Putting on Lean Muscle While Losing Fat

I am currently on a fat loss routine. Since late December, I’ve gone down from 178 to 164 lbs. I’ve been lifting for about 5 years but in the past 6 months, I have not been doing any heavy upper body lifting due to a shoulder injury. I have however still been lifting legs heavy with gains. For fat loss, I’ve been eating pretty healthy and doing some sort of aerobic exercise (elliptical, bike, jogging) and anaerobic exercise (soccer, football, basketball) 6 days a week. I’m 5’4" and a 23 year old male. I’m still pretty bulky. I still have a small gut so I want to lose more fat but pretty soon I want to start incorporating upper body strength training again (shoulder still not fixed but going to try to work with it). So my questions are:

-What should my protein intake look like? I eat lots of protein but I want to start taking whey and casein proteins.

-How many days a week should I do cardio? I know cardio should come after lifting.

-I usually would lift by muscle. Sometimes just one muscle a day like chest. That way I could focus on tris on a separate day. Back and bis usually together and shoulders and core together. Legs on its own day. Should I use a different split?

Thanks for any replies!


Train three days a week fullbody, to keep strength and still train hypertrophy. Drop the split work. Do your gpp or cardio work 2 days a week. Make it fairly intense conditioning, but not so intense that it takes away from your lower or upper strength training. Also, how are you bulky if you’re 5’4 and 160? That seems light to me if you have been training that long. Maybe I’m wrong, I dunno. What are your current 3RM on main exercises?

Well I guess I am just used to being bulky when I was 178 lbs. Now that I’ve loss like 14 lbs, maybe not so much anymore. Before my shoulder injury, I was able to get 3 reps:
-275 bench press
-405 squat (can do more now)
-I don’t deadlift

I’ve definitely loss muscle since losing weight and lifting less. You think cardio only twice a week is enough? What’s gpp?


IMO you need to prioritize. You can slowly recomp and lose a little fat while gaining a little mass, but it’s a very very slow and steady process and requires rigid consistency of training and diet. Which one is more important to you right now, adding LBM or cutting fat? If adding LBM, a well designed 3 day full body program, or standard bodybuilding split, would both work very well, either way consistency and intensity of training will play the biggest role. Eat a reasonable caloric surplus (this requires food tracking to really do it right, not guessing) to ensure you’re putting on quality LBM without any excess fat you’ll just have to diet off later.

If cutting fat is your priority, you should be in the gym more than 3 days a week. You need to create a caloric deficit each day, either through training/cardio/nutrition and ideally a combination of all of them. The more you train, the more you can keep your nutrition numbers up and still eat a decent amount. You should be doing some cardio, either in the morning or after weights doesn’t really make a difference, whichever you can do most consistently. Start cardio minimally and add in as needed.

Ultimately IMO you need to pick your number one priority and gear your training and nutrition towards that, they have to work in tandem if you really want to meet your goals and not spin your wheels in neutral.


You’ve lost muscle, but can squat more 14 pounds less? That doesn’t make any sense. Also, why not deadlift? Are you at least doing things to compensate for the lack of posterior work done?

I can think of one (very obvious) explanation: the squats have (possibly) just gotten progressively higher, creating the illusion that he is getting stronger.

OP, would you care to post a video of these squats? If you are 5’4" and 164 pounds and can squat 405 or more without any dedicated focus on squatting, you should consider powerlifting.

As for your other questions, the answer is “it depends” to just about all of them.

How much protein? 1 g/lb of bodyweight is a good general guideline.

How many days/week cardio? Hugely variable here. Some would recommend doing very little cardio and just reining in your diet. robstein gave you a good answer: start with just a little and then add as needed.

Should you try a different split? That’s been the subject of a few hundred threads in this forum, and will be the subject of a few hundred more, no doubt. Many of us who post here frequently seem to believe that the specific split matters less than the effort put into it.


I never stopped doing legs. I’ve continued to hit my legs very hard and have been dedicated. I have not been doing much upper body lifting so i’ve lost some weight there as well as some fat from cardio. I don’t deadlift anymore because I hurt myself a couple years ago and just don’t think it’s worth a potential injury again. Also, i have a lot of protein in my diet so that’s help retain muscle. thanks for the replies

Would you be willing to go more into the nature of the injury?

The injury simply came from bad form. It was on my lower back. I know I can correct the form and be good to go from there but I just personally do not want to risk hurting myself again.