Can You Really Build Muscle Whilst Still Losing Weight?

25 years ago if you asked me if you could lose weight and build muscle at the same, I would have said ‘No’. Now? Well, the answer has changed.

The thinking explained

In the fitness industry three decades ago, we were taught that bodybuilders, for example, go through a phase of ‘Bulking Up’ and building extreme muscle. Then closer to the competition date, they’ll go through a 12-week ‘Shredding’ phase. This involves getting much leaner as well as sacrificing some hard-earned muscle mass. 

This is what was taught and believed for a very long time. 

But! Then came along the sport of ‘Crossfit’. Crossfit competitors HAD to be: Big, Fit, Strong, and Fast, with an excellent Power to Weight ratio. This meant they also had to be quite lean in order to be competitive.

Crossfit explained

As the name ‘crossfit’ suggests, these athletes possess an array of fitness attributes. The two big ones required to be competitive are their ability to build muscle, for the strength component, and their ability to get trim and lose weight. This is so they remain as light as possible for the cardio challenges and gymnastics events (such as ‘Walking handstands’, where athletes must walk on their hands after exhausting themselves from dragging 200kg sandbags).

Positive Nitrogen Balance

The reason we believed you couldn’t build muscle and lose weight simultaneously was a biological equation called the ‘Positive Nitrogen Balance’. However, with decades of more research, we since have learnt that humans can, in fact, build lean muscle mass and trim down simultaneously. If you’d like to read more into the research, here’s a great resource.

A holistic approach 

The answer to ‘how’ lies in Consistency. 

Consistency = Eating clean wholefoods for each meal of the day. Exercising and including both strength and cardio, no matter what your goal is. Having a healthy Mindset. Without a smart and strong mindset, you’ll fall into quick-fixes and less successful outcomes.

Let’s get a little more specific:

Build Muscle + Lose Weight

  • Nutrition – In order to both build muscle and trim down, you must continually consume enough high-quality protein. Sources include: Grass-fed meats, poultry, nuts and the gold standard – eggs. It also helps (significantly) to keep your alcohol, refined sugars and processed carbohydrates to a minimum, substituting for non-starchy carbs in the form of colourful and fresh vegetables.
  • Exercise – When building lean muscle, which should be a priority for everyone, strength training is crucial. You must continually overload your muscles with weights (including your body weight). The exact amount and volume will vary for everyone, however, your muscles should feel pumped at the end of a session if you would like to build or maintain your current level of muscle.
  • Mindset – This is the key to achieving any goal. Especially one that requires the structure and discipline of building stronger muscles stronger and reducing body fat to a healthy level. The best mindset, or should I say the most rare virtue, for achieving any big goal is ‘Patience’. Many people have the expectation that they will lose the weight that took 30 years to put on in just 30 days! Like a strong family unit or successful business, a big goal takes years (decades even) of discipline and commitment. So make sure you enjoy the process and are not solely attached to the end result.

Keen to get started? There’s no better blueprint for success than our 12WBT programs. With programs catering to every level, we intersect fitness, nutrition and mindset to ensure you see the best results – whether your goal is to get stronger whilst losing weight, learning to run, or slimming down with a specific event in mind. Our team are experts in their fields and are with you every step of the way.

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