Can you drop fat and build muscle at the same time?
“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
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
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
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
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
Throw in planks, hanging leg raises and reverse crunches for core work 6 days a week.
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.
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.