Can You Build Muscle and Lose Fat Simultaneously?
“You can’t gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, and you can’t make gains while eating below maintenance.” Is this fact or fiction? The answer may surprise you; you’ll never look at contest prep the same way again!
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“You can’t gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.”
I’ll never forget the first time I had someone tell me that back in 1997. Oh, how wrong that statement is.
Just a few months ago I was witness to the new variation: “You can’t gain muscle eating below maintenance.”
After all, how can one build muscle if they aren’t eating enough? Think about it, almost every muscle building article out there exclaims that unless you shovel a tremendous amount of grub down your gullet that you don’t stand a chance of adding any beef to your frame.
Any seasoned veteran in the iron game will tell you that you gotta eat big to grow!
Since I’ve been writing for Figure Athlete, I’ve noticed quite a trend. I’ve seen an alarming number of girls confess that when they followed a contest prep diet they mysteriously started building muscle and getting stronger all the way up to their show date. Yet, they were losing fat, restricting calories, and spending countless hours on the treadmill the entire time!
Wait a minute, how can this be possible? Every guru out there will tell you that it’s impossible to build muscle and get stronger while following the brutal, restrictive demands of a serious contest prep diet.
I’ve known the answer to this for years now, and with the pressing beliefs of all the antsy vixens on Figure Athlete, I now feel it’s time to set the record straight.
Nothing Worthwhile is Easy
Granted, it can be quite a challenge to add muscle on a contest prep diet, but it’s still very possible.
There’s simply more to it than reducing calories at the dinner table and burning more in the gym. There are other intangibles that come into play.
You see, most girls tip toe into the gym day after day trying to follow the workout of a bodybuilder or top level Figure competitor from some magazine they picked up at the drug store on their way home from the tanning bed.
Or, even worse, they pay $60 for a cookie-cutter workout routine from some online guru that he sent out to fifty other girls.
Therefore, very little appreciable progress is ever made.
Throw in the fact that the vast majority of girls think that the best way to annihilate adipose tissue is to put in copious amounts of panting, sweat-stained stairmaster work and it’s no wonder that they struggle to put on an ounce of muscle and burn off even a pound of non-functional mass.
So, when you step back and observe the haphazard things a lot of girls do on a regular basis in the gym, it’s easy to see that they’re basically setting themselves up for a breakthrough.
Have you ever heard the old sayin’, “It can’t get any worse?”
Now, let’s take a look at the totally opposite end of the spectrum: “I got stronger every single week of my contest prep.” When I hear a girl say that she got stronger during a contest prep diet, I know right away that this is the result of three potential scenarios:
• The girl just started a cycle of steroids.
• The girl hadn’t been weight training at all, or had been doing everything wrong for a while prior to starting the training.
• The girl had been eating awful and not taking the right supplements.
Usually it’s numbers two and three combined, which sets the stage perfectly for a competitor to flourish with bountiful muscle gains and rapid fat loss even during the compounded stress of a pre-contest program.
Let’s dissect each one of these components one by one.
I still don’t think people truly understand the gravity steroids have on altering someone’s physique. The impact can be even greater when someone has come close to actually maximizing their genetic potential. Throw some hormonal ergogenic compounds into the mix and you get a shock and awe of battlefield proportions.
I’ve witnessed drug-free girls go from really good conditioning and muscularity levels to possessing the wow factor just a few weeks later.
No, they didn’t change up their cardio program, they didn’t start taking a new protein powder, and they didn’t hire a new trainer. What caused the profound difference in their conditioning and muscularity levels was the introduction of exogenous, synthetic hormones into their system.
I had a Figure competitor tell me about the first show she did on steroids. This genetically gifted girl had amassed a decent amount of muscle and had been competing for over five years prior to using vitamin S.
She was training with an online “mass production” trainer at the time, so any results she received had nothing to do with the routine that she and the other hundred or so girls followed.
Enter a slew of drugs into the mix and she told me that her physique had never looked like that before. The results from that very first cycle will always illicit the most profound results.
At her show, the trainer told her to stay covered up as not to reveal her sauced up bod until it was time to step on stage. She told me that when she stripped down to her suite that several girls gasped in amazement at how she looked.
They begged and pleaded her to detail what she’d done differently. Of course, she couldn’t tell them the real reason, so she told them that she’d been training with a well-known online guru. Right after the prejudging, a handful of girls signed up with the buffoon in hopes of earning their wings as well.
Anyway, the girl won her class and was going to be in the overall lineup later that night. Her stiffest competition in the overall was a woman with far more muscle than her. So, what ingenious strategy did the guru trainer employ?
“You gotta eat!” he told her. So, off to lunch they went. He had her stuff her little face like a squirrel hoarding nuts for the winter. A greasy, marbled rib-eye steak, a baked potato with all the fixins, and a handful of buttered rolls got things rollin’. And just to make sure she’d properly filled out, she topped it off with a slice of cheese cake and washed it all down with a Coke.
Oh, and she treated him to lunch as well by picking up the ticket. How generous!
Needless to say, when she stepped on stage for the overall, her body was a far cry from the rock-hard, well-conditioned physique that dominated her class that morning.
Let me tell you right now that when her proverbial levee broke, she experienced an overspill to rival that of the Katrina floods. She was a grotesque, bloated mess.
The lesson to be learned here is that even with the hyper-human results steroids can bring, never underestimate the ignorance of an online guru to screw them up.
Oh, and not a bad day for the trainer. He picked up a handful of mindless pawns and got a free lunch to boot.
2. Lack of Direction
When I start training a girl, she’ll typically gain several pounds of lean mass and lose a few pounds of fat in the very first month. And there’s no pre-contest diet or daily cardio in sight.
The plan is simplistic: Two full body workouts a week along with one aerobic and one anaerobic workout a week, all while taking the cleaning supplies to their diet.
In 2007, I signed up a girl who’d lifted weights on and off periodically, but always went for her three mile plus jogs three days a week.
This is what happened to her body composition after just one month of training with me two days per week and changing a few things in her diet:
Bodyweight: 148 pounds
Lean mass: 116 pounds
Fat mass: 31 pounds
One month later
Bodyweight: 152.5 pounds
Lean mass: 124 pounds
Fat mass: 27 pounds
As you can see, she actually gained 4.5 pounds of bodyweight, but lost four pounds of fat. All of this was possible because she gained eight pounds of lean mass.
“Wet Wolf, that’s impossible! No one can gain eight pounds of muscle in one month, especially not a female.”
First of all, I didn’t say muscle, I said lean mass. Lean mass refers to anything other than fat tissue. So, it includes anything from muscle tissue to any extra water and glycogen storage.
Besides, you must take into consideration that when a person, and yes, even a female, is totally de-conditioned and performs full body weight training with compound movements and improves their diet, their G-Flux is going to skyrocket.
This, in turn, leads to a rapid spark in immediate muscle gains.
Now, get this: Over the next four months, she only gained one pound of lean mass and lost a half pound of fat.
Turns out that after that first month in the gym she reverted back to her old diet. She’d eat a bowl of oatmeal upon waking, drink a protein shake while lifting, and then cap off the night with a Chick-fil-A sandwich and fries.
She was also notorious for bar hopping at least once, sometimes twice, a week. So, throw in the usual alcohol binge and a late night cheat meal and it’s not hard to see how her progress came to a screeching halt.
3. Forgetting the Kitchen
Out of the blue one day, one ambitious girl decided she wanted to do a show.
Immediately, I put her on a pre-contest diet, an entire arsenal of supplements was implemented, and over the next seven weeks she lost eleven pounds of fat and got stronger in every single exercise all the way up to the week of her show.
Despite the grueling five-days-a-week energy systems training and a depleted diet, she was still breaking records.
She was eating fewer calories, but she was having more nutrient-rich foods at increased frequencies. The gamut of supplements boosted her immune system, fired up her metabolism, replenished her adrenal glands, and improved her recovery.
So, even though her energy output was greater and her energy intake was reduced, she still was able to build muscle and get stronger because of all the intangibles that factored together to provide her with the all-important synergistic effect.
Smash the Box
There’s an old sayin’ that I never ever doubt: “Sometimes you have to think outside the box.”
As you can see, there are many other overriding factors that can greatly influence your body’s re-composition other than simply increasing or decreasing calories. But if you don’t think outside the box, you’ll never capture them.
About the Author
Wet Wolf specializes in physique transformation, contest prep, eating patterns, and sports performance training for clients in real life and online.