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How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time

build muscle & lose fatIt’s a given that every reader of this site wants to build muscle.
It’s also a given that every reader of this site wants to lose fat.

However, realistically speaking, can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Actually, YES YOU CAN!

Take a look around other bodybuilding websites and forums and you’ll find that I am in the minority for believing that you can bulk up and cut simultaneously.

I say ‘believe’ but I really mean ‘know’ as I have ‘done the impossible’ on many an occasion and so have my readers by implementing my advice.

The evidence isn’t just anecdotal however, there’s solid scientific evidence for my position, but we’ll get to that later.

So why don’t most people believe that this can be done?

Well, here’s 2 facts that they use repeatedly:

  1. In order to build muscle, you need to consume excess calories.
  2. In order to lose fat there must be a calorie deficit.

The logic is, since you can’t do both of the above at the same time, you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

WRONG, yes you can!

Here’s what they don’t understand. Yes you need sufficient calories to build muscle and you need a deficit to burn fat…HOWEVER, Body Fat is actually the solution!

What is body fat?
Stored energy or stored calories, if you will.

If you don’t meet you caloric needs through food, you tap into your ‘stored calories’ to do the job. Since those stored calories are in the form of body fat, you therefore have to lose fat it in order to build that muscle :) .

Do you see what I’m saying here?

Let’s say a guy eats 500 calories less than what his body needs to get him through the day (his maintenance calories including exercise). How will his body get those extra 500 calories needed to energize him and build muscle?
author Mark McManus Answer: By burning his body fat.

There are about 3500 calories in a pound of fat. 500 calories times 7 days equals 3500 calories i.e. in this example, our guy fuels protein synthesis (building new muscle) and loses 1 pound of fat per week in the process – that’s nice, very nice.

You quite literally trade your fat ass for fab abs (aren’t I clever? 😉 )

Please note that it is impossible for fat tissue to directly turn into muscle tissue but you can trade that fat for muscle by using it for fuel.

For some reason, most people seem to forget that not all your calories have to come in through your mouth.

Calories In / Calories Out‘ still holds true friends, the laws of thermodynamics are not broken… BUT, it is at the level of the cells, not at the level of your mouth!

There is one condition you must adhere to!

On a high-carb diet, this is not going to be achievable by anyone except those very few genetically gifted individuals.

However, for those of us in the know, we can use our knowledge to activate a fat metabolism and achieve remarkable results. You need to flip that metabolic switch and become a fat-burner in order to make this work.

A fat-burner is simply someone who restricts carbohydrate intake to encourage the body to burn fat for fuel. This typically takes around 3 days of low-carbing to achieve. If you are new to MuscleHack or have never read my diet articles, please read about the MANS bodybuilding diet to learn more about the advantages of a fat metabolism and low-carb bodybuilding.

When you eat high-carb and create a calorie deficit, you’ll lose weight alright, but you’ll lose up to 50% of that weight in muscle. Therefore, attempting this on a high-carb diet will result in stagnation i.e. neither moving forwards or backwards, and a very frustrated you.

When you’re a certified fat-burner it works a treat.
Want some solid evidence? Good!

Ok, check out the info from 5 studies in the image below…

study shows you can build muscle and burn fat simultaneously

Pay particular attention to the last group – ‘Volek et al’. As most of us aren’t going from ‘obese’ to lean, and we aren’t restricting calories to 1000 or less per day, this is where we’ll find relevant answers.

This group lost 2.2 kg or 4.8 lbs in total weight. The great news is that they actually lost 7.26 lbs / 3.3 kg of fat and gained 2.42 lbs / 1.1 kg of muscle in 42 days. Is it any wonder the MANS diet and ‘Total Six Pack Abs‘ are so darn effective? :)

As a sidenote, check out the top study. A low-carb group consuming just 1000 calories per day was observed alongside a group that ate absolutely nothing for 10 days. Sure the fasting group lost more total weight, but the low-carbers lost almost twice as much fat!

It’s not impossible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. It’s actually a very do-able, predictable process when you know what you’re doing. That’s why I’m here doing this, writing articles. I’m here to help you achieve your goals because I know for a fact that you can!

I’m not special, I don’t have amazing genetics. I’m just a regular guy who got his wish by continually learning and being my own guinea pig. Now I’m passing it on to you.

Hey, the next time someone discourages you and tells you that you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time, point at their big gut and suggest that they start using some of those calories in future 😉

Your Buddy,

Mark McManus

Related Post

Mark McManus
Mark McManus
Mark is now available for 1-on-1 consultations to help you take your results to the next level. Click here for more details.
Mark McManus is a trainer & author from Ireland. His work has been featured in major publications all over the world. He is the creator of the free growth-promoting workout Targeted Hypertrophy Training' (THT) and author of the NEW fat-torching system Total Six Pack Abs.
He has also created the BREAKTHROUGH arm and chest maximizer programs The Arms Blast' and 'Chest Blast' workouts.
And if you're a fan of delicious high-protein recipes to fuel your muscle growth, check out his cook book 'Buff Baking' here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jexxer July 2, 2008, 9:21 pm

    Awesome article. This is just what I need for the summer. Thanks!

  • Paul July 2, 2008, 9:26 pm

    Mark you’ve outdone yourself again!! Amazing work my friend, you keep delivering big time!
    THANKS :) :) :)

  • Mark McManus July 2, 2008, 10:19 pm

    Glad you benefited from the article guys!
    Jexxer, get started on that cut, it’s summer already 😉

  • Jimmy July 2, 2008, 11:55 pm

    Man this is some good motivation Mark, just what I needed. Quick question, would skipping the carb loading phase of the MANS diet be more effective for fat loss or would it not make much of a difference?

  • Uplift July 3, 2008, 12:35 am

    Sprinters are also a classic example of building muscle with simultaneous extremely low fat levels. Just like the myths surrounding fat consumption and weight gain, sprinters throw the current cardio craze and myths into turmoil. Sprinters avoid cardio like the plague.

  • David P. Morrow July 3, 2008, 2:08 am

    Great tips! Burning fat and building muscle are two different physiological processes. I agree, you can build muscle and burn fat at the same time! You just have to approach your diet and exercise program properly. Best of health to all!

  • Sue July 3, 2008, 2:32 am

    Thanks Mark. Yes, I definitely would like to trade my “fat ass for fab abs”!!

  • Jexxer July 3, 2008, 4:05 am

    I tried doing this 2 years ago and it worked really well, (lost 50 pounds in 3 1/2 months), but I got 2 kidney stones, which is rare for a 19 year old. Also, do you think eating Banana’s for pre/post workouts is good? I eat coconut covered peanut butter balls afterwards, but it keeps me full for like 7 hrs.

  • Marc David July 3, 2008, 4:14 am

    “There are about 3500 calories in a pound of fat. 500 calories times 7 days equals 3500 calories i.e. in this example, our guy fuels protein synthesis (building new muscle) and loses 1 pound of fat per week in the process”

    That assumes that you need to be 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat. 500 a day, 7 days a week, and you’ve lost 1 lb of fat by using your fat as fuel.

    Interesting concept.. but 3500 may not be entirely correct. Check out this entry by Tom Venuto. Gives you food for though.


    I’ve build muscle and lost fat on certain programs. Especially ones where my carbs were in check and I used supersets. I felt stronger and build muscle all the while burning fat. I would agree it’s possible.

    As you approach those lower percentages of body fat, you’ll find it’s not very efficient. People who start off with a lower body fat, won’t find this method as useful as a traditional Zig-Zag method of calorie manipulation.

    However, not taking away the credit that is due to you! Excellent post. One that I will StumbleUpon as it raises issues I’m not sure I thought about and I think you write some damn impressive stuff!

  • Marc David July 3, 2008, 4:15 am

    @Jexxer… did you by any chance during that time 2 years ago drink a lot of energy drinks?

  • Jexxer July 3, 2008, 4:55 am

    Well I had a lot of green tea which helped me burn a lot of the weight off. My main protein source came from Tofu from a chinese vegetarian restaurant and also some protein drinks. The doctors said that I was consuming too much protein and that I was excreting too much calcium in my urine because of ketosis. I take Magnesium and Potassium supplements now which helps maintain pH levels and calcium excretion. Oh well, I will do this because I’ve had these fat layers on me for awhile and im sort of skinny which just looks weird. Thanks for the tips about the calories in a pound of fat.

  • M!hai @ Freshome July 3, 2008, 9:00 am

    1. What I’ve noticed is that when I’m eating low carbs, and lots of protein, I have less energy, and I’m sleepy. What should I do to solve this problem ?

    2. In this season a lot of delicious fruits appear ( a few examples : cherries, peaches, strawberries, watermelon ) and they are very good and delicious in a hot day, but is it ok to eat them ? I know that they contain sugar, and sugar is not recommended in your diet for growing muscle.

  • Marc David July 3, 2008, 3:49 pm

    @Jexxer – Just curious as I’ve heard a lot of younger kids, under 23 getting kidney stones and they consume quite a lot of energy drinks. Maybe a correlation? In your case, not as you clarified that. Just checking.

  • Erik Heyl July 3, 2008, 4:00 pm

    Great post, thanks for the info. I’ve got a similar blog, check it out and tell me what you think: http://www.reap-a-destiny.com

  • Jimmy July 3, 2008, 5:36 pm

    Scratch that Mark, I bought your book and read all about the fat loss I was looking for. By the way, awesome book! Very motivational and stocked full of great information.

  • Mark McManus July 3, 2008, 6:00 pm

    Jimmy, that’s great to hear man, enjoy your journey to great abs. Also, I’m preparing a private forum for buyers of the book to get together, chat and share tips – coming very soon.
    M!hai – Well, either eat more fat to provide energy or if you already are, eat some more carbs, your level will be unique. Berries and watermelon are low-carb so they’re fine. Enjoy other fruits on the low-carb weekends.

  • ZenLC July 3, 2008, 7:29 pm

    Hi Mark, what I’ve read over and over is that newbies (say, within the first 6 mos. to 1 yr. of starting bodybuilding) can both lose fat and build muscle, but that effect goes away. Do the studies above include any seasoned lifters or were they all “newbies?” I’m sort of assuming the obese were not lifters but I’m hoping Volek’s study had bodybuilders. I’m also assuming have first hand experience with people who have been training an extended period and are able to do both. As I’m just passing the 6 month mark on my own lifting I hope to continue doing both :).

  • Gaz July 4, 2008, 5:38 pm

    Hi mark,
    Hows things? this article is great info to those who dont understand the facts but also its showen me that im on the wrong diet no matter what i think. GLADS is the answer for me cos as I mentioned in past post im not a massive eater (im very ectomorphic) and its hard for me to reach my caloric amount.
    My body fat is 13% so theres not much that can be burnt and after the good read of this article it open my eyes so to speak that this is why im not reaching my goals ive havent got much fat to burn and i cant eat more than what im comfortable with which isnt reaching them calories.
    So the conclusion GLADS ill consume more calories in less food and it wont need my body fat (opps what body fat) to fuel my muscle growth.
    Any comments or advice would be great on my theory sorry but the long post all the best.

  • Rob July 6, 2008, 3:35 pm

    cant wait for the forums, these are all realy big topics

  • Alan September 4, 2008, 6:15 am

    HI Mark

    I just wanted to take the time to thank you for all the information that you give out. I love reading your articles. They provide an exciting learning curve and your information gives me a huge drive to press on.

    Cheers mate


  • Buddy Cole September 15, 2008, 10:38 pm

    Hey Mark I am gonna be 44 this month I started lifting seriously again. I’m 59 weighed 236 after what i’m doing I am a lil bigger, and weigh 227. I eat eggs and vegies for b-fast or a 6oz protein shake, WHEY body fortress with a bananna in it. At lunch I eat a Smarts meal, and at dinner I eat Subway. My workout is (M) Chest & Biceps (T) Back & Triceps (W) Shoulders & Traps (TH) Forearms & Legs, I do stomach every other day , mainly crunches & knee raises. Any advice or negativity would really be appreciated my friend thankyou very much YF Buddy.

  • BuildingMuscle.org (Pete Owen) September 21, 2008, 1:18 pm


    The study you provide is intriguing, but as another poster pointed out, were those in the study who lost fat and built muscle at the same time new to lifting weights? We all know building muscle while losing fat is entirely possible for newcomers, but how about those who are veterans of the bodybuilding game?

    I’d like to look in to this further. I have heard much about the TKD diet – low-carb/high-protein with carb-loading days and this is also what Vince Gironda advocated for staying lean.. and boy was he lean. I may do some experimentation myself.

    Keep up the good work,

    Pete Owen

  • Cheng January 20, 2009, 11:36 am

    Yeah I’ve heard about the fabled holy grail of simultaneous fat cutting and muscle building. Truth be told, I just got confused reading that article but it’s probably just due to a lack of understanding of the stoichiometry behind eating. Are you basically saying that you can rely on your fat calorie storages to be burnt for fuel, but continue eating into caloric excess to build lean muscle?


  • Rob January 21, 2009, 5:11 am

    If you read the post about excess calories and read the book, it is very well explained. Calories to bulk up are not excess, they are necessary to bulk up. If you eat like a linebacker you will still gain fat, but if you eat correctly the amount of calories necessary to build muscle, your body will have no choice but to build while not having a chance to store fat. If you don’t read all the information carefully and do some research on your own, it all sounds a little like black magic, but it works!

  • Alex June 6, 2009, 8:27 am

    good article thanks

    i definitely agree with you that it is possible to do them both at the same time, but it is not a fast process. better build muscle first then get rid of the fat second.

  • Planet November 11, 2009, 11:16 pm

    Ohhhwow !!!!

    Brilliant Mark,

    Amien Amien…………. !!!!

  • Mark,

    You have said you’ve built muscle and lost fat simultaneously many times before, so I’m guessing you’ve achieved this even when your beginner gains were long gone, which means it holds true for those who are more seasoned, too.

    My question is, in your experience, how low should a low carb diet be to achieve this effect? Are you talking about trying to eliminate carbs altogether or do you have a fixed percentage or amount of carbs per pound of bodyweight you don’t go under or don’t go over?