Should I lose weight before I build muscle?

Nov 25, 2020

A question that passes my inbox pretty regularly is, “Can you build muscle while losing weight (fat)?”


My answer: It’s harder to build muscle in a fat loss phase. 


I see a lot of women eating 1200 calories hoping to build muscle. They want to be ‘lean and toned’. They want to shed the excess pounds they’ve gained but they also want to look fit. Like they workout regularly. They want abs and biceps. They want defined quads and calves. They want strong shoulders. But they’ve also got about 30 lbs of fat to lose too.


So, it makes sense that they’d want to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Neither one is an overnight thing and in our multi-tasking happy society, why not just do both at the same time? It makes total sense! Except it doesn’t.


Here’s how it actually works…


Generally speaking, only one category of people can truly build muscle and lose fat at the same time. And those are people who are new to lifting, new to eating better, and new to counting macros. And, that only lasts for a little while. Eventually, the muscle development will stop and the fat loss (if they’re still in a decent deficit) will continue. Eventually, you need energy to build.


If you’ve been exercising or macro counting or eating well for a while, this brief window of muscle gain during a fat loss cycle is even smaller. Or perhaps, completely non-existent. 


This is because building muscle requires energy. A lot of energy. Calories are energy. So if you need a lot of energy to build muscle, you also need a lot (or at the very least, a surplus amount) of calories. For most women (and by most I really basically mean all) a 1200 calorie intake is not enough energy to build with.


We need more calories from protein but most especially from carbohydrates and fats. Two things that fad diets typically tell you to avoid if you want to be successful. 


That booty you want to build? It needs carbs too.


As much as you may not want to read this…as difficult as it may be to embrace…as hard as it may be to actually do…wee must go through the entire cycle of weight loss, reverse, maintenance, bulk in order to get the results we are after. We have to go through every single phase, in order, in their own due time (and ride them out for the duration) even when we don’t want to.


Building muscles (and booties) requires additional energy. You can’t just build from nothing. Every bit of muscle requires energy. Calories are the energy. And the energy is the stimulus to build with.


Don’t be afraid to eat a little more or lift a little heavier. I promise it will do your body (and your booty!) good.