Can You Drop Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time?

Can you drop fat and build muscle at the same time?

Drop fat and build Muscle

“Hey Coach Mike,  I’m an currently working out 5 day a week. I am at 31 % body fat. I want cut it down to 15 % while maintaining the body weight. Can you please help to chalk out a good work out plan. Thanks”

This is a classic question. If I understand your question, you want to replace body fat with muscle. The old “Drop fat and build muscle at the same time” conundrum.

Just in case you are wondering…”Can fat turn into muscle? Can muscle turn into fat?”


Let’s look at the numbers.

I don’t know how much you weigh but let’s assume you weigh 200 pounds. At 31% body fat you have 62 pounds of fat and 138 pounds of muscle. Note: when I say muscle I am referring to muscle, blood, bones and everything else that isn’t fat. We can do this because the only variable that will change is muscle. Blood volume, bone weight etc…will stay consistent for the most part.

If you want to stay the same weight and go down to 15% body fat, then you would be at 30 pounds of fat and 170 pounds muscle.

What you are looking at is gaining 32 pounds of muscle while losing 32 pounds of fat.

So the big question here is your time frame.

The good news about fat loss.

You can keep the same level of muscle and easily lose 2 pounds of fat per week. You could achieve that in about 16 weeks.

The bad news about muscle gain.

The harder part of this equation is putting on 32 pounds of muscle. Unless you are really gifted this could take 3 plus years at best. This also depends on your body type, joint size and family history. Any of which could be a deal breaker. It took me over a decade to gain 100 pounds but I was going from painfully skinny to average to bigger than average.

Don’t get discouraged, it can be done and people are doing it all it time. But that is the key. It takes time.

Building muscle is challenging.

For muscles to grow you need to do the big 4 consistently.

  • Break down muscle tissue with hard workouts.
  • Get enough recovery time.
  • Eat a surplus of calories to build muscle
  • Eat enough protein throughout the day and night to foster muscle growth.

Maximizing dropping fat and building muscle at the same time is a tricky balancing act. Usually you can’t do both nearly as well as doing one at a time. Most people who are successful at putting on muscle won’t worry too much with body fat levels. But…

Here’s the big secret.

If you follow the big 4 rules consistently, you will drop body fat without thinking about it. I am making the assumption that you are taking in quality calories not junky ones.

The good news about muscle gains

The more you get into this, the more you will know your body and be able to optimize the big four. Learn what works for you and stay with it.

How do you measure progress?

If you are serious about this, you will get an electronic body fat tester. They run around $30 on Amazon and allow you to get a much more accurate body fat reading that scales or hand held sensors that send electric impulses. If you know your weight and body fat, then you can track pounds of fat and pounds of muscle.

Or you can do it the old fashioned way and see how your clothes fit. Tight around the legs and chest? Good. Tight around the waist? Bad.

The really good news.

  • As you drop fat, you will look better because the muscles you have will start to pop out.
  • A little muscle goes a long way in changing your appearance.
  • More muscle means a faster metabolism so you will burn more calories at rest.

The other factor here is over-training. I am going to give you an ambitious schedule. You may not be able to handle the amount of volume. If so, no problem.

Take another day off or cut down on the volume.

Go to the gym 2 on and 1 off. So for every 2 days you workout, take 1 day off. Concentrate on Chest, Back, Shoulders and Legs. Arms will be done at the end of the workout.

Sample Workout Schedule

Day 1:

Bench Press 5 sets of 5–12 reps

Military or shoulder press with dumbbells 5 sets of 6–12 reps

Laterals with dumbbells 3 sets 8–12

Skull crushers with dumbbells 3 sets 8–12

Bicep curls 3 sets 8–12 reps

Day 2

Squats 5 sets 5–12 reps

Pull-ups 5 sets as many as you can or at least 25

Barbell or 1 arm rows 3 sets of 8–12

Straight legged deadlift 3 sets 6–8

Day 3 off

Day 4

Dumbbell bench press or incline press 5 sets of 8–12

Arnold presses 5 sets of 8–12

Front raises 3 sets of 8–12

Rear dips 3 sets as many as you can

Dumbbell curls 3 sets 8–12 reps

Day 5

Lunges 5 sets of 15–25

Rows 5 sets of 8–12

Pull-ups 3 sets as many as you can do or at least 25

Stiff legged deadlifts 3 sets of 6–8

Calf raises.

Throw in planks, hanging leg raises and reverse crunches for core work 6 days a week.

Day 6


Day 7

Work on weak areas with a short workout.

What about Cardio?

Here is where things get a little controversial.

If you really want to lose fat right now.

Spend at least 30 minutes 5–6 times a week doing long slow cardio. This means keeping your heart rate around 115–130 bpm. I know a lot of people will disagree with this but it is a proven way to burn fat and keep muscle.

An Alternative

If you don’t want to do that, consider high intensity interval training 4 days a week at a place like Crossfit and see if that works.

Both ways will get you where you want to be. It will just take time and patience.

Hey Mike, what about nutrition?

If you are at 31% body fat, you need to clean up your diet. Eat clean and emphasize protein each meal. That is the easy answer and in reality, don’t overload yourself at once. Everyone knows how to eat clean.

  • No soda or diet soda.
  • Cut out sugary drinks.
  • No fried food.
  • No fast food.
  • Don’t rely on restaurants to help you. Make your own food and eat it.

I hope this helps.

If you need some coaching…

You can always join my online training for the crazy low price of $10/month.

Online and Mobile Personal Training

Click here for more information.


Calories 101: Can you lose weight counting calories?

Calories are the theme for podcast #140.

It is timely because this is February 28th. I have a funny feeling that a number of people who had great expectations for losing weight this year have given up.

Don’t give up. Just try a different approach.

Why should I listen to you about nutrition?

  • I have certifications out the wazoo for this very subject.
  • I have a solid track record with my clients for weight loss.
  • I am not trying to sell you anything.

Here is a brief summary of the podcast.

I would love to have you as a subscriber on Itunes. You can find me here at

Is a calorie a calorie?

a bunch of calories!

Yes, there have been many studies that prove, at least for weight loss a calorie is a calorie. A number of studies have people losing weight eating anything from McDonalds to Doritos and losing weight. The key is that they measured portions.

When is a calorie not a calorie?

Even though you can lose weight by eating junk food, you will pay a price in the end. Junk calories have little to no nutritional value.

Who should count calories?

I think everyone should get a good idea of how much they should be eating. Don’t go down that rabbit hole of tracking everything you eat. Personally, I would rather get poked in the eye with a sharp stick than write down everything I eat. I just don’t have the temperament.

Can you accurately measure how much you should eat?

Please don’t ask me exactly how much you should eat. There are way too many variables. Instead, get the big picture and get close. In the calorie game pretty good is good enough.

How do you figure out caloric intake?

Here is an easy formula I learned a long time ago. It is more accurate than a lot of the software out there.


Weight– how much you weigh.

RMR– resting metabolic rate. How many calories you burn without moving.

Activity Factor- How many calories you burn per day moving around. Be safe and use 1.3.

Workout calories– how many calories you burn working out.

See, I told you this would be easy.

Women’s formula for daily caloric intake.

Your weight x 10. Example 150 x 10= 1500 calories per day RMR

Add in your activity factor which is almost always 1.3. 1500 x 1.3= 1950 calories.

Figure out approximately how many calories you burn exercising per week.

4 workouts at 400 calories= 1600 calories per week or 228 per day.

Add that to your total and you have a good estimate of your daily caloric needs.

In this case we are talking about 2178 calories.

Men’s Formula for daily caloric intake.

These are my numbers. Last body fat test I was at 11%.

Your weight x 11. Example 245 x 11= 2695 calories per day RMR

Add in your activity factor which is almost always 1.3. 2695 x 1.3= 3503 calories.

Figure out approximately how many calories you burn exercising per week.

Running 20 miles per week at 180 calories per mile = 3,600

4 workouts at 500 calories= 2,000 calories per week.

Add both together and you get 5,600 calories /7= 800 calories per day.

Add that to your total and you have a good estimate of your daily caloric needs.

In this case we are talking about 4303 calories per day.

What do these numbers mean?

Eat that many calories and you will stay the same weight.

Eat 300 more calories pr day to gain weight.

Eat 300 less calories to lose weight.

If you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble losing weight.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor memory
  • Constantly sick

There may be a very easy cure for you. Eat more.

If all this is too much of a bother, just go with this.

Eating Plan for Women

Eating Plan for Women



























Eating Plan For Men

Eating Plan for Men

I am Skinny and want to Gain Weight

I am Skinny and Want to Gain weight. What Do I Do?

I don’t have access to weights, but I’m looking to gain muscle.

Michael Medvig


People who want to lose weight don’t understand how painful it can be to be skinny and want to gain weight.

This was a question I answered on Quora.

It hits home for me because I started out as a weak skinny kid. 6′0 and 140 pounds.

Did I mention I had asthma and basically stayed inside and watched TV all day? (Video games weren’t around back then. I know, I am old.)

I really want to help, so let me give you some golden rules to follow.

These are the rules I used to gain over 100 pounds of muscle. It took me a long time to do it and I made almost every mistake in the world…but I did it.

And you can too. Just be patient and work smart.


The skinny person trying to gain weight has a two-fold problem.

  1. Adding muscle.
  2. Keeping the muscle.

This is how I gained muscle and kept it. 

The Golden Rules of weight Gain.

  • Eat as much as possible. You probably have a crazy high metabolism and if your body isn’t getting enough calories in, your body won’t have enough energy to create muscle.
  • Eat as much protein as possible. Muscles need protein to rebuild. If you can’t get access to a lot of protein (meat, fish, eggs, protein powder, protein bars, nuts etc..) take some branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s).
  • This is a project that is going to take time. Be patient. Work to keep every pound you gain.
  • Sleep as much as you can.
  • Cut out the cardio. Save your energy for building muscle.
  • Most supplements will be a waste of time and money for you. The ones to look at are actually the cheapest. Look at creatine, BCAA’s and protein powder.
  • 100 reps of anything will not build muscle. If you are using bodyweight exercises, try and make the exercise hard to keep the reps between 5–15. Anything more and you are building musclular endurance not size. The only exception to that is legs. Legs will respond to both high rep and low rep training.
  • Forget about a six pack. Getting ripped and getting bigger are two separate things. Focus on one at a time. Trying to do both at once means you will get half-assed results. (pardon my language)
  • Concentrate on the big muscle groups like legs, back and chest. Work those hard and everything else will fall in line.
  • Playgrounds are actually great places to work out. Generally you can find some bars to do pull-ups, dips and upside down rows. Combine that with some squats, lunges and planks and you have a great workout.
  • Try working out 45 minutes 3 days a week and see what happens. The biggest mistake I see with skinny people is that it is very easy to overtrain.
  • Take time between sets. Don’t rush and concentrate on form.
  • Get to the gym whenever you can.

Advanced tip.

There are always heavy things lying around a yard or house. I regularly use a log, rocks and a Home Depot Buckets filled with sand and rocks. Learning how to pick up and carry stuff around the yard will build muscle and tremendous functional strength. Just make sure your technique is tight.

Caution: Blatant plug for my online training coming up.

If you are interested, I do offer online training. Click here for details.