CAN YOU BUILD MUSCLE AND BURN FAT SIMULTANEOUSLY??
JDP Fitness Top Trainer Jackson Hinch explores whether you can achieve the Holy Grail of exercise.
Losing fat while gaining muscle, the Holy Grail for every gym goer. It seems like such a simple concept, and like we should be able to just do it in an instant. If this were true then there would be a lot more of us walking around with six packs and toned physiques. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, even pursuing one of these goals, whether to build muscle or lose fat, is hard enough and requires dedication and planning. Your ability to achieve “Body Recomposition”, as it’s called, will depend on your current body composition, your training experience, your dieting experience, and most of all your consistency as let’s be frank here, these kinds of physical changes don’t happen overnight.
As outlined in our previous articles on muscle gain and fat loss, to gain muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus and to lose body fat you need to be in a calorie deficit. This is due to needing to push your body out of homeostasis and force adaptions. The good news is that if you’re reading this and it’s all new to you, you are likely in a prime position to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. This is because you’re either new to training entirely, new to training properly, or new to training properly and eating in the right way simultaneously, in which case your body is hyper responsive to training and dieting and can gain muscle at a very fast rate compared to a more seasoned gym goer.
This hyper responsiveness causes bigger, faster changes in your body due to the stimulus being entirely new for your body and requiring adaptions it has never had to make before, so in a way you could say it overcompensates and does more than is necessary in terms of muscle gain. This will make things easier to decide what we need to do diet wise. Since our body is going to be in a position wanting to gain more muscle from the progressive overload of weight training consistently and with planning, we can get away with a moderate calorie deficit in order to stimulate some fat loss as well. A calorie deficit of around 20% is enough to drop body fat at a fast rate while not overly limiting the muscle building potential of a new trainee.
While still on the subject of diet, let’s talk Carbs. They’re touted as everyone’s worst enemy when it comes to fat loss. Let’s get things clear, they can be your worst enemy but also your best friend if you implement them correctly, especially when aiming to build muscle as well. Saving your carb heavy meals till just before training and immediately after training will help fuel recovery, shuttling valuable nutrients into your muscles to gains size and performance, while keeping your body as a fat burning furnace the rest of the day.
Keeping Protein high ensures our bodies are fed sufficient building blocks to gain as much muscle as possible in as shorter time as possible. While also providing a thermic effect when digested to help burn more fat, it’s easy to see why proteins of different sorts will be the centre point of our nutrition. Some form of protein every time you eat is a good starting point, with your daily protein total looking to be around 2g/kg bodyweight.
Just because we are trying to lose fat doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat any fats. Quite the opposite really, healthy fats are essential to a great looking physique that performs as well as it looks. Care must be taken adding these into your diet though as they are very calorie dense and can easily hamper your intended calorie deficit.
Now the diet is sorted, let’s answer the training questions, what type of training is best to help you towards gaining muscle while losing fat and making drastic changes to your physique in the process. Weight training is key. Emphasis on heavy, compound movements with a moderate amount of volume creates stress on the muscles and forces them to grow and adapt to meet the demands of future sessions. A compound movement is any movement requiring the use of multiple joints at once, for example a Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Row or any solid variation of the above. Aiming to progressively overload these movements will more muscle tissue, more.more calories burnt and a better looking end product for you.
While you don’t have to do any cardio to lose body fat, it does greatly help the cause. In the case of body recomposition you need to be sure to do the right type of cardio to make the most of your time and to help preserve your hard earned muscle gains. This is where High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) comes into play. HIIT is a style of exercise where you alternate between periods of all out effort (eg sprinting) and low effort or rest (eg walking or pacing), hence the name. The periods of high intensity really push your bodies metabolic demands and the low intensity periods allow you to recover for the next sprint effort. You can perform HIIT with no equipment (eg walk/sprint), with cardio equipment (eg rowing or cycling), or with resistance equipment (eg kettlebells, TRX, Power Bags), this keeps it interesting, keeps your body burning as many calories as possible due to it not being able to get really efficient at one mode of exercise, and keeps you from getting bored. HIIT burns more calories per minute than standard cardio, raises your metabolic rate for the rest of the day, and does a far better job at preserving muscle mass than standard cardio as well due to the higher intensity and shorter duration.
In general building muscle while losing fat is very difficult, but is much easier when you are first starting out than when you are an intermediate or advanced trainee. Making the most of these initial gains can be a great motivator and can help you set a fantastic base, physique and lifestyle wise, for continued progress in your future fitness endeavours.
Train hard and heavy. Sprint or walk, don’t jog. Eat well and in a slight calorie deficit, and you could be one of the few who experience the dramatic changes your body is capable of.