This is a question that is asked by so many people in the fitness world and believe it or not, there are a lot of different opinions on the matter. As many of you might already know, losing fat and building muscle are goals that seem to contradict each other. This is because in order to gain muscle, you actually need to consume more calories than your body requires whereas to lose fat, you actually need to create a calorie deficit (i.e. consume less calories than your body needs).
The thing is, there are plenty of people that manage to build muscle and lose fat at the same time so it must be possible, right?
How It Works
In order to build muscle, you need to consume more calories than you are burning and you also need to ensure that they aren’t empty calories too (i.e. calories that give very little in terms of nutrition to your body). If you are consuming more than you are burning, science dictates that you are actually going to gain weight; fact. However, this weight won’t be fat if you are eating the right foods; it will actually be muscle. This means that you might notice the scales increase but you might also notice that you look healthier and more toned.
In theory, you can’t lose fat at the same time as building muscle but some studies have shown that this can actually happen. In fact, it is highly likely that whilst you are gaining muscle, you will also lose some body fat. This is because your body becomes leaner and because of this, burns more calories on a day-to-day basis. Also, if your body needs a source of energy, it first tries to obtain it from carbohydrates (i.e. food) and then after that, it will start breaking down fat in order to obtain energy. Only if there is no fat to break down will your body start breaking down muscle fibres in order to gain energy.
This means that your body will always burn fat before it burns muscle, allowing you to put on muscle at the same time as losing fat.
Sure, this is not usually the most efficient process and you’ll find it harder this way, but the bottom line is that if you eat healthily, lift weights and cardio, you are likely to build some muscle and lose some fat.
How Else Can You Do Achieve This Goal?
A lot of bodybuilders lose fat and gain muscle in two separate processes. Firstly, they’ll try to gain as much muscle as possible without worrying about fat. This is often called the bulking phase where a bodybuilder will eat as many calories as possible and eat a lot of high protein foods. During this time, muscle will be piled on but the bodybuilder will also likely get a little fatter.
After this stage, the bodybuilder will move to a cutting phase. This is basically where a calorie deficit is created and the bodybuilder will try to lose fat. This process will likely result in the breaking down of some muscle fibre but as previously mentioned, the body turns to fat as a source of energy first so muscle fibre is usually maintained quite well.
This process is certainly one way of achieving your goals but it is probably not the healthiest route to take.
In conclusion, it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time but it isn’t going to be easy and nor is it a very efficient process. If you opt for the process of bulking and cutting, you are more than likely going to have to count calories which a lot of people prefer not to do.
The best thing to do here is take into account your body type and figure out which part you need to focus on the most. If you are overweight, then focus on losing fat and it is likely that a more toned, muscular look will come with that process. If you are quite thin and have very little muscle definition, focus on building muscle and it is likely that if you eat the right foods and exercise regularly, you won’t put on too much fat in the process.