T Nation

Which First: Muscle Building or Weight Loss?

Basically, I’ve been weight lifting a couple times a week for fun for several years but never anything serious. When I go back to school in September, I’m going to be joining an MMA gym. Before then, I want to lose weight to drop into a weight class appropriate for my height (I could probably safely lose 30 pounds). At the same time, I want to build muscle before then. I’m not concerned too much with building any lean muscle, that’ll come with training and I plan on doing some cardio stuff anyway.

I’ve heard that it is hard, if not impossible to build muscle while seriously burning fat, since we need excess calories to build muscle. How true is this? If I cannot lose weight and build muscle at the same time, which should I do first? And what would be the best way to maintain the muscle mass that I already have if I decide to just focus on losing weight?

You should probably post your height and weight, along with your target goal (weight class, bf percentage, etc.)
While it is difficult to build muscle while burning fat, it is not entirely impossible, especially for a beginner. Even though you are not a total beginner, your training age is still fairly young so you might be able to do both if your diet, training and recovery are ideal.
If I were you, I would look into a total body training program (see Waterbury or cosgrove), particularly since they have experience training mma fighters.

In my experience, Waterbury’s programs are good to gain strength and lose fat at the same time: in eight week on his “25 Method” I lost 6 lbs of fat while moderately bulking, and strength went up. On a moderately low-caloric diet, with enough protein, it should work fine for you, IMHO.

Tibaudeau says that lifting heavy (80-85% of 1RM) is the best ways to avoid muscle loss while loosing fat.

Instead of steady cardio, do HIIT and/or GPP (search for program on the site): faster fat loss and more chance to keep muscle mass!