How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time

If I was to tell you about a diet that allowed you to grow muscle AND drop fat at the same time would you want to know about it?

Well, that’s exactly what I am going to do right now, because you can have the holy grail of bodybuilding, the magic elusive that is fat loss with muscle gain.

That “diet” is called Intermittent Fasting, and it’s one of the fasted growing diets right now, and rightly so!

If you’re like me you’ve probably tried all sorts of different bodybuilding and fat loss diets, with varying degrees of success, but one thing stands out amongst them: You can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time. But with Intermittent Fasting you can!

Intermittent Fasting - Lose fat and gain muscle at the same time

With Intermittent Fasting you can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.

I’m also not going to pretend that I created this lifestyle (it makes more sense to call Intermittent Fasting a lifestyle than a diet) and I’m also not the only one that promotes this eating lifestyle. Many people have acquired Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle and tweaked it in their own ways. The style that I’m about to show you is something that I learnt from a gentleman Martin Berkham (he is the founder of Lean Gains).

Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle

With fasting we’re trying to get the body into a state where we optimize both fat loss AND muscle gain. To do that, we split the day into two periods; a fat loss period, and a muscle gain period. What we then do is maximize these two periods by tailoring our diet and exercise to the needs of both fat burning and muscle gaining.

During the fat loss period you eat and drink no calories at all. This leaves the body free to burn fat off as fuel (as there’s no other fuel available from digestion). You can also do some gentle fat burning exercise, and do your weights routine. Both fasted (Although some Amino Acid supplementation is recommended, but not necessary. However, I have found out that it really helps with the workouts.).

During the muscle building period you eat foods that stimulate recovery and promote muscle growth (even on rest days). You also want to prime this muscle building period by training during the fast. This means that your body is primed and ready for your first meal and that meal is used incredibly efficiently.

Many people have fears about their body going to waste when training fasted, or from fasting itself. But you can feel reassured that this isn’t going to happen, as long as you follow the guidelines. Why is this? See below.

Essentially what we now know is this:

  • You don’t lose muscle by fasting for less than 24 hours
  • You burn fat most effectively after fasting for 10 hours
  • You can digest far more than 30g of protein in one meal
  • Your metabolism doesn’t drop from fasting, in fact it goes up, because during fasting your body releases growth hormone
  • You can have a balanced diet and eat healthily by skipping breakfast
  • Fasted training can be very effective for fat loss and muscle gain

I don’t know about you, but when I read through that list I feel a sense of liberty. Freedom from having to do everything perfectly with diet and exercise is quite a prize, especially when you realize that “doing everything perfectly” is actually not founded on science, and in practice can be totally counter-productive.

Why counter-productive?

Because the traditional approach to bodybuilding, cutting, bulking, getting lean, losing bodyfat and body recomposition tends to promote an “all or nothing approach” that inevitably leads to failure, simply because you can’t be perfect all the time.

So what’s the alternative?

The intermittent fasting lifestyle approach. What seems to workthe best is to basically splits the day into two periods. An eating period and a fasting period. Simple, and that’s an aspect of the whole program really, make everything more and more simple.

The fasting period lasts 16 hours and the eating period lasts 8 hours. These are the sweet spots. You can choose to fast longer and you will lose little bit more fat, but there won’t be any significant change, because the most effective fat burning period is from 12-16 hours. And any shorter and you lose this most effective fat burning phase. This is the golden time, where your body is burning that “hard to access” stubborn fat.

What Should You Eat?

Here’s where a degree of latitude comes in. It’s worth remembering that there’s no such thing as “the perfect diet” and any attempt to carbon copy someone else’s and expect it to work for you is destined to failure. One important lesson I learned many years ago was to think of diet as being part science, part art. This means you have to start from a template and adjust accordingly.

Intermittent fasting - Eat what you want and lose fat and build muscle at the same time

With this lifestyle you can eat pretty much whatever you want and still build muscle and lose fat at the same time. However, the better you eat, the better your results will be.

So what are the recommendations for the diet template?

They come as follows:

  1. Eat your biggest meal of the day after your training session, or after the fast if it’s a rest day
  2. On training days eat 500 cals more than baseline, on resting days eat at least 500 less than baseline
  3. Focus on getting your carbs post training and limiting them in all other meals (so on rest days you essentially eat no carbs)
  4. Train fasted if you can, and take BCAA to limit muscle cannibalization

That’s about it for the basics, after that it’s case of make a plan, stick to it, notice the results, change the plan to adjust to personal needs, do the plan, notice the results, etc, etc.

If you want to gain lean mass, then you may need to eat more on your training days, you may also need to train in the fed state (equally you may not, but if you don’t track your progress and monitor your actions you’ll never know!). Similarly, you may need to drop calories if you want to focus on getting rid of body fat. I have personally found that I need to hit about 1500 cals on resting days and limit it 2000 on training days (however you have different BMR, so view these numbers just as an illustrative case), with the resting days being more important. If I get my resting days right I notice a significant difference. I sure know I’m not the first person in the world to get this chunk of learning (that rest is probably more important than training).

If I was to sum up the main benefit for lifestyle from doing Intermittent Fasting I would say that it has freed me up to eat a satisfying and enjoyable diet whilst losing body fat and gaining strength. You too can experience these benefits, but you need to tailor your program for you.

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About George Harris

George is a guest blogger for Muscle Pyramid. He has spent over 15 years in the fitness world and has used this time to explore, research and refine the most effective methods of fat loss, muscle building and weight loss in the world. You can benefit from this by getting his free muscle building course at his website Super Bootcamps here.
George has put together a series of posts about Intermittent Fasting, you can check it out at his website here: Intermittent Fasting Results Guide