Typically, mainstream weight-loss programs are focused on cutting fat and getting to lower numbers on the scale, not gaining muscle. Instead, people who want to build muscle while burning fat need to make the commitment to changing their diet and training routines in ways that promote body recomposition.
The good news is body recomposition is beneficial for anyone, no matter how much fat you are looking to lose or how much muscle you are looking to gain. Your body is smarter than you might credit, and with careful monitoring of diet (specifically, when you are eating what) and training, you absolutely can drop fat and build muscle at the same time. When you are trying to lose fat, you are trying to shed a portion of the bodys mass; when you are gaining muscle, you are trying to do the reverse, to bulk your body up. If you are losing weight, you are losing fat as well as muscle, so while your body might be smaller, it is not actually changing shape.
You may want to throw out your weight scale, since it does not distinguish fat loss from muscle loss, and losing weight is not a major focus in body recomposition. That, my friends, comes with having muscular definition, and it is the reason why you do not want to chase fat loss, but instead, change your focus to be fat loss.
Because you are trying to do two things at once–lose fat and build muscle–you cannot approach a body-recomposition program as some kind of fad diet. To lose fat, you have to eat less, while to gain muscle, you need to eat more, so having those two goals may feel completely impossible. The general rule is that losing fat requires a caloric deficit, while adding muscle requires a caloric surplus, making these two goals appear to be irreconcilable.
Losing fat requires slightly cutting calories, minimizing your consumption of refined carbohydrates, and cutting down on your intake of fat; building muscle requires protein. Aside from being in a caloric deficit and lifting (or being) heavy, eating adequate protein is one of the key components to losing fat and building muscle. Protein plays a hugely important role in maintaining muscle, and when you are in a caloric deficit with fat loss as a goal, eating enough protein gives your body the best possible chance to maintain muscle throughout this process. Research shows that eating extra protein when losing weight encourages your body to maintain a higher amount of lean body mass, and in combination with resistance training, it promotes fat loss, but it also supports muscle maintenance.
That is why it is important to eat healthful foods such as protein, carbohydrates, good-for-you fats, and fiber to keep building lean mass. To lose fat while maintaining or building a good physique, the best approach is to reduce calories moderately, but also include exercises that will increase your lean muscle mass in your regimen, like weight training.
In fact, working toward both goals simultaneously will maximize your results: Many of the same exercises that are great for burning fat are also excellent for building muscle. Achieving your body-recomposition goals typically requires you to reduce dietary fat and carbohydrates while increasing your protein, so replacing some of the refined carbohydrates and less-healthy fats in your diet with a moderate protein boost should help you keep or build up your lean muscle while losing fat. In most cases, you will want to focus on losing fat first, and then reverse-engineer the diet to slowly add back in more calories and build muscle.
For now, just keep in mind that you will need less calories out than calories in for fat loss to happen, whether it is fat stores or muscle. You are going to be eating more calories (and protein) on weight-training days, so that your body uses those calories and nutrients to power muscle repair, which then leads to muscle growth. Taking in maintenance calories on a cardio day will make sure that you are at a small enough deficit to encourage fat loss, but not so big that your body starts using muscle tissue for fuel. From a physique and health perspective, we would obviously rather have your body not breaking down muscle while you are in a caloric deficit, but really focus on using your fat stores instead.
If you are looking to gain muscle, you are going to need to be lifting something heavy, and eating so your body has the calories and the protein it needs to build up those muscles. If you wanted to lose a pound — or a half-pound — of bodyfat in one week — which is a decent, sustainable goal for some people — you would need to create a caloric deficit of 500 calories a day. If you want to get that lean, fit body, you want to shed the fat while not losing any lean mass, so that you can maintain that awesome physique.
While you will bulk up and grow in size on a lighter diet, you are also going to get fatter and compromise your health. By incorporating a proper balance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes, you will be able to build muscle and achieve the lean body you have always wanted. After all, what you do at the gym or outside goes a long way towards turning your body into a lean, fat-burning machine.
A Journal of Nutrition study found that of 24 women, half who followed a standard carbohydrate-based diet, and half who followed a low-carb, high-protein diet (30%), dramatic results were seen in terms of both fat loss and lean muscle gain. Each group consumed similar amounts of calories, however, the group who consumed a higher protein diet gained more lean muscle mass and lost more body fat. A second study found that women who did resistance training and consumed high protein diets lost fat and gained muscle at the same time. After 10 weeks, researchers found women in both groups lost 16 pounds, on average, each, but the standard-diet group lost 10.4 pounds of that weight in body fat and 3 pounds of lean muscle, while the high-protein group lost an average of 12.3 pounds of body fat and just 1.7 pounds of lean muscle.
A study in 88 overweight adults found that a hypocaloric diet that provided 0.64 grams of protein per pound (1.4 grams/kg) of body weight was more effective at maintaining muscle mass and reducing body fat than one that provided 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams/kg) of protein (10).Share