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Should We Lose Fat Or Build Muscle First?

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Should We Lose Fat Or Build Muscle First?

We get it, you want to be lean, but also be strong, and get jacked without gaining too much. 

Can you lose body fat and gain muscle at the same time? Short answer - you can but it's bloody hard. We recommend focusing on one at a time. But which should come first? 

Can you do both together?

The straightforward answer to the question above would be – yes, it is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, however, it isn’t worth all the effort. James says, “Well yes, you can do both together but, in no way, shape, or form will it be optimal. And I think if you go at both at the same time you’re going to run into problems down the lane.”

“There’s a bit of research that shows that even if you go into a big calorie deficit, along with some resistant training, you’re going to lose some muscle mass along the way," he says. "The positive thing is that muscle memory exists, and you will gain that muscle back.”


Which to do first and how to tackle this?

Different people have different bodies and understandably, they have different goals for their bodies. But it’s not wrong for anyone to feel confused about which process to go with first. Sean explains: “It depends where you’re at in your journey. If you’re quite lean and you’ve got a little fat to lose, you can lose fat first or you’d be better off trying to build a little muscle. If you’re 5'8, around 85-90 kgs, you’re not overweight, but just have a little fat - building muscle could give you the improvements you’re looking for.”

James adds to this with some of his expertise as well, “What most people want is a body compositional change. What Sean pointed out is great; Are you skinny fat? Do you just need to build muscle? Are you overweight? Which if you are, then no matter how much muscle you gain you’re not going to see it. So, you probably will need to go for fat loss first and even that depends on how much body fat percentage you’re at. If you’re overweight or obese, even if you lose 10% of body mass, the health benefits of that would massive.”

What should you do in this case? Well, changing things up would be appropriate. “Stop dieting for a while, go into performance and build some muscle," says James. "Allow your body to increase the number of calories and increase exercise activity and non-exercise activity, and then you can start to lose fat because you'll know your maintenance and losing fat will just be easier."


Mentality that comes with building muscle

As qualified nutritionists and trainers, both Sean and James have seen people struggle to reach their desired body goals, be it in terms of losing weight or gaining muscle – and this is why they spoke about the sheer passion and mindset you'll need when going down this route.

“Another thing to understand is the psychology, mentality, and emotion that comes with building muscle," says James. "We have to think about the rate of both, losing weight is a lot easier, you see your progress faster and so motivation is going to be up too. Muscle building is hard - there is instant gratification with losing weight but with building muscle there’s just a pump, which also lasts only around 20 minutes. Realistically, if you’re in a stage where you want to build muscle, you’re going to need that calorie surplus."


Final verdict?

To achieve the best results, it is crucial to do things right, and in the manner that an education professional has advised you to. Coming back to the main question – Should you lose fat or build muscle first? The boys have just a few things to say. According to James, losing fat is the way to go.

“I would always try and lose the fat first, that would be my main protocol. You lose the fat, you get motivation and as you build muscle mass, you’re going to see the muscles quicker and as you change your body composition, it’s going to make you feel better.”

Sean, on the other hand, makes sure to highlight another key form of training. “To each their own but wherever you are in your fitness journey, everyone should do some form of resistance training.”

Want help changing your body composition? Speak to a Rebuild Health and Fitness nutrition coach now. 


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