In the fitness community there is always a debate whether or not this this can be achieved. I often get active and fit people asking me the question, “I want to lose 20lbs of fat and gain 15lbs of muscle. How can I do this at the same time? Typically it’s men asking this question who are somewhat lean to average body fat (13-19%), they are muscular, and they have hit a plateau. They also tend to be stuck in between wanting to be leaner and wanting to be more muscular. Hence them wanting to do both at the same time. They don’t want to gain fat while building muscle which typically happens a little even with the best programs. Or they are afraid of losing muscle while getting leaner. A little muscle loss is common while losing body fat. Also, dehydration and lack of fuel can make you look and feel like you are losing muscle when you are not. This can change immediately if you were to have a healthy cheat day in which you will see your muscles fill out and strength increase. I write this for the athletic person seeking the secret “Gain 10lbs of muscle and loose 20lbs of fat in 2 months!” program that the magazines are always trying to sell.
In my 13 years of personal training and living a fitness/bodybuilding lifestyle, I have yet to see someone past the beginner stages of weight training naturally achieve significant simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain. The following example is what I consider a simultaneous loss of body fat and addition of muscle:
There appears to be three opinions on this debate:
Who CAN and CAN NOT achieve this goal
People who CAN are, with a corrected and consistent program:
People who CAN NOT:
So as you can see most of the population will fall into the “CAN” build muscle and lose fat at the same time. The CDC came out with a study that says 29% percent of Americans do some kind of muscle strengthening work at least 2 times a week. They considered doing pushups alone as a valid form muscle strengthening, hmmm. So how many of that 29% lifts weights specifically for the goal of strength and muscle gain versus just general health? How many go 3-5 times a week? How many will continue to do so consistently for 2-3 years? And how many will use a well-planned and evolving program? We are certainly looking at a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population.
So the answer to this question is YES if you are a less than an intermediate lifter.
The problem is that the people seeking the magical program that allows you to build muscle and lose fat at the same time are the group of intermediate to advanced lifters. For those of you that are, you have packed on a significant amount of muscle already, trained hard for 1-2 years, and always adapting your training to your goal of building muscle. For the intermediate to advanced lifter the answer is somewhere between NO and very very slowly.
Accomplish your goals in phases
I always recommend this group of lifters to choose a fat loss or muscle building phase to focus on for at least 2 months. Your results will be dramatically better than trying to do both. As with any muscle building phase, you will have to lift hard and eat more. Not eat lots of junk food and drink alcohol, but rather eating healthy and consuming more calories (but not too much) to provide you with a necessary caloric surplus to add muscle mass. After this phase, then focus on losing fat which requires a caloric deficit while maintaining the muscle you gained in the previous phase. The reverse order, fat loss then muscle gain, works equally well.
2 months of muscle gain followed by 2 months of fat loss should yield great results. Say +3lbs of muscle and -12lbs of body fat is realistic assuming you are an intermediate lifter. In 4 months of trying to do both you might get +.5lb of muscle and -3lbs of fat, if that. Taken over a year’s time, you are looking at a dramatic difference in results. So do it in phases and get 4-5 times more results. Or get results period versus the frustration of zero or very slow results thinking that you can do both. Be patient with your results, focus on one main goal at a time, and you will achieve faster results.
Breakthrough Personal Training. Personal trainer in Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Mountain View. Muscle gain, fat loss, weight loss, bodybuilding.
Jerry Yuhara, CPT, CES, CMT #75123
Breakthrough Personal Training
4193 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
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