It’s a common debate in the fitness world; can you build muscle whilst simultaneously losing weight? The claim often goes that you can’t do both at the same time, stating that:
- In order to lose fat, your body needs to be in a caloric deficit. This means your body will begin to burn existing fat stores
- To gain muscle, your body needs to be in the opposite – a caloric surplus. These excess calories provide the energy your body needs in order to repair and build larger muscles
So is it even possible to do both? Let’s take a look at if it’s even feasible to be able to build strength and muscle whilst still losing those excess bulges.
Firstly, we should take in to account the science behind losing weight. The simple explanation is, in order to lose weight you need to “consume fewer calories than you burn”. This means that your body is in “caloric deficit”, because your body needs more calories than you are taking in.
When your body is in caloric deficit, it will pull the calories it needs from fat stores, or in some cased and depending how you are training, it can also break down muscle. In an ideal world, your body would only pull from fat stores rather than also breaking down muscle.
But that is assuming you are simply focusing on weight loss, which we wouldn’t recommend. The aim really should be to lose body fat whilst keeping or increasing muscle mass, which overall leads to a better physique and a far healthier body.
This is why it’s important to keep track of body fat percentage rather than just what the scales say. You can lower your body fat percentage by increasing muscle mass or reducing the total fat on your body.
Now, when it comes to maintaining a caloric deficit, it really comes down to your nutrition and dieting. It’s significantly more effective and also time-efficient to consume 500 fewer calories than it is to burn 500 additional calories.
When it comes to building muscle on the other hand, you’re going to need to lift heavy and eat sufficient calories and protein so that your body can repair and build muscle – lift, diet and rest.
So is it possible to lose weight and build muscle at the same time? Well, when your body takes in calories, it has to process them in some way, either:
- Burn for Fuel
- Store as Fat
- Rebuild Muscle
For the most part, your body will burn calories for fuel, as it needs a large number of calories just to operate. If you take in more calories than your body needs for its day-to-day fuel, it will store those extra calories as fat. However, the good news is, if your body needs to refuel and rebuild muscle and you haven’t consumed enough calories to do both, it will pull those necessary calories from fat stores.
In a nutshell, if you have fat stores on your body, you do not need to be in a “caloric surplus” state in order to rebuild muscle. The calories stored in your fat cells act as this required energy. However, if you don’t have a lot of body fat AND you are trying to build muscle, being in a caloric deficit will most likely result in you not getting any muscle gains.
Our original question was “Is it possible to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time?”
And the answer is “yes!”, it is possible.
In fact, research has shown that if you have a lot of body fat to lose, and are strength training, you can increase muscle mass while losing weight.