Can I build muscle and lose fat simultaneously?
The body recomposition truth!
There are so many bulls*it scams out there with fitness gurus trying to sell you $90 eBook bundles on “the secrets” to the holy grail of fitness. That is, how to lose fat and build “lean muscle” in your sleep. And usually claims that are made by bodybuilders which are taking steroids (and never admit to it) where a certain combination of anabolic steroids can achieve the recomposition they are trying to sell you (which can never be achieved without steroids!)
Pay attention because I bought into all of those expensive eBooks and false claims which never worked on me. It left me frustrated and confused. Of course, their eBooks would never work because steroids were the missing ingredient!
So you are about to learn the truth of how to successfully gain muscle and lose fat at-the-same-time without anabolic steroids.
To give you context of my personal situation. This is what I looked like before I got serious about fitness and bought into all of the BS in the fitness industry.
Definitely not a body to aspire to!
This is what I look like today after I decided to get serious about fitness and learn the science of a body recomposition. I took it one step further and decided to compete as a fitness model competitor under a drug-tested (natural) Federation.
Excuse the wanker pose :-D. But I just want to show you what is possible without steroids just by following a few simple rules in science. You’ll learn the simple science of a body recomposition as you continue reading.
The Truth To Losing Fat & Building Muscle
There is one reason why you can successfully (without steroids) lose fat and build muscle simultaneously. That is…
If you are a beginner with less than 6 months of proper training (weight lifting) experience, you can achieve a body recomposition. Period. End of story.
It is the reason why you should never rely on the weight scales during the early stages of your training journey. Beginners will invariably gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously which renders the reading on the scale completely inaccurate. This is also known as “newbie gains.”
Why Can’t Everyone Lose Fat & Build Muscle Simultaneously?
This means you have been undertaking proper weight training for more than 6 months or so. In human physiology, fat loss and muscle building are fundamentally very different processes.
It is physiologically impossible to “convert” fat directly into muscle.
The tried and true science behind fat loss which has been known since the beginning of science is:
Whenever you put your body into a negative energy balance (or calorie deficit,) your body will reduce its total fat mass. The consequence of being in a calorie deficit is that it also impacts your body’s ability to build muscle tissue. In the bodybuilding world, being in a calorie deficit is also referred to as “cutting.”
On the flip side to the science, to effectively build muscle tissue your body must be in a calorie surplus. This means eating more calories than what your body needs everyday. Also known as “bulking” in the bodybuilding world.
By eating slightly more calories than what your body needs to build muscle, you will invariably put on some fat. This is a completely normal part of the bulking process.
This is why you will fail at effectively trying to achieve fat loss and maximum muscle growth at-the-same-time. As you can see, it is physiologically impossible. Unless, you are a beginner weight lifter!
What Makes A Beginner So Special?
Your body has not adapted to any training demands placed on it within the first 6 months of your training journey. So for someone going from “never training” to doing heavy compound weight lifting, there is a huge demand placed on the body to adapt quickly. Irrespective of being in a negative energy balance (calorie deficit,) you will build muscle! As mentioned, this is called “newbie gains.”
According to Lyle McDonald’s natural lean muscle mass gain model, people lifting weights (without steroids!) should expect to gain between 20 – 25 pounds of muscle (2 pounds per month) in their first 12 months of heavy compound weight lifting.
After 4 years of consistent weight training, Lyle’s model suggests that you’ll gain a mere 2-3 pounds of muscle in a year, if that.
As a beginner weight lifter in a calorie deficit, your body is hyper-sensitive to any demand placed on it and therefore will re-build muscle tissue at a much greater rate compared to someone like me who has been training for years.
Once your beginner gains pass, then a body recomposition is almost impossible unless you are taking anabolic steroids. Period. End of story.
For a natural weight lifter beyond beginner gains, the goal while in a calorie deficit is to maintain as much muscle and strength as possible, while maximising fat loss. And the flip side goal is also true: while in a calorie surplus, the goal is to maximise muscle gain while minimising fat gain.
Let’s look at the strategy to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously. You need to apply two steps to pull this off. Firstly, maintain a slight calorie deficit and secondly, undertake heavy compound weight lifting.
Let’s look at each one separately.
Maintaining A Slight Calorie Deficit
The first step to a successful body recomposition is to put your body into a calorie deficit, or negative energy balance. This does not mean starving yourself or severely restricting your calories. Doing so will see muscle loss dramatically increase. Bad outcome. This will lead to becoming a skinny fat (like I was!)
Instead, you will create a very slight calorie deficit where you will eat 20 to 30% less calories than what you currently need to live your life. And doing so will allow you to safely lose fat while preserving the muscle on your frame.
The ultimate game when in a calorie deficit is to maximise fat loss while preserving as much muscle and strength as possible.
In my fitness education courses, I provide a formula for calculating your macronutrient requirements for someone that is training 4 to 5 hours per week. It is…
- Protein: 1.2 grams per pound of body weight per day
- Carbs: 1 gram per pound of body weight per day
- Fat: 0.2 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day
This may need to be modified but is a great starting place for most people which are training 4 to 5 hours per week. This will need to be increased slightly if you are training more than 6 hours per week.
MEAL PLANNING MASTERY
NEVER PAY FOR A MEAL PLAN AGAIN! LEARN HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN DIET PLAN WITH FOOD YOU LOVE TO EAT TO LOSE FAT AND GET INTO SHAPE.
Heavy Compound Weightlifting
The most effective way to build a great body, as a man or woman, without the use of anabolic steroids, is to do heavy compound weight training. Whenever someone is in a calorie deficit to maximise fat loss, heavy compound weight lifting should be the priority.
You should be emphasising the following compound movements every week in your weight training program;
Most of your weight lifting should be in the 5 to 7 rep range at 80 to 85% of your 1 rep maximum (1RM)
The worst thing you can do is to emphasise isolation exercises and high-rep training. I commonly hear guys talk about doing high rep training to “get shredded.” This is absolute non-sense.
You look shredded by getting your body fat percentage down! When you are playing at the competitive level like I do, you’ll go a step beyond reducing overall body fat percentage for “shredded-ness” and muscle definition. We will usually employ water, sodium, and potassium manipulation methods for the competitive edge. This is beyond the scope of this article.
High-rep and high volume weight training works very well for fitness models and bodybuilders which are competing in federations which are not drug tested! When these guys take anabolic drugs, their body’s are able to synthesise new muscle tissue at rates much faster than people like you and I.
Most people reading this will be natural weightlifters. Again, heavy compound weight lifting is the aim of the game!
If you are looking for an absolute beginner weight training structure on push-pull-legs, go and check this out. This is a training structure that I still use to this day and helped build the body I have today.
What About Cardio?
If you do what everybody else does you will get what everybody else has gotten! Have you ever heard that expression before? I’m referring to the culture of people that absolutely abuse cardio, spending hours upon hours slaving away on treadmills and bikes.
Here’s the truth about cardio.
You don’t need to do cardio to get “shredded.” Neither do you need to completely remove it to “bulk up” and build muscle. Cardio is merely a tool which unfortunately gets abused.
Personally, when I am trying to get super shredded for the stage, this is what I will do:
- Choice A: Low intensity cardio (up to moderate paced walking) for no more than 20–30 minutes per session, 2–4 times per week.
- Choice B: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for 10–15 minutes per session, 2–4 times per week.
I usually pick either A or B from above and either select boxing or skip rope. You can select the rowing machine, treadmill, or bike. These are my least favourite but I have used all of them in the past. I usually recommend picking the type of cardio that you are most likely to stick to.
If you’d like to learn more about my personal routine for building muscle and shedding fat, including supplements. Check this out.
So you can absolutely get ripped with as little as 2 hours of steady-state cardio per week or 1 hour of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT.)
This was exactly how I achieved this look:
Essentially, as part of my personal routine, I am doing no more than 5 to 6 hours of weight training per week and 1 to 2 hours of cardio every week. That’s alot less time than most people. It works 🙂
It’s not super complicated and I don’t have outstanding genetics, ether. Just don’t let anyone BS you into believing there are hacks, secrets, or shortcuts. There’s not. It’s about taking basic scientific principles and applying them as tools… and being consistent and patient.
Consistency And Patience
Everything in this article will be a complete waste of time if you only maintain a calorie deficit and lift heavy weights for one…two…three weeks.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from the fitness model competition process that landed me at the World Titles was this. Ready?
Trust the process. It works.
There were times during my journey as a fitness model competitor where I started to have doubts over my readiness for the stage. All of us competitors go through the same self-doubt before getting on stage. Not just you!
This simple little principle also applies outside of a body transformation. Dating requires having faith and trusting in the other person. Investing in shares in the stock market requires faith in the company you are investing in. This is much easier to say than do given that most people have been burned in a relationship, invested in a company that has folded; or in our case, tried a weight loss program that has not worked.
If you are consistent with sticking to your macronutrient targets and weight lifting plan, you’ll see a huge transformation in 3 to 6 months. It will blow your freaking mind. This is a period of time where you cannot trust the weight scales as you’ll be building muscle and losing fat simultaneously.
You don’t need them. It’s the reason why I’ve left this section until last. And everyone that tells you it is a “requirement” is either full of sh*t or being sponsored by that company. End of story.
If you’d like to learn more about some workout supplements which have some good science behind their use, go and check out my video course.
The Bottom Line
That’s it. If you are just starting your training journey then you are in the best place! You really are. There is just so much growth ahead of you where applying a few simple principles will get you 20 to 25 pounds of muscle in the first 12 months of weight lifting.
You know what you need to do now.
Let me summarise quickly:
- Maintain a calorie deficit and stick to your calorie and macronutrient targets
- Lift heavy compound weights
- Incorporate 1 to 2 hours of cardio per week!
- Be patient
- Trust the process
- Celebrate (yeah! Seriously… then email me!)
And if you are reading this as an experienced lifter with more than 12 months of weight lifting under your belt. Don’t worry. This article is still beneficial except, you will focus on either bulking or cutting.
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- The Ultimate Beginner Guide: Push Pull Legs
- Taking Progress Photos Like A Pro
- Brad’s Pre-workout Protein Guide
- A Beginner Guide To Calculate Your Macros (3 Steps)
- Meal Prep Equipment List
- How To Lose Weight Using IIFYM
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