Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat at the Same Time

Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.

Jake asked:

“Hey Steve, First I wanted to say thanks so much for taking the time to make this article. I just had a question. I am 16 and 6’4″ and about 200 LBS. I love doing cardio and used to be extremely overweight but i started running and eating right and it all shed off.

I have been working out on and off for about a year and a half now and I have found it pretty easy to put on muscle as long as I stay dedicated to the workout which is also my biggest problem. I have petty much the opposite body type of Taylor Lauter because I am taller and bigger built were he is shorter and was very skinny when he started. So I would thus like to lean out at the same time as i build muscle to achieve that lean muscle look.

My question is that if i were to take in less calories and carbs than recommeded for me but still took in the right amount of protein to build muscle, could I still bulk up and lose fat at the same time to achieve that leaner muscular look?”


In theory, it is impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. When you try to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, you are essentially taking one step forward and one step back.

In reality, people gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, all the time; just look at the results from P90X. Clearly these people are getting shredded while also gaining a little bit of muscle. Note however, that P90X users never go from scrawny to huge, they go from soft and smooth to hard and ripped. This means the majority of their results are based on fat loss.

To gain muscle you need a calorie surplus and to lose fat you need a calorie deficit, and those two states are mutually exclusive. That being said, if you keep your calories low, protein high, and avoid excessive endurance cardio, you will find that you can gain small amounts of lean mass without gaining additional fat, which is probably what you want.

In my opinion you should train heavy and utilize HIIT cardio session for a short period of time, maybe 3-6 months, to maintain muscle mass and possibly gain strength, while keeping calories at a deficit to lose fat. When you reach your fat loss goals, switch to a muscle gain routine and up your calories to gain some mass.

You might gain a little fat during a bulking phase, but if you keep your diet clean, monitor your weekly weight gain, and adjust calorie intake accordingly, you should be able to gain a significant amount of muscle over the course of a year without gaining too much fat.

Otherwise just go balls out and gain as much as you can in like 6 months but don’t worry too much about fat gain… if you are lean enough when you start bulking, it won’t make much of a difference in the appearance of your physique.

To Lose Fat THEN Gain Muscle

Here is a 6 month plan you can use to alternate between losing fat and gaining mass. This is only one option. You could use 1 month mini-cylces instead of 3 month cycles, you could use more of a strength training workout during the fat loss phase rather than the full body routine, you could add additional HIIT and HIRT routines to the muscle gain phase to further minimize fat gain (but also sacrifice some muscle gain), the options really are endless once you figure out what you can do.

Figure out how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates you should eat each day by reviewing these posts:

For 3 months use these posts to get shredded:

For 3 months use these posts to gain mass:

For more information, review my answer to another similar question here: How to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat Most Effectively

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8 Responses to “Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat at the Same Time”

  1. Hey steve thanks so much for this article cause it helped a ton. i also followed one of the links to fat loss routines for men and the routine am currently doing right now has the same structure as the one you gave in that article but my actual exercises are different. i focus on one muscle a week (because i read that that usually produces the most results when building muscle) and i do two muscles a day. ex. monday chest and biceps, wednesday lower body and back, friday shoulders and triceps. I also do 30 min of running on an olyptical machine and ab routine on tuesday, thursday, and saturday. then i take sunday off. i make sure that i work each muscle really well on the days i weightlift because they have a week to rest. i also do 2 weeks of heavier weight and fewer reps for bulk and then 2 weeks of more reps and lighter weight for tone. i was wondering if you think that this routine will have the same effect as the one you made or do you believe that i should instead do the full body routine? (my diet consists of lots of protein and carbs and lower fats and calories by the way).

  2. I used carb-cycling a few years ago with fantastic results. 6-pack abs the whole bit. The problem was the discipline required to continue with it. A month after the results I found myself wavering.

    I’m trialling the eat-stop-eat fasting strategy this time to see if it suits my lifestyle more.

    It’s definitely all about the diet though. Easy to pile on muscle mass WITH fat (done that before ;))

  3. hey steve i noe you said its impossible to build muscle and lsoe fat at the sametime, but is it possible to gain muscle and but not gain fat at the same time?

    • It is possible to gain muscle and not gain fat, yet. You just have to monitor your calories, eat high protein, eat moderate to low carbs, choose healthy foods, and optionally use some high intensity cardio to keep yourself conditioned. It is really all about your diet, rather than exercise.

  4. Steve
    Nice balanced article. Thanks for the quick links to other articles. You didn’t mention carb cycling. Have you any experience with that?

    • I’ve used carb cycling before. Higher carbs on workout days, fewer carbs on off days. Most of the carbs should come directly before and after the workout, with lean fats, a few complex carbs, and proteins making up the rest of the daily diet. If you choose to go super-low carb on workout days, for instance 50-70 grams of carbs: 20 g before the workout and 30-50 g after the workout, then you might do a carb load on Saturday night or something. Incidentally, these are valid strategies for actually ‘dieting’, but not necessarily for maintaining a healthy diet throughout life.

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