Can You Really Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?

How many ads have you seen that say something like “Lose fat, build lean muscle, fast”?

Are they advertising false claims? Or is there some truth to this bliss?

Well, let’s circle back to a topic I’ve mentioned in the other two blog posts this week; the law of thermodynamics.

Calories in vs. calories out. Do you remember the relationship?

I’ll refresh. If you consume less calories than you burn, you lose weight. If you consume more calories than you burn, you gain weight.

Anabolic State

Now, to build muscle your body needs to be in an anabolic state. This is a state far from starvation. It is a state where your body feels the comfort of food always being there. It has plenty of micronutrients to maintain a strong immune system and take care of other health related tasks. This state also means that your body has enough macronutrients (carbs, fats, protein) to maintain its weight and it even has some to spare to rebuild the damage done from workouts to build a stronger layer of muscle. Over time, this results in muscle growth.

Catabolic State

Looking at the other side of the spectrum, we have a catabolic state. This is a state of deprivation. Your body isn’t getting enough macronutrients to support its current state. It’s freaking out but at least you have your micronutrients supplemented (I hope). Your immune system is fine but your body just isn’t getting the energy it needs. It needs to find that energy somewhere. It goes around looking under every corner and curve of your body. AHA, it finds the stored fat it’s been keeping for these dire moments. It takes a chunk and puts it through chemical process to turn it into glucose (sugar- the body’s preferred energy source).

So, as you can see, burning fat, and building muscle exist on two completely different sides of the spectrum. So it is really hard to do both at the same time. For one, you are eating less than what your body requires, and the other you are eating more than what your body requires.

So the claims are completely false?

Almost, but there is an exception to the rule. If you are a beginner. If you haven’t really done resistance training before, then you have a blessing on your side. The industry calls this blessing “noob gains”. I’m not kidding! This is an industry-wide accepted term. The concept is simple. No matter how crappy your nutrition is, if you start training correctly, you will experience muscle gain for a short period of time. This could be a couple of months. Some people luck out and manage to keep going for a year.

With that being said, you can take advantage of these noob gains, and by hiring someone to look after your nutrition you can diet down and focus the diet on losing fat, but thanks to the noob gains you will still build some quality muscle.

But like I mentioned, this only lasts so long. And when that time comes, and you've maxed out your noob gains, it will be time to focus on one goal for several months before switching to another.

Bottom Line

Take advantage of those noob gains and step up when you've passed the beginning phase. That's when the real work begins.

Nik V Vasilyev

Digital Fitness Coach

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