By Myprotein Writer |
Making muscle gains whilst burning fat is the holy grail for just about anyone who is serious about training. Lean, muscular, strong, and healthy: it’s what many of us aspire towards and are constantly striving to achieve.
Far from being easy however, striking the balance between the two is always said to be notoriously difficult, and something which many claim is practically impossible.
So what’s the verdict? Can you lose fat and gain muscle? Here’s our guide to how you CAN, whether you’re new to lifting, or are a training veteran.
So what’s the fuss about?
Reducing your body fat % whilst increasing your muscle mass go hand in hand. Your body fat % is calculated by determining its ratio of muscle to fat.
Naturally, you may think, whenever you are increasing your muscle mass you are therefore lessening the ratio of fat in comparison. The two should go hand in hand right? Well to a degree.
The task, and difficulty in this process is the measures that it takes to gain muscle are the opposite to those usually used to burn fat. Both goals have one thing in common: consistency.
However, it is in terms of nutrition that these two goals conflict: two different types of regimen which are arguably at completely different ends of the spectrum. Bulking and cutting are two phases which many associate with, but with wholly different goals!
Bulking and Cutting
This involves putting yourself in a calorie surplus and lifting heavy to gain strength. This is all in aid to increase muscle mass and density, essentially gaining weight to improve performance and achieve your strength goals. Cardio is not a focus, as those bulking will be putting their efforts in lifting sessions and increasing weights each session.
On the other hand is directly used by those looking to decrease their body fat. Unless you already have a have a high body fat percentage, those on a cut will more than likely have come out of a bulking phase, and will be looking for more muscle definition.
In contrast to bulking, those in a cutting phase will more than likely be in a substantial caloric deficit, often engaging in cardio sessions, and heavy lifting alongside this. Strength is likely to be somewhat lost, but this is in return for a more ‘ripped’ and lean physique.
So here we have our problem
Bulking and cutting (the two processes for muscle building and losing fat) essentially clash. With one involving putting yourself in a calorie surplus, and the other in a deficit, it’s easy to see why so many claim that this dual goal is never easy to achieve.
But, it can be achieved by holding true to the key principle which binds these two phases: consistency. How you go about this will depend on:
✓ How long you’ve been lifting
✓ Your current body fat %
✓ Your lifestyle.
With that in mind , here’s a few tips for how you can join the elite fat burning muscle gaining club!
New to lifting? Well you’re in luck, because you a part of the only group for whom this process is all the more easy. … And why?
If you’ve just started weight training, chances are your muscle mass was reasonably low. In your first year of lifting, you’ll undergo what is known as a body re-composition. Your body responds the most in these first few months, making leaps and bounds in muscle gains.
If you’re training to your limit, and fueling your body with more than enough good nutritionally dense foods (view our shopping list for a generic idea of some foods to include in your diet) you will no doubt see a sharp rise in your strength.
Lifting heavy causes small internal tears to the muscle, which are then repaired with what you are putting into your body.
To increase your muscle mass, of course you have to feed them more, a controlled surplus of clean foods that will sufficiently repair the damage (albeit not detrimental) caused by heavy lifting.
✓ Whilst your gains increase, you’ll generally find you’ll also lose fat: a sign that your body is responding to being fed in a surplus and heavy training.
✓ Often those who see this change were in a deficit before: underfeeding their bodies and holding themselves back from reaching their bodies muscular capacity. But there will come a time where your gains will plateau: this is when you have reached your current potential and it’s time to switch it up.
What if I’ve been lifting for years?
So now we move on to answer to the majority: those who have plateaued but still want to continue building muscle without gaining fat.
When most go into a bulk they accept that some additional fat gain is obligatory, but it is a small price to pay for those focusing on their strength. This however is a frustrating prospect: surely there is a way to overcome this?
Well, of course this is why we have the two phases: so that they can be cycled to slowly but surely achieve the dual goal. Aside from nutrition, there are several other ways your can help your body to burn fat whilst still increase your muscle mass.
1) HIIT Cardio
High ntensity interval training is a great way to burn fat and improve your performance. Pushing your body to the limit for short amounts of time with small times breaks between increases your bodies metabolic limit and ability to burn fat after your work out.
Try adding a couple of sessions a week: either following one of our HIIT guides, or using equipment such as the treadmill for sprints.
2) Drop sets and super sets
Getting that ‘burn’ is key when it comes to fat loss. Both methods will promote better insulin sensitivity and therefore improve your body’s overall metabolic rate.
3) Change up your work out
Been doing the same workout for the past couple of months?
Time for a change! Our bodies adapt and get used to exercises we perform week in, week out. Therefore it’s essential to make changes where you can to constantly challenge your limits.
Take Home Message
Losing fat whilst gaining muscle isn’t impossible – it just takes time and consistency.
Incorporate some of the above tips into your lifestyle and see what difference it can make!