From a nutritional perspective, although a caloric deficit is needed to lose fat, a caloric surplus isn’t necessarily needed to build muscle. This is because stored fat is stored energy. The stored fat calories are available for the body to use as fuel for the muscle-building process. In this article you will find a nutrition plan for building muscles and losing fat at the same time. We will reveal to you how you need to organize your eating habits (with the example of the daily meal plan) in order to be closer to achieving both goals simultaneously.
Can we really successfully build muscles and burn fat at the same time?
You will often hear that simultaneously building muscle and burning fat is very difficult, some will even say impossible (except for those who just beginning to exercise and those using anabolic hormones). They will tell you that the best thing is to focus on one, then switch and deal with the other. However, although it seems logical, it is far from the true!
Most people are completely capable of building muscle while losing fat at the same time since they’re body fat can serve as an energy source to fuel muscle growth – especially when they’re beginners who never did any resistance training before.
This is what we call body recomposition, where we build muscle while losing fat (or at last dropping down your body fat percentage). Despite what some people tend to think, this is not only possible for overweight/obese individuals. This may be harder to do the more resistance training experience you have but has still been shown by multiple studies to still be possible even among elite athletes.
Consume roughly the same amount of calories that you burn
To gain muscle and lose body fat at the same time, consume roughly the same amount of calories that you burn each day. In other words, keep your daily calorie intake close to your maintenance requirement (body weight in pounds × 10, or body weight in kilograms × 22). You want to provide enough calories for muscle growth but force your body to get its additional energy through burning fat stores. In other words, you aim to keep your caloric deficit very small.
Monitor your progress and make all necessary adjustments
The process might need some fine-tuning as you go along. Monitor your progress in terms of muscle gain and fat loss on a weekly basis. If you wish to gain more muscle mass, add 5 percent to your estimated daily calorie requirement. If you need to lose more body fat, subtract 5 percent from your estimated value. Adapting the program to meet your needs as they evolve is essential if you want continued progress.
Favor protein in your diet: 50 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, and 10 percent fat
To prevent excess carbohydrate from being stored as fat, the nutrient ratio of your diet should favor protein. Divide your food sources as 50 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrate, and 10 percent fat.
1,800-calorie sample meal plan
The 1,800-calorie sample meal plan in table 1 is a rough guide for someone who weighs 180 pounds (82 kg), based on the estimated daily maintenance value (body weight in pounds × 10). If this person needs more muscle mass, he would add 5 percent to this value for a daily intake of 1,800 + 90, or 1,890 calories. On the flip side, if he needs to shed more body fat, he would subtract 5 percent (90 calories) from the maintenance value, which means consuming 1,710 calories per day.
Adjusting the sample meal plan to your weight is easy, based on the fact that 1 gram of protein is four calories, 1 gram of carbohydrate is four calories, and 1 gram of fat is nine calories. Keeping the nutrient ratio at 50 percent protein and 40 percent carbohydrate, 100 calories equals 15 grams of protein (60 calories) plus 10 grams of carbohydrate (40 calories). To increase or decrease the calorie content to match your body weight, add or subtract these amounts from the sample meal plan.
Adjusting your protein and carbohydrate intake is not a rocket science
Adjust your protein intake by changing the amount of protein powder you add to your mid afternoon snack or changing the number of egg whites you eat at breakfast (one egg white contains 6 grams of protein). Similarly, by adjusting your portions of pasta, potato, or rice at lunch and dinner, you can easily increase or decrease your intake of carbohydrate.
Remember that the nutrition values in the sample meal plan (table 1) are only approximate. Check nutrition labels on the products you buy because values vary among brands.
As mentioned, the 1,800-calorie sample meal plan is a rough guide for someone who weighs 180 pounds. Adjust the content of the sample meal plan to your body weight, using table 2. And remember, as your body weight changes, so should your calorie intake.
Diet tips for building muscles and losing fat at the same time
- Increase protein intake to help you stay full, maintain your muscle mass, and minimize weight-gain rebound.
- Get most of your carbs from vegetables and fruits and find your unique tolerance for starches, focusing on the ones with high fiber and water content.
- Best sources of protein in food: egg whites, low fat cottage cheese, tofu, skinless chicken breast & turkey breasts, lean beef, cod, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, peas, etc.
- Excellent sources of carbohydrates: whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, barley, spinach (leafy green vegetables in general), lentils, chickpeas, peas and beans, broccoli, whole-wheat bread, cherries, apples, blueberries, buckwheat, sprouted bread, amaranth, etc.
- Best sources of healthy fats when cutting: nuts (walnuts) and seeds (flaxseed, sunflower), most plant-based liquid oils (peanut, olive, safflower, canola, sesame), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, trout), avocados, etc.
Dietary supplements can also help a bit
Sample meal plan
Table 1. The 1,800-calorie sample meal plan in table 1 is a rough guide for someone who weighs 180 pounds (82 kg) based on the estimated daily maintenance value (body weight in pounds × 10).
|Breakfast||Egg white scramble: Mix five egg whites with 1 tbsp of nonfat milk. Cook in a nonstick pan coated with nonfat cooking spray. Serve on one piece of whole-wheat toast. Drink one cup of black coffee or water. |
|Midmorning snack||Meal-replacement drink: Mix one sachet of a meal-replacement powder with 12 oz (360 ml) of cold water in a blender.|
|Lunch||Tuna meal: Microwave one medium-size potato. Steam a portion of green beans. Serve with one can of water-packed tuna sprinkled with lemon juice. Drink water.|
|Midafternoon snack||Protein drink: Mix two servings/scoops of whey protein powder with 4 oz (120 ml) water and 4 oz nonfat milk. Add one whole banana. Blend at high speed for 30 seconds.|
|Dinner||Chicken meal: Prepare a skinless chicken breast by squeezing lemon juice over it. Grill until cooked. Serve with a portion of steamed brown rice and broccoli. 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup is optional.|
|Late-evening snack||Eat a low-carbohydrate protein bar.|
|Protein: 225 g (900 cal), 50%|
Carbohydrate: 180 g (720 cal), 40%
Fat: 20 g (180 cal), 10%
Total calories: 1,800
Table 2: Maintenance daily calorie intake based on body weight
|Body Weight (lb)||Body Weight (kg)||Calories per day||Protein||Carbohydrate||Fat|
|220||100||2200||275 g (1100 cal)||220 g (880 cal)||24 g (220 cal)|
|200||91||2000||250 g (1000 cal)||200 g (800 cal)||22 g (200 cal)|
|180||82||1800||225 g (900 cal)||180 g (720 cal)||20 g (180 cal)|
|160||73||1600||200 g (800 cal)||160 g (640 cal)||18 g (160 cal)|
|140||64||1400||175 g (700 cal)||140 g (560 cal)||16 g (140 cal)|
Calorie values: 1 g protein = 4 calories; 1 g carbohydrate = 4 calories; 1 g fat = 9 calories
Daily calorie intake = body weight in pounds × 10 or body weight in kg × 22
Monitoring your progress is essential because fine-tuning your workouts and diet is key to advanced bodybuilding. Measure your body weight using a scale, and take body measurements—chest, waist, arm, thigh, and calf circumference—with a tape measure. Measure body fat percentage using a skinfold caliper. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, record the skin thickness at three sites on your body, usually the upper arm, waist, and thigh. Calculate the average reading by adding all three measurements and then dividing by 3. You can also check your progress in the mirror.
Check if each muscle group is developing in proportion. Lagging muscle groups might need more attention. If you want that athletic V-shape taper, be sure to work your side deltoids and those outer lats, and narrow that waist by losing body fat. As you gain or lose body weight, adjust your calorie intake accordingly.
Closing thoughts: Nutrition plan for building muscles and losing fat at the same time
Nutrition plan for building muscles and losing fat at the same time really do exist. You won’t find a more commonly asked question about exercise than “Can Hose fat and gain muscle at the same time?” The answers often have many different opinions. But it’s about what the scientific evidence says. To date, there are several studies showing that, yes, you can simultaneously build muscle and lose fat. And yes, this also applies to physically active healthy men and women.
Finally, science tells us that the more fat and the less muscle you have, the greater your ability to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. This doesn’t mean you should get fat. It just means your biology is working in your favor when you want to pack more muscle on, but have some fat to lose.