Is it possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time? 2 years ago

Is it possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Gaining muscle and burning fat have long been seen as completely opposing goals

Many believe you can only pick one or the other. But there's evidence to suggest you can actually build muscle and lose fat at the same time.


Why do people think it's not possible?

Muscle gain requires a calorie surplus, where your calorie intake is greater than what you burn off. Fat loss normally requires a calorie deficit.

Photo: iStock

Pretty simple stuff, right?

Despite this fairly simple science, there are a few circumstances where simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss have been observed.

Who can build muscle and lose fat?


In people with obesity, muscle gain and fat loss is possible at the same time.

One study in particular looked at overweight police officers. It was found that in just 12 weeks, overweight police officers who started a new resistance training programme lost 9.3 pounds of fat, while also gaining 8.8 pounds of muscle mass.

DISCLAIMER: This man did not want to take part in the study

Another group of people in which muscle gain and fat loss has been noted is novices. In other words, people with little or no weight training experience.

Studies have repeatedly shown that weight room beginners can build muscle and burn fat at the same time.

However, it's always been assumed that these effects are short-lived. If you've got some lifting experience, or are otherwise a healthy weight, how on Earth are you supposed to build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Believe it or not, it's still possible.

Photo: iStock

How can you build muscle and burn fat?

This phenomenon was explored in research recently published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Scientists said:

"Although many suggest that this only occurs in untrained/novice and overweight/obese populations, there is a substantial amount of literature demonstrating this body recomposition phenomenon in resistance-trained individuals."

Body recomposition is a fancy way of saying 'muscle gain and fat loss.'

It can occur in people with weight training experience when two factors are at play:

  • Progressive resistance training: when you're gradually getting stronger, and adding more weight to your lifts in the gym
  • Evidence-based nutrition: this may involve manipulating calories so you're in a surplus on training days, and a deficit when you're not hitting in the gym

Sleep also needs to be in check due to the power it holds in muscle recovery and hormone production.