The Lose Weight Diet Blog

Lose weight AND build muscle?

March 5, 2007
Filed under: Exercise,Weight Loss — TheLoseWeightDiet @ 4:27 pm

Ok, I’m going to answer a series of questions with either “yes” or “no.” After all the questions have been answered, I will explain.

1. Should I lose weight first and then build muscle?

2. If I want to lose weight and build muscle, should I wait until all of the weight is lost and then work on building muscle?

3. I have some fat that I want to lose and then I want to work on building muscle. But, my friend told me I should just work on turning my fat into muscle. Is that possible?
Hell no.

There is a noticeable theme to these questions… the goal of wanting to both lose weight AND build muscle. I’ve noticed this to be the cause of a lot of confusion, so let’s get it all straightened out. Question #1 and #2 are basically the same question with a different wording. Either way, the answer is still no. Here’s why…

If you want to both lose weight and build muscle, there are absolutely no reasons to first ONLY lose weight, and then, when the weight is finally gone, first begin to build muscle.

On the other hand, there ARE many reasons to work on building muscle at the same time you are trying to lose weight. Some include:

  • Weight loss happens when you put your body into a calorie deficit either by eating less of them, burning more of them, or a combination of both. And, huge surprise, weight training burns calories. It might not be equal to jogging on a treadmill, but it still burns a significant amount of calories.
  • Not only does the actual act of weight training burn calories, but the results you get from weight training (increased muscle) ALSO burns calories. Yes, muscle literally burns calories. You know that whole calorie maintenance level thing? Well, that is the number of calories that your body naturally burns each day just functioning. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories your body will naturally burn. You don’t even have to do anything. You just build muscle, and it takes care of the rest. Adding muscle to your body really is the closest thing to a weight loss miracle.
  • HELLO… you start building muscle sooner! If you just sit around waiting until you lose weight before you finally try to build muscle, you will have wasted precious muscle building time. Both could have been getting done at the same time. (More on that later.)

So, to sum up, if you want to both lose weight and build muscle… you’d be pretty silly to not start off doing both at the same time.

On to question #3. The infamous “turn fat into muscle” idea. This, of course, is not possible. As mentioned above, you should start to both lose fat and build muscle at the same time, but you should also keep in mind that these are two separate things being lost and gained separately.

You’ve got your muscle, and you’ve got your fat. These are the only forms they come in. They can’t magically transform into the other. You can only gain and lose muscle, or gain and lose fat. That’s it. Those are the only tricks they do. Of course, you can lose 5lbs of fat and then gain 5lbs of muscle. But, one did not turn into the other. Case closed.

And now, one more related question:

  1. I’ve heard that it’s not possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Is this true?

As someone whose goal was always to both lose fat and gain muscle, I know exactly how confusing that “sometimes” answer may appear. But, it’s really not. Let me explain.

In order to lose a significant amount of fat, you have to consume less calories than your body needs each day. In order to build a significant amount of muscle, you have to consume more calories than your body needs each day. As you can see, they are counterproductive opposites. If I currently tried to do both at the same time, I would fail at both.

However, don’t give up hope. There are two groups of people that could actually succeed at doing both at the same time, and I’m not one of them. These two groups of people are:

  1. People with “assistance.” Specifically, a word that starts with “ste” and ends with “roids.”
  2. Beginners. It truly is an amazing thing, and you’d be just plain stupid to not try to take advantage of it. See, when you are first starting to build muscle (aka, a beginner), very little is required for it to work. Don’t get me wrong, it will still take tons of effort and the correct information, but all of the other aspects that would cause a non-beginner to fail to build muscle does not apply to the person who is a beginner. Their body will, for the most part, build muscle either way. I’ve heard this borderline miracle described as “newbie gains,” “beginner’s gains” and the “honeymoon period.” None of these are scientific terms, by the way.

You remember that whole thing I said before about having to eat more calories than your body needs in order to gain a significant amount of muscle? And that the reason most people can’t do both at the same time is because losing fat requires consuming less calories (the opposite)? Well, this doesn’t really apply to the beginner. Yes, they will need to be in some kind of calorie deficit in order to lose weight. But, because they are a beginner, this won’t stop them from building muscle as it would a non-beginner.

And it is because of this reason that a beginner is able to both lose weight and build muscle at the same time. Amazing, isn’t it?

Obviously at some point you won’t be a beginner anymore and successfully doing both at the same time will become much harder (or near impossible). But until then, you might as well pretend you have temporary super powers and just enjoy it. In my opinion, the last thing you’d want to do is have this ability and not use it. That’s why the idea of waiting until you first lose weight before trying to build muscle is… well… dumb. It would be like Superman taking the bus to Lex Luther’s hideout.

You have the ability… use it while you can. As for how exactly to do this, it’s pretty simple. Follow The Lose Weight Diet (takes care of the weight loss part of the goal) and combine it with a proper weight training routine (takes care of the muscle building part of the goal). That’s it.

For more details on what weight training routine will work best, and the complete diet/workout program that is most ideal for both losing fat and building muscle at the same time, check out The Lose Weight Diet’s Ultimate Fat Loss Program. There’s an entire bonus section specifically for people looking to gain muscle and lose weight simultaneously.

(Oh, and just to clarify something… any mention of the word “beginner” in this post refers to a weight training beginner, not a weight loss beginner. You could have been trying to lose weight for 10 years and have done all kinds of cardio and been on all kinds of diets, but unless you have been weight training consistently for the last 6-12 months, you are still considered a muscle building beginner who will most likely be able to take advantage of these “beginner gains.” Even if you worked out all the time when you were in college 5 years ago, unless you were doing it over the course of the last year, you too are still considered a beginner.)

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14 Responses to “Lose weight AND build muscle?”

  1. Kate Says:

    It’s funny you wrote this post – I was just thinking this morning about possibly adding weight training to my weekly routine…
    I jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes, three days a week, and have made significantly healthier choices with food (consuming less calories than normal), and have only lost 4-5 lbs in the past 2 months. Before that routine I had tried Curves (a horrible joke of an exercise establishment) and actually GAINED 4 lbs in a month.
    Do you have any suggestions about adding in a weight-training component for the days I don’t run? Or a good source of finding information about this?

  2. Me Says:

    I completely understand the calorie deficit = weight loss and calorie surplus = muscle-building ideas. I’ve always wondered, however, if it’s possible to obtain the extra calories needed to build muscle by burning fat. If it’s possible, I would assume that caloric intake/expenditure would need to be very closely monitored because the body can only metabolize fat so quickly before it begins eating muscle.

  3. Michael Says:

    I’m a college student and about 6ft and 190lbs but all my weight seems to go to my mid section, from my belly to my chest ” man boobs !” I started running about 4 miles about three days a week- but I have crazy appetite for food I can eat someone out of a house and a home. In the mornings I do anywhere from 10 – 20 crunches a day for the abs, 10 – 20 push ups, and 15 – 25 curls with the dumbells a day. I know that is like a joke of an muscle mass gaining plan but I have to start off somewhere and the mornings is the only time I have to work on my muscles. I plan on doing a whole lot more than that in the future and hopefully I can stick to some type of plan. I really need to lose this weight and build muscles sooner than later. Your blog is very insightful. Only if I could afford a personal trainer!!!

  4. Tim Says:

    HI i been weightliftin for bout 2 years for football and now i wanna lose someweight cuz i been gettin kinda bigger is there anyway i can keep my muscle but lose the extra weight

  5. jeff Says:

    I am about 6′ and I am about 210 pounds and lots of people say that I look huge because of my muscle and I do work out alot but I have not yet been able to get bulging abs that I want but I am close and I am only 17 so what ab exercise can I do to get my abs to bulge out to make those girls go wild.

  6. Firefighter Says:

    Sigh. I have seen so many people with the same problem. Yeah, I know its tough. You work out so hard and kill yourself at the gym. Your BIG but not CUT. The evil behind this???



    It’s important. It sucks, but important above all else. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. Any personnal trainer or athlete will tell you the same thing. NUTRITION. Bye-bye mr. large pizza with garlic sauce and cheesy bread.

    It’s hard. But you need to be mentally strong my friends. It sucks. No way to get around it. But if you want abs, you need to earn them.

    Also if you go to a gym, I am sure they have ab classes that’s included with your membership. I know it might be just a little embarassing at first, but hey, you might talk to a cute girl while your in there!

  7. Alisha Says:

    I used to lift weighs all the time, In fact I was the top female weight lifter in my high school… guess what folks, All I did was gain weight. Yes Muscle dose weigh more than fat, but because of my diet at the time, I could never get rid of my “tummy”

    I finaly did make the switch to the lower cal. and changed my work out and believe me or not, I did lose the weight and continued to build muscle.

    Of course, it took me 6 years of the same weekly weight gain before I finaly said enough to change it. But you know what… I couldnt be Happier!!!

    and the best thing of all- Im doing better now- Size and health wise then I was back then. I dont even lift as much, and Im not in the gym every day… small but simple changes can help you lose weight, and make you happier by not feeling so consumed by your daily exercise. I know it overwhelmed me- I never had any free time…. but if your happier it will make the changes a lot easier too

  8. Jerry Says:

    I don’t think you took into consideration “other” health factors.
    I’m a 51 year old desk jockey with type 2 diabetes, I weighed 272 pounds and was on 3 oral medications to try and keep my blood sugar & insulin levels in control, I also at a mild med for my blood pressure and colesterole. I needed to lose weight which I alrady know will get me off my medications but more importantly drop my insulin levels back to normal which means my body would not be trying to pack on fat. weight loss first was the most important thing. Then build my body so I look good on my Harley.
    So my approah was to do progressive weight lifting to try and maintain the muscle I have while doing a high protien low carb diet. I’m super carb sensitive. I try to eat 185g of protien, 90g of good fats & 30g of carbs a day. I do 30 minutes of fasting morning cardio 5 days a week with a nordic track ski machine keeping my heart rate between 65 & 75% of my MHR. I’m rotating my lifting from 1 time a week using compound lifts to 5 days a week working only one muscle group which takes about 15 minutes. I rotate the routines every 8 weeks. I started last November 2006 my weight at that time was 272lbs & 28% fat. Today 9.7.07 I’m down to 235lbs and 23% body fat and my blood sugar/insulin levels are now normal and I have dropped one diabetic medication and ready to drop my blood pressure med. My plan is to keep doing this kind of schedule till I get to 10% body fat then switch to eating like a horse and lifting like a mule until I have put on 20 pounds, then I’ll cut the fat again until I get back to 10% body fat and do it all again until I have achieved the body shape I want.
    So you see there are times when losing weight first is more important than adding muscle

    All this is very hard form a 51 year old insulin resistant, with depleted testosterone, my age and heath fight against me but I must win this fight because the alternative puts me in an early grave

  9. Paul Says:


    I’m 63 years old, and have had some run-ins with health problems recently, at times caused by the medical treatment I was receiving at the time. That’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
    I’ve begun to work out with progressive resistance every 5 days, as any more frequently and I would injure myself and gain 5 lbs. “instantly” in spite of dieting due, I think, to hormonal changes which cause muscles to retain fluids while healing(this seems to be a one-time thing)and an insatiable hunger which transcends the increased calorie-burning going on-I literally become a bottomless pit. Taking vitamins has the same effect.
    I also do low-level aerobic activity most days for sometimes 3-4 hrs. at a time, you know, swimming, walking,or exercise-biking. My doctor thinks I’m a real animal, and that I should take it a little easier at my age and suggests I lose weight more slowly(I’m losing about 2&1/2 lbs. per week). I’ve managed to cut my blood pressure medication dose in half on my own(My wife and I have medical backgrounds and are able to monitor our own blood pressures periodically.)
    While I don’t advocate anyone just doing their own thing regarding medical problems, I do advocate that a person do a self-evaluation and determine what works best with him or her, and critically look at advice given by others.
    I hope I’ve answered a few questions that have yet to be asked and about which their is some misinformation floating around out there.
    So exercise, eat a healthy diet, do relaxation routines, and bulk up on non-starchy vegetables and, yes, be just a little crazy.


  10. BrownSugga Says:

    Does this Post pertain to women too? When I was 18 I was building my body nicely. I am 38 and 2 kids later and I have LOTS to loose..LOL but want to build some and have definition.


  11. Mistee Says:

    Female..5 7 1/2 156 lbs. Average in stomach, and hips. Arms, including wrists and calves are too thin. Want to bulk up in those areas. Any suggestions?

  12. Andrew Says:

    I’m also curious about what poster #2 asked, if the additional energy supplied by metabolising body fat can supply the requirements for building muscle?

    I just started going to the gym and have found I put on 2kg in 3 months by doing cardio three times a week and muscle building twice a week. I feel HEAPS better and am losing fat judging by my belly line shrinking. I’m also trying to consume 2000-3000 less calories per week than my age/weight requirement.

    Should I be consuming more calories while building muscle or is this method OK?

  13. Jake Hutt Says:

    I’ve been working out for many years now, and i want to know how I can tone my body better without losing a large portion of weight, mostly my chest and midsection? I’m 6ft 198lbs I would like to be around 195 but in much better “shape”. My diet sucks and i’m trying to work on it, but I work out at the gym 2-3 times a week lifting weights and running. I dont run a whole bunch though, would that help my problem or will that just make me lose wieght?

  14. Terra Ware Says:

    I just want to say that this website has helped me immensly. I have lost 40 pounds in 6 months and I feel great. It was only three weeks ago that I began to incorporate excercise. Thank you so much! I have been and will continue to refer this website to anyone I know who wants to lose weight!