Can you burn fat and build muscle at the same time?
The simple answer is Yes.
However, this implies only under two conditions. For most intermediate and experienced lifters, gaining muscle on a caloric surplus is not possible.
Scenario 1 – Overweight Newbie With No Prior Weight Training Experience
Put a overweight newbie on a high protein diet with a decent amount of volume coming from resistance training you’ll see muscle being built even in a big caloric deficit.
Even thought they don’t eat a lot of calories, there is enough stored calories in the body (fat reserves) to build muscle and burn fat at the same time.
Their fat calls will turn away some energy from further storage and “lend” some of that to muscle tissue building which a very energy taxing process.
Scenario 2 – Overweight Individual Who’s Coming Back From A Training Break
Again put an overweight individual who had experience training in the past on a high protein diet and a good training plan – this person will be build a lot of muscle and lose a lot of fat for a few months.
The process of muscle memory will facilitate the regain of lost muscle mass and strength, regardless of caloric surplus. This will only continue up to a certain point however.
Once the individual’s body has adapted to the workout regimen – usually around 4-6 weeks, the body will stop gaining size or losing fat depending on caloric intake (surplus or deficit).
Scenario 3 – Poor Training Habits (poor sleep, low protein diet, bad training plan)
Most novice lifters lack the right information and strategy to lose weight and gain size. So if this person fixes all of these issues, they might be able to temporarily (again 4-6 weeks till adaptation kicks in) gain muscle in a caloric deficit.
If you have been lifting weights for more than 6 months, you are much better off undertaking a regular cut and maintaining muscle mass.
Building muscle is NOT easy. The longer you train, the closer you are to your genetic potential the harder it gets to build muscle.
Burning fat is generally easy, you need a sustained caloric deficit, high protein diet and resistance training to preserve muscle mass. The longer you train, the more muscle mass you have, the better you can manage your nutrition the easier it gets to burn fat.
So overall, most people who’ve been lifting for a while will benefit from doing focus periods of reducing body fat for 6-8 weeks where they would be losing 0.1-1.5% of their body weight per week.
This can then be alternated with longer periods 12-16 weeks of lean gaining where they would be gaining about 0.5-1.5% of their body weight per month.
This way every time you gain a bit of fat during your “bulking” phase you can get rid of it with a mini cut while maintaining all of your muscle and then go into the muscle gaining phase again.
This is a great proven long term approach for maximizing muscle hypertrophy and strength.
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