Is it Harder to Gain Muscle or Lose Weight?

Is it Harder to Gain Muscle or Lose Weight?

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Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: May 2, 2022

If you’re like most people working on getting in shape, it might be challenging to know where to focus your attention and efforts.

It’s harder to lose weight (or body fat) than build muscle.

Since muscle is denser than fat, it means that gaining muscle might lead to increased weight. It’s much easier and quicker to obtain visible results from gaining muscle than weight loss.

Usually, weight loss rates reduce when people become leaner.

This post will cover where you need to focus first (building muscle or weight loss) and the difference between the two (which is harder?). You’ll also learn some useful tips to build muscle and prioritize weight loss simultaneously.

Let’s dive right in.


Although gaining muscle and losing weight go hand-in-hand, many aspects tend to contradict each another. For instance, to lose weight, you’ll need to consume fewer calories.

On the other hand, building muscle requires boosting your protein intake. You must acknowledge that each goal needs different approaches.

For most people, it’s easier to gain muscle than to lose a notable amount of fat. Fat tissue is usually less dense than muscle. Therefore, it usually spreads out and occupies more space compared to muscle tissue. Nonetheless, heavier people can lose weight easier than people with less body fat.

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That means if you’re obese, losing weight first will be much easier. But, if you got a low body fat percentage, it might be easier to build some muscle mass before cutting down weight.

Both muscle gain and fat loss rates vary from one person to another. Factors such as age, sex, fitness level, and current body composition can all affect how the body reacts to muscle gaining and weight loss efforts.

Before comparing losing weight vs. gaining muscle, let’s look at how you can maximize each.


a woman showing off her extreme weight loss

Losing weight can only be easier if you consider the factors that can affect how quickly the body will lose fat. By consuming fewer calories and working out more, most individuals will naturally start to lose weight. That said, some factors can make the process easier or harder.

You can’t control most of these factors, but knowing them and how they can impact your fat loss goals may help you plan for them and establish how they might affect your results. Most people get discouraged when they don’t notice drastic results immediately, but you must remain consistent for the best results.

You could also include the following things to help lose weight:

  • Eat Enough

Ensure that you don’t restrict your calories too much. You still require sufficient energy to work out and function. And if you don’t consume enough calories, it can slow down your metabolism.

· Eat a balanced diet. Ingesting the right amount of calories and substituting your processed, fatty foods for some fresh vegetables and fruits will ultimately help to maximize weight loss. Proteins and vitamins will help you feel full for long while supplying your body with the fuel it requires.

  • Exercise Every Day

Exercise can include taking the stairs rather than the elevator, or even a brisk walk. It’s more than simply hitting the gym. Always take the opportunity to burn some extra calories!


a woman works on building her biceps by doing dumbbell curls

Generally, gaining muscle requires physical exercise and specific dietary elements to achieve the best results. Muscle gain can also be affected by factors that either make building muscle mass harder or easier.

There’s some overlap when it comes to what makes it easier to lose weight and easier to gain muscle. You can build muscle and lose weight simultaneously, but it’s harder and demands more of a commitment than simply doing one or the other.

Several studies have proven that ingesting a high-protein diet may help with both weight loss and muscle gain.

There are also numerous things you could do at the gym that’ll ultimately help you build muscle and burn extra calories to aid weight loss. Below are several other tips for building muscle:

  • Fuel Your Body

Muscle building requires proper nutrition to primarily fuel your gains. Consume a diet rich in protein and boost calories with lean protein such as fish and chicken.

  • Strength Training

Perform some higher intensity workouts that prioritize building strength. Consider hitting the weights at least 2-3 times per week.

  • Increase Intensity

After you become comfortable lifting, consider increasing your weights periodically. Push yourself to have one more rep in or to increase more pounds. Just be careful not to overdo it, and ensure that you lift with a partner or spotter.


a woman working out

  • Is Gaining Muscle Better Than Losing Weight?

No! That’s the simple answer. Most people should prioritize weight loss before working toward gaining muscle, particularly if they’re overweight or obese. All the health risks and conditions linked to being overweight are more crucial to address than gaining muscle mass.

That said, you must understand that by saying “weight loss,” we mean “fat loss.” It’s also worth mentioning that weight loss because of water or muscle loss isn’t similar to fat loss and might even be detrimental to your health.

So, when you’re working on losing weight, ensure that you measure your actual body fat and not simply the number on that scale to determine your progress. You may maximize fat loss and ensure that you’re maintaining muscle weight by exercising regularly and eating a high-protein, balanced diet.

  • Should I Gain Muscle or Lose Weight First?

Generally speaking, most people should focus on losing weight before building muscle. The health conditions caused by being overweight are much more dangerous than not getting defined muscle mass. Some people also have muscle definition that’s hidden underneath body fat.

It’s worth noting that burning fat will make it much easier for you to build muscle. No matter if you exercise with weights and many different strength training techniques, you might not see any notable differences in muscle definition without cutting down some body fat first. And that leads us to the next question.

  • Does Losing Weight (Fat) Mean Gaining Muscle?

No! Typically, losing weight refers to burning fat and minimizing your body’s body fat percentage. And although gaining muscle can boost your weight, it can also increase your metabolism for burning fat. Nonetheless, you can work toward both goals simultaneously.

You can improve muscle development while burning fat at the same time. It’s called body recomposition. It primarily focuses on changing your body’s composition through a combination of diet and regular exercise.

To burn fat and also gain muscle, you must have a regimen of weight training and cardiovascular exercise. Cardio burns calories and aids fat loss, while weight/ resistance training assists to build muscle.

The entire process also demands a certain dietary format that entails reducing your overall caloric consumption to facilitate fat loss and simultaneously boosting your protein intake. Protein usually assists with muscle development, and it’s vital for body reformulation.

It can be quite difficult to do all of these things at the same time since it requires much care and attention. It would be best to work with a personal trainer and a nutritionist to achieve your fitness goals. That said, you shouldn’t forget that everyone’s body is different. So we respond differently to changes in exercise and diet.


a woman working out on an exercise bike

Quite frankly, the fastest way to lose fat and gain muscle is through a combination of dietary changes and strength training. It includes eating a sufficient amount of protein, reducing your caloric consumption by a small margin, doing large compound exercises, and getting enough rest.

1. Do Large Compound Workouts

Compound exercises are the best exercises for gaining muscle mass. The term “compound” means that you target multiple muscle groups at a go.

These may include Deadlift variations, Squatting variations, Rowing variations, and Pressing variations.

2. Take A Sufficient Amount Of Protein

Another important thing you should do is ingest a sufficient amount of protein. Remember, protein is an essential macronutrient to build and preserve muscle tissue. You also don’t need to worry about taking it immediately post-workout. The key thing is that you’re consuming it regularly, every day.

Some of the best sources of protein are:

  • Soy protein (edamame, tempeh, tofu)
  • Animal proteins (eggs, fish, meat)
  • Seeds (chia, hemp, flax)
  • Protein powder supplements (pea protein, whey protein, brown rice protein, etc.)
  • Beans and legumes ( lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, split peas)

Try as much as you can to consume around~ 0.75 grams of protein/ pound of body weight every day. Consume it frequently throughout the day but not all in a single sitting.

You also need to add other foods, besides protein. For example,

  • Incorporate nutrient-dense snacks like nuts, cereal bars, dried fruit, breadsticks, crackers and cheese, oatcakes, and yogurt between meals. Apart from being high in protein and high energy, such snacks also increase levels of vitamins and even minerals, such as iron and calcium – both essential to good health.
  • Taking nutritious drinks all through the day can boost overall energy consumption. Rather than water, consider milk and milky drinks, smoothies, and fruit juices. Using yogurt in smoothies and full-fat milk in drinks is another easy way to boost calories.
  • Add cheese to soups, spreads on toast or sandwiches, and use extra oils in cooking to help add more calories to your dishes without adding to the bulk. For instance, a matchbox size piece of cheese (30g) offers 8g of protein and 125 calories.
  • Incorporate healthier fats into your diet with oily fish (such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout), avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, rapeseed or sunflower oils, spreads, and olive. Apart from being calorie-rich, they’re packed with vital heart-healthy fatty acids such as omega 3.

3. Eat At A Slight Calorie Deficit

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need to eat fewer calories than your system burns. But the problem is, that muscle-building often requires additional calories.

The good news is that research has illustrated that your body can take fat mass and convert it to the energy required for muscle growth. Having said that, you wouldn’t want to drop your caloric consumption by a large margin. It’s recommended that you reduce it by not more than 300-500 calories. The easiest way to do this is by slightly reducing your portion sizes while increasing your protein consumption.

To reiterate, AVOID reducing your calorie intake by a huge amount. In most cases, large caloric deficits will cause fat loss and even muscle loss.

4. Maximize Rest & Recovery

Muscle gain and fat loss require you to get an adequate amount of sleep. When you’re sleeping, your body is in anabolism. Anabolism is the metabolic procedure responsible for muscle repair and muscle development.

If you don’t sleep at least 7 hours every night, you’re priming your body to store excess body fat, as well as burn muscle. Typically, sleep deprivation is considered a catabolic procedure- and releases stress hormones that enhance fat retention.

It’s worth noting that recovery from exercise is equally as important as the actual exercise.

5. The Key Factor (Consistency)

Last but not least- none of these tips will work if you only do it for 1 week. Consistency is undoubtedly the most important thing when it comes to fitness. No matter if your system isn’t optimal – simply showing up will mean a lot. While you may have the right workout and the right diet, it won’t work if you don’t stick to it.


For most people, it’s harder to lose weight than to gain muscle. However, you should still prioritize fat loss before working on gaining muscle. And this is especially important for overweight or obese people. There are numerous health complications associated with obesity that are much more urgent than gaining muscle mass.

Numerous factors can also affect the difficulty of gaining muscle or losing fat. Therefore, you must know them to set realistic goals and determine what else is affecting your fitness results.