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HOW to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle – Simultaneously

Posted by Joel Marion

Yesterday we began a series on losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously, and with that first post I posed the question:

Can it be done?

The answer? Yes. BUT, only with a VERY strategic approach.

Now, in order to understand how these seemingly mutually exclusive goals can be accomplished simultaneously, we need to understand a few things about achieving your goals in general.

First, your goals are a direct result of both your training and nutrition program.

Second, optimal training for fat loss and optimal training to gain muscle are different.

Third, optimal nutritional strategies for fat loss and optimal nutritional strategies for gaining muscle are different.

Let’s take a look at each.

From a caloric balance perspective, in order to gain muscle you need to be taking in surplus levels of calories – there is simply no way around it. Fact is, it’s nearly impossible to gain muscle mass while in a caloric deficit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Conversely, if your goal is to lose body fat, you need to create some sort of caloric deficit (i.e. you are eating less than you burn).

Now, those two situations may indeed seem mutually exclusive, but they’re not.

More on that in a minute.

On to training.

Optimal training for fat loss consists of very metabolically demanding resistance training (think circuit training) coupled with high intensity interval style cardio sessions.

Optimal training for gaining muscle is more a product of using heavier weights, more rest, while still performing a large number of repetitions per session (volume).

Those two things also seem mutually exclusive – but they’re not.

Here’s how:


What if you alternated the two types of workouts throughout the week?

Could you burn fat and gain muscle?

Perhaps, but not likely due to the nutrition issue.

But what if you were to feed your muscles with a surplus of calories on muscle building workout days, and remain in a caloric deficit on other days?

Or what if you were to feed your muscles with a MEGA surplus of calories for the several hours after your muscle building workout (when your muscles are most primed to suck up nutrients and much less likely to convert those extra calories to fat)?

Or what if you were to take small bursts of time to concentrate on building muscle – say, two weeks. And then follow it up with an intense one week fat loss phase? Essentially, over a twelve week period you’d be losing fat and gaining muscle “simultaneously,” unlike those who only do one or the other in that time frame.

Or what if you were to do exclusively muscle building workouts (with a caloric surplus on those days), and then burn excess calories via interval training (and not resistance training) combined with dieting on other days?

There are SO many different ways to do this.

Give me at least 300 comments and I’ll be back tomorrow with a number of different specific ways to approach the goal of building muscle and losing fat simultaneously.

Talk to you in the comments section!


P.S.  Check out the below video from my buddy Kyle explaining one of the NEWEST methods we’re using for simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain:


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332 comments - add yours
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Makes absolute sense. This is what I try to do, but the nutrition portion is always tricky!

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I can’t wait to hear more.

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The way I see it is combining cardio and weightlifting into one phase through out the week can have good effects on beginners, but at the end of the day with nutrition, you can only be in 3 modes.- surplus, deficit or maintenance. So for example you could do heavy weights 3 times a week mon,wed, fri and cardio on tuesday and thursday, maybe even have a surplus on weight days and deficit on cardio days but when it all comes together, you will either gain muscle (in surplus) stay the same (maintenance) or lose fat (deficit). Best method is to do 2 weeks heavy weights plus about 20% surplus to one week cardio and 20% deficit in cycles.

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Yes, I remember Nick Nilsson proposing this system few years back.. the idea itself can and does work..but within optimal conditions..In trying it with my clients I found it worked better with men than with women..more tweaking to be done..

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Can’t wait to hear!!

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come on, give us more!!!

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I get what your saying, and it sounds fabulous, but how is that going to work on a 4, 5, or even six day split lifting routine? I’m excited to read the rest.

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Ok Joel, I’m all ears, what do you have for us. Can’t wait.

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“But what if you were to feed your muscles with a surplus of calories on muscle building workout days, and remain in a caloric deficit on other days?”

This is what I ended up doing for the past 5 months (Joel’s FB workouts at first, then BlowTorch). Lost 50 pounds, lots of fat inches (waist went from 38 to 32) and increased muscle mass by 2 inches in my arms (13 inches to 15 inches). Aside from the diet, which started out with removing “white” carbs and adding much more “slow” carbs (legumes), on my lift days, I increased my whey protein intake by double while keeping my solid foods the same. My workouts consist of the “blowtorch” routines (yes, for whole body…sorry Joel, I know it contradictory to what you wrote in your BlowTorch Workout) but mixed it in with Occam’s Protocol (of minimalism). These routines and suggestions from Joel have been and still are working for me!

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While I do believe that it can be done, I am chomping at the bit to hear more! Thanks for all your great posts!

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Perfect timing. I have a goal of going from 205 to 170 between now and July 1 2011, by losing 60 lbs of fat and gaining 25 lbs of muscle. Looking forward to what you have to say!

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good stuff, i never thought about it that way

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Definitely interested to see what stuff you’ll post.

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Roughly what percent (%) of surplus above-maintenance calories would you recommend for mass-gaining workout days?

Roughly what percent of deficit below-maintenance calories would you recommend for metabolic (fat-burning) workout days?

I ask because of course not everyone weighs the same (or has the same maintenance level caloric needs), so when someone gives a generic, one-size-fit-all number like, “Eat 1,000 calories above maintenance on mass days”, that’s going to have very different effects on someone weighing 130 lbs vs someone weighing 170 lbs. I’ve heard #s even as high as 4,000-5,000 calories a day (from authors like Vince Delmonte and Nick Nilsson, both of whom I very much respect). I actually have a friend (weight, size: 185 at 5’10) who eats that much (4,000 calories/day) while training for mass and he still maintains a bodyfat percentage of 6-7% year-round. So what amounts do you recommend? Any particular formula? I am in total agreement with you on the training principle. (And your diet programs rock by the way. As a fellow health researcher (B.S. in Kinesiology) I definitely appreciate the time and study/research you put into them.) Anyway, how does a person best determine just how many calories to add or cut (mainly add)? For fat loss I’ve come to the conclusion that you should generally not cut more than 20-30% below maintenance calories. Muscle gain however… I really have no idea. (I think Vince had a formula in his earlier program somewhere, but I’m not positive.)



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I’ve always tried to lose weight first then tone … but what used to work, doesn’t anymore … PLEASE tell me how to do this in one step!

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Sounds pimp!!

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Joel, you sexy beast, you…..tell us more!!!

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how about 3 days fat loss workouts, 1 day of rest followed by 2 days strength training followed by 1 day of rest and eat accordingly ie surplus and deficit to match. Can this idea work?

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Sup Joel,

Love the advices you give man, I really respect you for putting all this top info out there for the ones who take building the body of your dreams seriously!

Thanks a lot.


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to build muscle while losing fat would be a way to see results…. there is no better way to get the attention of a “want-to-be” then seeing results… so please do tell

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I love my workouts and I want to gain muscle and lose fat, but I am concerned about workout length. A fitness guru on the web advises his clients that they should drop everything after one hour, and go home, because the body shifts from anabolic mode to catabolic mode, and you could only do yourself harm if you keep working out after 1 hour. I would sure like to know if this is true or not. I have some exercise routines that I would like to do, but I can’t get them done in just an hour. I am too old, and slow to do that(56). I would love to know if it is actually safe to work out for more than ONE hour, without losing muscle and generally sabotaging my fitness program. Anyone care to comment?

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Tell me more!!!

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i think that this topic is very complex, and requires tons of will and determination…..which is why i love it, can’t wait to hear more.

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About a year ago, I was able to gain weight and lose fat simultaneously. In fact, I gained more muscle than I thought was attractive for a woman and burned so much fat that my hormones were thrown off (my higher metabolism affected them, too). However, for many people, gaining muscle and burning fat would not be the problem it was for me.

What I did nutritionally was eat/drink between 1.2 and 1.5 grams of protein per day per pound of lean body mass. I also took a high-quality multi and other nutritional supplements both am and pm. Then, I consumed low-GI, colorful vegetables and, for energy, fats and no more than one fruit, or two low-GI, high-antioxidant fruits (zero grains, starches, processed sugars, or artificial sweeteners, other than what was in my protein powder). The fats provided calories but did not stimulate insulin production or shift me into storage mode. I “cheated” every now and then (as my body requested) on high-carb/high-fat foods like brownies so my body wouldn’t rebel out of fear of starvation. The added muscle further increased my metabolism, allowing me to consistently burn fat even while adding muscle.

In the gym, I did both cardio and weights on the same days (mainly because I was working out with my students). The greatest mass-building I achieved was through graduating my (heavy) weights as recommended by the Body for Life plan. In fact, it was when experimenting with this technique that I decided once and for all I would return to lower weights and more reps so to look a little more “womanly.” If I had really wanted to add more muscle while losing fat, I would have done my weights first, while I had more energy, and then burn out the remaining energy through cardio at the end–or do something like suggested here, with the alternating days or weeks.

But simply by virtue of increasing muscle mass, loading in the nutrition (more needed for both adding muscle AND counter-balancing a high metabolism), and keeping my insulin low (while “cheating” every now and then), I was able to gain muscle and lose fat “simultaneously.”

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Awesome, lets hear more!

Also, cheers to the peeps who put their own stories in their posts. Good to hear what others are doing, what’s working and what’s not.


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