Can I lose fat and build muscle at the same time?

There was a time when skinny bodies were coveted and simply starving yourself was enough to acquire the physique of your dreams. Luckily we have moved on from this, and a healthy figure with muscle definition is now the body of choice. Which brings me to the question now most asked, can I lose fat and build muscle? In this blog I will discuss what conditions are necessary for this to happen.

How to lose fat and build muscle

Newbie gains – lose fat and build muscle

There is a phenomena called Newbie Gains and it is real. If you have never done weight training before then you will find you can both lose fat and gain muscle. This is a great time to see change, and so enjoy it whilst it lasts!

Try very gradual fat loss

It is possible to slowly lose fat and retain the muscle you have built, and, if your calories do not drop too low there is a possibility you could continue to build muscle. You need to ensure you keep your protein intake high (0.9-1.2g protein per 1lb of body weight when restricting calories) whilst decreasing your caloric intake, and also follow the advice below. This can help to both lose fat and build muscle.

Maintain your training intensity

Keep doing compound lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press) and keep lifting heavy. A supplement called Creatine could help with this. Creatine has been widely studied and is a safe and highly effective supplement that acts on your body’s phosphocreatine energy systems, helping to improve the repetitive performance of muscular strength and short-term power, while aiding short bursts of muscular performance.

High Intensity Interval Cardio

This method of cardio will help to lose fat and build muscle. It will also protect the muscle you have built whilst you lean out. You can, for example, do sprints on the treadmill. The only point to remember with HIIT is that the ‘all out’ part (the sprint), has to be all out! You then need a good amount of time to rest (60-90 seconds). So an all out sprint for 15-20 seconds, followed by adequate rest for 20 minutes in total.

Lower your stress – get sleep

Your hormones will effect your ability to burn fat. When your body is stressed, and you have not slept enough your body produces more cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone and when its higher it will turn your fat burning hormones off. So when you are stressed this effects your hormones, there are others – not just cortisol. These need to be balanced to have your body looking optimal. You may even gain weight on a calorie deficit if you are highly stressed and not sleeping enough. See my article that focuses on ways to reduce stress to lose fat.

Progressive overload

Strength programmes can work during cutting phases. If you are lifting heavy then you will be maintaining muscle, and building it. You can add volume through your compound lifts. Volume means weight x reps x sets. So you can add weight, or reps or sets to the squats, deadlifts or bench presses you are doing.

Summary

So, how do you lose fat and build muscle at the same time? Unless you are completely new to weightlifting, I would suggest creating a moderate and gradual calorie deficit whilst keeping your training volume high. If you stick to these guidelines you could definitely start to reduce fat, maintain muscle and even build muscle at the same time.

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