Many people believe that gaining muscle and losing fat together is the best approach to take. In fact, it's very difficult, and achieved rarely. It's common to see a large decrease in body fat accompanied by a small increase in lean body mass. It's also common to see a large increase in lean body mass with a small decrease in body fat. But one thing you will almost never see is a large increase in lean body mass and a large decrease in body fat simultaneously. In a study, researchers from California State University tracked a group of healthy men for eight weeks. The men consumed an average of 4,339 calories daily, and trained with weights four days a week. On average, the men gained 2.7kg of muscle and 0.7kg of fat. In a second study, researchers instructed a group of men to switch from their normal diet to a low-carbohydrate diet. The men also trained with weights four days a week. Total fat loss at the end of the six-week study was just over 3kg. The men also gained just over a kilo of muscle.
Training For Lean Muscle & Fat Loss For Women
The same holds true for women as well as men. A study conducted by the University of Michigan involving 40 women showed that restricting calories means slower muscle growth. The women who trained with weights for eight weeks but didn't diet, added just over a kilo of muscle. The women who trained with weights and dieted put on less than half a kilo of muscle. So, getting a net loss in body fat and a net gain in muscle over a period of weeks or months is possible, but it is almost physiologically impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same precise moment in time. You can't gain muscle while you're in a calorie deficit and you can't lose fat while you're in a calorie surplus, it's as simple as that.
When Gaining Muscle & Losing Fat is Possible
There are several situations where gaining large amounts of muscle and losing large amounts of fat can occur at the same time:
- When performance enhancing drugs including steroids and/or fat burning drugs are used
- In beginners, whose bodies are extremely responsive to exercise (some of the rapid muscle and strength gains in beginners can be attributed to neurological adaptations, irrespective of energy balance)
- In advanced trainees after a long layoff. (The muscle gain can be attributed to "muscle memory’’: i.e., they are not gaining new muscle, they are simply re-gaining what they lost.)
- In genetic superiors
The Zig Zag Diet
There is a strategy known as the ‘Zig-Zag diet.’ This way, you alternate periods of caloric surplus for muscle gain with periods of calorie deficit for fat loss. However, beware that attempting to achieve fat loss and muscle gain at the same time compromises your results overall; it is a slow and inefficient process. A beginner is much more likely to build muscle and burn fat at the same time. For a beginner, almost anything works because your body isn't used to the stress of training, so great "beginner gains" can be made with virtually any training program. But after about 6 months, the gains slow down, and then nearly stop as you become more advanced and get closer to the limits of your genetic potential.
Bulk or Cut?
In conclusion, pick one goal and stick with it until you are satisfied. It's faster, easier and works better than trying to do both. "He who chases two rabbits catches neither!" Rather than trying to build a lot of muscle and lose a lot of fat at the same time, you'll get better results by splitting your training goals indifferent phases, and working on one after the other. Focus on one of two goals - building muscle while minimising fat gain, or, losing fat while preserving muscle.
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