Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Many people struggle to know which to start with when it comes to losing body fat and gaining muscle, but what if I said you could do both at the same time? Lets break it down and work out how.
Losing Body Fat
Nutrition Not Cardio
If you follow a lot of fitness influencers or read a lot of blog posts, no doubt you will have come across this statement to lose weight you should "eat a calorie deficit". Now I know what you're thinking, where can I get one of these calorie deficits so I can eat it and lose weight. All joking aside, what actually is a calorie deficit? Basically it is when the body is using more energy that it is consuming.
have you ever heard the phrase "you can't out train a bad diet". This comes from the notion that it is a lot easier to consume 300 calories by eating say two small Kit Kat bars, than to burn 300 calories by performing 40 minutes of moderate intensity rowing. So when looking to lose body fat it is more important to look at your nutrition rather than what exercise you are doing to burn calories.
How Many Calories do I Need
There are a lot of online calculators that can give you a rough idea of the amount of calories you should be consuming to maintain/lose/gain weight. I will leave an example here. As I said before the calorie requirements from calculators can give you a rough idea and a place to start, but keep in mind that everyone is a little different and the numbers can vary from person to person because of factors like how much they move daily, lean body mass, genetics and medical history. The best way to know you are in a deficit is to start by using the calorie counter and monitor the results through progress pictures and body measurements. If you are getting the desired results from the amount of calories you are having, great. if not slightly alter them and again track progress until you are happy with the results.
How Do I Know if I'm In a Deficit
A great tool for tracking whether you are in a calorie deficit is an app called 'My Fitness Pal'. I get my clients to track through this app because it teaches them the amounts of calories in the foods they eat. It may seem tedious to track all of your food at the beginning but tracking your calorie intake can help you understand what you are consuming and modify this to get the changes you desire.
Progressive overload is basically increasing the demand of the musculoskeletal system over time to cause positive adaptations like muscle growth. Put simply if you don't challenge it you don't change it. So chances are if you are following the same workout that you found online without progressing it in some way, you may not get the muscle growth that you desire.
There are many ways to achieve progressive overload and although increasing the load or weight of an exercise will come into it, there are other ways you may want to consider as well:
- Improve your technique, this should be the first step for progression. Improving technique can help decrease the impact on joints, increase the demand on the target muscle group and make the exercise harder from an increase in range of movement.
- Increasing the repetitions of an exercise.
- Increase the frequency of the exercise
- Slow down the tempo of a movement. Doing an exercise with more control can keep the muscles under tension for longer and may eliminate the use of momentum in a movement.
- increasing the amount of sets.
- Decreasing the rest you have between sets.
Protein synthesis just means making protein. To build muscle you need to have a higher rate of protein synthesis than protein breakdown. Our body is in both states repeatedly on a daily basis. We are at a higher rate of protein synthesis when we eat a meal with sufficient protein, so eating enough protein is essential for building muscle when paired with resistance training.
There is plenty of evidence to show that you need protein to gain muscle, but how much protein is enough protein? At least 1.6g - 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight is said to be needed to maximise muscle gain while following a progressive overload program. We also need sufficient energy to gain muscle, but when we are in a calorie deficit our body will use the energy stored in our body as fat rather than the surplus of calories we are consuming. Keeping that in mind, if you are pretty lean this may be harder to achieve and to make sure we are still giving our body a fighting chance I would keep the calorie deficit modest at about 200 - 500 calories.
Wrap it Up
So the evidence shows that if we do not want to separate our "bulk" and "cut" or muscle gain and fat loss, it is possible to achieve both at the same time. To lose fat it is evident you need to be in a calorie deficit and to gain muscle you need to eat enough protein and implement progressive overload. So here are the key points to take away when trying to build muscle and lose fat: