How to Burn Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time

9th November 2019
Many people in the fitness world believe that in order to achieve their dream body, they first have to burn all the excess fat, and after that, they can begin to work on their muscles. But that's not the only way to do it. It's completely possible to achieve both things at the same time.

There’s a big difference between our weight and our body composition. Some people may weigh 176 pounds but have a higher body fat percentage, while others may weigh the exact same amount but with a higher muscle mass percentage. Is it possible to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time?

In the first instance, it’s important to know where this information comes from. There’s no magic trick. The most reliable way to get the data is with a bioelectrical impedance analysis or bioimpedance (BE). By using a couple of electrodes to send electricity through our body, this test provides information about our body fat and our muscle and bone mass, as well as some other health indicators.

The human body is a single whole, with many different parts

It’s totally possible for an athlete to burn all the excess fat and gain muscle afterward. They don’t have to follow that order necessarily. Fat works primarily as an energy resource, besides helping with other physiological functions in our body.

On the other hand, our muscles are not an energy resource. Muscles are structures and tissues that allow our body to move. In order to perform this process, muscles need more or less fat; it all depends on how intense the movement is and for how long we practice it.

Requirements to burn fat and gain muscle

Burning fat and gaining muscle at the same time is easier than it seems. The key formula includes a balanced diet and a proper training routine. There are two main requirements we must fulfill to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time:

  • Reduce or eliminate your intake of foods with a high-fat content: it’s important to avoid foods that contain a lot of saturated fats. You should also limit your carb and sugar intake. If you eat more carbs than your body can store, they’ll eventually turn into fat.
A woman with a flat belly

  • Doing aerobic, anaerobic and mixed exercises: any type of physical activity will help your body to burn fat. Some exercises are more effective than others to achieve this. Depending on the intensity and duration of the workout, fat will either be the main component for your body to burn or it will be just a secondary resource.

Important aspects of building muscles

Growing your muscles requires a lot of consistency and dedication. Muscles need some sort of stimuli to grow and increase the size and number of their fibers. There are two important aspects in this regard:

  • Doing mostly strength training routines while focusing on muscle hypertrophy: if we want our type II, IIA and IIB muscle fibers to grow, we must apply some external stress that forces them to grow and multiply. There’s a very wide variety of exercises to tone and grow your muscles, but the most effective ones are exercises with a high hypertrophic factor. This means weightlifting with either heavy, medium or small loads.
  • Eating enough protein to replenish what our body consumed during the workout: whenever we work out, our body uses up a lot of energy resources. Proteins represent around 10 percent of those resources, but if we want to see our muscles grow correctly, we must eat different amino acids during the day. We still don’t know exactly how much protein an athlete should eat per day, but the number is around 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.

Target your goals together and not separately

It’s perfectly possible to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. Besides, both processes complement each other very well. Increasing your muscle mass will cause your body to burn fat, and when you decrease your body fat percentage, your sports performance will increase proportionally.

At the end of the day, the foundation to achieve both goals includes a good daily training routine and a balanced diet with a protein surplus. Although it’s important to not go overboard with this.

A woman lifting weights to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time

The genetic aspect to burn fat and gain muscle

Every person is different, and the basal metabolism of each individual is no exception to this. You surely know someone that eats a lot of fat and sugar but still maintains low levels of body fat.

This is completely normal, and it happens because of our genes and the different mechanisms we developed during sensible stages in our life, like doing sports regularly throughout your life. However, some metabolic aspects can vary over time and increase our body fat while decreasing our muscle mass.

The cornerstone of this issue is choosing how and when to work out and eating the right diet to burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. The only thing left is wanting to do it; it’s the first step of a decision that you won’t regret.

  • vv.aa. Variability in Muscle Size and Strength Gain after Unilateral Resistance Training. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15947721
  • Michael Tieland; Marlou L. Dirks; Nikita van der Zwaluw; Lex B. Verdijk; Ondine van de Rest; Lisette CPGM de Groot; Luc JC van Loon. La suplementación con proteínas aumenta la ganancia de masa muscular durante el entrenamiento con ejercicios de resistencia prolongada en personas de edad avanzada frágiles: un ensayo aleatorizado, doble ciego, controlado con placebo. Enlaces del autor panel de superposición abierto.