If there is 1 question that I get more than any other it’s from a new lifter who asks me the question “how can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?”
I completely understand why this question is so common. Most guys are unhappy with how much muscle they have as well as how much fat they have covering their muscles - and the only way you will ever build a physique that you love in the mirror is if you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
This is also known as a “body recomposition” and this article is going to give you my no BS straightforward approach to gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time and tell you precisely what has worked for myself and for thousands of other people just like you.
If this strategy has worked for me as an experienced lifter and allowed me to gain 8+ lbs of muscle while also losing body-fat over the course of 8-12 weeks, expect even better results if you haven’t been training for a decade plus.
The fact of the matter is the WORSE shape that you are currently in and the less experience you have working out will actually translate to faster results with this strategy. If you are an experienced lifter you can still gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, but you will just have to work a bit harder and dial in the details even more. Enough jibber jabber, let’s get started!
The pros and cons of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time
The only downside when attempting to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time is that you sacrifice the speed at which you can gain muscle and lose fat. Let me explain.
Let’s say that 100% of your focus is on building muscle as fast as humanly possible. What should you do? Simple. You lift heavy and train like a madman with max intensity every workout, and combine this with eating in a calorie surplus and getting really good rest, recovery and sleep. If you do this you will build muscle as fast as nature allows. Think of this as building muscle at a rate of 100%.
Let’s say that you want to strip off stubborn fat as fast as possible. What should you do? Simple. You create a calorie deficit of 500-750 calories per day by moving your body more and eating less. You make sure that you are sleeping well and not eating junk food and maintaining this calorie deficit each week. Think of this as losing fat at a rate of 100%.
Now when your goal is to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, you can’t build muscle rapidly and also burn fat rapidly at the same time. You can however make progress towards BOTH goals over the course of a short period of time, but you won’t be building muscle and losing fat at a rate of 100% anymore.
Instead you might be building muscle at a rate of 60% and losing fat at a rate of 60%. This strategy is for seeing results in both goals at the same time, which will help you look substantially more ripped in the mirror, but you won’t pack on slabs of muscle like a madman OR lose 30 lbs of fat in 12 weeks. Make sense? It’s a trade-off, but for most of you the trade-off will be worth it and you will look insane in the mirror when it’s all said and done.
Now that we have set some realistic expectations, here is how to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
The ONLY 3 Things You Need To Do To Gain Muscle & Lose Fat
I like to simplify things for you so let’s shortlist this to the only 3 things you need to do to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. You MUST do all 3 of these things. If you do 2 out of the 3 it won’t work. If you don’t pay attention to the details it won’t work. I don’t want to sound like a drill sergeant and Superhuman Fitness is all about being “shredded with a life” so please keep in mind these are very easy tips to follow and have already factored in that you have a life other than workout out and following a diet.
1. Getting your calories right
This is number one for a reason. You must eat the right amount of calories to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. My sweet spot is usually about 250 calories less than my maintenance total. How do you figure out your maintenance calories? We have a 100% free calorie calculator for you to use below.
All you are going to do is enter your information below and figure out your maintenance level calories. If you have a sluggish metabolism and you struggle to lose fat I want you to eat maintenance calories minus 250.
If you lose fat fairly easily and you have a fast metabolism, I want you to eat exactly at your maintenance calories.
Now the most important thing with your diet now that we have our calories figured out is that you don’t need to eat this number every single day. This number just represents your weekly average.
Inside all of the Superhuman training programs they follow the Crave Diet, which allows you to eat the foods you crave following a workout, and not eat strictly the same amount of calories every single day. This does 2 things. It helps you eat more food on the weekend or whenever you want, and it jumpstarts your metabolism to keep the rate of fat loss high if you have 1-2 days per week where you are eating more calories, and a few days per week when you are eating less calories.
Let’s say you figure out that you want to eat about 2,600 calories per day.
You might have a few days where you only eat 2,300, and then on Saturday night you might have a cheat meal which brings your daily calories to 3,100. This is 100% fine. The only thing that matters is that you take your total calories each day at the end of the week and divide them by 7 to figure out how many calories you ate per day on average. As long as you are within 100 of your “goal calories” you are good! Don’t sweat the small stuff 🙂
In all honesty I would not worry too much about macros other than the fact I want you to eat the carbs you crave around your workouts to help you build muscle, as carbs are very anabolic. Another thing is to keep your protein intake high. I recommend at least 1 gram of protein per lb of bodyweight at the minimum.
Now that we covered the diet stuff, let’s move onto the next tip!
2. Getting your training right
The biggest part about getting your training right is doing what I like to refer to as “Athletic bodybuilding” where you combine HIIT cardio with intense weight lifting in the same week.
Let’s talk about the weight training stuff in this part, and make sure you don’t skip over the cardio below!
Your weight room workouts need to follow the Balloon Method, where you maximize the only 3 ways you can build muscle during a workout in 1 short and intense session. This is what everyone on the Superhuman training programs follow, and I can’t recommend it enough for the fastest results possible.
If you don’t know what the Balloon Method is I suggest that you go here next, but let me walk you through a few other details regarding your training to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.
A. The Intensity Factor
I can't stress this enough - Intensity is one of the KEY elements of your training, and if you want to gain muscle and lose fat this is the biggest x-factor.
In sports science, intensity represents the weight you are lifting.
The heavier you lift, the bigger the intensity (one rep max is 100% intensity).
Now, when it comes to progressively overloading, one of the most potent stimulus for growth is the increase in working weight (Intensity).
If you squat 200 pounds for 8 repetitions and a workout later, make an effort to squat 205 pounds for 8 repetitions, guess what - You will create a reason for the body to grow muscle, simple as that!
Keeping a workout log is essential for monitoring and adjusting your workout, so you can progressively overload in an optimal manner.
But it doesn't stop there, as you can apply an array of different methods, such as advanced drop sets, advanced supersets, time under tension sets, rest-pause overload sets, cluster sets, etc, etc.
Keeping a workout log to track intensity, volume, rest times and other variables in a workout, is of prime importance for progressing.
B. The Activation Factor
Activation means how long a muscle is under tension for, and is one of the best ways to build muscle mass. Although lifting heavy is important, time under tension and making sure a muscle is working for 30-45 seconds for some of your working sets will blow up your muscle gains.
A good rule of thumb is that for half of your workout you focus on lifting heavy in the 6-10 rep range and doing other intensity techniques like dropsets, supersets, etc and then for the other half of your workout focus on lighter weight and time under tension. If you do both you will not only burn more fat in every workout, but you will also create more healthy micro-tears which will translate into lean muscle gains.
C. The Frequency Factor
If you are just starting to workout, burning fat and building muscle at the same time will be even easier for you.
During that "Newbie gains" period, you can reap all the gains by just training every muscle group once a week.
As time goes by and the law of diminishing returns sets in however, you have to up the frequency.
In training, the law of diminishing returns is used to refer to a point at which the level of physical development is not up to par with the effort put in. (Every trainee makes the most substantial gains during the first year.)
Once you are an intermediate or advanced trainee, consider implementing periods of higher frequency training, where you work on each muscle group two times per week.
This way, you will open more windows of opportunity for muscle protein synthesis.
On top of that, by splitting ~20 total work sets in two separate workouts, you will do BETTER on each set.
Think about it - If you do 20 sets in a workout, by the time you are done with the 10th set, you will be TOAST!
That is simply because of the fatigue that sets in.
On the other hand, if you do those 20 sets in 2 workouts with 48~72 hours of rest, you will be able to exert much more force on each set.
Once you are past your first 12-18 months of training, it is recommended that you up your training frequency, so that you can hit every muscle twice a week.
If you are training to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, I recommend hitting every muscle twice per week so you can build more muscle and burn more calories.
3. The Cardio Component
Ok, we covered how you need to eat and lift weights. How you perform your cardio is the single biggest x-factor to gaining muscle and losing fat. We have a great article on the site on why sprinters are so ripped.
Let me give you a hint. It’s because of this kind of cardio that they perform 2-3x per week. Performing HIIT cardio where you are exerting your fast twitch muscle fibers is the biggest tip I could give you because when you perform this type of cardio the compound effect on your muscle building and fat burning hormones is incredible.
HIIT Cardio could be separated by sprints, jumping, or even biking as fast as you can. Any activity where you are 100% max intensity for 10-30 seconds at a time.
The easiest way to get shredded and reap the benefits of fast twitch muscle fiber training is running sprint intervals, but you need to make sure that your ankles, knees and ligaments are healthy and you warm up up properly so you don’t pull a muscle!
If you find that running sprints is to hard and you are pulling your hamstring, quad, groin, etc another alternative is simly pedal on a bike or a stationary bike at the gym as fast as you can for 20-30 second intervals, rest 45 seconds, and repeat 6-10 times per workout.
The great thing about this type of cardio is you only need to do it 2-3x per week and it takes less time than running for miles on a treadmill. When you are running long distance you are working out a different muscle fiber and doing nothing for your hormones or post workout metabolism.
When you sprint, jump, or pedal on a bike as fast as you can, you are doing way more for gaining muscle and burning fat at the same time.
I suggest you start with 2 HIIT cardio sessions per week, and work your way up to 3 after the first month.
Putting it all together
On top of everything I just said, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night and keeping your stress levels low. When you are mentally stressed your body produces cortisol, and this is the enemy of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time!
If you want to not think about anything and hop on the fast-lane to gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time, I recommend you join the SuperHuman Ripped program to sculpt the Action Figure physique.
Inside the program I will hold your hand every step of the way, and you will be able to join the Fb Private group where you can ask myself and thousands of other people on the programs any questions you encounter so you never feel like you are alone on an island!