How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat At The Same Time

Whenever fitness and weight loss is discussed there is one particular topic that always seems popular.

Everyone wants to know how to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

You want fast results so why not just gain strength, build muscle and lose fat all at the same time, make sense right?

While it is definitely possible to do with the right plan, the truth is that it might not be the right approach or mindset for everyone.

Also, gaining strength and muscle will likely not happen at any meaningful rate if you are an experienced lifter and have a good amount of strength and muscle already.

Keeping that in mind, continue reading below and you will learn how to do it.

I need to emphasize this first though: things take time!

Losing fat takes time.

Gaining strength and muscle take time.

Doing it at the same time does not make it go faster.

Building Muscle Without Breaking Too Much Sweat

Building muscle is essentially very simple.

The increase in strength and muscle size happens as an adaptation to the stimulus you put on your muscle when lifting.

When your muscle has become highly stressed your body responds by improving its ability to handle the imposed level of stress in the future.

The most efficient way to provide this stimulus is to do heavy compound exercises and to follow a workout routine that makes progressive overload easy.

Progressive overload (read definiton on Wikipedia) refers to increasing the tension in your muscle fibers over time, or in other words increasing the amount of stress you put on your muscle over time.

Of course, you also have to be serious about recovery and your diet. Providing your body with sufficient time to recover will enable it to actually build up that muscle, and if you eat right it will have the materials to do so.

Providing your body with sufficient time to recover will enable it to actually build up that muscle, and if you eat right it will have the materials to do so.

By eating right I mean getting a relatively small amount of surplus calories, enough protein, carbs, and fat.

However, if you just focus on getting stronger in the 5-10 rep range with compound lifts, in particular, have rest days and eat right I can guarantee you that muscle will follow…

building muscle

Don’t Be Confused With Fat Loss

In order to lose fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit.

You simply need to use more energy (calories) than you consume.

However, applying that idea is often not as easy as it sounds.

You have probably seen many advertisements from companies and “health gurus” telling you about supplements, special diets, mixtures you need to drink in the morning/evening or weird exercises you should perform in order to lose a large amount of fat in a short amount of time.

I cannot tell you from personal experience if any such supplement etc. work because I never really cared to test it myself.

But I strongly suspect that none of such things work or that at least the effect is highly exaggerated.

If any of these things work, it will be because they create a calorie deficit. This is true for whatever special diet or whatever specific type of food that is avoided.

But, what I can tell you is that trying to lose a large amount of fat in a short amount of time is a bad idea.

It will have a big negative impact on both your bodily and mental health. If you think that sounds exaggerated read this

If you think that sounds exaggerated read this interesting article from

If that wasn’t enough it will for almost all people lead to a significant muscle loss, and therefore you are actually not only losing fat.

Also, people often regain a large part or all of the fat and that means that the real result is just muscle loss. That is a bad idea.

In fact, being in a calorie deficit for a significant time period will almost always lead to strength and muscle loss unless you are also doing strength training/weight training.

I cover this in my two articles on why weight training for weight loss is best and how to use weight training to lose weight.

The Best Way To Lose Fat

The best way and I believe the only real way to lose fat is by having a moderate calorie deficit for a longer time.

That means you will be losing fat slowly but steady.

A good general number is to have a deficit of around 20 – 25 % of your maintenance calories.

This normally equates to a deficit of about 500 calories every day.

That equals to 3500 calories every week which then, in turn, should lead to a fat loss of 0,45 kg / 1 pound. You can go higher with the calorie deficit, but I recommend not going too much higher.

Understand that this is only a general guideline, and that fat loss is both a more complicated process and is rarely linear.

After all, you would be heavily underestimating the complex nature of your body if you thought any of its processes could be perfectly described with simple numbers.

If you are interested in more in-depth information on fat loss, I would suggest you check out some of my other articles.

In this article, I use basic math to estimate how fast fat loss can occur. In this article, I talk about setting realistic expectations.

Building Muscle and Losing Fat At The Same Time

As mentioned the requirement for optimal strength and muscle gain is a small calorie surplus, and the best way to lose fat is to have a moderate calorie deficit.

That is clearly a contradiction, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be done. However, strength and muscle gain will be much slower.

Beginners and most intermediate lifters will probably get decent results.

But if you are an experienced lifter it is going to be much more difficult.

A method that might work for an experienced lifter is focusing on one muscle/muscle group by for example adding another exercise or more sets and then lowering the amount of work a bit on other muscles in order to just maintain strength and muscle size.

When you are at a calorie deficit you are putting more stress on your body and you are having fewer calories and nutrients for your body to recover.

It is, therefore, a good idea to lower the amount of stress induced by your workouts by reducing the intensity.

However, one thing you should not do is lowering the weight. Obviously, if you no longer can perform the exercise you have to lower the weight.

One way of reducing the intensity of your workouts without lowering the weight is to reduce the number of sets, and if you were doing a 2-day split you can transition to a 3-day split.

The Right Mindset

There is some important thing to have in mind when losing fat.

People who do not to weight training /strength training will lose strength and muscle in a calorie deficit.

In my experience, this fact is often underestimated and the effect is not insignificant!

So, instead of feeling defeated because you are not gaining strength and muscle while losing fat, you should actually be happy that you are just maintaining your strength and muscle.

Want An Awesome Guide?

If you want a proven nutrition set up or just want to learn more about nutrition in general, then I have a great free resource for you.

In this awesome nutrition guide, I cover everything you need to about setting up your diet for muscle growth or fat loss. It also got an accompanying email course!

I am giving it all away as a welcome gift when you join my email list.

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My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to write about fitness and health and share what I have found “works” for people like YOU. If you want to know more about me and my vision for this website then you can click here.

6 comments… add one
  • jairo Mar 31, 2017 @ 5:44

    Great information. I think that gaining muscle is very important, but I think the most important thing is flexibility. Cardio helps you to oxygenate muscles but there are sports that can leave you in a very good shape without much weight. Swimming is one in which you learn to breathe seriously. I like your content
    Congratulations !

    • Marcus Mar 31, 2017 @ 13:53

      Hey Jairo

      I am happy you liked it. I like swimming but never been very good at it haha

  • Penny Mar 31, 2017 @ 5:46

    So to make sure I understand your article, to lose fat you need a calorie deficit, but to gain muscle you need a slight calorie surplus, so the most realistic goal is to go for a calorie deficit and target fat loss but change your workout routine to emphasize maintaining your existing muscle stores…is that right? Thanks for the info, this is a question on a lot of people’s minds!

    • Marcus Mar 31, 2017 @ 14:13

      You are exactly right:)
      However, if you are a beginner or intermediate lifter then you can expect to gain strength and muscle but at a slower rate.

  • Moon Mar 31, 2017 @ 12:03

    I have been thin all my life, so I’m more interested in the gaining muscle part. You mentioned “Gaining strength and muscle take time”, so how much time do I need to commit and when will I see results? Is there any particular advice focused on gaining arm strength and hand grip? Thanks!

    • Marcus Mar 31, 2017 @ 14:25

      The truth is that if you follow the right workout and diet plan you should be gaining strength and muscle after every single time you finish a workout. But the increases are small and will most likely not be apparent every time. I think 3 months is a good timeframe to commit to and after that period you will see significant gains. Also after that you can commit to 3 more months 😛
      For arm strength I would do biceps curls and triceps push-downs, and if you want to work on hand grip alone my favorite is an exercise called “dead hang”, where you literally just hang from the bar for time. This exercise is really a killer and is much harder than it sounds.

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