Lose Fat & Build Muscle
Build Muscle and Lose Fat
When it comes to building muscle and losing fat at the same time, opinions are all over the place.
People selling pills, powders, and PDFs say it’s easy if you follow their super-secret “ninja” techinques. Skeptics say it’s impossible. The truth, however, isn’t black and white. Some people can “recomp” and some can’t.
The major determining factors are training state and experience. Here are the rules of thumb :
-If you’re new to weightlifting or are getting started again newly, you shouldn’t have any trouble building muscle and losing fat simultaneously.
-If you have at least 6 to 8 months of weightlifting under your belt and aren’t coming off a long break, you probably can’t recomp.
The exception to the second point is the person that has been lifting weights for some time but has never emphasized heavy compound weightlifting. It’s very likely that he or she will experience a surge of “newbie gains” in the beginning that can include building muscle while in a calorie deficit.
Why are those the rules, you wonder? Why can’t everyone, no matter their circumstances, succeed in a body recomposition?
Because, physiologically speaking, fat loss and muscle growth have “irreconcilable differences.” Their mutual incompatibility stems from their relationship to the body’s energy balance.
You see, when you place your body in a negative energy balance (calorie deficit), it reduces total fat mass but it also comes with an unwanted side effect: it impairs the body’s ability to synthesize proteins.
This is why you tend to lose muscle while dieting to lose fat–your body isn’t able to synthesize enough proteins to balance production with degradation rates.
Thus, when your goal is to maximize muscle growth, you need to make sure you’re not in a calorie deficit. And as total daily energy expenditure is a fuzzy, moving target, this is why people looking to build muscle will intentionally overshoot their energy needs and keep their body in a slight energy surplus. (“Bulking” in bodybuilding lingo.)
This is the scientific underpinnings of the “eat big to get big” cliche. A more accurate statement is you have to “eat slightly more energy than you burn to get big.” This primes the body for muscle growth.
Now, this dietary “yin and yang” dynamic between fat loss and muscle growth is why it’s so hard to do both at the same time. You restrict your calories and lose fat but also restrict your body’s ability to build and repair muscle tissue and thus fail to build muscle.
As you’ve probably concluded, building muscle while in a calorie deficit requires protein synthesis rates to be very high (or protein breakdown rates to be very low, or a combination of both). In short, anything you can do to increase your body’s ability to create proteins and decrease the amount of proteins it loses is going to help you tremendously when you are trying to recomp.
This is why people new to weightlifting, new to heavy weightlifting, and newly starting again can successfully build muscle while losing fat. Their bodies are “hyper-responsive” to their training and this outweighs the protein synthesis handicap imposed by the calorie deficit.
Eventually these “newbie gains” fade, however, and the obstacle looms bigger and bigger until, eventually, it’s insurmountable. You simply can’t boost synthesis and blunt degradation rates enough to keep the scales tipped for muscle growth. This is why experienced weightlifters know the goal is to maintain muscle and strength while losing fat, not increase them.
So, now that we’ve fully covered the theory of body recomposition, let’s get to the practical. Here’s how you go about it :
Maintain a Moderate Calorie Deficit :
This is the backbone of the body recomp. You must be in a calorie deficit to lose fat but you don’t want to eat so little that muscle loss is dramatically accelerated.
Instead, you want to use a moderate (20 to 25%) calorie deficit, which allows you to lose fat rapidly while preserving muscle.
-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, per day
-1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, per day
-0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight, per day
This is a good starting point for most people, but may need to be modified if you exercise more than 4 to 6 hours per week or if you’re a relatively lean woman (you may need to reduce carbs to the 0.75 g/lb range and increase fats to 0.25 g/lb).
Once you’ve worked out your numbers, you simply take them and create a meal plan that you’ll enjoy following every day.
Emphasize Heavy Compound Weightlifting :
The idea that isolation exercises and high-rep training really “shred you up” is one of the many broscience myths propagated by gym rats everywhere.
Get your body fat low enough and you’ll look shredded. One style of weightlifting doesn’t “bring out definition” more than another.
Ironically, when you’re in a calorie deficit, you want to do the opposite of what many people think: you want emphasize heavy compound weightlifting. Especially if you want to build muscle while you lose fat.
You should be squatting, deadlifting, military and bench pressing every week, and you should be doing most of your work with 80 to 85% of your 1RM (4 to 6 or 5 to 7 rep range).
This type of training is the key to building muscle and strength as a natural weightlifter. The big “secret” that makes high-rep, high-volume training work so well for fitness models and competitors is drugs. End of story.
If you, as a natural weightlifter, follow their routines, you will not get anywhere near the gains.
You’re Going to Do Cardio ? Do HIIT :
You don’t have to do cardio to get lean, but there is a point where you have no choice but to include it in your weight loss regimen. Eventually you just need to burn more energy every week to keep the fat loss going and you can only do so much weightlifting before you wind up overtrained.
When that time comes, don’t bother with the typical routine of 1 to 2 hours of low-intensity cardio 5 ot 7 days per week. Sure, this burns energy and helps you lose fat, but it’s also a recipe for losing muscle and feeling miserable.
Instead, do 1 to 2 hours of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) per week. Yes, you read that correctly: you can get ripped doing no more than 2 hours of cardio per week.
Don’t believe me? Here’s my “summer look,” which I achieve and maintain with 4 to 5 hours of weightlifting and 2 hours of HIIT per week :
My enthusiasm for short (20 to 25-minute) HIIT sessions boils down to this: they burn more fat and better preserve muscle and strength than longer, low-intensity cardio sessions.
There aren’t many shortcuts or “hacks” in health and fitness, but HIIT sure feels like one for losing fat. Use it.
Get Enough Sleep :
This point is overlooked by many people but is vitally important for building muscle and losing fat.
A week of reduced sleep is enough to reduce testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) levels, which all play important roles in building and maintaining lean mass and burning fat.
Sleep needs are variable but the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours per night to avoid the repercussions of sleep deprivation.
Take the Right Supplements :
I saved supplementation for last because it’s only worthwhile when you have your diet, training, and sleep on point.
And to be clear: you don’t need supplements to succeed in your body recomposition efforts but the right ones can really help.
Specifically, you’re looking to achieve three things with your supplementation:
-You want to maintain training intensity, which helps you maintain muscle and strength.
-You want to improve your body’s ability to preserve and build muscle and strength.
-You want to lose fat as quickly as possible, which minimizes the amount of time you need to spend in a calorie deficit.
Gains In Muscle Mass!