Some things in life are clear-cut, the answers are simple: yes or no, right or left, black or white without even a hint of grey.
But, then there are those questions whose answers come with caveats: “yes, if you are sure to,” “no, technically,” or “turn right, unless this or that is present, then turn left.”
Ah, such is life…and such is the case when building muscle and burning fat simultaneously.
Can it be done? YES! But, it doesn’t just happen, there’s a prescription, a recipe if you will, to achieve the perfect combination of fat burning and muscle building success.
So, if you’re looking to do more than lose weight, wanting a lean, trim physique, you of course want to burn fat and build muscle at the same time. And, here’s what you need to know to accomplish such a goal…
The process of burning fat and building muscle simultaneously is better known as body recomposition.
And, as you might guess, this approach to fitness focuses less on the number staring at you from your bathroom scale, and more on the actual composition of your body.
This is thought to be a more accurate judge of health too, as it looks at your percentage of body fat in relation to muscle mass, as opposed to solely considering your weight in relation to your height.
When seeking to lose weight, you most likely alter your diet and increase your time spent being physically active.
And, while this can improve the fit of your jeans, you may still find that, despite your efforts in the gym, you’re still not toning up or gaining muscle to achieve a trim, lean physique.
That’s where body recomposition comes in!
And, for many people, the formula for success here can be a head scratcher due to some old habits and math that just doesn’t seem to add up.
We’ve known for years that to lose fat we must consume fewer calories than we burn.
And, likewise, to build muscle, we must consume more calories than we burn.
So, with these equations in mind, burning fat and building muscle at the same time seem impossible.
But, when you adjust what you eat, when you eat, and how you train, you absolutely can change the composition of your body (body recomposition), effectively burning fat and building muscle together.
To get down to the basics of how you can effectively do this, let’s first look at these two concepts individually.
In order to truly burn fat, your body needs to be in what’s known as a calorie deficit.
When you eat fewer calories and incorporate an increased amount of physical activity (generally cardiovascular exercise) into your daily/weekly routine, you can create a caloric deficit.
In this state, your body is forced to dig into its fat stores and use this for fuel. And, as this occurs regularly, you effectively burn the excess fat in your body, resulting in weight loss and a thinner physique.
But, a sole focus on burning fat can also shrink muscle mass.
In order to build muscle, your body needs to be in what is known as a caloric surplus.
Here, you are consuming more calories than your body burns. And, as you workout diligently and regularly (generally resistance training exercises), these extra calories serve to provide your body with extra amounts of energy or fuel which it uses to repair and rebuild muscle tissue that is torn with exercise.
And, as your body repairs and rebuilds these muscles, your muscle mass increases.
Burning Fat And Building Muscle Simultaneously
If you’ve ever sought to lose weight or gain muscle, chances are you’re familiar with the two processes we listed separately above.
But, when you’re seeking a lean, toned body, those two processes must combine, and this means we must find a balance between both diet and exercise to truly recompose the body.
First, if you’ve solely focused on weight loss in the past, there are a few things that may seem a little different concerning your results with body recomposition:
- You’ll want to shift your focus from the scale, potentially measuring progress by the use of skinfold calipers and by measuring your body circumference.
- If you don’t have a lot of weight to lose in the first place, you may notice that your weight doesn’t change or that it actually increases.
- You’ll also want to take note of gains in strength and how your clothes fit as opposed to a decrease in body weight.
- Keep in mind, this isn’t a quick fix or a fad, body recomposition takes time. To lose fat or burn muscle individually (in a healthy manner), this already takes time, but combining these efforts can take even longer. Be consistent and know that nothing worth doing or having comes quickly or easily.
And now, let’s get down to how it’s done!
To build muscle and burn fat, changing your body composition, there are many factors that must align:
1- Nutrition Is Key
To gain muscle, we’re obviously going to address exercise, but gym time alone isn’t going to change the composition of your body.
As we mentioned earlier, burning fat requires a calorie deficit, but when building muscle at the same time, many suggest shooting for a “moderately aggressive caloric deficit.”
Too big of a calorie deficit can cause you to lose muscle mass, and too little of a calorie deficit can stall fat loss, so research shows that a calorie deficit of roughly 25% can allow your body to lose fat without sacrificing muscle.
And, most fitness experts agree, increased or adequate protein intake is vital when gaining muscle mass.
In other words, as you seek to cut calories, be sure that healthy proteins are among those calories you choose to fuel your body with.
Studies show that such increases in protein intake when seeking to recomposition your body provide needed satiety while also reducing body fat and preserving muscle tissue.
Increasing protein intake to roughly ⅔ of a gram of protein per pound of body weight is thought to be the sweet spot when improving body composition.
And, of course protein isn’t the only macronutrient that you should be concerned with when seeking to burn fat and build muscle.
Ditching processed foods, increasing fiber intake, and decreasing the amount of carbohydrates you eat are also needful when seeking to recomposition your body.
- more whole foods
- fewer sugary carbohydrates
- more vegetables and plant foods
- more protein
2- When To Eat
What you eat isn’t the only thing you should be concerned with when changing the composition of your body.
When you eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day, studies show that this practice can effectively regulate blood sugar levels, prevent overeating, and increase muscle mass.
An ideal body recomposition meal or snack should contain protein, carbs, and fats. And, having meals and snacks prepped ahead of time can help you stick to your nutritional plan.
Some ideas for on-the-go options include:
- Dried fruit with nuts and seeds
- Nutritionally balanced and unprocessed energy bars
- Ready-to-go or mixable protein shakes or beverages
It’s impossible to change the composition of your body without proper sleep.
- Your hormones are regulated through sleep.
- Your muscles are repaired through sleep/rest.
- Your workouts are more effective when you’ve had adequate sleep.
- Your energy levels improve through sleep.
- You can stave off hunger, sugar cravings, and instances of binge-eating when you get plenty of rest.
Seek to get 7-9 hours of restful sleep nightly to avoid undermining your body recomposition efforts.
Obviously if you’re seeking to build muscle, you must exercise. But the type of exercise you do matters greatly when recompositioning.
When seeking to build muscle alongside your fat burning efforts, you must include strength training in your exercise regime.
Most experts suggest aiming for 2-3 days a week of strength training combined with 1-2 days per week of interval training.
And, how often you train isn’t the only ingredient in a recipe for results as the intensity in which you train makes all the difference.
In other words, you’ve gotta bring it!
Both focus and intensity are necessary to achieve simultaneous muscle growth and fat loss.
Effective methods of achieving this include alternating upper and lower body movements between sets as opposed to taking a rest break (or increasing focus avoiding too long of a rest break), high intensity interval training, as well as doing heavy compound training.
- Try workouts with AMRAP circuits (as many reps as possible), as these force you to keep moving while bringing intensity and great challenge to your time spent working out.
- Incorporate compound exercises using multiple major muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses performed using heavy weights (appropriate to your growing abilities) to create great amounts of tension and muscle activation, resulting in whole body muscle growth.
- Do high intensity interval training that alternates the use of low intensity rest periods with max effort cardio (such as sprints). Studies show that HIIT burns a greater amount of fat while increasing your metabolic rate over a period of 24 hours, increases sensitivity to insulin within your muscles, and it is better for preserving muscle mass than low intensity cardio.
Harvard research reveals one quick way to get six-pack abs
Turns out there’s a good reason countless crunches and boring sit-ups never got you the six-pack abs you wanted. It’s because they actually cripple a muscle deep in your core that acts like a kind of “switch” that turns off your “rectus abdominis” so it can’t contract properly. (the rectus abdominis is your six-pack muscle)
Worse, once your deep core shuts down, your nervous system sends a signal to accumulate “protective fat” on your belly. This is why it’s so hard to lose your gut.
US Military scientists accidentally stumbled on this weird link between the deep core, belly fat, and weak abs while studying soldiers suffering back pain caused by wearing heavy body armor.
But the breakthrough solution didn’t come until the Harvard Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering revealed the powerful “Bio-Chemical” switch that literally switches your six-pack muscle on or off.
Once you learn to keep your abs muscles switched to the ON position you’ll be able to quickly lose your gut and build ripped, rock-hard six-pack abs.