Here Is How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat at The Same Time

12 min read
body recomposition man fat to fit
David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, BA in Professional Writing

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It’s no secret that the two most popular fitness goals are to build muscle and lose fat. But most people think that they have to go after one or the other—that they can’t have both. Does this sound like you?

It may sound too good to be true, but you can burn fat while you build muscle!

Most importantly, you can achieve these two goals simultaneously regardless of what fitness level you are. Total novice or long-time lifter—It doesn’t matter!

In this blog post, we will discuss how to achieve these two goals simultaneously. We will cover the basics of diet and exercise, and provide tips on how you can make progress in both areas. 

So whether you’re just starting out or have been working out for a while, read on for advice on how to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Building muscle vs. losing fat: Where do people go wrong?

On paper, building muscle and losing weight is pretty straightforward.

Fat loss 101

Weight loss requires you to enter a calorie deficit. This means that you’ll burn more calories than you eat each day. When done right, your body begins to utilize stored fat as fuel. 

But where most people go wrong is that they eat so few calories, they force their bodies into a catabolic state. 

In this state, the body doesn’t discern between fat mass and lean muscle mass. It will break down overall mass, which means you can lose both fat mass weight and healthy muscle weight. When the body doesn’t have enough resources to support normal processes, it does what it needs to in order to find nutrients.

Muscle building for beginners

On the other hand, building muscle requires the right balance of hypertrophy-focused training and consuming extra calories. In other words, you need to enter a caloric surplus.

The extra calories provide the body with the necessary nutrients to promote new muscle tissue growth. 

This leads to an anabolic state, the complete opposite of catabolism, where you get enough energy to support body processes and grow muscle.

On the outside, both processes appear to be mutually exclusive. 

weight loss vs muscle gain calorie intake, catabolic and anabolic state

However, solving this dilemma is possible with body recomposition, which combines low calories, high protein intake, and a rigorous strength training program.

What is body recomposition?

Body recomposition is a process when you lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously. 

If you’re a beginner or if you are starting out again after many years of a sedentary lifestyle, you’re in luck. Many beginners enjoy body recomposition and those who are back from a long hiatus get to enjoy body recomposition for up to 12 weeks. 

However, the more advanced you become, the harder it is to maintain this effect. [1]

So who can benefit from body recomposition?

In general, there are four types of people who can most benefit from recomposition. With that said, it’s important to note that this process is based on the individual, and results will absolutely vary from person to person.

The population that will have the hardest time achieving body recomposition is advanced athletes. This is usually because these people have already optimized their muscle-to-fat ratio, nutrition, and supplement intake.

Beginners

If you have little to no fitness experience, then your body is in the perfect position for body recomposition. You will see the greatest gains in the shortest amount of time because you are literally starting with a clean slate.

Obese people

Extra weight means huge energy reserves stored in the body. With the right consistent training program and a calorie deficit, the excess fat stores will fuel both fat loss and lean muscle development.

People who haven’t trained for some time

If you haven’t trained for a long time, your body returns to something like the state of a beginner, especially if you’ve lost muscle and gained fat stores. This means that you have a great possibility to benefit from recomposition again. Thanks to muscle memory, you will be able to regain your previous athletic form much faster.

muscle hypertrophy vs atrophy, untrained vs previously trained muscle for muscle building

Athletes who only focus on low training intensity

If you don’t push yourself hard enough during your training sessions, then it is likely that your body isn’t in an advanced training state. Have you ever tried failure sets? Have you kept a strict record of each workout, aiming each week to improve? Do you typically call it quits when you know you have plenty of fuel in the tank? If so, then you are probably near the beginner level, meaning that there is plenty of room for improvement in the form of body recomposition. 

How to lose fat and build muscle in 6 easy steps

If you’re thinking about losing fat while building muscle, then follow these steps to achieve body recomposition.

#1 Choose your priority

Despite the fact we are here to lose weight and gain muscle at the same time, one of the processes will always prevail.

So, before you start working on your body recomposition, you should choose whether your priority is losing weight or gaining muscle.

We suggest focusing on building muscle if you are a man with 8 to 12% body fat or a woman with 18 to 22% body fat. 

Choosing this approach means you will need to focus on recalculating your macronutrients to focus primarily on protein. We’ll discuss this more below, but studies suggest that body recomposition is effective when someone stays at a neutral amount of calories in relation to their TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) or a slight caloric deficit while taking in elevated levels of dietary protein.  

If you’re a male with more than 15% body fat or a female with more than 25%  body fat, then you should shift your attention to losing fat. 

Again, it will be highly dependent upon the individual, but in general, you should start by cutting 10% of your daily caloric intake.

For example, if you’re eating 4,000 calories per day, you want to eliminate 400 calories to start. Cut too much too soon and your body will hold on to the stored fat. 

#2 Set the right amount of calories

Although the main goal is to find a balance between fat loss and muscle gain, it is best if you focus on creating a calorie deficit regardless of what your overall goal is. However, as we mentioned, if your focus is muscle gains, it must be a really slight deficit or calorie maintenance.

Cutting your calorie intake too much will damage the muscle-building process. That’s why you should keep the changes small enough to experience a deficit and still have enough resources to maintain your body processes and grow new tissue.

#3 Focus on the most important macronutrient

Protein is one of the essential macronutrients when your goal is to grow muscle, but it also supports fat loss. 

Depending on your level of physical activity and total daily caloric intake, the following daily intake of protein is recommended: [2]

  • 1.0 g per kg of body weight for minimal activity;
  • 1.3 g per kg of body weight for moderate activity;
  • 1.6 to 2 g per kg of body weight for intense activity.

For example, if you weigh 81 kilograms (180 pounds) and you exercise three days per week (moderate level), you should consume around 106  grams of protein per day. 

We would highly recommend a high-quality protein supplement around the time of your workouts. This will promote protein synthesis and muscle repair.

However, these numbers are not the same for each individual. Your body might react differently to the protein intake, so you should start with the bare minimum.

You shouldn’t forget about carbs, fats, and other macronutrients. Following a whole foods diet that includes fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts is a basic no-frills approach to eating clean that can help you reach your goals. 

#4 Optimize your workouts

Since your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, focusing on a single type of activity won’t be very effective. You should combine different types of workouts to boost both processes.

Focus on weight training combined with cardio.

  • If you don’t have a ton of experience and have some medical issues, you can choose a low-intensity, high-duration cardio such as walking around 10,000 steps per day or light jogging for 45 to 60 minutes.
  • If you are in good shape and have no injuries to worry about, we recommend high-intensity, low-duration cardio, such as high-intensity interval training.

This will let you spend enough energy to lose fat, enter a state of active recovery, and improve your mental health. [3]

We don’t recommend exclusively focusing on cardio-based training because it doesn’t benefit muscle growth.

It is great for strengthening your heart and increasing cardiovascular health. Resistance training should be your first priority when aiming to build muscle. Cardio workouts should be secondary and preferably hours before or after your strength training workouts. When you do have a cardio day, we highly recommend HIIT workouts. 

If you’re able to, save walking and light jogging for active recovery days.

#5 Optimize your recovery

If you don’t sleep enough, you’re missing out on health benefits, fat loss, and muscle growth. This also affects the way your body consumes macronutrients and generates new muscle tissue. You don’t want to spoil that process. [4]

Research shows that an average of 8 hours of sleep is appropriate to recover fully and avoid stress.

Your body will definitely be experiencing a stressful state because of the calorie deficit and systematic training at the same time, so high-quality sleep is a must. [5]

Remember that sleeping eight hours once and then going on with four-to-six hours again during the week won’t do any good. The key to success is consistency. It should be part of your routine if you expect recovery to work for you.

#6 Follow a daily routine

Your mind determines the way your body works. Being stressed won’t help with that. So, following an appropriate daily routine will keep your mind and body in perfect resonance to support the state of recomposition.

It is essential that you get enough rest and relaxation between workouts. An active recovery day is okay so long as there is no intense exercise involved. For example, going for a walk or a light hike is fine, but engaging in a HIIT workout might not be a good idea outside of cardio days.

Try to avoid things that make you anxious, stressed out, and angry. These are likely to reduce your muscle strength. Focus on the positive aspects of your life. Also, try adopting a more relaxing mindset and attitude to benefit your training and recovery. [6]

Have the right workout to lose weight and gain muscle

Don’t have a workout plan that focuses on body recomposition? That’s okay! We have one for you. It is designed to help you enter the state of body recomposition to gain muscle and lose weight simultaneously. Divide these workouts equally throughout the week to get enough rest.

How much weight should you use for this workout?

For bigger lifts that require more effort (compound lifts), such as squats and bench presses, you’ll want to aim to use around 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum, or the heaviest amount of weight you can lift for that exercise one time with perfect form. You’ll see this abbreviated as 1RM.

For example, let’s say you can do a bench press with 200 pounds one time with perfect form. After this, your form goes south and you’re not able to perform the exercise. When you do the sets below, you would use between 130 and 150 pounds.

For isolation exercises like bicep curls, use a weight that is challenging but that you’re able to lift within the suggested repetitions.

How long should you rest in between sets?

Since your goal is muscle building and fat loss, keep your breaks on the shorter side between sets and exercises. Aim not to rest any more than 90 seconds. If you’re really struggling after a heavy set, resting for two minutes is okay, but this should be the exception, not the rule.

Day 1

  • 5-10 minutes – warming up and stretching;
  • 3 x 8-12 bench press 
  • 3 x 8-12 Bulgarian split squat
  • 3 x 8-12 leg press
  • 3 x 8-12 military press 
  • 3 x 8-12 front squats
  • 3 x 8-12 dumbbell bench press 
  • 3 x 10-12 biceps curl 
  • 5 minutes – stretching, cooling down.

Day 2

  • 5-10 minutes – warming up and stretching;
  • 30-minute running (outside or on a treadmill) or cycling (outside or on a stationary bike);
  • 5-10 minutes – stretching, cooling down.

Day 3

  • 5-10 minutes – warming up and stretching;
  • 3 x 8-12 Bulgarian split
  • 3 x 8-12 leg press 
  • 3 x 8-12 front squats 
  • 3 x 8-12 bench press 
  • 3 x 8-12 military press
  •  3 x 8-12 dumbbell bench press
  • 3 x 10-12 biceps curl
  • 5 minutes – stretching, cooling down.

Final recommendations

Here’s what you should bear in mind to achieve body recomposition:

  • Keep a slight calorie deficit; 
  • Eat between 1.0-2.0 g of protein per body kg a day;
  • Focus on weight training and cardio;
  • Get between seven to nine  hours of sleep each night;
  • Avoid stressful situations and get enough relaxation;
  • Train consistently!

To wrap it up

Don’t expect the results to appear in a week. This is a lengthy process requiring a lot of patience, but if you stay dedicated to the process, you’ll see the results. To get other customized workouts, try the Muscle Booster workout app that will analyze your goals and current fitness level and come up with an individual workout plan for you.


The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!



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