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Yes, You Can Lose Weight and Gain Lean Muscle at the Same Time With This Strategy

Yes, You Can Lose Weight and Gain Lean Muscle at the Same Time With This Strategy

It is an age old question: losing weight vs gaining muscle. Can you only do one at a time? Or can you burn fat and build muscle at the time? After researching these questions, I believe the response is a resounding "Yes you can slim down and build lean muscle at the same time!!!”

In fact, beyond “yes,” one could almost argue for the idea that you cannot do one without the other when you exercise and diet the safe and effective way (to learn what that is, keep reading). Or, at least with intentional muscle gain and fat loss, you should not - let me explain.

Obviously, there are situations in which an individual will be burning fat and actually losing muscle tissue at the same time. Here are some examples.

When a person is seriously ill, fat will be lost and muscles will atrophy at the same time. This is usually from bed rest, malnourishment, the type of sickness, and other reasons. But this difficult reality is not what is being examined here. We are looking at how to intentionally lose weight and gain lean muscle at the same time.

Another example, and maybe more common situation, is when a person diets (large calorie restriction) and does endless cardio exercise. This is far too often the norm, and also results in both fat loss and muscle loss. Many times, people do this and do not realize they are losing lean muscle while the scale is dropping. This is what we are hoping to fix - to help people realize there is a better way to the results they desire!

Instead, let’s look at the idea of how to lose weight and gain lean muscle at the same time in a healthy manner - to build a muscular body.

Propello Life blog on Yes, You Can Lose Weight and Gain Lean Muscle at the Same Time With This Strategy exercise photo


Writing for Phoenix, AZ based system Banner Health, Regan Olsson addresses this seeming quandary directly, saying, “it will take a lot of discipline…but it is possible to have the best of both worlds.” - meaning you can burn fat and build lean mass and muscle at the same time. Encouraging words, to be sure, even when paired with “discipline,” a necessary concept that some shy away from. We need more than an affirmation, however- we need a plan. Additionally, we want to know that we are following a scientifically solid and safe way for physical improvement.

Quoting physician assistant Briana Silvestri, Olsson’s article goes on to declare that you must “identify foods that will be low in caloric intake but also high in nutritional value to allow your body and cells to be fed appropriately.” This nutritional standard, teamed specifically with regular strength training, is the special sauce, if you will. Yes, we want caloric output (daily calorie burn) to be greater than caloric input (food you eat) in order to create that important deficit that will lead to fat loss- but not at the expense of our muscle mass.

Here is the secret on how to stay lean and muscular

Where does this lead us? Three key areas:

  1. nutrition & dietary supplements
  2. daily exercise
  3. sleep & recovery

In order to change your body, to lose fat and build muscle mass, you need to exercise to burn calories and stimulate your body to change, feed it the nutrients to make the change, and sleep and recover so it can change. Below I will go through each of these key areas in detail so you can take action to gain muscle and burn body fat.

Nutrition & Supplementation

  • Step 1: Eat a real, whole food diet.

    You will want to eat an abundance of whole, unprocessed foods. This means you will want to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates (oats, rice, potatoes, whole grains, etc), and lean proteins (meat, fish, legumes, dairy, and natural protein powders). Eating a healthy diet of whole, unprocessed foods is nutrient dense and filling, so you won't eat more calories than you burn. This will keep you in a calorie deficit and will allow you to burn fat.

  • Step 2: Eat a high protein diet.

    If you want to lose weight and build muscle at the same time, then you need to eat enough protein to grow lean muscle while in a slight calorie deficit. If you cut calories and don't increase your protein intake then you run the risk of burning fat and lean muscle mass at the same time. This will slow your metabolism over time and make it increasingly hard to get the results you are looking to achieve.

    An easy way to increase your protein intake is to make sure you get 30 grams of protein with every meal. For breakfast, you can eat eggs with bacon, or oatmeal with a scoop of collagen protein and whey protein powder. For lunch, the easiest option is to eat leftovers from dinner the night before. Or you can throw some grilled chicken on a big salad. This will pack the middle of your day with a protein and fiber rich meal so you stay full longer and don't eat candy and consumer all those extra calories from snacking.

    If you do need an afternoon snack, a high protein intake meal is Greek yogurt with protein powder, granola, and blueberries. This high protein snack packs about 50 grams of protein!

    For dinner, choose a lean protein, veggie, and whole grain. This can be steak, sweet potatoes, and asparagus, or it can be salmon, wild rice, and broccoli.

  • Step 3: Follow IIFYM - If It Fits Your Macros

    Learning to eat healthy isn't always easy. I have tried just about every fad diet there is, and read more books than I can remember. Over the past decade and a half I have learned what works for me, what helps me build muscle, what helps me burn body fat, what helps increase my growth hormone naturally, and more. But when I was first starting out, what really helped me was tracking my macros.

    Macros are the macro nutrients - carbs, fats, and protein. There are many opinions on what your ratio of carbs to fats to protein can be, but I have found that a good starting point is 30/30/40. Another benefit of setting your macros is that is allows you to track your macros to optimize body composition. Try this for a week or two and see how your body responds. Do you gain more weight? Do you notice more muscle growth and more lean mass? Are you eating enough protein and getting enough calories? Or do you start gaining weight and increase fat storage?

  • Step 4: Set your daily calories to match your goals or to bust a plateau.

    It can be confusing to figure out how many calories you need each day. You can use an app called My Fitness Pal to help set your daily calories and macros if you want, or you can use this simple calculator. To easily set your calories to lose fat just determine your "goal weight" in pounds (lbs) and multiply by 12. For example, if you want to weigh 150lbs - this is your goal weight. So multiply 150 x 12 = 1,800 calories per day is your target.

    Stay consistent for 30-60 days at this calorie and macro breakdown and record your results. What is your weight on the scale? Are you seeing muscle gain and more muscle? How are your energy levels? How are your workouts? I have found that as I have learned more about my body and foods I am able to intuitively eat and hit my maintenance calories and macro nutrients without needing a tracker or to food prep.

    Here are a few common goals and situations:

    • Fat lose phase:
      • Stay in a slight caloric deficit

      • Keep your protein consumption high

      • Limit your sugar and processed carbs

      • Minimize alcohol intake

    • Eating clean and not losing weight
      • Avoid Binging

      • Don't eat everything in sight

      • Don't blow it on the weekends

      • Don't drinking your calories

    • Build muscle and lean body mass
      • Stay in a small caloric surplus and eat slightly more calories than usual to gain weight

      • Limit your sugar and processed carbs

      • Minimize alcohol intake

    • Bust a plateau
      • Try ‘mini cuts' as needed to stimulate a fat loss phase.

      • Reverse Diet - adding calories back into your diet to get out of "starvation mode" and burning fat again.

  • Step 5: Dietary Supplements

Propello Life blog on Yes, You Can Lose Weight and Gain Lean Muscle at the Same Time With This Strategy dietary supplements

Use dietary supplements to accelerate your goals and to optimize your workouts and recovery. This will limit fat gain and increase muscle gains by feeding your body specific nutrients without all the calories. But keep it simple, and use tried and true products and ingredients backed by science. You will want to supplement with a high quality protein powder. This will help with recovery and building muscle. Another supplement to add is creatine. This also helps with building muscle and with power and strength. You will also want to prioritize carbs before, during, and immediately after your workout so you can train harder and recover faster. You can do this by using intra workout drinks or eating a piece of fruit before or after your workout.

do sore muscles burn fat article by propello life


If your goal is to lose body fat and experience muscle growth at the same time, then you will need an optimized exercise program that focuses on each muscle group, the sets and reps, the tempo of the lifts, and more. It definitely won't be as simple as lacing up your running shoes and hitting the road. That strategy will only lead to slow muscle gain or at worst, loss of lean mass and muscle.

The backbone of any exercise program where your goal is burning fat and building muscle should be strength training (weight training). Cardio is great and you should definitely do it, but it shouldn't be the only thing you do. Strength training builds your muscles, strengthens your bones, improves your insulin sensitivity and a whole host of other health benefits. Here is a simple check list of weekly exercise you will want to do:

  • 4 x per week strength training (lifting heavy): focus on compound lifts

  • 2 x per week 45 minutes of low intensity cardio (brisk walk or slow jog)

  • 1-2 x per week HIIT training - get that heart pumping fast!

  • Increase Your Overall Volume

If this exercise routine is confusing or daunting, then you should definitely reach out to a certified personal trainer you trust. If you need help finding an expert in this style of resistance exercise programming, then email us at and we can connect you with one of our trusted partners.

The keys to any weight training program centered around muscle building and burning body fat is to perform heavy compound exercises to build lean muscle mass and strength, progressive overload (add a few more reps or sets per week, increase workout volume, add weight, and aim to break PRs each week), perfect form (don't rush through reps), train the muscle in the fullest range of motion, and hitting multiple muscle groups in each session.

Strength training will stimulate the muscle building process, and your high protein diet will stimulate muscle protein synthesis to promote muscle growth to improve your body composition. But gaining muscle growth isn't as easy as lifting weights and eating protein. To gain muscle growth and burn body fat, you have to recover. Exercise creates the desire to change. Nutrition provides the building blocks to change. Recovery is when the change happens. You need all three to get muscle repair and change your body composition.

Sleep & Recovery

Sleep and recovery are not popular topics. Our society celebrates waking up early, staying up late, working hard, and pushing yourself. Unfortunately, this rarely means that people go to bed earlier so they can get their 7-10 hours of sleep needed for a full recovery from the hard day before. This applies to all of our life.

Specifically with sport, resistance training, exercise, and fitness we celebrate going the extra mile, pushing through pain, finishing workouts once we hit a number of calories burned, and leaving the gym drenched in sweat. I am not saying any of this is wrong or bad. What I am saying is that the focus and tenacity you apply to your workouts should also be given to your recovery. You should attack your recovery and sleep process the same way you attack your workout - as a non-negotiable part of the process. It is that important to achieving the body weight you want.

A paper published on Harvard's School of Public Health shows a good night’s sleep is one of the keys to good health, and may also be a key to maintaining a healthy weight. The report discusses the link between sleep deprivation and childhood obesity, sleep deprivation and adult obesity, and some of the effects sleep deprivation has on the body. Here is a brief overview of the paper's findings:

The impact of sleep deprivation on the body
  • INCREASED HUNGER: It is no secret that when we don't get enough sleep we are hungry all the time. This is because sleep is when we recharge our energy. If we don't recharge our energy during sleep, then our bodies tend to turn to food to get that energy. This increases our chances of eating too much leading us to gain weight.

  • INCREASED FEEDING WINDOW: With increased hunger and being awake longer, we tend to eat more and end up in a caloric surplus because of the excess calories we consume throughout the day. Over the long term, this causes weight gain and for us to gain body fat.

  • LOWER IMPULSE CONTROL: Not getting enough sleep also leads to lowered impulse control. What this means is that we get "cravings." And these cravings are for healthy, whole foods - they are for treats and snacks. These empty calories from snacks add up quickly and lead to you eating more calories than you burn. Excess calories cause your body to store fat and gain weight.

  • LOWERED BODY TEMPERATURE: Additionally, your body temperature is lower than normal when you are sleep deprived. Why is this import you may ask? Body temperature is linked to metabolic rate. A lower body temp means you will burn less calories each day, which is lower your maintenance calories, and increase your chances of over eating and fat gain.

  • DECREASED ACTIVITY LEVEL: I don't know about you, but when I don't sleep well for even a day my activity level drops. Getting the motivation to work out seems insurmountable, and I tend to be more sedentary throughout the day.

  • Other issues linked to sleep deprivation include:


So, how do you make sure you get the best night of sleep? You control the controllables! Specifically, that means the following:

  • Set the temperature of the room to 65 degrees
  • Set a sleep schedule - go to bed and wake up the same time every day
  • Make sure the room is completely dark
  • Don't eat any food within 3 hours of bed
  • Don't drink anything within 2 hours of bed
  • Limit use, or stop using, devices (blue light) within 1 hour of bed. Or wear blue light glasses
  • and more 

There is almost nothing like getting a restful night of sleep to improve your health, and you don't realize this until you get robbed of sleep. Whether you are a new mom, a red-eye traveling worker, a night owl, or whatever else may be impacting your sleep, trust me when I say you will thank me later once you start prioritizing your sleep. It is truly life changing!

Improving body composition is a long game

Gaining muscle size and burning fat can be done at the same time, but it takes discipline and patience. It is not an easy and fast process; especially if you are older. So the key is to start early and then maintain as you age. If your goal is to gain muscle growth and lose fat at the same time, then you will need to follow a strict diet, exercise, and sleep and recovery program that is very different than the standard American lifestyle. You will need to lean on experts, and trust the process because the result will not be linear and you will have set backs and hardship along the way. The key will be to remember why you started the journey in the first place, and to see the plan through to the end - you will be so happy you did!

Change your life in just 8-Weeks with our easy to follow health guide!

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