How to Lose Weight and Build Muscle for Beginners

How to Lose Weight and Build Muscle for Beginners

Disclaimer: is a reader-supported site. We may earn a commission if you click links on this site and make a purchase. 

Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: August 5, 2022

Do you want to look toned but don’t know where to start?

First, it’s worth noting that most exercise programs consist of flexibility workouts and aerobic conditioning. But if you’d like to burn more calories and ultimately lose weight, the solution is simple: build muscle.


Muscle burns significantly more calories at rest compared to fat. Ten pounds of muscle can burn 50 calories at rest, while 10 pounds of fat can burn 20 calories.

Long after you’ve stopped exercising, your body is still burning more than twice as many calories when you are toned down than when you aren’t.

We’ve assembled a comprehensive guide on how you can lose weight and build muscle as a beginner. Focus on the following powerful rules, and you’ll be amazed by the results!

Let’s go!

What Is Body Recomposition?

a woman checks her waist for weight loss using a long tape measure

Understanding what this term means will help you through this article. “Body recomposition” is when there’s a change in the ratio of body fat to muscle. When people talk about “body recomposition” they’re often referring to dropping fat and building lean muscle.

Fat and muscle are different functional ‘compartments’ in the human body. That means it’s physiologically impossible to “replace” body fat with muscle, or vice versa.

Losing Weight vs. Losing Fat

So, what do we mean when we say we want to lose some weight? When folks say they’d like to lose weight, they’re often referring to reducing their weight on the scale.

For instance, a 300lb person might say they’re looking to lose weight if their objective is to get to 250lbs on the scale. S/he will then become fixated on that number and stress out if their progress stagnates or they don’t attain their goal within a certain period.

Well, this is problematic for various reasons. If you’re simply focusing on whatever the scale says, you might not care where the actual weight loss comes from. It could come from water weight reduction, muscle loss, and fat loss.

More often than not, peeps who want to cut down weight would also want to keep their already existing muscle and boost their body composition.

And to do this, you’ll need to preserve your lean muscle mass and prioritize fat loss rather than simply aiming for an arbitrary number on your scale.

A reduction in the body fat percentage you currently have is referred to as fat loss.

Although you might notice a respective drop in your body weight on the scale as your body fat percentage also reduces, that doesn’t always occur.

Someone may go from 30% to 25% body fat but only drop 2-3lbs on the scale— you might have heard people say they’re losing inches but not weight.

Can You Lose Fat & Gain Muscle Simultaneously?

The process of shedding fat and building muscle simultaneously is known as body recomposition. And although you can do this, it’s a complicated and usually difficult process.

Primarily, this is because attempting to be smaller and bigger at the same time are quite conflicting goals. While one requires you to maintain a calorie deficit, the other requires you to maintain a calorie surplus.

For most folks, body recomposition is a difficult goal to achieve. They may spend years attempting to recomp and still lose only a small body fat percentage and gain a small quantity of muscle mass. Individuals who tend to attain the best results from a recomp include:

  • People with high body fat percentages
  • People who are coming back from a long break from lifting weights
  • Beginners to strength training

This is often because their bodies aren’t adapted to the stimuli and stresses of resistance training, or they’re beginning with higher body weight and ultimately burn more calories during a workout.

With increased strength training, the highly efficient your body will become. For this reason, it becomes harder to change your body’s appearance as your specific training age extends and as you become leaner.

Do you fall outside the above-mentioned categories? Then, you can work towards a recomp. But you’ll need to understand that it demands much hard work, patience, and consistency.

To increase the likelihood of success with a recomp, you should consider:

  • Prioritizing protein at all meals
  • Eating at maintenance daily or calorie cycling depending on when you work out
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Sticking to a strength training program
  • Avoiding an excessive amount of cardio

Following all of these protocols will enable you to give your system the right fuel amount for your activity levels, preserve your already existing lean muscle mass, and prevent unnecessary fat gains.

Tips for Losing Weight & Building Muscle

1. Training

a woman weight trains at the gym using a dumbbell

Most people go one of two ways when it comes to training – endurance and cardio training to lose weight, or weight training to gain muscle.

One of the common misconceptions is that you need to hammer the cardio until you cut down weight- and it’s only then you can start trying to gain muscle.

In reality, fat loss and muscle-building must go hand in hand! Regular training provides your body with the required stimulus to gain muscle mass, in that weight training causes micro-traumas to the muscle fibers. The human body repairs and recovers these tiny tears enabling it to come back much stronger and fitter.

If you’re interested in the jargon behind this- it’s referred to as the Super-compensation principle. In general, it’s a natural adaptation procedure that your body undergoes to be able to provide a better solution next time it’s subjected to the same stimulus.

Are you beginning your fat loss and strength training journey? The following weight training guidelines will help you:

  • Number of workouts/repetitions/sets

As a general rule, you ought to work out a minimum of 3 times weekly if you’re on a full-body routine or around 4-6 times weekly if you’re on a split routine.

Generally, a full body routine involves working different muscle groups/ organs on different days. Always aim to perform 3-5 different workouts per muscle group and about 3-5 sets per workout.

It’s worth noting that the number of repetitions plays a fundamental role in which muscle fiber types you’ll develop. Research illustrates that the optimal repetition range to bring about muscle hypertrophy, which is an increase in muscle fibers’ size) is 8 to 12.

  • Cardio

When it comes to fat loss, there’s a wide range of theories behind cardio. Some peeps say doing fasted cardio early in the morning is ideal for fat loss. Irrespective of the different theories, if you’d want to shed fat, you need to perform cardio about 4 times a week. This includes 2 low steady-state workouts lasting 45-60 minutes, and 2 high-intensity sessions for about 20-30 minutes.

  • Intensity & rest between sets

Your workouts should always be short and intense. Quite frankly, you don’t have to exercise for 2 hours. It will only boost your cortisol levels. It’s worth noting that cortisol is a catabolic hormone that destroys muscle mass.

Rather than having long rest periods, try resting between 60-90 seconds in-between sets. In general, one hour should always be enough to complete your exercise. Don’t forget that it’s all about intensity and exceeding your limits.

  • The best workouts

Perhaps you instantly get tired from seeing other folks lifting those heavy barbells?

Don’t fret out! You shouldn’t be afraid of the more demanding exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pull-ups, back rows, and dips. These are the best exercises when it comes to muscle building.

Compound movements like the ones mentioned above engage multiple muscle groups at once and, as such, will induce a larger hormonal response. It doesn’t mean that you cannot do tricep kickbacks or bicep curls.

You can, but just ensure that you pay more attention to big movements rather than isolated ones.

  • Resting time

Although this might come as a surprise to you, it’s worth acknowledging that you don’t grow in the gym. In reality, you usually grow outside the gym – particularly, when you’re sleeping.

That’s right!

It’s during sleep that muscle fibers can recover from the workout-induced micro-traumas. And this is the reason you should get enough rest.

As a general recommendation, you should sleep 7-9 hours. Refrain from drinking any liquids before going to bed to avoid going to the bathroom during midnight and disturbing your sleep. Ensure that you have at least a whole day off from the gym.

2. Nutrition

a woman eats a salad as part of her nutrition plan

Having a solid nutrition plan is vital to promoting muscle growth. In case you don’t offer your body sufficient calories, regardless of your workout’s intensity, your muscles just won’t grow.

Are you wondering what you should eat?

Keep reading…

  • Protein & Muscle Gain

In general, protein plays a key role in muscle maintenance. If you’re in a caloric deficit and trying to shed some fat, ingesting enough protein will provide your body with the best chance of preserving muscle in the process.

Furthermore, protein increases the chances that when your body requires energy, it won’t need to pull it from muscle. Eating enough protein also assists with the muscle recovery procedure after a challenging workout.

  • How Much Protein Do You Need?

With protein intake, the exact amount you need is properly handled and monitored by a professional online nutrition coach who will prescribe an amount depending on your training style and body.

We also recommend consulting a doctor prior to making any major diet changes.

What’s more, research illustrates that about .8-1g per pound of body weight is a great jumping-off place for many folks – specifically those who are resistance training.

Therefore, you’ll need to ensure that your total calories are at a level aligned with your goals.

3. Supplements

In general, supplements come as a great addition! Have you already established an appropriate diet plan? You can consider getting some supplements to enhance your muscle growth to a much higher level.

Primarily, supplements are made to fill in the gaps when it comes to your nutrition plan. To be honest, it’s quite challenging to consume more than 120g of protein daily, or to eat 3000 calories daily – especially when you’re not used to eating much.

And this is where sports supplements play a role. A protein shake may easily provide you with 20-30 grams of protein. If you consume a protein shake twice a day (for example, pre- and post-workout) that’s about 40-60 grams of protein you could get with minimal effort.

  • Record Your Progress

As a fitness beginner, you must always record your progress! It means having a training diary/ log where you can record your weights and reps each week. Doing this will assist you to make attainable targets and identify weaknesses in your specific training plan.

At the start of your journey and every few days onwards, ensure that you take photographs and measurements. In general, visually and physically recording such changes will not only help you see improvements but will also make you more motivated every week!

And when it comes to nutrition, utilizing an online and mobile app means you’ll be fully aware of everything you’re eating and the macronutrients and calories you need each day.


You can’t just exercise for a certain number of hours every week and expect to shed some weight or gain muscle. Let’s face it, the workouts must be quite challenging to make a difference. Working out should also go hand in hand with a healthful and well-balanced diet.

For a person to lose weight, they need to consume more calories than they take in. While engaging in physical activity of relatively low intensity but with prolonged duration will facilitate weight loss, more intense exercise will increase muscle strength.

You must follow a workout regimen! Research shows that muscle-strengthening exercise plans may take 6-10 weeks of consistency before results start to show.

There are numerous ways to work out. Find exercises that feel motivating and fun. Also, bear in mind to try new and tougher things. However, avoid overworking the body to prevent injuries.

All the best!