One of the biggest traditions in weight lifting is to “cut” in early spring and “bulk” in the fall. Each better known as cutting season and bulking season.
This tradition allows you to gain a good amount of weight in the fall to help pack on muscle and lose a good amount of weight in early spring to shave off some of the excess fat gained while bulking.
This strategy can be effective in getting you stronger and leaner by the end of Spring, but is this strategy truly the best way to get lean and gain muscle?
Throughout this article, I will be showing you how to gain muscle and lose weight at the same time without having to sacrifice strength and muscle gains and even show you how you can add muscle mass during the process.
I know what you’re thinking, “that’s impossible!”, but it’s the truth.
Fat Loss and Gaining Muscle Myths
First, before I get into the specifics, I would like to inform you about some of the popular myths that are associated with losing fat and gaining muscle.
- “You have to be in a calorie surplus in order to gain muscle!” One of the biggest myths is that you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle, hence why people bulk and eat a lot of calories when they want to add muscle mass. This is simply not true. The main factors that go into building muscle are how you lift and how you eat. If you are lifting correctly and giving your body enough time to rest and recover (build muscle) then you will be able to add muscle mass.
- “It’s impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time!” Another myth is that you have to either be gaining weight or losing weight, you can’t do both. This is simply not true. You are able to train your body to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time by simply eating the right amount of macronutrients, working out and eating the correct amount of calories.
Most Effective Way to Lift
One of the most important factors for muscle growth is how effectively you work out.
If you go to the gym to socialize, do some lightweight machines and hit the sauna, you aren’t going to get the results that you want. The most efficient way to gain dense muscle mass, in my opinion, is to focus on getting stronger. Pick a few key lifts that you want to get stronger on, for example, squats, bench press and lat pull downs, and hit these exercises first in your workouts and really focus on adding weight to these workouts week by week.
I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a scrawny kid benching 315 before. As long as you push your body and give it a reason to get stronger, it will add muscle mass to compensate for the extra weight.
Another important factor for building muscle mass is giving your body plenty of time to recover. Recovery time is often overlooked by many weight lifters and they experience slower muscle growth because of it. You see, not only do your muscles have to recover but your central nervous system is heavily taxed after workouts as well. The central nervous system takes about 3-4 days to recover and is a big factor in the amount of weight you can push around in the gym.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how important eating the right amount of macro nutrients is to gaining muscle.
The three macro nutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Unless you live under a rock, you definitely have heard these words thrown around throughout your lifetime. But do you know what they do?
Protein is essential for building muscle. I recommend eating around 0.8g to 1.0g per pound of body weight. This will ensure that your body has plenty of protein to maintain and build muscle while being in a caloric deficit. Great sources of protein include chicken, steak and eggs.
Carbohydrates are also very essential to building muscle. Carbohydrates, better known as carbs, are often avoided in many diets and have a bad stereotype for making people gain fat. This is not true! Carbohydrates give your body and muscles the energy to perform at a high level. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to gain much strength and hit those personal records. Great sources of carbs include white rice, sweet potatoes and pasta.
Lastly, fats also give energy to the muscles and play a key role in regulating hormones, especially testosterone in the body. Hormone regularity is essential for being healthy and building muscle. Great sources of fats include oils, animal meats and peanut butter.
As a rule of thumb, for losing fat and building muscle, I recommend eating carbs for about 40% of your daily calorie intake, followed by about 35% protein and 25% fats. This will make sure you have plenty of energy in the gym and ensure that you ingest plenty of protein to gain muscle while in a caloric deficit.
The biggest component of any weight loss regimen is counting your calories. It is very tedious and very annoying but, if you are determined to do the “impossible”, you have to work hard at it.
For some reason, everyone thinks to lose fat you have to stop eating junk, cut carbs and fats and do 5 hours of cardio a day. And while doing these things may help, (besides cutting carbs and fats) they are not necessary. The only way to lose fat is to be in a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit is eating fewer calories than your body burns in a day.
To figure out how many calories your body burns in a day, as long as you go to the gym for about an hour at least 3 times a week, simply take your weight and multiply it by 15. Whatever this number comes out to be will be the amount of calories, that if you ate daily, would allow you to stay the same weight. So to lose weight just eat less than that number! It sounds crazy but it is as simple as that.
I recommend eating no more than 400 calories under your maintenance calorie level. Eating in a calorie deficit of more than 400 calories can lead to hormone irregularities and fatigue, which can ultimately diminish muscle gains and progress. For example, if your maintenance calorie intake is 2500 calories and you eat 2200 calories a day and go to the gym 4 days a week, you will slowly lose fat and still pack on muscle as long as you are working out efficiently.
So don’t worry about eating that piece of cake or that cookie, as long as you are under your maintenance calorie level and hit your macro nutrients, you can eat whatever you want!
Commitment is Key
Overall, losing weight and gaining muscle at the same time is more than possible! And once you get into the habit of eating in a caloric deficit it becomes a breeze.
There will be plateaus and frustrating times when you want to quit, but that comes with everything worth doing. This is not easy and if are looking to pack on 10 pounds of muscle and lose 20 pounds of fat in 3 weeks this is the wrong advice for you. You should look into steroids if that is your goal (I do not recommend steroids).
Losing weight and gaining muscle is a marathon and not a sprint. If you stick to your set program and do everything you need to do on a daily basis, I assure you that you will see results.
Good luck and prove those haters wrong!