Lose Fat and Gain Muscle (At the Same Time) | Nerd Fitness

There’s an argument within the health world which you can both select to lose fats OR achieve muscle.

That they simply can’t be performed concurrently.

To this, I say, “Hogwash!”

We now have tons of success tales from our on-line teaching purchasers who’ve been in a position to do each concurrently:

And that’s what we’ll cowl in in the present day’s information!

We’ll accomplish that by discussing:

Plus, I’ve tons of candy LEGO pictures and foolish gifs on their approach, which is at all times an excellent time. 

What’s Physique Recomposition?

As Coach Matt mentions within the video above, gaining muscle and dropping fats concurrently is known as “physique recomposition.”

So sure, the method is certainly potential, so long as you comply with the fitting plan.

…however you don’t need to take my phrase for it.

Simply ask our good friend Aksel right here (who achieved a powerful physique recomp with the help of a NF Coach):

A side-by-side of Aksel's before and after

Read more about his incredible story!

However, as I mentioned in the intro, you’ll often hear that losing fat while gaining muscle is impossible. The argument goes that you should just focus on one or the other, because doing both at once is destined to fail.

Let’s explore this claim.

Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle at the Same Time (The Controversy)

This picture shows two LEGO miners, who don't have much to do with fast weight loss, but look cool.

To understand why losing fat while gaining muscle can be problematic, we need to explore both processes.

Let’s consider the following points:

Given this, losing fat (caloric deficit) at the same time one is gaining muscle (caloric surplus) seems impossible.

However, if we go a few steps deeper into the science, it IS possible!

A foe from the Prince Bride not believing you can lose fat while gaining muscle.

To appreciate the nuance here, let’s get into some specifics on losing fat and gaining muscle separately, and then we’ll combine them.


a picture of Homer Simpson with Donut

There is a simple answer and a slightly less simple answer when it comes to losing body fat.

The simple answer: “consume fewer calories than you expend or burn.”[1]

Eight phrases, and one or two of these might in all probability be thrown out.

When your physique wants extra energy than the quantity you’re consuming, you’re in a “caloric deficit.” Your physique doesn’t have the energy it wants as gasoline, so it’ll begin breaking down components of itself for its power necessities.

(When you’re curious, you’ll be able to calculate your day by day caloric wants right here).

The hope is that your physique will principally pull from fats shops, although relying on how you’re coaching it’s going to additionally break down muscle too.[2]

Stated once more: when you find yourself consuming a caloric deficit, your physique will pull from each its fats shops AND present muscle for power.

Yes, if you're not careful you can lose fat AND muscle while losing weight.

Troubling certainly.

From a physique and well being standpoint, clearly we’d choose that your physique doesn’t break down muscle when in a caloric deficit, and as a substitute actually focuses on utilizing fats shops as a substitute.[3]

I make this level for a purpose: your aim in health shouldn’t solely be “weight reduction,” regardless of the widespread vernacular used.

Who cares what the size says, proper?

A scale can be misleading when you're trying to lose fat and gain muscle.

The aim as a substitute is to scale back physique fats whereas additionally preserving the muscle you could have (and even constructing extra muscle).

That results in a greater physique and a more healthy physique.

Because of this there’s a massive marketplace for gadgets that supposedly assess your physique fats share.

By lowering your whole fats in your physique, OR rising muscle mass, you’ll find yourself with a decrease physique fats share (it’s only a easy ratio of fats to the whole lot else).

And decrease physique fats percentages are the place “toned arms” and “6-pack abs” hang around.

Arnold lost body fat and gained muscle to achieve his physique. And maybe some super glue.

We’ll focus on tips about preserving and rising your muscle whereas in a calorie deficit later on this information. For now, bear in mind you want fewer energy “in” in comparison with energy “out” for weight reduction to happen, from both fats shops or muscle.

You might be asking, “Steve, what’s simpler to do? Burn extra energy or eat much less?”

Good query.

Numbers will assist inform the story: although it is a gross oversimplification – let’s use the ‘extensively accepted’ place to begin of “3,500 energy equals roughly one pound of fats.”[4]

If you wish to lose one pound – or half a kilogram – of physique fats in per week (a worthy, sustainable aim for some), it’s essential create a caloric deficit of 500 energy per day. 

Your choices to create this caloric deficit embrace:

  • Consuming 500 fewer energy
  • Burning 500 extra energy
  • A mix of the 2

Which is simpler?

Listed here are each halves of that equation. 500 energy equals:

  • The variety of energy present in a Huge Gulp of Mountain Dew.
  • An estimate of the energy required to run 5 miles.

Yes, you will have to run for a long time to burn 500 calories.


Relating to sustaining a caloric deficit, it actually comes right down to weight loss plan.

It’s considerably more practical and time-efficient to eat 500 fewer energy than it’s to burn 500 extra energy.

As Time journal controversially identified – with tons of cited research – “exercise alone won’t make you thin.” It’s too straightforward so as to add extra energy in, and requires an excessive amount of work to successfully affect “energy out.”

We dig into this in our information to The CICO Eating regimen. 

This brings us to our barely much less easy reply on getting in form:

To lose physique fats, it’s essential watch what you eat, and accomplish that in a sustainable approach.

Right here at Nerd Health, we’re agency believers that 80-90% of the fat-loss equation comes right down to weight loss plan (take a look at Rule # 4).

Right here’s one other concept we give attention to: EAT MOSTLY UNPROCESSED FOOD.[5]

These image shows some real food, critical if you're trying to lose body fat.

Meat, fish, eggs, greens, fruits, nuts are all nice examples.

These meals are very nutrient-dense and sometimes low in energy in comparison with their processed counterparts. Which implies you get stuffed up with out overeating.


Have you ever ever seen the distinction between 200 energy of broccoli and 200 energy of a bagel? WiseGEEK does an ideal job of displaying this, so we’ll borrow a few their pictures.

200 energy of broccoli:

A pic of 200 calories of broccoli

200 energy of a bagel:

This picture shows you 200 calories worth of a bagel, which is about 2/3 of one.

That’s why REAL meals is the reply to making a sustainable caloric deficit.

Most individuals can eat a complete bagel, no drawback. Plates of broccoli, with the entire fiber, are a lot more durable to overeat.

We lay all of it out in our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. It’ll present tips about easy methods to progressively create habits that get you to a “REAL meals” approach of consuming, together with correct portion sizes, tips about batch cooking, and a cameo from Winnie the Pooh.

Pooh knows that to lose fat and gain muscle, he really needs to cool it with all the honey.

With all of this, we advise you to take it sluggish, so new habits of wholesome consuming turn out to be everlasting.

One thing you are able to do for the remainder of your life.

It’s a technique we work intently with our teaching purchasers on: small dietary changes they really feel snug making. It’s how a few of them have been in a position to lose 50-100 kilos!

Let me clarify once more: what you eat might be 80%-90% of the equation for dropping physique fats.

The opposite 10-20%? Train.

After all it’s train.

That’s a reasonably good segue into…


Toy Hulk and the wilds trunks of huge plants

If you wish to construct muscle, you’ll need to raise heavy issues and make sure that your physique has sufficient energy and protein to adapt by constructing extra muscle.

In our Beginner’s Guide to Building Muscle and Strength, I summarize it as follows:

Let’s chat about each one quickly.

#1) Lift heavy things

I will always be on Team Strength Training. If you’re looking to build muscle, you’re gonna need to lift heavy things.

This Muppet knows strength training will help him gain muscle and lose fat.

When you lift an object (or your own bodyweight) enough times, your muscles reach the point of failure. This causes your muscles to tear and breakdown.

When your muscle rebuilds itself following the workout, it’ll be bigger and stronger than before. Then you do it again.

And again.

And again.

As long as you are eating enough to rebuild your muscle, you’ll get stronger!

Not sure where to start on a Strength Training practice? No problem! You can download our free guide Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know when you join the Rebellion (our free community) below:

#2) Eat a diet based on your goals

Because your muscle needs to be rebuilt after exercise, the calories are gonna need to come from somewhere. I’ll talk a lot about proper diet in the next section (with a Harry Potter analogy), so I won’t spend too much time on it here.

Just know that eating the right quantity of foods will be a big part of gaining muscle.  

#3) Rest

Your body rebuilds itself while you sleep, so make sure you get plenty of rest each night. I’m talking 7-8+ hours. This will help ensure your body has the time it needs to grow stronger.

If you’re strength training and only getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less, you’re really doing yourself a disservice. Go to bed!

Donald knows he has to get plenty of rest to grow muscle. If only that sink would stop dripping.

That’s the short gist of how to build strength: challenge your muscles, eat well, and get some rest.

Let’s narrow in on our second point, “Eat a diet based on your goals.” It’ll become very important when balancing both losing body fat and gaining muscle.

To do that properly, grab your owl, and let’s chat about Hogwarts.

How to Lose Fat WHILE Gaining Muscle (The Science)

Close-up shot of microscope with metal lens at laboratory.

To answer the question of losing body fat and gaining muscle at the same time, I’d like to introduce an analogy from the world of Harry Potter.

Recall the “Sorting Hat:” The Sorting Hat’s job was to determine which of the four houses kids will call their home.

The sorting hat will help us tell the story on calories and losing fat.

It’s almost like a traffic director: “Harry, you will go to Gryffindor! Draco, you will go to Slytherin!”

Your body operates on a VERY similar operation: every day it receives new calories (when you eat), and it needs to decide what to do with them!

For example:

You eat a chicken parm sub with fries and a 20-ounce soda. Your body then has to know where to route all those calories.

To keep things simple, it has three choices. It’ll sort those calories into one of three houses:[6]

A. Burn for Gas.

B. Rebuild Muscle.

C. Retailer as Fats.

Proper now, once you eat meals, your physique types most of these energy into “Burn for Gas.”

There’s various energy your physique wants every day simply present: to maintain your liver functioning, your coronary heart pumping, your mind working, to manage your physique temperature, and so forth – it burns an excellent chunk of energy simply preserving the lights on.

A beating heart requires calories, which factors into your calorie needs.

That is your “Basal Metabolic Price” which you’ll calculate for your self in our TDEE calculator.

There’s additionally “B. Rebuild as Muscle” and “C. Retailer as Fats,” which I devoted whole sections to above.

That is the place the issues come up: If you overeat energy and your physique doesn’t want anymore to gasoline itself, it takes these further energy and shops them as fats.

Nevertheless, our aim is the OPPOSITE of this.

We wish to maintain the muscle now we have (or develop it) whereas eliminating the fats!

So let’s think about a situation the place we pull all this collectively by energy coaching heavy AND lowering our caloric consumption:

  1. You energy prepare frequently, and your muscular tissues break down and should be rebuilt.
  2. You don’t eat sufficient energy to each rebuild muscle and gasoline itself. There’s not sufficient to enter the “Burn for Gas” and “Rebuild Muscle” homes.

Does your physique simply shut down?


Yep, if you have fat on you your body will pull from it to take care of its needs.
Your physique has been getting ready for this, by storing any extra energy over time within the “Retailer as Fats” home.

This implies your physique can pull from “Retailer as Fats” to ensure all of the work nonetheless will get performed, together with your day by day capabilities as a human and rebuilding the muscle you tore aside.

Stated one other approach:

In case you have fats shops (and all of us do), you do not want to be in a “caloric surplus” to rebuild muscle. The energy saved in your fats cells act as this required power.

There’s additionally proof that muscle may even be grown whereas in a caloric deficit.[7]

Which means greater muscular tissues with a decrease belt measurement.[8]

This dog just found out it's possible to both lose fat AND gain muscle.

Nevertheless, if you wish to skip all of the experimentation and trial and error, you’ll be able to have a Nerd Health Coach do all of the heavy lifting for you (probably not, you’ll nonetheless have to work out).


Superhero Couple. Male and female superheroes. Cloudy sky.

Let’s carry this all collectively and create some actionable steps to dropping physique fats and constructing muscle on the similar time.

#1) Maintain a caloric deficit whereas consuming sufficient protein

You want your physique to burn extra energy than you eat, and in addition present your physique with enough protein to rebuild its muscle.

You can only lose fat if you’re in a calorie deficit.

You need to reduce your calories and be in a deficit if your goal is to lose fat.

Remember the Sorting Hat analogy:

If you’re eating too much, your excess calories are being sent to the “Store as Fat” house.

We want to pull from this house instead. So eat less than you burn consistently. 

To help here, I have 3 resources for you:

  1. Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating. If you want tips and tricks to create habits based on REAL food, that guide will help get you there.
  2. Determining the Perfect Diet for You.” I talk about the benefits of creating a Mental Model on nutrition like Intermittent Fasting, Paleo or Keto (or Paleolithic Ketogenic) to help navigate all the food choices you need to make.
  3. Count calories: This means learning your total daily energy expenditure, and tracking your other calories through an app (and/or weighing your food).

You don’t have to follow some predetermined blueprint like “low-carb.” You can create your own diet (which is what I do). Learn all about it right here.

#2) Strength train

If you could sell a pill that could be prescribed to every single person on Earth to make them healthier, it would look something like a strength training routine in a bottle.

A one arm push-up can help you lose fat and build muscle, but maybe start with regular push-ups first.

It is one of the best things you can do for your body.[9]   

And actually, if you wish to construct muscle, you’re gonna have to raise one thing! Both weights or your personal body weight.

It’s essential problem your muscular tissues to ensure that them to get stronger. Now, as we focus on in our article on the proper variety of reps and units, there are a number of methods to take action.

To construct muscle:

Raise lighter weights for many reps.

Raise actually heavy with fewer reps.

The vital factor: choose a technique and get began.

Vada is ready to strength train! And torment her Dad's GF.

Listed here are 3 paths ahead:

  1. Begin with a newbie body weight exercise.
  2. Observe certainly one of our 5 Newbie Energy Coaching Routines.
  3. Undergo our 6 Stage Gymnasium Exercises.

To recap: in case you prepare heavy and eat a caloric deficit, your physique will pull from its fats shops to each gasoline itself and probably additionally construct muscle. This can be a double whammy of AWESOME.

#3) Prioritize protein

Outdoors of being in a caloric deficit and lifting weights (or your self), consuming sufficient protein is without doubt one of the key elements of each dropping physique fats and constructing muscle.

Protein is the primary nutrient for creating new tissue.[10]

Sponge Bob knows how to build muscle and strength.

So once you reduce out energy to create a caloric deficit, don’t reduce them from protein sources.

Research have proven that contributors can achieve muscle, even whereas in a caloric deficit, so long as they eat sufficient protein.[11]

It’s vital sufficient that I’ll say it once more:

When you don’t need your physique cannibalizing its muscular tissues when you are in a caloric deficit, it’s essential eat loads of protein.[12]

How a lot protein?

As we level out in our Information to Protein, roughly 1 gram for each pound of your weight, with an higher restrict of 250 grams.[13] Or two grams for each kilogram in case you are on the metric system. This implies:

  • When you weigh 300 kilos (136 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • When you weigh 250 kilos (113 kg), eat 250g of protein.
  • When you weigh 200 kilos (91 kg), eat 200g of protein.
  • When you weigh 180 kilos (82 kg), eat 180g of protein.

The gist: don’t skip out on protein. It must be in your plate for each meal (we’ll present you precisely how a lot within the subsequent part).

If these generalized suggestions stress you out, and also you wish to know precisely what to do, we may also help!

I’ll remind you of Nerd Health Teaching, the place we assist purchasers lose physique fats, achieve muscle, and stage up their lives. We offer tailor-made and particular suggestions primarily based in your physique and way of life, plus accountability and mindset adjustments to assist guarantee your new habits stick.

Nerd Fitness Coaching Banner


Toy Dinosaur holding a fork next to a slice of birthday cake on a blue background.

Bear in mind, your consuming technique wants to incorporate two factors to lose fats whereas gaining muscle:

  1. Maintain a caloric deficit.
  2. Prioritize protein so you’ll be able to construct muscle even whereas in a deficit.

You might be considering, “That’s all effectively and good Steve, however what’s that truly appear like?” 

It seems like this!

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing great!

Taken from our Guide to Start Eating Healthy, which I really want you to read.

The plate is composed of the following: 

By sticking to our Healthy Plate strategy above, you’ll focus on “REAL food,” which will help you maintain a caloric deficit over time.

Let’s hone in on protein for a moment, because it’s the critical piece for “building muscle.”

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

Not a meat-eater? Learn our huge plant-based information!

A serving of protein is in regards to the measurement and thickness of your palm.

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

*The 4 ozserving is for an raw piece of meat. Cooking reduces about 25% of the load, bringing it right down to about 3 oz.

When you’re curious, right here’s how a lot protein is in a serving of meals:

  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of hen has round 30 g of protein.
  • 4 oz (113 g) serving of salmon has 23 g of protein
  • 4 oz (113 g) of steak has 28 g of protein. 

Whereas the entire Wholesome Plate above is vital, I would like you to pay further consideration to your protein consumption since we are attempting to construct muscle. 

When you’re having bother making your protein consumption targets, take a look at our Information on Protein Dietary supplements for some suggestions and methods to up your consumption, together with some superior smoothie recipes.

That is the precise technique I adopted to lose 22 kilos and get to single-digit bodyfat share WHILE constructing muscle:

  • Raise tremendous heavy.
  • Eat LOTS of protein.
  • Cut back carb and fats consumption.

In case you are NOT reducing weight, it means you’re nonetheless consuming too many energy. Hold your protein consumption excessive, and scale back your fats and carbohydrate consumption. 

I cowl this in higher element in our “why can’t I drop some weight?” information.

Finally, you’ll attain a standing the place there simply isn’t sufficient fats on you to assist with “Rebuild Muscle.” At this stage, you’ll be able to now not stick with a caloric deficit. You’ll have to flip to a slight “caloric surplus” to construct extra muscle.

Which implies you’ll need to eat extra.

Like this turtle, you may reach a point where you have to eat more to gain muscle.

It’s debatable when it will truly happen, and we’re all totally different. Reaching 8% physique fats for males and 16% physique fats for girls is an efficient place to begin.

I discuss this extensively in our information “Tips on how to Construct Muscle.”

It covers methods to extend your energy for muscle achieve, from consuming plentiful quantities of Paleo meals to ingesting sufficient milk to make Santa Clause jealous.

Santa is drinking milk to put on some muscle. The cookies are just because he likes them.

Go test it out in case you’ve been having bother placing on muscle.

I wish to stress that in case you are lifting heavy, and never gaining muscle, weight loss plan is probably going the wrongdoer.

It was my drawback for years, and I’ve seen it amongst numerous readers of Nerd Health who’ve bother gaining muscle.

If you would like an professional who will let you know precisely when to eat roughly, take a look at our 1-on-1 On-line Teaching Program. 

HOW TO TELL IF IT’S ALL WORKING (Persevering with to Lose Fats Whereas Gaining Muscle)

Now you're ready to start losing fat and gaining muscle!

When you’re attempting to enhance one thing, it’s vital to trace it. This additionally holds true of physique composition.

Most individuals do that by leaping on the size. This may be “okay,” nevertheless it’s solely going to inform a part of the story.

When you’re constructing muscle whereas dropping fats, the size won’t go down. You may even weigh extra!

Regardless of weighing extra, you could possibly probably have a greater physique.

Don't just look at the scale. You might have lost bodyfat and gained muscle, but the scale won't show it!

That’s why along with leaping on the size, I might additionally encourage you to take progress pictures.

Take entrance and facet pictures in your mirror, carrying underwear or a washing swimsuit. Every week, take new pictures, and file the quantity on the size underneath the identical situation. Two types of monitoring right here permit us to get the complete image.

The size generally lies!

When you eat for a caloric deficit, energy prepare, and prioritize protein, see what occurs.

You might end up dropping some fats and gaining muscle.

If not, observe every class:

Knowledge may also help inform the story.

Data and numbers will help you know if you're losing fat and gaining muscle. Numbers, not the robot.

…I used to be considering of detailed notes.

However an android could be useful too.

Oftentimes in case you’re not seeing desired outcomes, notes and record-keeping may also help level us within the route to make changes.

Check your assumptions if issues don’t seem like on observe. Right here’s our Guide on Tracking Fitness Progress for you to learn more.

The tips outlined above will get you started losing fat while building muscle, but if you’re looking to go a bit further…

#1) If you want step-by-step guidance on how to lose weight, eat better, and get stronger, check out our killer 1-on-1 coaching program:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint for getting in shape, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We have a free email newsletter that we send out twice per week, full of tips and tricks to help you get healthy, get strong, and have fun doing so. 

I’ll also send you tons of free guides that you can use to start leveling up your life too:

Alright, I think that about does it for this guide.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any tips and tricks when it comes to shedding body fat and building muscle?

Share it with us!


PS: Make sure you read the rest of the articles in our “How to Lose Weight 101” Series!


All photo sources are right here: Venting Off, Ekaterina Minaeva © 123RF.com, czgur © 123RF.com, morethanl8ve © 123RF.com, Константин Колосов © 123RF.com, Maxim Maksutov © 123RF.com, Julianna Funk © 123RF.com, jump

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