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Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time

by Jason Stallworth

August 18, 2020

Your ultimate goal is to build as much muscle as possible yet also be as lean as possible.

But can you really build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Yes, you can. But are two caveats:

  1. It will be a gradual process (so you need to be extremely dedicated and committed).
  2. There are some specific workout and nutrition methods you’ll need to adhere to, which we’re going to dive deep into below.

In this post, you’ll learn some simple methods that will help you pack on lean muscle and also help you get ripped. But don’t confuse simple with easy, because this is anything but easy!

In fact, I must give you a heads up that this is going to require a higher level of discipline. That’s a nice way of saying this isn’t for everyone.

Are you up for the challenge?

**You’ll actually get an entire training plan in this post, too!

1 – Training Intensity is Your New Best Friend

light weight bar

The old saying ‘hard work pays off’ couldn’t be more true when your goal is to make muscle gains and drop fat, at the same time. You can’t just casually show up to the gym, do a few random exercises until you’re tired, and expect results.

In other words, don’t called half-ass hardcore.

You have to push yourself further than what you’re used to. You have to go beyond that threshold of pain where you want to give up.

I’m not saying that you should continue to the point where you injure yourself. There is a stopping point.

But let’s be honest. Most of us stop when we know deep down we could have kept going. In other words, those eight reps were tough but as soon as you walked away you knew you could have gotten 10 or 11 reps. And this is where extreme mental focus comes in, which we’re going to talk about later is #5.

How to Make Your Workouts Intense

Here are some methods you can implement to increase your workout intensity

Rest-Pause Sets

This is one of the most intense methods of weight training! Here’s what you do:

  • Perform a set
  • Rest 10-20 seconds
  • Perform another set using the same weight

Sounds brutal, doesn’t it? It is! I actually have an entire post dedicated to this method here: Build More Muscle with Rest-Pause Sets

TIP: Do a rest-pause set on the last set of your final two exercises for that muscle.

Supersetting Opposing Muscles

Chances are you’re familiar with supersets. If not, it’s simple – you perform a set of an exercise and immediately perform a set of a different exercise.

But a better way to use this method for building muscle and losing fat is to superset agonist/antagonist muscles (opposing muscles).

Here are some examples:

  • Superset bench press with barbell rows
  • Superset seated dumbbell press with lat pulldowns
  • Superset leg extensions with leg curls
  • Superset EZ bar curls with rope pressdowns
  • Superset pull-ups with dips

You can do use this method for the last few exercises of your workout, or you can do an entire workout based on this method. In fact, my Lean Muscle Building Program uses this method in the final phases of the program.

Giant Sets

Giant sets are similar to supersets. This method will take your conditioning to the next level, helping you pump out more volume and workout longer.

Here’s how you do giant sets:

  • Perform a set
  • Rest for about 30 seconds
  • Perform a set of a different exercise
  • Rest for about 30 seconds
  • Perform a set of a different exercise
  • Rest for about 1-2 minutes and repeat

Often times strength trainers and bodybuilders will do this will opposing muscles follow by an exercise for core like this:

Set 1: Bench press
Set 2: Barbell rows
Set 3: Hanging leg raises

Another example is something you can do on leg day:

Set 1: Squats
Set 2: Stiff-leg Deadlifts
Set 3: Rope crunches

We spent a lot of time on #1 here. But you have to understand that training intensity is going to help you burn more calories. And, of course, you’re lifting weights, which builds lean muscle.

2 – Activity Frequency Must Be Increased

Abs - Knee Raises on bench

If you’re serious about getting lean then you need to do something active every single day. One awesome way to do that is to workout more often.

Now, you may be thinking ‘But Jason, I don’t want to overtrain?’

Overtraining can be an issue but it’s rare that anyone actually overtrains. More than often, they under-eat, meaning they do not provide their body with the nutrients needed to recover from their workouts. And we’ll get to that in #4.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to train hardcore, all-out, seven days a week. Your body does need rest. However, you do need to stay in motion as much as possible.

Daily Activity Plan

So here’s a simple plan you can follow:

DayActivity
MondayIntense workout
TuesdayIntense workout
WednesdayModerate activity
ThursdayIntense workout
FridayIntense workout
SaturdayIntense workout
SundayModerate activity

That’s five days of intense workouts and two days of moderate activity. You could even do four and three if you wanted. The key is to do something that, again, keeps your body in motion, daily.

3 – You Need Weights AND Cardio

Dumbbell rack - heavy dumbbells

There are two flawed concepts you may hear:

  1. If you’re trying to build muscle, just lift weights; you don’t need any cardio!
  2. If you’re trying to get lean, you need to do more cardio and not lift weights!

The truth is you need to integrate both weight training and some sort of cardiovascular work into your program. Especially when your goal is to build muscle and get leaner at the same time.

Weight training should be obvious by now. You’re simply not going to build muscle without resistance. So I don’t need to harp on that.

Cardio can be tricky, though. the amount and types of cardio are really going to be determined by where you are, and where you want to be.

If you’re on the heavy side, you’ll need to do more activity, in general. If you’re already somewhat lean and only have a little fat to lose, then you probably don’t want to do as much cardio as you don’t want to risk losing muscle.

Plus, the intensity of your workouts as we went over in #1 and being active every day, as discussed in #2, will also help you burn more calories.

Weight Training + Cardio Plan

Below is an example of a weight training and cardio schedule you can use (I’m piggybacking off of the chart I gave you in #2 above).

DayWorkout
MondayAM – back and chest workout
PM – 30 minutes of moderate cardio (ex: walking)
TuesdayAM – legs and core workout
PM – 20 minutes of deep stretching
WednesdayAM – Yoga
PM – 30 minutes of moderate cardio (ex: walking)
ThursdayAM – biceps and triceps workout
PM – 20 minutes of intense cardio (ex: elliptical, bike)
FridayAM – back and shoulders workout
PM – 30 minutes of moderate cardio (ex: walking)
SaturdayAM – legs and core workout
PM – 20 minutes of deep stretching
SundayAM – Yoga
PM – 20 minutes of intense cardio (ex: elliptical, bike)

I challenge you to follow this plan for 12 weeks! Or even better, grab a copy of my Lean Muscle Building Program, which follows these guidelines.

4 – Strict ‘Dieting’ is Your Enemy

Food - free range eggs oatmeal blueberries

The first thing I want you to do is eliminate the word diet from your vocabulary. Why?

Because dieting means restricting. And restricting often results in malnourished.

This means you won’t be getting the appropirate nutrients for the two most vital things for building muscle and losing fat…

  1. Energy for your workouts and metabolism
  2. Nutrients for recovering from your workouts

So right now, I want you to replace the word diet with nutrition.

I’m not going to get into all of the fancy, trendy, and fad nutrition programs out there. There seems to be a new one every six months or so. And they all tend to contradict one another. All that does is cause confusion!

Simple Truths About Nutrition

Instead, I’m going to share some simple truths about nutrition that are specific to your goals of adding more muscle and helping you trim the fat:

  • Eat protein with every meal
  • Try to limit simple carbs to your post-workout meal
  • Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruits
  • When it comes to grains, make sure they are whole grains
  • Eat adequate amounts of healthy fats (avocados, nuts, free-range eggs, fatty fish, olive or coconut oil)
  • Eat until you’re comfortable (not stuffed!)
  • Be consistent with your meal times and portions
  • Don’t get obsessed with counting calories
  • Have your cheat meals, but within reason

I know this is at a high-level and some of this is common knowledge, or at least it should be. But I also want you to notice that there aren’t any extremes here, and no where do you see the word ‘diet’ or anything that relates to restricting calories.

Remember, your goal is not to merely lose weight. It’s to gain lean muscle while trimming the fat. For that to happen, you need balanced nutrition.

Sample Meal Plan

This isn’t the ‘perfect meal plan’ but it will at least give you a starting point. And you can use this as a template to create your own meal plan for building muscle and losing fat.

  • Meal 1: free-range whole eggs, oatmeal, blueberries
  • Meal 2: post-workout protein shake (protein powder, almond milk, natural peanut butter, banana)
  • Meal 3: lean pork or chicken breast, brown rice, broccoli and carrots
  • Meal 4: Greek yogurt, nuts
  • Meal 5: sirloin or fish, sweet potatoes, chickpeas or lentils
  • Meal 6: optional protein shake (whey with some fats and minimal carbs)

One last thing to remember on nutrition. There is no one meal plan that will work for everyone. On that note, it’s a good idea for you to consult with a licensed nutritionist that can further help you dial in the right nutrition plan for you.

**If you’re looking for muscle-building recipes, check out my post: Anabolic Cooking – Over 200 Recipes for Building Muscle

5 – Develop Extreme Mental Focus

I told you that building muscle while losing fat at the same time wasn’t going to be easy! You have to be committed and dedicated to your goals!

And what you need to accomplish these goal is extreme mental focus.

I’m going to give you some tips on how to achieve this, as it’s a state-of-mind. But first, let’s understand what extreme focus means and how it relates to building an awesome physique.

Extreme focus means intense mental concentration. It also means visualization that focuses consciousness on a subject, topic, or task – this comes from the definition of ‘hyperfocus’ from wikopedia.org.

I don’t think I have to explain now why this is crucial to the daily grind of building muscle and losing fat. But how do you maintain that kind of focus?

Tips for Maintaining Mental Focus

Here are some tips to help you maintain mental focus:

  • Train in the early mornings – I go more in-depth about that in this post: How Early Morning Workouts Can Help You Build More Muscle
  • Do Yoga and deep breathing exercises, daily – You can read more about that here: 11 Yoga Poses for Bodybuilders
  • Limit simple sugars
  • Read! – seriously, read for 20-30 minutes every day to keep your brain firing on all cylinders
  • Reduce your time watching TV and scrolling on social media – too much of this stuff can literally turn your brain into mush
  • Fill your mind with positivity – listen to inspiring podcasts, watch encouraging videos, read motivational stories, etc
  • Drastically reduce the amount of time you’re around negative people and negativity, in general – this kills your extreme focus!

These are just a few practices you can implement that will help you maintain extreme mental focus.

Pre-workout supplements like 4 Gauge and PreFierce can help with mental focus for your workouts. These types of products are also great for energy and getting those pumps in the gym.

6 – Don’t Allow Yourself to be Deficient in Micronutrients

Vitamin D3 supplements

Often times you’ll hear me say that you can transform your physique without supplements. And that’s true.

Ideally, you would get the micronutrients you need from your meal plan. The problem with that is it’s difficult to keep up with how much of these nutrients you’re actually getting.

Here’s something else to think about. When you’re training hard, you’re depleting your body of certain micronutrients. So you actually need more vitamins and nutrients, in general, than the average person.

This is where taking supplements can be helpful. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you have to spend half of your paycheck on supplements each month or give in to the ‘latest and greatest’ supplements, which are usually overpriced.

What You Need

First, let’s take a look at some common micronutrient deficiencies of athletes (as you’re going to be training hard to reach your goal of more muscle and less fat, you are essentially an athlete!):

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin D

Most important to focus on for athletes are calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D, as well as some antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium. Let’s start by looking at the key minerals: calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. 

‘The power of vitamins in athletics’ by Amy Culp on January 29, 2015, training-conditioning.com

For the most part, you can take a quality multivitamin that caters to the needs of athletes. There are also supplements like ZMA (combination of zinc, magnesium, and B6) that can ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of key micronutrients.

Here are some supplements to consider:

  • Multivitamin
  • ZMA
  • Extra Vitamin D
  • Extra Vitamin C

Of course, there are more, but this is a great place to start. In fact, it’s my personal daily micronutrient profile at the time of writing this.

You can find out exactly what I take and how to take it here: Jason’s Resources Page

Now you have a complete guide to gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time. I truly hope this post helps you get results.

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Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,

Jason