Understanding the Basics of Building Muscle and Losing Fat

Building muscle losing fat

Lose Weight / July 11, 2017

nullKelly Baggett

The goal of many bodybuilders is to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. Unfortunately, for most who've been training for any amount of time, training with this goal in mind is typically a surefire way to stand in one place spinning your wheels for months—if not years—on end. It's often noted that bodybuilders tend to be extremists. Whether this is just a natural personality tendency among us, or it is a result of the habits requisite to induce noticeable and lasting physical changes in our physique, it rings true for a large majority. Even when taking training out of the equation, what other group of people or athletes puts itself through the dietary rigors of a bodybuilder? You eat enough to feed a small country while on a bulking phase, yet turn around and barely subsist on enough calories to feed a bird while on a cutting phase.

Anyone who's ever truly been on a real bulking phase or a cutting phase will know exactly what extremes I'm talking about. In order to gain muscle, the body needs food—and lots of it—coupled with a reduction of all extraneous activities. In order to shed fat after building this muscle, the body needs fewer calories and more tedious cardiovascular-type exercise. To try and embark on a mutual compromise between bulking and cutting typically brings compromising results in either direction.

However, with science, information, and understanding of how the various systems of the body function, we can better understand and apply correct exercise and nutritional timing to better enable us to achieve the goal of increasing muscle mass and losing fat simultaneously. The plan I am about to unfold here is, as only a bodybuilder would have it, a bit extreme. However, with dediction and hard work, it will enable you to achieve these two goals simultaneously by taking advantage of nutrients and exercise timing.

What we are going to do is take advantage of the body's hormonal state as it pertains to day-to-day circadian rhythms, exercise and nutrient timing. The plan involves periods of both extreme underfeeding for fat loss, and extreme overfeeding for muscle gain coupled with both training for fat loss (cardio, HIT) and training for muscle gain (heavy weights). Basically you'll be in a fat-burning mode the majority of the time, eating lower carbs and calories, and performing fat-burning activities like regular cardio and HIIT cardio to help in this aspect.

The rest of the time you'll either be sleeping, hitting the iron heavy and hard, or eating like a madman to drive protein synthesis, build muscle, and take advantage of the anabolic hormones induced by the weight training and feeding schedule. So let's take a look at the nuts and bolts of the program.


Some form of cardio should be done 3-6 days per week, and alternated between longer, slow-duration cardio and HIIT cardio. Walking on a slightly inclined treadmill for 45 minutes is an ideal form of the longer-duration cardio which should be performed on weight-training days (up to 3 times per week). Sprinting outdoors or on a treadmill and cycling are ideal forms of HIIT cardio which should be done on weight-training off-days (2-3 times per week). For the HIIT portion, there are many different methods of implementing this.

I like to keep the work:rest intervals a little longer than most at 1:2.

As an example, after a 4-minute slow jog/cycle warm-up perform 20 seconds of all-out sprints followed by 40 seconds of jogging, repeated for 8-12 sets with a 4-minute cool-down of slow jogging at the end. If there is one key to HIIT cardio, it is to keep it creative. Basically, the more you struggle with fat gain and/or loss, the more cardio and HIIT sessions you'll need to perform, with three cardio and three HIIT cardio sessions being the max. Those somewhere in the middle of the metabolic continuum should perform three HIIT sessions and ditch the regular cardio sessions. Those with excellent metabolisms might find they need only one or two HIIT sessions per week.

Weight Training

The actual content of your weight-training sessions is not nearly as important as the timing. It is important for this program that your weight-training sessions be done sometime in the late afternoon/early evening, to allow you to burn fat throughout the day. This is the time when you eat a lower calorie/low carb diet. Also make sure you schedule the weight training early enough in the evening so you are allowed a minimum of six hours between your weight-training session and bedtime.

This is the time you will overfeed to drive protein synthesis and replenish glycogen stores. Doing so too early in the day would halt fat-burning for the rest of the day and put a damper on your training and fat-burning economy.

The weight training should be done 3 times per week on alternate days, M/W/F or Tu/Thu/Sat being ideal. The training sessions should consist of heavy, basic compound movements with some overlap. In other words, don't make any sessions arms-only. You want workouts that stimulate a lot of anabolic hormones and muscle mass. As an example, here is how I currently have my 3 times per week routine set up.

My training is usually done with mixed goals of performance and vanity, so it tends to be a bit unconventional for many. Keep in mind it is just an example.

Friday: Shoulders, Traps, & Arms

I normally like to keep sets per exercise around 4-6 and reps between 4-8 and use antagonistic supersets when possible.

In my case, I do smaller muscle groups such as forearms, abs, calves, and rotator cuff on my weight-training off-days; however, this is definitely not something that needs to be done. Do abs and calves whenever you want, just make sure your workouts are hard, heavy, intense, and cover your entire body.


Now for the really interesting part, the diet! The diet is divided up into two separate phases: the low calorie low/carbohydrate portion and the high calorie/high carb portion. Here are the guidelines:

Low-calorie/low carb portion

  • Duration: All day on weight-training off-days and 1/2-day on weight-training days.
  • Caloric intake: 10-12 times body weight
  • Macronutrient ratio: 50% protein, 30% fat, and 20% carbohydrate

High-calorie/high carb portion

  • Duration: On weight training days only. From the beginning of the weight-training session until bedtime.
  • Caloric intake: The same amount as you would take in during a normal low-calorie day, but these calories are to be consumed in a time span of 6-8 hours. ( 10-12 x body weight or 1600-1900 calories for a 160-pound individual)
  • Macronutrient ratio - 20% protein 5% fat and 75% carbohydrate

Maintenance calorie/carb portion

  • Duration: Weekends
  • Caloric intake: 15 times body weight

Daily Schedule

  • Monday - a.m. cardio, p.m. weight training*
  • Tuesday - HIIT cardio performed anytime
  • Wednesday - a.m. cardio, p.m. weight training*
  • Thursday - HIIT cardio performed anytime
  • Friday - a.m. cardio, p.m. weight training *
  • Saturday - HIIT Cardio done anytime, maintenance calories
  • Sunday - no training/maintenance calories

Source: www.bodybuilding.com