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Can you Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

Losing fat requires a calorie deficit.

Gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus.

So the short answer is: you are going to find it BLOOMING hard to do both at the same time (unless you are a complete beginner to resistance/strength training).

Usually, we have these goals because we want to appear more toned i.e. aesthetically see more muscle. Whilst you can dive into cycles of ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’, the reality is that this is not going to suit many people’s full lives, where our fitness and exercise are an add on that help us enjoy our lives more: not the sole purpose of what we do.

‘Bulking’ refers to actively being in a calorie surplus and training to put on muscle - at the same time we will unavoidably add fat too. Putting on muscle is HARD and a process of many months and years. ‘Cutting’ refers to being in a calorie deficit, while keeping protein intake high in order to minimise muscle loss as opposed to fat loss.

Cycles of bulking and cutting are likely far too time-consuming, and require a large amount of mental bandwidth, whilst potentially not helping your relationship with food: even potentially harming it. 95% of people do NOT need to bulk and cut, unless your job is related to it e.g. professional bodybuilder, athlete etc.

So, the longer answer is no, it’s not impossible to do both at the same time, but a more realistic and KINDER way to meet these goals might look more like:

Eat in a moderate calorie deficit (if you are looking to reduce body fat), whilst keeping protein high.

A moderate calorie deficit is often a lot less than most people think! This looks like about a 250-250 calorie deficit a day, and a reminder that you do NOT need to track calories in order to implement this (but also you might - there are many different methods that may work for the individual). Spend a least a couple of weeks being consistent before you make any further adjustments.

Keeping protein high looks like eating up to 2g/kg of bodyweight

Choosing less processed and more whole foods that are lean in protein are a useful way to do this e.g. chicken, turkey, cottage cheese, tuna, tofu and other soy products such as seitan, edamame beans, white fish, greek yoghurt etc. Protein powders are not essential but could be a convenient way to add more protein. Timing matters less than you think: the overall amount across each day matters more

Lift heavy stuff 2-4 times a week

Remember, ‘heavy’ is relative to you, and using a well-thought out training programme (click here for coaching options with me!) and the RPE scale might be a better focus than hitting certain numbers. The RPE scale stands for the ‘rate of perceived effort’ where 0 is having a nice lie down and 10 is maximal, going to die within 10 seconds here. A 7+ on the RPE scale mid-set is a sweet spot to aim for (let this flux and flex to your life though: training high intensity during a period of high stress/low sleep/emotional turmoil etc. is likely to damage your gains, not strengthen them). Focus on what your body can DO and how it FEELS rather than what numbers you’re lifting.

And finally, remember to stay patient: trust the process.

Your body, your brain and your emotions won’t adapt overnight.

Bring some kindness into your goals and know that being self-compassionate as you relentlessly pursue what is important to you is going to matter far more than intensity or even consistency. You're not a mind without and body, or a body without a mind - so look after both as you pursue your goals.

Are there any questions you still have about the above?

What are your goals with your training right now?

Let me know in the comments below!

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