How To Lose Fat And Gain Muscle: Here’s What Experts Say In 2023

Mitchelle Morgan - Health & Wellness Writer
Sevginur Akdas, RD
You can change your physique through fat loss and muscle gain. Do you wonder how to lose fat and gain muscle? Learn strategies here in 2023.
how to lose fat and gain muscle
You can lose fat and gain muscle one exercise at a time. Photo: Ba Le Ho

Figuring out how to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously is something that a lot of people struggle with. While this combo seems like an impossible dream, it is doable. This process involves changing your body composition by lowering fat mass and increasing the muscles through compound workouts. 

One of the most challenging parts about achieving this goal is that these two have different demands. To lose body fat, you must maintain a calorie deficit; to gain muscle, you must consume more calories than you are burning.

Having said that, here is everything you should know about how to lose fat and gain muscle.

6 Ways To Burn Fat & Gain Muscle At The Same Time

  • Focus on strength training
  • Incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Monitor your caloric intake
  • Maintain a balanced diet
  • Incorporate cardio exercises
  • Prioritize rest 

How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time

The following are the best ways to lose fat and gain muscle. 

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Focus On Strength Training

Strength training, also called resistance training, is an exercise that helps you to lose weight and gain muscle. This type of training causes your muscles to contract because of outside resistance. It is essential for building muscles and burning fat. A recent study[1] has shown that resistance training causes metabolic adaptations in fat tissues through mechanical loading. This metabolic adaptation then causes fat cells to begin burning fat.

Incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training

High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT involves alternating between short bursts of intense workouts and short recovery periods. If you want to maximize body fat loss and increase metabolism while preserving muscle mass, include this in your routine.

Monitor Your Caloric Intake

how to lose fat and gain muscle
Monitoring your calorie intake can help you lose fat. Photo: Shutterstock

When you consume more calories than your body needs, it stores it as fat. You need to create a slight caloric deficit to gain muscle and lose fat. But is this really possible? Can you build muscle in a calorie deficit? Yes, it’s possible if you engage in resistance training and consume the right calories daily

Remember that even a fat-free meal could contain calories, so monitoring your intake is best. Consider installing calorie-tracking apps on your smartphone or a small notebook to throw in your purse. Calculate your daily caloric needs and record it. 

Always aim for a moderate deficit of 300- 500 calories daily rather than drastic calorie restrictions to lose fat.

Maintain A Balanced Diet

Are you wondering how to eat to lose fat and gain muscle? A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for losing fat and gaining muscle. When it comes to losing fat, a balanced diet leads to a calorie deficit, which encourages your body to tap into its fat stores for energy, gradually losing fat while supporting your health and muscle gain. 

Protein, in particular, is important for gaining muscle as it aids in repairing damaged muscle tissues. Some high-quality proteins that should be on your plate include eggs, salmon, chicken breast, lean beef, and whole grains. Aim to consume 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram[2] of your body weight daily for muscle growth.

Incorporate Cardio Exercises

how to lose fat and gain muscle
Engage in cardio workouts to lose weight. Photo: Shutterstock

Even though cardio workouts promote cardiovascular health, they can still help lose weight. The best cardio workouts for fat loss are low-impact and low-intensity, like biking, rowing, etc. Aim to engage in these activities for at least 300 minutes weekly to increase your overall calorie expenditure and promote fat loss.

Prioritize Rest 

Setting time to rest and recover to help with muscle growth and well-being is essential. If you have been working out continuously for a week, you must give your body enough time to repair and rebuild. When your muscles are sore or inflamed because of workouts, losing fat or gaining muscles will be hard. 

What Is Body Recomposition And How Does It Work?

When trying to lose weight, your focus is on whether the numbers on the scale are going down. However, if you want to tone your body, you have to shift your focus from traditional thinking to body composition. 

Body composition is your body’s fat, body, and muscle percentage. It is used to determine whether you are at a healthy weight.

What Is Body Recomposition?

Body recomposition involves optimizing your body composition for weight loss. In other words, it involves changing your body’s fat-mass ratio to lean mass. Lean body mass, or LBM, is the difference between total body weight and fat mass. 

Therefore, LBM is also referred to as fat-free mass or FFM. In other words, it means losing fat to gain muscle mass. What makes body recomposition different from other types of weight loss is that the number of your scale will remain the same or go up even if you feel lighter. This is because the scale can’t differentiate between loss of muscle weight or loss of fat weight.  

How Does Body Recomposition Work?

Body recomposion is a gradual process for simultaneously reducing body fat and gaining muscle mass. So it’s safe to say that it’s more of a lifestyle than a diet; there are no set rules for how to do it. You must incorporate workouts and have a diet that facilitates fat loss. 

Aim for calorie neutrality, which means your calorie intake should not exceed your body’s needs. Your dietician can help you determine how many calories you should consume based on age, gender, body weight, and height.

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Can You Burn Fat And Gain Muscle At The Same Time?

Yes, you can burn fat and gain muscle by engaging in compound workouts like pushups and lunges, which act on several muscle groups. When this happens, more calories are burned. You can also maintain a caloric deficit to force your body to rely on the fat stores, resulting in weight loss.

Health Benefits Of Fat Loss And Building Muscle

Losing fat and building muscle is not just about your physique or appearance. It has various benefits for your health and well-being. The following are some benefits of body recomposition.

Supporting Bone Density 

Building muscle helps support bone density.[3] As you exercise to gain muscles, they begin to pull harder on bones, thus strengthening them. The tension created when muscles pull harder on bones stimulates these bones to produce more tissues. This results in the bones becoming stronger and denser. 

When your bones are stronger and denser, the risk of conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis is reduced. 

Reduces The Risk Of Cardiovascular Issues 

Losing even a small percentage of body mass can improve your heart health. Studies[4] show that reducing fat reduces the pressure on arteries. This means your heart won’t work twice as much to pump blood, resulting in lower blood pressure.

The risk of getting heart disease, including stroke, is lowered when your blood pressure is lowered.

Aids In Cognitive Performance 

A study[5] has revealed that engaging in strength training slows down and even stops degeneration in brain areas at risk of neurodegenerative disorders. Therefore, as you burn fat and build muscles through strength training, you prevent and stop the risk of getting diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Help Those With Diabetes

Losing fat can significantly impact[6] those with diabetes. Even though it has not been shown to cure type 2 diabetes, research shows that losing fat can help those with diabetes take less medication. Decreasing fat stores will prevent some health problems associated with diabetes. 

Extra fat around your waist pressures key organs like the liver and pancreas, causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means your body doesn’t respond to insulin as it should, so glucose doesn’t enter the cells. When this happens, it leads to the build-up of glucose in our blood. Shedding off some weight could help the insulin in your body work well. 

Boosting Metabolism

Metabolism is the process in which the body converts[7] what you eat to energy. The more muscle you have, the faster food is converted to energy. So, your metabolism increases when you are exhausting fat stores and gaining muscles.

What To Avoid

There are certain things to stay clear of when increasing muscle mass and lowering fat.

Neglecting Protein Intake

Protein is crucial for building muscle;[8] consuming less protein can impede muscle growth. This is because proteins contain amino acids, which are building blocks for muscle tissues. 

Ensure you consume enough high-quality protein sources, such as lean meats, poultry, dairy, and legumes each day. Aim for the recommended daily protein intake to support muscle building and recovery.

Relying On Supplements Alone

Supplements can help you build lean muscle and reduce fat. However, you shouldn’t rely on supplements to gain muscle and lose fat. 

You must take these supplements during and around a training session to boost recovery and performance.[9] Avoid relying solely on fat-burning supplements during the body recomposition process. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet that provides essential macronutrients for optimal body composition.

The Bottom Line

Figuring out how to gain muscle and lose fat seems impossible, but it is achievable when you put your mind to it. Engaging in body recomposition through resistance training, caloric deficit, and eating a balanced diet comprising too much protein is a good approach. 

But please remember that achieving your goal of losing fat and gaining muscle won’t happen overnight. Have patience and consider talking to a certified personal trainer about the right exercises for muscle gain.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I eat to lose fat and gain muscle?

Eat balanced and highly nutritious foods with proteins, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. It’s important to include a lot of proteins to build lean muscle.

Should I lose fat before building muscle?

No. You can lose fat and still gain muscle through body recomposition. However, it is often recommended that one sheds off the excess weight before switching to building muscle.

What foods should you avoid when building muscle?

Avoid foods containing empty calories such as processed foods, fried foods high in saturated fats, foods containing high sodium, red meat, and refined carbohydrates containing many calories.

What should I eat after a workout to lose fat and build muscle?

Cottage cheese and fruits, Greek yogurt, salmon and sweet potatoes, grilled chicken with roasted vegetables and boiled rice, fresh smoothies that have been added whey protein. For drinks, take low-calorie sports drinks.

What exercises burn fat and gain muscle?

Compound workouts are the best for burning fat and gaining muscles. These exercises include pullups, pushups, bench presses, deadlifts, plunges squats, upright rows, and chest fly.

What part of the body loses fat first?

Many people tend to lose fat in their faces and neck before the rest of their bodies.

What burns the most belly fat?

Strength training. As you engage in strength training, your body burns calories. Additionally, detox and vigorous exercises can help you burn belly fat.

How long does body recomposition take for females?

Body recomposition in females could happen between two or three months. After this, you will start seeing noticeable changes in your appearance.

Resources

  1. Vechetti, I.J., Peck, B.D., Wen, Y., R. Grace Walton, Valentino, T., Alimov, A.P., Dungan, C.M., Van, D.W., Ferdinand von Walden, Björn Alkner, Peterson, C.A. and McCarthy, J.J. (2021). Mechanical overload‐induced muscle‐derived extracellular vesicles promote adipose tissue lipolysis. The FASEB Journal, [online] 35(6). doi:https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.202100242r.
  2. MSU Extension. (2017). Protein intake for athletes. [online] Available at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/protein_intake_for_athletes
  3. A Ram Hong and Sang Wan Kim (2018). Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinology and Metabolism, [online] 33(4), pp.435–435. doi:https://doi.org/10.3803/enm.2018.33.4.435.
  4. www.heart.org. (2018). Maintain Weight and Lower Heart Disease Risk. [online] Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/go-red-get-fit/maintain-weight-lower-heart-disease-risk
  5. Caroline Vieira Azevedo, Hashiguchi, D., Henrique Correia Campos, Figueiredo, E.V., Ferreira, S., Arlete Rita Penitente, Ricardo Mario Arida and Longo, B.M. (2023). The effects of resistance exercise on cognitive function, amyloidogenesis, and neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease. Frontiers in Neuroscience, [online] 17. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2023.1131214.
  6. Ildiko Lingvay, Priya Sumithran, Cohen, R. and Roux, le (2022). Obesity management as a primary treatment goal for type 2 diabetes: time to reframe the conversation. The Lancet, [online] 399(10322), pp.394–405. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(21)01919-x.
  7. McPherron, A.C., Guo, T., Bond, N.D. and Oksana Gavrilova (2013). Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism. Adipocyte, [online] 2(2), pp.92–98. doi:https://doi.org/10.4161/adip.22500.
  8. Stokes, T., Hector, A.J., Morton, R.W., McGlory, C. and Phillips, S.M. (2018). Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients, [online] 10(2), pp.180–180. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020180.
  9. Cintineo, H.P., Arent, M.A., Antonio, J. and Arent, S.M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition, [online] 5. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00083.

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