Should you Lose Weight Before Building Muscle?

Should you Lose Weight Before Building Muscle?

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

There’s a never-ending debate in the fitness sector as to whether one should lose weight before one starts to build muscle. The debate revolves around you selecting one in favor of the other. You can either decide to shred weight first before you begin to build muscle, or you can focus on building muscle first and then shave off the extra pounds later. You simply can’t do both actions simultaneously.

Most individuals tend to either oversimplify or overcomplicate the matter. Although there’s no clear-cut answer to this argument, there are various distinctions to take into account before you choose one over the other.

Experts have different opinions on this topic, but the path you choose will ultimately boil down to your personal fitness goals.

Although fitness experts acknowledge that building muscle while shredding weight isn’t an easy task to undertake, like anything in life, when you put your mind to it, you can achieve this goal with commitment.

So, “Should I lose weight before building muscle?” In this article, we take a closer look.

Losing Weight vs. Losing Fat

a woman does lunges in black leggings and sports bra

Can you succeed in both fat loss and muscle gain at once? These twofold objectives become an issue when we take into account that (in the same volume) fat weighs less than muscle. If you decide to tone yourself, you may see your scale number increase, even if you were aiming to shave off unwanted fat.

Before we delve into if or not you should consider losing weight before you build muscle, it’s essential to define what we actually mean by saying we want to shred some weight. Okay, when individuals decide to lose weight, they are generally going for decreasing their weight on the scale. For instance, a 350lb individual might say that they are looking to lose weight when their aim is getting to 250lb on the weight scale. S/he will then get obsessed with that number on the scale, such that they get discouraged when their progress falters or they don’t attain their objective within a certain timespan.

RELATED READING: Is it Harder to Gain Muscle or Lose Weight?

This may prove to be a problem for various reasons.

When all you focus is on what the scale is calibrating, you may not be concerned about where the weight loss is coming from. It can arise from either muscle loss, fat loss, or water weight reduction.

But all in all, with regard to weight loss, the scale doesn’t really provide you with the entire story concerning how healthy you may be. You should look into strategies that optimize the composition of your body as you aim to attain your preferred weight without needing to compromise your sturdy lean muscle.

Often, losing weight means shredding weight, which not only impacts your strength but also your heart health, flexibility, and stamina. Reduction in lean mass also leads to an increased percentage of body fat, increasing your risk of a slew of chronic conditions.

But many a time, individuals who are looking to shave off some weight also want to retain whatever muscle they’ve got and develop body composition. In order to accomplish that endeavor, you’ll need to keep hold of your lean mass and concentrate on losing fat rather than simply aiming for a hypothetical scale number.

Fat loss denotes to decrease in the concentration of body fat you have. You might see a personal decrease in your weight while your body fat also reduces, however, that isn’t always the case. Somebody can go from 40% body fat to 30% and only lose 2-3lbs. This is precisely what people refer to when saying they say they are losing some inches but no notable weight loss. Their body measurements are diminishing since their body fat concentration is reducing even if the scale number may not indicate that.

From the aforementioned information, I believe you now have a comprehension of the difference between losing fat and losing weight. But what does that actually mean when deciding whether you should lose weight before you build muscle first? What if you are looking to gain muscle and lose fat in one go rather than prioritizing one over the other?

Should you reconsider losing weight before building muscle?

People with a high fat concentration or anybody who’s taken around 12-16 weeks to bulk up should really concentrate on shredding fat before they build muscle. For persons with skinny fat, are newbies to strength training, or those looking to concentrate on their gym performance over how they look like should bulk up before they lose weight?

There’s a lot of information on the Internet if it’s better to build muscle or lose weight first, however, most of the advice provided is incorrect or has blanket statements that really don’t relate to everybody.

To assist clear up the uncertainty, let’s have a closer look at the science:

What the Science Says

Fundamental science definitively shows that you cannot convert body fat into muscle and vice versa is true. Any way you look at it, it’s not possible. Why is this? Well. Because muscles and fat are two different kinds of body tissues. And when you continue to investigate, you’ll come to see that one cannot be changed into the other, just like mangoes can’t be changed into oranges.

This is the main reason why it’s viewed as problematic to build muscle whilst losing fat. In order to shave off fat, you’ll need to be calorie deficient, where your body will use stockpiled calories for fuel to facilitate metabolic processes. Alternatively, in order to build muscles, you’ll need a surplus of calories. To develop bigger muscles, you’ll require extra calories. I believe you can see where the problem comes in.

Gaining muscles whilst losing weight can be accomplished, however, it needs a lot of determination and discipline. This will entail subjecting yourself to a very rigorous diet. This implies that whatever you eat needs to have fewer calories compared to the energy you use to build muscles.

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When your body has a deficit of calories, and you’re continuously weight lifting, the body will automatically search for other energy sources, which will be the fat stockpiled in your body. However, you’ll have to be careful when attempting to gain muscles this way. This strategy is ideal for individuals with an excess amount of body fat and are newbies to weight lifting.

Fitness and medical experts say that the best course of action to take in this case is to undertake one action before the other. You’ll have to decide whether you want to build muscle or lose weight. Undertaking both of them can prove to be complex. This is usually done in stages called ‘shredding’ and ‘bulk up’. When you bulk up, you’re basically adding weight in order to gain muscle. In the shred approach, you’re decreasing calorie consumption to shave off additional fat to highlight the muscles beneath.

If you don’t have a trainer, then this is the best strategy to tone yourself up, though it may be difficult for some people to pass through the bulking phase.

Why You May Want to Lose Weight Before Gaining Muscle

a woman holding an apple and a doughnut

It can motivate you to remain consistent.

In the aforementioned article, we covered some of the drawbacks of concentrating too much on the scale number. However, that doesn’t imply that you ignore the weight displayed on the weight entirely.

As a matter of fact, for persons who are extremely overweight, and are just embarking on their fat loss process, or are simply unmotivated, seeing the scale number going down can significantly increase your confidence and motivate you to remain with your goal.
2. You’ll avoid gaining fat.
Individuals who undergo the bulking phase put on fat besides muscle. Shaving off fat before you gain muscle will assist in preventing your body fat ratio from getting extremely high.

If you aim to bulk, it can potentially give you a reduced body fat percentage to begin with so you don’t have to be concerned about the percentage reaching unhealthy levels.

Meal Plan For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain

Losing weight and building muscle doesn’t necessarily need to be mutually exclusive since both are required for long-lasting health and fitness and long-term weight loss. You can attain both objectives at once by adhering to a nutrition and fitness plan that is ideal for your case.

Foods to include:

  • Lean Protein
  • Complex Carbohydrates
  • Healthy Fats

Lean Protein

There are a slew of reasons why having a diet that’s rich in protein is crucial for body recomposition. When you consume sufficient protein amounts throughout the day, your body will be able to keep muscle mass by naturally keeping in check appetite and managing metabolism. Moreover, protein results in greater satiety and assists one to feel full for a prolonged duration. Suitable protein diets to include are: eggs, poultry and lean red meat, and Tuna or other fish.

Complex Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the human body. When working out, your muscles will be heavily dependent on carbohydrates as a fuel source. Without carbs, your body will have an energy deficit and won’t be able to gain muscle.

A balanced carbohydrate diet assists in optimizing fat loss and averting a calorie shortage from converting into muscle loss. Healthy carbohydrate sources include: Quinoa, brown rice, and oatmeal.

Healthy Fats

Fats are largely considered to be the main culprit when it comes to causing dangerous heart complications and raising cholesterol levels. Still, healthy fats are integral for a balanced diet. Besides providing essential nutrients, they also assist to regulate hormones that play an integral part in weight management like insulin.

RELATED: Weight Loss & Muscle Building Meal Plan for Men

Other healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which means they minimize inflammation inside the body, thus decreasing the risk of particular chronic diseases like autoimmune disease, diabetes, and obesity. These fats also give fatty acids that assist in regulating fat storage. Healthy fat sources include: Fish oils, Avocado, Olive oil, and Nuts.

Foods to Avoid If You Want to Lose Weight and Add Muscle

Building muscle or losing weight ultimately boils down to the sort of diet you consume. You may be working hard to lose weight first before you build muscle but not see any visible results because of the types of foods you are consuming. To attain your body recomposition objectives, you’ll need to avoid eating the following foods:

  • Saturated Fat
  • Diet Soda
  • Refined Carbohydrates
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Added Sugars
  • Beer

Reasons Not To Lose Weight Before You Build Muscle

You struggle with body image issues

  • You’re “skinny fat.” This means that a person has a slim build and not that much lean muscle mass.
  • You’re already lean
  • Your training objectives matter more than how you look

Final Thoughts

As per fitness and medical specialists, the best approach to this conundrum is committing to one thing before undertaking the other. You will have to whether you want to train to build muscle or to lose weight. Taking up both at the same time can prove to be too complicated.

This is usually done through phases referred to as ‘shredding’ and ‘bulking up’. Bulking up refers to increasing weight in order to gain muscle. During the shredding phase, you’re decreasing calorie consumption to shave off the additional fat to show the muscles below.

If you don’t have a trainer, this is the best method of toning up, though it may be challenging for some to undergo the bulking stage.

In general, it’s simple to establish if you should lose weight first before you gain muscle. If your body fat percentage is high or you’ve been bulking for an extended duration, it would be better for you to consider losing before you try to gain muscle.

However, if you’re just starting strength training, you’re already skinny fat, have body image problems, or you’re more fixated on your gym performance, then you should think about building muscle before you try to lose fat. All in all, the final decision will solely lie with you and what you want.

I hope the aforementioned information has helped clarify things for you.

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