It’s absolutely possible to lose fat and build strength (and muscle) at the same time. I’ll walk you through the exact strategy necessary to make this happen. It doesn’t require that you adhere to any special diet. It doesn’t mean you have to eat chicken and broccoli.
There are a handful of underlying principles required. I’ll walk you through those and share tips and tricks so you can implement them and stay sane. I’ll dive into calories and macros, show you how to dial these in for yourself as well as how to get great results without tracking everything in case that sounds like a nightmare to you.
For you lifters turning your nose up at getting leaner, know that it isn’t just for aesthetics. If you’re a competitive lifter and you weigh-in at the top of your weight class and are the leanest mofo of the group, that means you have more muscle than those you’re competing with - a definite advantage.
Most of you don’t need to be convinced of the potentially positive side effects of leaning out though, so I won’t waste a bunch of time on that.
You may not need convincing of the value of getting leaner, but there’s a good chance you’re confused about how to do it. Somehow people managed to get themselves all mixed up on the topic. They hear that you can’t get stronger or build muscle AND lose fat at the same time.
Fret not. I’m going to clear all of this up for you. And I’m not just going to make shit up. Case in point...
In one crazy study, a group of obese women started lifting weights and ate just 800 calories a day. After 3 months, these ladies lost 35lbs on average while simultaneously increasing their muscle mass. With just 800 calories per day!!!
Sure, these women were total lifting newbs… getting newbie gains. As an intermediate or advanced lifter, you can’t expect similar results yourself. So, let’s look at what happens on the other end of the spectrum, with athletes.
In another study, elite athletes were split into two groups, one went on an aggressive 30% calorie cut and the other a more moderate 19% cut. Both groups stayed on the diet until they lost a total of 5.5% of their body weight and of course, both groups were lifting the whole time.
So, what happened?
While both the aggressive and moderate dieting athletes lost the same amount of weight, the TYPE of weight they lost differed. The moderate group lost about 50% more fat than the aggressive dieters. There were other differences between the groups too. The moderate dieters gained more muscle, increased their power production capacity more and got stronger than the aggressive group.
Unlike the obese women I told you about, these lifters weren’t overweight and they weren’t brand new to training AND still they lost fat AND built muscle AND got stronger AND increased their power at the same time.
There are also important takeaways from this study about how fast one should lose weight in order to preserve and/or build muscle simultaneously. More on that later though.
There are a lot of nuances to getting stronger and losing fat at the same time. I could go on and on with studies, but you should be in the gym training instead of reading all day. Instead, I’ll summarize major takeaways for those looking to build muscle & strength while losing fat.
- If you’re new to lifting, adding muscle and losing fat is straightforward, especially during the first 12 months.
- If you’re an intermediate lifter and aren’t extremely lean, you should also be able to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously.
- Advanced lifters and and very lean intermediates will struggle when pursuing fat loss and muscle gains at the same time - this is a small group of people though.
- What you do for exercise is an important part of the process that can make or break your results.
- The greater the weight loss you experience over a given period of time, the greater percentage of that will come from lean mass - there is a sweet spot rate of weight loss to maximize fat loss and not compromise strength.
- A breakout by body fat % and training experience who can build muscle and lose fat at the same time and who is best served by dedicated bulking/cutting phases.
- How to calculate calories and macros for simultaneous muscle gains + fat loss or dedicated bulking/cutting phases, including a custom-built spreadsheet calculator to make figuring out your numbers super simple.
- If tracking every single thing you eat sounds like it'll drive you mad, I'll walk you through an approach you can use to get around doing that and still make serious progress.
- I cover how to fit in cheat meals and whether or not the number of meals you eat each day matters.
- I dig into what you should do for exercise to maximize fat loss and muscle gains.
- I outline how fast you should expect to make progress, how to track your progress and what to do if your results slow down.
- And links to relevant scientific studies to show I'm not making any of this up.