur, but you probably won’t feel great, you become tired easier and you lose hard-earned muscle.

Lose Fat and Build Muscle FactsYou can do both through manipulation of carbohydrates, nutrient timing, and calorie cycling. But, there’s a reason most people opt to either bulk or cut, it’s easier to manage. If you don’t want to get all bulked up and then cut to extreme measures though, and if you are close to your goal as far as muscle mass – just wanting to add a bit more and also lose some fat in the process, it is possible. You will need to find a balance between the two metabolic states of anabolism and catabolism.

In order to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, you will need to alternate between periods of anabolism and catabolism similar to bulking and cutting cycles. But instead of being in one metabolic state for a few months, you will be in one state for half a day or a whole day tops. This prevents you from being anabolic or catabolic for too long and avoids fat storage or muscle catabolism.

It is possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time as long as your hormones are optimized, and you have ample nutrients to preserve and build muscle. Increasing testosterone is a HUGE boost to both your ability to build big muscles, and to keep your workouts intense from beginning to end, but steroids are a bad way to boost. Instead try supplements which NATURALLY increase testosterone; increasing your energy, and even helping you get bigger, faster, with less down-time.

Sheer Strength Testosterone and BCAA capsules are a great combo to increase testosterone, reduce fatigue, while still encouraging both muscle growth and weight loss. They are some of the most potent supplements in the market, and they work so well if you don’t get results in 30 days, you can send what’s left back for a refund.

Of course, it shouldn’t need to be said, but supplements are meant to ENHANCE the work you are already doing.

In our next article, we will be outlining some specific workouts, that along with the supplements, will help you to burn fat and build muscle all in the same work-out.

This is a two-part article, you can find Part 2 at:

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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