Lose Fat Build Muscle

Question (Part 1):

I'm trying to lose fat but also build muscle mass. My body fat is currently 16.7% and I'm trying to lower it to around 10%.

What is the best way to go about losing fat and building muscle mass and how long will it take? Can I lose the fat and build muscle at the same time?

I was reading your website and it said that you need to eat more calories than you burn off to gain muscle, but burn off more than you eat to lose fat.

I go to the gym 6 times a week to work my whole body.

I go Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I'm wondering if you could give me a good training split, volume, sets and reps guide that will work my whole body and give me some good results.

At the moment I train my muscles every other day. I train my upper body one day and the lower body the next, then the upper body again and so on.

I don't appear to have gotten any results despite all the time I've spent working out. Am I working to hard?

This is why I need I good training split. I tried a training split before but it didn't seem to work. I thought I was doing to little so I also run every time I'm at the gym.

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken


(Part 1):


You must Weight the Importance of your Goals

It is possible although very highly unlikely to lose almost 7% of body fat while you concurrently build muscle. In order to a accomplish any goal most efficiently, you must focus on it.

What is more important to you?  Looking good on the beach?  Or being the big man on campus?

If you want to look good on the beach you should focus on burning fat. Hypo-caloric diets in which you consume less calories than you burn will allow you to burn fat. Your goal with the weight training is to maintain as much muscle mass as you can while you cut the fat.


Your training is just the stimulus to build muscle or burn fat. Whether your body burns fat or builds muscle is a matter of your diet and genetics.

If you had a dietician prescribing you a diet he/she would tell you to choose fat loss, or muscle gain. Although doing both at the same time is possible, it is not a smart goal to have because it may even be impossible for some people.

The fact that you're trained even makes it more difficult to tone (lose fat build muscle) by building muscle while you lose fat.

Choose one goal and adjust your diet to do so. You have a chance to do both if you have the perfect diet and the perfect amount of maintenance calories, but it is highly unlikely, even with the help of a personal trainer and dietician to do so naturally.

Weight Training

Training is just a stimulus. As long as you train in the gym 4-5 days a week, your diet is what will determine whether you gain muscle or burn fat from it.

If you decide to focus on lowering your body fat percentage to 10% which will make you appear smaller with a shirt on, but bigger with a shirt off your training split should be adjusted accordingly.

Rest is just as important to getting results as diet and training so you may want to change your training split to allow for more rest.

The best training split for maintaining muscle mass while you burn fat and lower your body fat percentage is a split in which you work large muscle groups every weight training workout.

An Example Fat Burning Split is:

Monday:  legs & Shoulders, cardio

Tuesday:  High Intensity cardio

Wednesday:  Back & Triceps,

Thursday:  High intensity Cardio

Friday:  Chest & Biceps

SAT/SUN:  Fun physical activities, no gym.

As far as training volume goes, in order to effect your body composition you should have high volume training sessions. This means a higher rep range of 12-20 repetitions to failure for at least 1 set.

Cardio Training

Cardio is something you can do every day if you do it smart. Quality is more important than quality if you are simply looking to burn fat and lower your body fat percentage by 7%

Perform different intensities of cardio and make sure to include high intensity interval training for a couple days a week. An example is to perform 45 minutes of elliptical one day and perform 25 minutes of level 15 Stairmaster interval program the next and alternate.

The multiple types of cardio will keep your metabolism up, and help you maintain muscle instead of using some for energy. Remember, muscle protein is an unlikely energy source, but long duration, low intensity cardio lasts long enough for your body to tap into protein energy stores and use your own muscle for energy.

Reassess your goals and really pay close attention to your diet. You must focus on a single thing in order to accomplish it. Don't get sucked up into articles in bodybuilding magazines such as "Muscle & Fiction" that tell you to this program or this supplement will help you burn fat and build muscle at the same time.

Focus, Focus, Focus and you will accomplish your primary goal which will allow you to set new goals.


Question (part 2):

Thanks for the detailed answer, but what foods would you say are the best for losing fat and how much do you recommend I eat them?

What cardio machines would I need to go on and for how long, and how do I know or how can I prevent protein being used as energy?

How many calories should I consume a day if I want to burn off more?

What is a good amount to target, and if I do burn off all the calories will it be alright to go and do other physical activities, or will that completely zap my energy?  Thanks your help!


Answer (part 2):

To best way to burn fat with diet is to only consume low fat foods from the dairy, meat and produce section of your grocery store. Click here to read about fat loss diets. The amount of food you eat depends on many personal factors.

Cardio is answered above, vary the times on cardio machines in relation to your intensity of your workouts.

Preventing protein from being used as fuel is a matter mostly of diet. If your calories are not too low (starving yourself) and your exercise sessions are not too long (over 90 minutes) you have a slim chance of burning muscle for fuel.

For your goal, your calories to consume in a day should be around 500 less than your maintenance needs. Your maintenance needs can be figured out by using a calculator such as this one on ExRx.net

Again, rest is just as important to training. If you eat a clean diet, you will be burning fat while you take days off from intense exercise. Make sure abstain from intense exercise completely for at least 1 or 2 days a week.

Don't worry too much about whether you are losing or gaining fat, etc. Measure or get measured every 3-4 weeks. Most importantly have fun with your exercise, eat a clean diet so you don't have to exercise so often.

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