As a Personal Trainer I am frequently asked by clients if it possible to reduce body fat and add muscle to their frame at the same time?
Most of you will think yeh sure and plan your training diary by firing in weight sessions to add some muscle and add a couple of cardio sessions to eat away tummy fat! Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as that…..
If we forget about the exercise for a second and concentrate on the nutrition, as lets face if we are looking to change our body shape 70% of it will come from what we eat. Put simply, if we want lose weight we need to be burning more calories than we eat, if we are looking to gain mass or muscle we need to eat more than we burn, therefore here lies our problem. Should I try and bulk initially, add muscle then go on a diet to reduce my body fat so I can reveal the muscle I’ve been working so hard to gain or should I reduce my body fat to reveal what muscle I have then try and stay lean and watch them grow.
In some cases this may be possible to initiate both, an increase in muscle while cutting body fat, you are most likely a genetic freak. However if you are extremely overweight you may expect to build some muscle and the fat should drop up quite easily and also if you really have your nutrition and training down to a t, you know exactly how your body works and never miss a training session or meal etc. However for most of us it is very difficult therefore we must choose…..but which one? I’m afraid it kinda depends!
My preferred option with clients would be to reduce their body fat initially. Our bodies function better at a lower body fat %, you will have increased testosterone levels, improved insulin sensitivity, your metabolism will be functioning well and generally you will have fantastic energy levels allowing you to give your best during each workout! However this method will only work best with individuals who already have a naturally larger frame or who have previously trained to gain some muscle mass. Once you have lost weight through a reduction in body fat you will still have a bit of strength and size about you and a platform to add muscle to.
If you have a “skinny fat” body type, ie. you have a small frame with little muscle mass and too much body fat, and have little or no lifting experience I would be hesitant to reduce your body fat at this stage. A low body fat % will leave you with a very skinny appearance which is never good, additionally during your bulk you would gain a little fat anyway and which may dishearten you as you may appear to look similar to you did previously! Instead it would be beneficial to add mass to your frame initially, get in a calorie surplus and partake in regular weight training concentrating on compound lifts. As even if you do not reduce your body fat much to start with you will have added muscle mass making you look broader and more athletic meaning you should appear leaner. From here it may be possible to start reducing your body fat.
So in short there are circumstances where you could expect to reduce body fat and increase muscle mass simultaneously however these are few and far between, my advice would be to assess your natural body type and current condition then chose the option, BULK or CUT which would put you in an optimum condition to address the second goal.