Yes, you can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. I know because I’ve done it myself. And now I teach others how to do it too. Inside, I’ll show you how I discovered this, what I did, and what I recommend to others.
- How to burn Fat and gain muscle at the same time
- Inflammation, Fat-Loss & Muscle Gain
- Beginner Steps To Burn Fat While Building Muscle
- Burning Fat While Gaining Muscle—12-week Transformations
How to burn Fat and gain muscle at the same time
Calorie Surplus and Muscle gain—Is It Needed?
I remember believing that if you wanted to build muscle, the only way to do it was to eat more calories than your daily needs while lifting weights.
Those extra calories are necessary to build muscle, which is energy-intensive. Sure, you’d gain some fat, but that was a necessary evil of building muscle.
Then, if you want to burn fat, you need to eat less calories than your daily needs, and you will slowly burn fat. Sure, you’d lose some muscle, but that was a necessary evil of getting leaner.
As I was closing into my thirties, I had two different bulks that went bad.
By that, I mean I ended up getting pretty fat without gaining much muscle despite meticulously counting calories. I was doing a slow and controlled bulk over many months. (I didn’t “look” that fat but was no doubt around 25% body fat.)
Feeling frustrated, I went on a cut. I dropped calories slowly and steadily by counting my calories every day. I dropped nearly 12 pounds.
But I didn’t look that lean. I had a persistent little belly. In the meantime, I had lost a ton of strength in the gym. I felt deflated.
When I ate more calories, I got fat.
When I ate less calories, I became weak.
To be completely honest, I felt embarrassed.
I was embarrassed because I started a business called Bony to Beastly with Marco and Shane several years earlier.
Marco was huge, nearly 6’4 and 215 pounds, and shredded. You could see his muscle fibres move in his body as he lifted, which reminded me of a horse, oddly enough. He was a coach to Olympians and professional athletes after he had interned with two of the best coaches in the world, like Eric Cressey, who’s now the director of player performance for the New York Yankees.
Shane, a graphic designer like me, had completely transformed his body. He’s added over 70 pounds of lean mass onto his frame. It was insane.
But here I was struggling myself.
Admittedly, I was more in the background doing the tech stuff of the business. Shane and Marco were doing most of the marketing and program development.
Thinking maybe there was something I was missing, I asked Marco if I should become a certified trainer, and he told me point blank, you already know way more than what they’d teach. (I later became certified, and Marco was right.)
If I knew this stuff inside and out—why couldn’t I get results?
Is Body Recomposition Real?
Well, as I kept searching for answers, I came across this idea of “body recomposition.”
Body recomposition is when you build muscle while burning fat.
But that was impossible?
Then I came across tweet from one of the most respected muscle researchers in our field, Dr Brad Schoenfeld.
All this time, I thought it couldn’t be done, but in fact, it can be done. It’s just not “optimal.” (Bulk/cut/bulk/cut is the fastest route, it seems. But that wasn’t working for me.)
So I started reading everything I could online about it. There wasn’t a lot, to be honest. But there was enough for me to get started.
First Experiment: 10,000 Steps & Lifting 3x a Week
And as one of my first experiments, I decided to integrate some low-stress cardio to help prevent fat gain while eating big.
I bought a cheap step-counter off of Amazon and kept it in my pocket.
And for the next 30 days, I did 10,000 steps every single day. Rain or shine. On busy days where I was behind on my steps, I’d paced around in the basement before bed while listening to a podcast to get my final 2000 steps. I also lifted weights 3x a week, and I ate big.
At the end of just one month, I had gained 4 pounds while losing an inch off of my waist! I was leaner, bigger, and stronger! It was working!
It was then that I realized I had believed something that had stopped me from getting results.
And I started to wonder, what else did I believe that was holding me back?
What else could I be doing to get even better results?
That’s when I started digging through Pubmed. Pubmed is a search engine from the USA National Institutes of Health that indexes studies from many journals. (Shane had shown me it years before.)
I wanted to find out why walking was so powerful.
Inflammation, Fat-Loss & Muscle Gain
Walking Is Anti-Inflammatory
After reading many papers, I found out that low-stress aerobics like walking can reduce something called chronic inflammation.
Because it lowers inflammation, aerobics helps the body work better and reduces fat—even without being in a calorie deficit.
What?! So that explains how I managed to get heavier (through muscle?) while losing fat at my waist?
Building New Muscle & Inflammation
What’s more, I found out that chronic inflammation makes it harder for the body to build new muscle—because it’s already dealing with the inflammation. It explained why I was never able to build much muscle despite constant dedication to the gym, lifting 3x a week, and eating a calorie surplus.
The NCBI describes it this way in a review:
“Chronic inflammation is also referred to as slow, long-term inflammation lasting for prolonged periods of several months to years.”
Then it says:
“Chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently for the next 30 years in the United States.”
Chronic inflammation eventually leads to heart disease and diabetes.
But before you get full-blown heart disease, some early symptoms are
- joint pain
- stubborn fat at the belly (and neck)
- acid reflux
- frequently getting sick
I was in my late twenties, and I had bad dandruff and was beginning to bald. I was named “sick boy” in high school since I missed so many classes from catching colds. It was normal for me to pop an antihistamine every day during allergy season.
I knew I had a lot to learn. So I read everything I could find out about chronic inflammation.
So I’d read, read, read. Then, experiment on myself. I did this for many months before I put out my findings in the first version of my programs. I’m now technically onto the third version of the framework with The Skinny Fat Fix.
Beginner Steps To Burn Fat While Building Muscle
- Reduce inflammation in every area of your life
- Eat a low-inflammatory diet—meat from healthy animals, wild seafood, raw honey, organ meats, fresh fruits, berries, etc.
- Lifestyle—get daily sunshine, get enough sleep, drink clean water (not tap), etc.
- Environment—moldy apartments, air pollution in cities, chlorinated water, fluoride exposure, etc.
- Lift at least a couple times a week
- Include movement
- Walking reduces blood sugars without using insulin—it does this through muscular contractions! This is partly why walking is so healthy. It also improves bloodflow to the entire body, helping with recovery and waste clearance
- For those who are healthier, they could experiment with 1-2 HIIT sessions a week. HIIT is high intensity which means high stress. So you already need to be relatively healthy to do this. This will increase your VO2Max, raising your metabolism, and make it so your body will burn fat even while resting and watching Netflix.
Burning Fat While Gaining Muscle—12-week Transformations
And this framework didn’t just work for me—it helped Jason lose over 30 pounds of fat while hitting new personal records in the gym in 12 weeks.
Abiel lost 4.5″ off his waist while losing 16 pounds while gaining a ton of size in just 12 weeks.
Patrick lost 4″ off of his waist while gaining 1″ on his shoulders in 12 weeks—even while eating a vegetarian diet.
So, today I know that chronic inflammation practically halts muscle gain and piles on stubborn fat…
And I know that anything that “reverses” heart disease or diabetes in studies could be something worth personally experimenting with to get leaner, more muscular, and look amazing (through vibrant health.)
So in the meantime, I kept reading more and more studies about heart disease and diabetes, getting more clues on how to make the programs and coaching more powerful.
Anyways, I bring up this story because maybe you were like me and thought bulking and cutting was the only path to getting muscular. (I am not hating on it, it certainly worked for both of my business partners.)
But since discovering this new way, I’ve found it’s a lot easier to stay lean, strong, and feel your best. (I don’t walk 10k steps every single day anymore, but it’s still a powerful technique for those who want rapid change.)