Two of the most coveted fitness goals are to lose body fat and to gain muscle mass. Some people want just one of these goals as it seems to be more urgent for them. If you’re 30 pounds overweight, you care more about losing fat than building big muscles. If you’re the thin and scrawny type, then you may want to get some mass on you.
However, a lot of people, perhaps the majority of them, want to achieve both these goals together. They want to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. The question is whether it is possible and if so, how can this be done?
At first glance, these two goals seem to be impossible to achieve together. In fact, if you told me some pill, powder, or potion was being marketed with the claims that it can provide a concurrent muscle gain and fat loss, I’d immediately say that it was a scam.
The reason why it seems impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, at the exact same moment, is that these two goals require antagonistic calorie consumption strategies. Fat loss requires a calorie deficit, burning more than you put in. Otherwise, your body will not go to it’s fat stores and use those as its source of energy. Muscle gain requires a calorie surplus, eating more than you burn to give the muscles something to use as building blocks for growth.
You can’t have both a surplus and a deficit at the same time so gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time must be impossible, right?
In one sense, the answer is yes, in another the answer is… maybe.
You may be feeling a bit confused right now and I don’t blame you. But if you bear with me, I’ll explain what I mean. When I first stumbled upon this dilemma, it was while reading a nutrition and fitness program that actually promised to help you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time: The Holy Grail Body Transformation by Tom Venuto.
The only reason why I kept on reading was because it was written by Tom Venuto, someone whose teachings I’ve been following for many years now. I know him as a phenomenal expert in nutrition and fitness and as someone who is honest and doesn’t use shady marketing tactics. I just couldn’t believe that he would claim to be able to deliver results which were impossible.
A different perspective on the “Same Time”
In the Holy Grail Body Transformation, Tom Venuto talks about changing your perspective on what the Same Time is. Since you really can’t get a calorie deficit and a surplus at the same instant in time, why don’t you expand your view to a week or a month at a time. Isn’t it possible to have certain days of the week in which you have a calorie deficit and other days in which you have a calorie surplus?
In fact, you can have different times of the day in which your body is burning more than you’re feeding it, leading to a deficit and other times a day in which you’re eating more than you’re burning. You can have deficit periods and surplus periods. While in each of these periods of time, you’re losing fat OR gaining muscle, by combining them into one, you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, only this time your time frame is a day or a week or a month.
This is something that Venuto calls Nutritional Periodization, meaning that you change your calorie intake and the amount of various nutrients that you eat from one time to another to fit your current goal. In this case, you may create a calorie surplus right after you finish a strength workout to induce a bigger muscle gain, and lower your calorie intake a few hours later to create a deficit for fat loss.
Naturally, this is simplifying the process as there is more to this method that just eating more or eating less. You need to eat the right things as well to achieve optimal results for either of these goals. To gain muscle mass, you need to give the body the nutrients it needs when your muscles crave for them. Otherwise, they will never be able to grow properly. When your body is short on calories, it has to burn what it has stored. What you eat actually triggers various hormones in your body that determine whether your body will go to your fat stores (what you want) or if it will use some other calories.
The point is that you can, through careful nutritional periodization and working out, achieve a concurrent muscle gain and fat loss. This does require effort and a dedicated adherence to the guidelines that Tom Venuto teaches. But if you do it correctly, you can burn the fat and feed the muscle together for the first to melt away and the second to grow.
So, there is no easy way to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. However, as long as you judge your progress by days and weeks instead of seconds and moments, you can achieve both with effort, dedication, and planning.