Almost every guy says they want to “lose fat and build muscle”.
It seems like many guys believe it’s possible to build 15lb of muscle and lose 15lb of fat in a few months if you eat right and have a great training program like p90x. But is that really possible, or is this wishful thinking?
First, let’s answer the question if it’s possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
The short answer is that it depends on what you mean by the “same time”. Could be yes, could be no.
No – Physiologically speaking, it’s not possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same exact moment in time because one process is catabolic (losing fat) and the other is anabolic (building muscle).
Yes – It is possible, however, to gain muscle and lose fat over let’s say the course of several months, or even over the course of a day you may be able to lose fat and build muscle, but on a very small scale.
Is it worth trying to lose fat and build muscle mass at the same time?
I think the answer is a resounding No.
There is not one top fitness model, or natural bodybuilder who tries to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. For people whose livelihood depends on their ability to transform their bodies, they focus on a muscle building phase of 6-9 months, then fat loss phase of 2-3 months. I think that should tell you everything you need to know right there.
Losing fat and building muscle at the same time sounds extremely desirable, but it’s NOT an intelligent approach to maximize your results despite all the marketing you see that tells you otherwise. Building muscle is anabolic, which requires you create a calorie surplus, while losing fat is catabolic and requires that you create a calorie deficit. Why attempt to do both at the same time for only mediocre results at best?
Keep in mind that according to BeachBody’s own Steve Edwards says “P90X is not a system designed for mass. It’s designed for overall fitness, which means that ultimate gains in targeted areas, like speed, strength, flexibility, and muscle growth, are compromised to provide a program that improves all your body’s physical energy systems during one 90-day effort. We feel that this is the preferred training system, because it addresses the big picture.” Therefore doing p90x you can certainly gain muscle strength which allows the muscle to work more efficiently and have more definition, but you won’t be necessarily adding much mass, and especially true if you are on a calorie deficit.
How To Lose Fat And Build Muscle At The Same Time?
The short answer is “nutrient timing” can help you lose fat and build muscle over the course of a few months, but I still STRONGLY recommend having the primary goal of either losing fat, or building muscle NOT both equally. I also want to emphasize that pursuing a fat loss phase, or a muscle building phase is far superior to maximize your results.
Nutrient timing is determined by (1) when you eat, (2) how much you eat, and (3) what you eat that together affect how your body responds. There are different schools of thought regarding nutrient timing and some nutrient timing plans can get so tedious and complicated that you would have to quit your day job to follow them.
If you do try to lose fat and build muscle, which one should you emphasize?
If you have more than 15% body fat (25% body fat for woman), I would STRONGLY recommend focusing on fat loss, with potentially some muscle gain if you’re lucky. The reverse is true for attempting to build muscle with some moderate fat loss.
One very easy to implement nutrient timing strategy for primarily fat loss is to reduce calorie intake for most of the week. Around your strength training workouts you can eat a high protein/moderate carb snack both 30 minutes before and after your workout to maximize the anabolic window when your muscles are most sensitive to sucking in protein. This strategy is not recommended for people looking to lose fat without losing muscle because it can slow down progress.
A better way would be to focus one phase or one round on muscle gain, and then another on fat loss.
So how do you go about gaining muscle mass?
My first couple of rounds I’ve mainly been focusing on fat loss, and although I’ve been getting stronger, more fit, and gaining endurance, I’ve not been gaining any muscle mass. Now that I’ve gone below the 15% body fat I have started to focus a phase on gaining some muscle mass. I’ve done this by increasing my calorie consumption, and it’s very important to eat enough protein. You should eat at least 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight, or 1.4 g for each pound of lean body weight. It’s also very important to even spread the consumption of that protein evenly throughout the day into 6 meals. Therefore if you weight 210 pounds, you should be eating 35g of protein 6 times a day with each of your small meals. Since the body can not process much more protein than this at one time.
For a good article on gaining mass with p90x, and a modified schedule, please read this article