T Nation

Bulking and Losing Fat


I've started working out seriously, and i really can't find a way to bulk up and lose fat at the same time, neither can I find a way to gain muscle fast, I've looked online and on forums but i am at the point where i really don't know lol.

Right now(DON'T LAUGH):
189.5 Pounds
20 to 25 percent body fat(After the body fat test, I was told that range)
15.5 Inch arms

Long Term Goals:
8 to 12% body at
18 inch arms
Max Bench: 350


trying to truly bulk up and lose fat simultaneously is fighting an ass-backwards losing battle of chasing your tail while playing pin the tail on the donkey. you can do a clean bulk and minimize fat gain in a best case scenario.

if you want to bulk up, you have to lift heavy with a large amount of volume. to do that, you need a surplus of glycogen stores, a calorie surplus and relatively longer rest periods. so, not an optimal fat loss situation.

if you want to lose fat, ideally you'll want to carry a relatively lower glycogen load, a calorie deficit and use relatively shorter rest periods to keep your heart rate up. so, not an optimal mass-gaining situation.

choose one or the other at first. either bulk then cut down, which can be beneficial because the extra muscle mass will help you burn fat faster on your diet phase and to develop strength so you can use heavier weights on your diet phase... or cut down to build cardio capacity and also make lagging areas more obvious.

I tried to gain mass and lose fat at the same time for two years of working out regularly. the results I've gotten from 4-5 months of a strength phase and then a 16 week diet phase FAR outshine any results I've ever gotten before.


bulking up as a terminology means you are gaining weight. Gaining weight and losing fat is extremely hard unless you are gaining it very slowly and you are still lifting low numbers compared to your potential.

if you want 18 inch arms lean the fastest way would be to bulk up with CLEAN foods with a calorie surplus of about 500 cals and once you have 18.5-19 inch arms you can then lose the fat. Bodybuilders seem to agree that this is usually the fastest way.

My opinion is this: simply get stronger. Are you lifting more weight every workout? Then once you are lifting half decent numbers, are you progressing every week? Then every couple weeks?

If you are progressing then that's all the indicator you need IMO when it comes to adding muscle. Use dieting and the bf calculator/mirror/weight scale as an indicator for losing fat . What I mean is.. If you can add weight to the bar rather consistently(whatever that means for your level of lifting years - every workout/weekly/monthly/etc) and you can do that with a 1000 calorie deficit, keep doing it. Once your lifts stall, deload, do some other shit, if nothing works after a month or two, eat more. Stalled again? eat even more.

I generally think that for beginners whose numbers are still pretty low(assuming they are doing a program that has you doing squats/deadlifts/bench press often) there is no need for bulking up yet. Do it later once you have some decent numbers. Focus on having a good clean diet until you reach that point and how to cook the food for it. Once you reach that point you can bulk up. Bulking up before that seems like just extra fat to me. Or maybe I'm just an easy gainer and always found beginner gains very possible and easy without much food.


Forget about the "fast" part. You're 18 years old. You've got 50 or 60 years of lifting ahead of you. There's really no rush.

How tall are you? This is actually pretty important. Being 6'0" and 190 is different than being 5'6" 190.

This is exactly why I really don't like people using bodyfat percentages as a guideline. It's almost completely unreliable.

Go by a combination of photos, how clothes are fitting, tracking inches gained and lost, and your performance in the gym.

What are your current bests in the squat, deadlift, flat bench, overhead press, row, and power clean?

Back in May, you said you were starting Rippetoe's Starting Strength program. How's that going?

In terms of your nutrition, a lot of it depends on how you're eating now. You might need to eat more, or you might just need to eat better. To gain size, you need enough total calories and enough protein, carbs, and fat.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?


its the general oppinion of most serious lifters that recomposition cant happen without anabolics. just to be clear i am in no way encouraging you to use anabolics. at your age it would be counterproductive. but anyway i think recomposition naturally COULD happen if you have great genes, flawless diet, and a routine that works very well for you. and this still would be slower progress than either bulking or cutting. thats just my oppinion but if you want to try to lose body fat and gain muscle id say look for kris gethins daily trainer on the internet. i dont agree with all the things he does but he claims to have success with dozens of clients.


i agree. when your first starting out, looking at progress in terms of arm size can be depressing. at least with me, strength came long before size.


OP, repeat this after me: "I cannot gain muscle and lose fat at the same time". You can, but for a very short while, and will not get much far, and you'll get bored and give up.

At this point, if you are brave enough, try eating caloric surplus and lifting heavy. Nothing says you can't - but will you be happy with how you'll look after, say, 2 months?

A better idea would be to get rid of some of the fat - which is pretty simple. Lift to get stronger and eat to get leaner. Period. I did that, it worked for me. Losing fat primes you for your weight gaining phase,and you will also have a stronger by then and would have learnt to really push yourself.

Pick any program, and a good diet and you're set.

P.S - ANY - does not mean what your friends big friend told his other friend in the bar. A basic 5x5 or any of the fine programs on this site.


I would figure out what is most important to you, and why you are lifting weights in the first place. Do you want to be strong, or are you more physique oriented? I don't think there is anything wrong with either approach, but answering that question honestly will help determine which route to take.

If your goals are strength oreinted: I would get on a good beginner program such as Starting Strength and run that for a couple of months to get some good strength in the basic lifts (ie: Squat, Bench, Deadlift, etc). Once you have some solid strength then you can figure out what the next step should be.

If your goals are physique oriented: I would recommend going on a proper cut. At 20-25% body fat the most immediate and impressive change to your physique is going to be leaning up. Run a calorie deficit for 12 weeks or so and you should be able to get down to 10-12% body fat pretty easily. Then you can start doing a "lean bulk" to put on some muscle and try to reduce the body fat gained.

As others have pointed out, it is possible for a complete beginner to put on muscle and lose fat at the same time, but it's exceedingly difficult. I've always been a fan of going full blast in one direction or another because it usually results in the fastest progress.


This dilemma seems like an Average Joe college frat boy focusing on bench, arm circumference while reading a bunch of articles online but finding no answers. Not to bash you but everyone has their own opinions and they all want to shove em up your ass. Therefore my best advice in order to get BIG is lift the core lifts (back squat, ft. squat, deadlift, bench, press) on a consistent week to week basis and pick 2-3 accessories on your workout days and train them intelligently. Getting bigger arms the right way I believe is overall body fitness as well. Gain overall mass, instead of just arm mass...try a lift program like this which will get you where you need in a basic powerlifting mass packing sense:
M: Deadlift 5x5, Accessories: Hypers/Reverse Hypers, Clean Shrugs, Abs all at 3x8-10
T: Bench Press 5x5, DB Incline 3x8, Tricep/Bicep DB work, DB Side Raises
W: Off
R: Squat 5x5, BB Rows 3x8, RDLs 3x8, Abs
F: Incline Press 5x5, DB Flat Bench 3x8, DB Upper Body Circuit
Sat, Sun: Off

For mass packing food simply follow a high-carb diet with 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight you have. Carbs give you the energy as an athlete to attack the lifts, allows the body to use carbs for energy opposed to protein or fats, and allows for a greater caloric diet obviously...and I'm talking about pastas, rices, oatmeals, fruits, veges..quality carbs.

Find yourself a log book and write this:
Meal 1
Meal 2
Meal 3
Meal 4
Meal 5
Meal 6
Fill in each meal and focus on a protein, carb and some kind of healthy fat (peanut butter, olive oil, nuts, seeds, butter sometimes too).

Eat, lift, sleep...check back in 4-5 months...if done right you should be fucking big and strong (BTW reps/sets etc. change every 3-5 weeks depending on hypertrophy, strength, power cycle)

Really ain't that hard...there are no tricks, just big lifts, big amounts of good food


I have found this to be anything but true, especially for beginners. You can build muscle and lose fat up to a certain level. once you reach that level(which no, its not 2 months after you start training for the first time ever - its more like at least a year of solid training) it becomes better to have some caloric surplus which will gain you more muscle and some fat.


OK, I'll admit the oversimplification. I lost considerable amount of fat, and gained somemuscle even though I was eating to lose fat.

A more appropriate way of putting it may be : Pick your main goal, and take the secondary benefits that eventually come with it. IMO, at least if you are the type who gets fat easily, eating to lose fat and gain muscle ensures minimum gains and minimal fat loss. At least from my limited experience.


First of all im not in a frat,

Lost some fat, and gained some muscle in these 3 months of workin out, gotten stronger. Stil have
ways to go, thanks for the help everyone who posted.


^That's^ the point of contention you wanted to get cleared up?

How about answering Chris's questions about height, best lifts, yesterdays exact food intake, etc?

So do you have a plan now or are you going to go tread water for another 3 months then come back?

If you have a plan do you mind sharing it?


I really didn't do anything until i began workin out in end of august, i regret bein lazy, but ya..


Answerin some of CHris's questions

I am 5'9

Wow i cant even answer the food question, i prolly have the schedule my meals now, cuz i cant remember exactly what i ate yesterday, what i do know is that i didnt eat any junk food or anythin like that. Most of what i consumed was protein, i remember, but that prolly doesnt answer anything, i need to work on the eating part.


I dont plan on tread water for another 3 months then come back, i think i wanna work on buildin muscle.

I think ill start doin one of the routines above , i had a routine which i did post on my latest post, but its not that good, i should have looked at Tnation more in the first 3 months of workin out.


Man I love the beginner sections of this forum, you always pick up new shit from people who actually know what they're talking about and it's cool some of you more experienced lifters stop to take the time and drop some sagely advice.

Anyway, OP, you need to pick a solid program (one that you will enjoy and won't ever seem like a chore each time you're in the gym because you'll get nothing out of a program if you can't put everything you got into it), most importantly stick with it and stay on top of your health with your diet, sleep and etc.

When I first started lifting seriously I started out with StrongLifts 5x5. I think it's a pretty solid routine for beginners.

Great instructional pages, advice and more info on the site too


I have problems remembering what I did the day before, but I can tell you what I did in the gym and I can tell you what I ate.

progress comes from effort in the gym AND the kitchen. notice it doesn't say AND/OR. if you take one of the two out, you won't see real progress.


What is your current bodyweight?

Have you gotten another (pointless) bodyfat measurement lately? How do you know you've lost fat and gained muscle.

Once again I'll ask... what are your current best lifts in the basic exercises: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and row?

And, just for the hell of it, let's try the food thing again. Meteor, what exactly did you eat yesterday, Tuesday the 13th?

Here, I'll give you an example. Yesterday, off the top of my head, I had:
- 5 eggs for breakfast
- Big-ass ham and cheese sandwich and an orange for lunch
- 3 scoops Surge Workout Fuel, 2 scoops MAG-10, 2 scoops Anaconda before and during training
- Sausage, chicken, peppers, and onions with Italian bread for dinner.
- Big-ass shake with six scoops of Metabolic Drive, three Tbsp peanut butter, and 32oz whole milk throughout the day.

And you...?

EDIT: Almost forgot to add the two glasses of red wine with dinner (one while cooking, the other with the meal). Done.



173 at the moment,i did not get a bodyfat percentage lately. I took a picture of when i started workin out, and I looked at my progress as time came on.

current lifts
Squats: 145 lbs
Deadlift: 135 lbs
Bench Press: 135 lbs.
Rows( only dumbells are availabe in my gym for rows): 2 35 lb dumbells

And eating, yesterday
-Chicken breast with whole wheat pasta.
-2 eggs
-2 protein shakes Whey Protein.
- Chicken wrap.

-I cheated and ate a slice of cake.