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How to Build Muscle While Losing Fat

Can you build muscle while simultaneously losing fat mass?

It’s a commonly held belief that in order to build muscle, you need to bulk and be in a caloric surplus whereas in order to lose fat, you need to cut down and be in a caloric deficit. Therefore, many people think that doing both at once is basically impossible.

This popular belief is totally false: your body is much smarter and more capable than you may give it credit for. By sticking to the proper diet and exercise routine, which can be done with the help of an experienced trainer, you can absolutely lose fat while gaining muscle at the same time, which is known as body recomposition. This article will break down just what you need to do to accomplish that!

1. Optimize your training

You can have the best diet in the world, but without a proper training program, you won’t be able to build muscle. When it comes to training for body recomposition, you want to focus on progressive overload, appropriate effort, and proper technique.

Another big thing to focus on is weight training. While many people are intimidated by lifting, it’s actually a critical part in accomplishing fat loss and muscle gain at the same time. Weight training helps you put on more muscle mass while burning more fat more efficiently.

When it comes to body recomposition, 3 to 4 60 minute strength sessions a week should do the trick. This should include compound lifts such as the squat and deadlift, which are both an efficient use of your time and build more strength as they require more muscle and joint recruitment.

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, sessions is also an effective way to burn fat. Aim to do 2-3 HIIT sessions a week to burn more calories while building muscle.

2. Know how many calories you need to eat

Your maintenance calories are going to depend on whether your primary goal is to lose fat or to build muscle. Even if you want to do both at the same time, you need to establish what is MORE important to you.

If you are currently on the leaner side, which ranges from 8-12% body fat for men and 18-22% body fat for women, your primary goal would most likely be to build muscle. On the other hand, if you’re currently on the bulkier side, which ranges from 15-20% body fat for men and 25-30% for women, your primary goal would then be to lose fat.

After establishing your main goal, you can center your caloric intake around that goal. If your main goal is to build muscle, you should enter a slight caloric surplus, which can range anywhere from a 5-25% increase to your maintenance calories. And if your goal is to lose fat, a slight caloric deficit of 10-20% would be beneficial. Exactly how many calories you add or slash to your caloric intake is going to depend on your genetics, how lean you are, and how much fat you have to lose.

You can estimate what your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories your body needs to accomplish its most basic functions, with this online calculator.

3. Set up your macronutrient targets

After figuring out how many calories you need to eat, the next step is determining your macronutrient breakdown. This starts with perhaps the most important macronutrient for body recomposition: protein!

Your protein intake, like your caloric intake, is going to depend on your body fat percentage. If you have a higher body fat percentage, aim to eat around 1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass each day. If you’re a leaner individual, aim closer to 1.6 grams per pound of lean body mass.

From here, you can determine your other macronutrient requirements. Calories from fat should take up no less than 20% of your total calorie intake, and then the rest of your calories can be used for carbohydrates.

4. Pay attention to the details

As you get more advanced in your fitness journey, body recomposition starts to get more difficult, which is when paying attention to the details is going to be important. Getting enough sleep each night, timing your meals correctly, and proper nutrient supplementation are all factors that can optimize your body recomposition. Of course, consult a physician before supplementing with anything.

Knowing how to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time isn’t easy, but know that it CAN be done. With the help of a fitness professional and proper programming and nutrition, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve the physique you want.

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