Should I Wait Until I Lose Weight Before I Build Muscle?

Some say you cannot build muscle and lose fat at the same time. This belief comes from the experience of trained lifters and bodybuilders, who find it hard to progress in strength or add muscle (having already added quite a bit) unless they are eating well, even eating extra calories, and who are accustomed to treating “cutting” (losing fat) as a quick process that is part of preparation for competition.

Untrained or “de-trained” people (have been athletic in the past, but it’s been a while) can add muscle while losing fat, in part because they have a lot of room to grow. One way to think of this is, in fact, the trained strength or physique athlete’s bulk/cut cycle: these competitors often deliberately overeat (“bulk”) while pushing hard in training to build the most strength and size possible, and then proceed to “cut” in order to make weight or show the best definition for a competition. If you have fat to lose, you already did the bulk!

Advantages to lifting while losing fat:
— Lifting is fun and can make exercise more engaging
— Weight-bearing exercise supports heath and bone density
— Lifting expands your options if your regular workout is unavailable

Many people are so focused on a weight-loss goal, they don’t realize that muscle-building is an option — and one that can help them lose fat (as exercise itself and in using energy for muscle building). If you’ve made a new commitment to exercise that involves combining resistance work and cardio in a gym, perhaps with a trainer to guide you, give some thought to learning more about the resistance-training part. It might turn out to be a fun, reinforcing factor that helps get you to the gym regularly — or even gets you through a sprained ankle or sagging motivation.

But I’ll Gain Weight If I Lift

That is the idea! But building muscle is a great example of why “losing weight” can be too simple a goal. When you do more resistance work, be sure to take measurements, particularly at the waist — a fat-loss goal will show better in the waist measurement than on the weight scale.

Circus Strongman, 1885


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