T Nation

To 'Lose Fat and Gain Muscle'


The best of both worlds.

That's what everyone wants; for some its more then two worlds. For some; its to see Hanna Montana and Miley Cyrus in concert.

When it comes down to it; we can't all have what we want. (Unless you really DO dig the H&M duo)

In the recent past I've seen a surge of people (from beginners and beyond) that have said this or something similar:

"I want to lose fat, while gaining muscle"

This is a very common goal; and not a bad one at it.

For most; taking on the task of losing fat while gaining muscle is a daunting task.

If you can step back and think about what this statement is saying, you will start to see why this is such a task.
1.) You want to LOSE weight (preferably fat)
2.) You want to GAIN weight (preferably muscle)

Seems pretty counterintuitive; doesn't it?

Things tend to get easier in life if you can focus on one thing at a time.

Your next step should be to figure out which you are willing to sacrifice in order to start your way. Do you want to cut down and sacrifice some strength and size? Or do you want to sacrifice some asetheticalness (just made that word up) in order to gain some size?

Once you figure your choice out; focus on that. That is your goal.

There is ONE KEY POINT around these two ways of going.


If you do not want to yo-yo back and forth and get nowhere; your going to need to do a maintaince phase in-between.

That black line in the middle is what your weight level out to if you never did a maintaince phase; not the ideal situation.

So, with all this being said I will let the rest of you chime in with your experiences on cutting down and bulking up and everything in-between.

Hopefully this thread will allow some of the newbie�??s and those of us who are planning on a change in themselves; find a better way of doing things.

Now, who's up for some Hanna Montana??? Takers?


OK, now I'm really loost!


Hanna Montana is damn hot. What a babe.


I know it's dogma that you can't do both- and for appreciable losses or gains, it's probably true.

When you phrase in terms of weight-- it's obviously true. But if it's just losing fat and gainin muscle, weight is no the issue.

To me, there is just something intuitively sensible about the possibility of doing both TO A DEGREE. I mean, if I stimulate my muscles and eat a lot of protein, then my body will build muscle provided there is a surplus of calories to work with. So, why can't my body dip into existing energy stores to get those extra calories and use it to build muscle?

Another point- there is the assumption that your body will use what it has to satisfy energy needs and stay alive. Who is to say that it will do this for all types of activities EXCEPT the building of new muscle tissue? If I stimulate and trigger a growth resopnse, then my body will view that just like any other biological process and do it, as long as there are the nutrients available to do it.

So, if I need an additional 300kcals per day to inch up my growth (assuming adequate protein, rest, training, etc.) then it seems like the body could, for a while at least, utilize existing energy reserves in concert with the food I eat to assist in fueling that growth.

Of course, I could be totally wrong for obvious scientific reasons I'm not aware of, but I like the logic of it.


You got a good head on your shoulders, most of what you said DOES make sence. I know some people who make minor changes in their diet/training in order to cut down a few pounds of add some mass.

I just wanted to put all my "Two Cents" down one last time for the typical person who thinks they can quickly drop off all but 8% of their bodyfat all the while gaining 20lbs of lean muscle mass.

After my cut and maintence phase; I made some slight tweaks to my diet for about 2mo in order to see what gave me better gains...it was a slow process (that 2mo) but I gained about 5lbs and was still around 10%; but now I'm straight up bulking and am a bit higher then 10 right now.

For those who wanna take the slow road; eating plenty and having a good cardio program is a must. Whether it be fasted cardio, some HIIT or just dragging yourself on the elliptical post-workout (what I do); its a must.

Great addition to this thread!


I'm going to disagree with the common wisdom on this one a bit.

I started dieting and lifting seriously in June of 2007. I weighed 285 lbs, probably in the 35-40% body fat range. I was out of fucking shape.

I spent most of this past year learning how to eat, and learning how to exercise again(I was in relatively good shape do to martial arts and some lifting in my early teens).

I first discovered that I needed to eat more food. I went from probably 2200kcals daily to about 3100 as of the past few months. After the first few months of fumbling exercise, I also discovered the types of routines that seem to work well for me.

I don't do any purposeful cardio, but I get TONS of NEPA. I lift heavy, in low to moderate rep ranges using mostly compounds. I eat every two hours like it's the most important thing in the world, and I drink around 3 liters of water on non training days.

As of my last weigh in two weeks ago I'm down to 230 lbs, and probably around 25-30% bf.

I know I've lost fat, and I know I've gained muscle. I probably haven't done either as fast as I could if I approached one goal with absolute dedication, but the progress is there, it's real and measurable.

I understand the reasons behind the 'pick your goals' crowd, but I've got to disagree. Personally, bulking to get to my desired level of strength and muscularity was out of the question, and cutting to my desired level of leanness, sacrificing what little muscle I had along the way also seemed like the wrong way to go for me.

My goal now is to get down to 200 lbs at 15-20% bf in the next year...from there maybe a solid bulk back up to around 220.


I think for a majority of the people posting here looking for advice B Rock's post is spot on. Yes it can be done, but for those that come here looking for a diet, or a routine it probably can't be, and it is better to focus on 1 or the other.

There are always exceptions to the rule.


Okay, I hear what everyone is saying -- you generally can't do both at once (well, you can, but it's tricky).

What a lot of us beginners (making an assumption but this is the case at my local gym) come from is years of watching our calories, cardio, etc and not getting anywhere. So now we're trying something new because nothing else has worked.

I've increased my caloric intake from around 1800 to 2600. So far, I haven't gained weight....but it's only been about 2.5 weeks. But let's say I choose to go big and strong (which I'm trying to do on SS -- and have been doing it for several months).

How easy is it to lose weight once you're 'big and strong'? For someone who has struggled (always) to lose weight, I wouldn't want to be FURTHER behind by deciding to go 'big and strong'.

Let's say I put on 10 lbs of fat when I bulk up. Once at a decent level, is it easy to lose that 10lbs? Seems like it would be difficult because you've set your body to want 2600 calories a day.


Realize though that you have what's called beginner gains. You will see an increase in muscle mass and you will see a decrease in fat (not weight - current clothes will become looser) but it won't last.

What I think B Rock was addressing is all these posts about guys saying things like:

"I've been lifting for 2 weeks, and I'm looking to put on some serious muscle, and lose about 40 pounds"

And that just won't happen, and if people go in expecting it to, they'll just be disappointed and feel the effort is futile and quit.


Great post B rock.


B rock i'm soooo down for some HM! haha, But seriously, Miley is gorgeous and not even 16, cant wait til' shes 18... but yeah... i think doing both can be done, however, it would probably require years of training experience as well as butt-loads of info on how to.. for beginners or newer lifters doing one at a time would probably be faster and a lot more effective.

theres probably also a less chance of giving up because you will notice results more just doing one... most people trying to do both probably wouldn't know if they've gained muscle after a 10 lb lose.


I think it's important that you understand that this was possible because you were obese. Like the OP is saying, you just can't expect this kind of progress when you are leaner.


The biggest problem is hormonal. To put it simply, you can't expect muscle building to happen without insulin, but insulin precludes the use of fat for energy. On the other hand, cortisol increases the use of fat for energy, but also stimulates muscle catabolism.

It is reasonable to attempt to increase muscle anabolism while minimizing fat gain, and to increase fat usage while minimizing muscle catabolism, but you physiologically can't expect both to happen simultaneously. That's not to say that you can't do each at different times during the day, but this is more complicated than just working out and eating well.

So I would say yes, it's possible, but probably more trouble than it's worth.


Im down for some HM b rock. Miley is gorgeous, cant wait to see how she developes... anyway i think both can be done effectively at the same time with years of wisdom and lifting experience... otherwise, one at a time will will get a novice lifter there faster with a lesser chance of sidetracking, you will notice results quicker


Great responses so far people; I'm glad some people see where I was coming from.

This post WAS for the people that "want it all, and want it now"

For those who want to take the long road; thats' outstanding and I wish them luck. I've been training for 7+ years and have had a strick diet for about 4; and I just now know what and how to eat to make slow gains. I'm not doing it; but all I'm saying is that it took alot of time and getting to know my own body and what it needs in order for those things to happen.

And yes; Miley is a cute little girl. Hopefully 18 comes quick. (No need for a sick joke to follow THAT sentence)


To put it in perspective: How many lifters do you guys know who don't make progress because they eat TOO much? Very few IMO. They're out there, but not many.

How many lifters do I know who don't make progress because they eat too little? Quite a few..


I think we have to define goals to measure that statement. I've read a LOT, and I've learned my body and my limits well, and at this moment I would bet anything today that I can meet my current goals in the next year.

Once I'm in the teens bf% wise, I might have to reevaluate those parameters. No, I don't think I'm going to build massive slabs of muscle eating at a deficit, but I'm pretty confident that I can lose weight at a moderate pace(~1 lb a week), while increasing my lbm, I've been doing it consistently for a year and I'm showing no signs of that progress slowing down.

I don't think that my theories on this, and my own progress apply to 'skinny fat' people, and that may be the sticking point of this argument...my caloric demands became high as soon as I increased my activity level due to the amount of weight I carried around.

The statement that "this was possible because you were obese" doesn't invalidate what I've done and am doing, in fact, it just adds another element to the equation.

No training paradigm is right for all trainees, and no diet is right for all dieters, the persons starting physique, body composition and activity level are as important if not more so than all of the 'correct' formulation of programs(usually designed by naturally lean and or muscular people in the first place).



My post was primarily to let other reaeders know that you can't expect your body to react the same way at 40% bf and 14% bf. As you get lower, your body becomes more resistant to shedding fat.

As an aside, it is not too big of an issue for a beginner to add muscle without adding a lot of fat. Let's say a 150 lbs beginner at 15% bodyfat wants to "lose fat and gain muscle".

This person has 22.5 lbs of fat, and 127.5 lbs LBM.

Now let's say they manage, through a combination of newbie gains and great diet/program, to put on 20 lbs of LBM, and adds only 1 lbs of fat.

Our trainee is now 171 lbs, with 147.5 lbs LBM and 23.5 lbs of fat. This puts him at 13.7% bf.

While this might be overly dramatic, the point stands that if you gain muscle at a proportionally faster rate than fat, your bodyfat % will drop, even as the amount of fat you carry increases.


Gotcha, and that makes perfect sense.


Try 3500 calories, you should see some gains then. And if you only gain 10lbs of fat after gaining, say, 20lbs of muscle - you are ahead of the game. Your body composition will have actually improved.

Finally, the more muscle you have - the easier it will become to lose fat.