Can I gain muscle mass and get shredded at the same time?
Traditionally, to increase muscle mass we will need to up our caloric intake, namely, eat more. We will also need to engage in a weightlifting program that causes muscle mass increase, and avoid calorie-burning activities like strenuous cardio. To reduce fat we often need to reduce our caloric intake and focus more on fat-burning exercises like an intense cardio program. Can these two methods of training co-exist and help someone build muscle while simultaneously losing fat? Can we “bulk” and “cut” at the same time?
We aren’t focused on losing weight. We are focused on losing fat, and gaining muscle. These two aims can co-exist, but require their own focus. Fortunately, it is possible to hit both targets within a well-designed workout and nutrition program. We might stay at the same body weight during our program, but that weight “changes” from fat to muscle (this isn’t actually how it works-fat doesn’t just shift states and become muscle, but hopefully you get the idea). So, we could still weigh 200#, but it will look and feel differently if it is a 200# of muscle rather than 200# of fat. Oftentimes when someone begins a multi-modality fitness program (like CrossFit) in which we are engaging in bodyweight exercise, strength training, gymnastics and intense cardio, they will lose weight that is fat, and then regain some or all of it back with muscle.
When we focus on eating solid amounts of protein that support muscle gain, engage in loaded/resistance training that spurs muscle growth, and engage in exercise that shreds fat, we will see our body begin to change, even if the weight on the scale doesn’t fluctuate too much.
This is about composition, or rather, body recomposition. Body composition is the ratio of fat mass to lean mass, which is different from body fat percentage. Lean mass is everything in the body but fat, so, muscle, bones, ligaments, tendons, organs, tissue and water. Body recomposition is the process of changing your ratio of fat mass to lean mass -- that is, losing body fat and gaining more muscle mass.
To recompose our body-to lose fat and gain muscle - we have to play the long game. This can’t be done with a fad-diet or a 90-day plan. This is, like all things related to health and fitness, a long journey over the course of our lifetime. We need to ensure that we are eating enough food to support our physical output, and not consume so little we have no energy for the workout or the day’s demands. This will also be very context specific, and orient around your other life and fitness goals.
Please note, any fad that promotes fat-loss quickly isn’t out for your best interests, safety or overall well-being. Losing fat should take us a longer duration, should be done with habits that are sustainable and life-giving, and should be done in ways that keep us healthy in our various dimensions of humanity (emotional, relational, and mental health) and improve our quality of life outside of the gym.
To recompose your body it will be a constant balancing act of cutting calories, but having enough calories (especially protein) to support your weightlifting and cardio.
The best way to do this is with the help of a coach, and an overarching gym community.
To schedule your free consultation, in which we can talk more specifically about your health and fitness goals,