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Losing Fat While Building Muscle… At The Same Time?

If you’re kicking off a program or at least looking for one, I’ll always ask one question: “What are your goals?”  Typically I’ll get one answer: “I want to lose fat and gain muscle”.

Of course, what most people really mean (and may not know it) is they want the chance to allow their existing muscle definition a chance to get out from under a layer of “muscle mayo” (fat). IE- the process of becoming more defined, toned and “leaned out”.

Losing Fat and Building Muscle: Opposites Don’t Attract

One thing to know if “losing fat and gaining muscle” at the same time is your goal: the process of losing fat is almost, sorta, kinda…. EXACTLY opposite the process of building muscle.

Losing fat is an almost exclusively catabolic process (breakdown) as you reduce calories. Building muscle, on the other hand, is anabolic (building up) while you increase calories. That’s not to say you can’t do both (you can- I did it very moderately throughout the P90X program) but you need to look at the approach through a long-term training mindset as opposed to a short one, and even then, you’re not talking Beast-Style gains.

I’ll explain more about what I mean below but real quick, look at a typical P90X results photo. Most dudes don’t get huge. They may add a little mass but they are mostly losing fat and getting awesomely conditioned. Women, same thing.

Ultimately, that’s why there’s different training programs and different training regimes for different goals… and why your goals are very important in choosing a program.

First Things First: Lose Fat or Gain Muscle?

My recommendation? Choose one or the other to get the best results of either.

The question is… which one makes sense for you now? Losing fat or gaining muscle?

The answer to the question will depend on your starting point and ultimate goal… so let’s take a look at all that with a good rule of thumb for both men and women:

  • Men: If your body fat percentage is 16%+, I’d recommend a focus on losing fat before you go buck-wild on pure muscle building. 15%-ish body fat is when you’ll notice more dramatic change as you build muscle and it’s allowed to “show” as opposed to making you look fatter. You’ll notice real differences in the sub 12% range and can even begin building muscle when you reach this percentage (or what you like aesthetically). That said, if you want to gain muscle and build that mass, sub 15% still allows you to lose some fat while gaining muscle… but remember- the primary goal is on lean gains, not “I’ll eat whatever I feel like to build mass” gains. That approach always adds unnecessary fat.
  • Women: The same rule that holds for guys holds for the ladies as well. Since women’s body fat % goals are different than men (about 10% higher), you’ll want to focus on losing fat at 26% or higher. For most women, “losing fat” is a pretty common goal so it’s easy to start there. As you do see success and results of your program, you’ll find yourself looking more toned simply by way of fat melting. If a stronger physique is your goal, you can still lose some fat while gaining moderate muscle (with the primary focus still being on gaining muscle) in the sub 26% body fat area.

Either way you go the fact is this: you’ll be better (and faster and more effective) at doing one OR the other than trying to do both at the same time.

Final note: Either route you go will ALWAYS require PATIENCE. You won’t get there overnight and trying the best of both worlds at the same time, as mentioned, can be an exercise in frustration.

So now the fun begins– you know what you need to do. Using P90X, Insanity, Asylum, Body Beast or Les Mills Combat… you now know how to better approach your goals and what program may be best for them. As always, I’m here for any questions you have.

For questions or genuine help in choosing a program, email me here or Better yet, let’s get you the support you need through making me your Beachbody Coach right here. 

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2 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. michael says:

    Awesome, post I have been trying to figure out which one to do for a long time. I started Body Beast last week and I enjoy it way more than p90x. I haven’t hit my goal on having a flat stomach or even a six pack yet. But im determined to get it with a hybrid of Body Beast and Les mills combat. Do the Beast workout then right after do the combat workout to enhance fat loss, like the p90x doubles schedule. What do you think? would that be okay for gaining some lean muscle but also lose fat

    • Coach Dan V. says:

      If you’re after “lean gains”- I’d focus on the Body Beast Lean program and use its nutrition guide to lose “lean out” as based in the program itself. Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is tough. But keep in mind, Body Beast was designed as a Mass Building program, Period. You can use it to lift but if you’re adding a hybrid component, you negate it’s attempt to get you mass gains. You can use it as a resistance component and you’ll build strength but you won’t necessarily put on mass if you’re trying to lose fat. Of course, everyone is different so you can try it and see how it goes.

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