How To Gain Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time

Note: this is a guest article by my friend and colleague, Tom Venuto.

Tom Venuto

“How can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?” That’s right up there with “How do I get six pack abs” as one of the most frequently asked fitness questions of all time. The problem is, when you ask it, you get all kinds of conflicting answers – even from experts who are supposed to know these things. So what’s the deal? Is it really possible to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously?

Short answer: Yes, you can gain muscle and lose fat at the “same time.”

Long answer: It’s difficult and it’s complicated. Allow me to explain….

First we have the issue of whether you really lose fat and gain muscle at the “same time.”

Well, yes, if your definition of the “same time” is say, a month or 12 weeks. But in that case, you’re probably not gaining muscle at the “same time” literally speaking, as in, right now this very moment you are reading this, or 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for months in a row.

The best explanation for what’s really happening is that you alternate between periods of caloric surplus (anabolism) and caloric deficit (catabolism) and the net result is a gain in muscle and a loss in body fat.

You see, if you stay in a calorie surplus, it’s the body’s natural tendency for body fat and lean body mass to go up together. And if you stay in a calorie deficit, it’s your body’s natural tendency for body fat and lean body mass to go down together.

There may be exceptions, but the general rule is that it is very difficult to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time – the mechanisms are mostly antagonistic to one another. When it does happen, it’s almost always the result of “unusual conditions” – I call them X factors.

The 4 X-Factors

The first X-factor is “training age” . Ever hear of “newbie gains?” The less trained your body is and the further you are from your genetic potential, the easier it is to gain muscle. The reverse is also true – an advanced bodybuilder with 20 years experience would be thrilled just to gain a few pounds of solid dry muscle in a year!

The second x factor is muscle memory. It’s easier to regain muscle you’ve lost than it is to gain new muscle in the first place (ergo, the fat out of shape semi retired bodybuilder who starts training again and blows up and gets ripped “overnight”).

The third X factor is genetics (or somatotype). Ever heard of the “genetic freak?” That’s the dude who sprouts muscle like weeds even when he’s on the “50-50 diet” (50% McDonald’s and 50% pizza)… and he never gets fat. (That dude chose the right parents!)

The fourth X factor is drugs. It would stun (or sadden) you if you knew how many people take performance and physique-enhancing drugs. I’m not just talking about pro bodybuilders, I’m talking about “Joe six pack” in the gym – not to mention those fitness models you idolize in the magazines. How did they get large muscle gains with concurrent fat loss? Chemicals.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll place a wager on this any day: I’ll bet that in 99% of the cases of large muscle gains with concurrent large fat losses, one or more of these x factors were present.

That’s not all! There are actually 5 more X factors related to your body composition and diet status (the X2 factors). But I’ll have to talk about those later.

So you’re not a beginner, you don’t take roids, you’re not a genetic freak and you have no muscle memory to take advantage of. Are you S.O.L? Well, I do want you to be realistic about your goals, but…

There IS a way for the average person to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.

The Secret: You have to change your “temporal perspective!”

Traditionally nutritionists and fitness pros have only looked at calorie balance in terms of 24 hour periods. At midnight, you could tally up the calories like a shopkeeper closing out his register, and if the balance were positive, you’d say you were in a surplus for the day. If the balance were negative, you’d say you were in a deficit for the day.

But it’s entirely possible that you might pass through periods of “within-day” surplus where you were in a highly anabolic state (for example, you eat the biggest, highest carb meal of the day after your workout), and you were in a deficit the rest of the day.

If you did intense weight training, and you timed your nutrient intake appropriately, Isn’t it possible that you could gain a small amount of muscle during those anabolic hours, while losing fat the rest of the day? Granted it might only be grams or ounces – but what if you kept that up for a week? A month? Three months?

As you pan out and look at the bigger picture, what if most days of the week you were in a deficit for the entire day, and on some days you were in a surplus? If so, then isn’t it possible that over the course of the week, you’d have a small net gain of muscle and loss of body fat a a result of the caloric fluctuation?

These within-day and within-week phases are called microcycles and mesocycles. If you also had a primary goal with a longer term focus of several months, say 12 weeks or 16 weeks, that would be a macrocycle.

What I’ve just described is nutritional periodization. Some people call it cyclical dieting. it’s where you manipulate your calories (primarily by fluctuating carbohydrate intake, hence “carb cycling”) in order to intentionally zig zag your way through periods of surplus and deficit and create specific hormonal responses.

The end result: muscle gain and fat loss during the same time period!

I know that someone out there is having a hissy fit because I’ve only talked about calories: deficits and surpluses. Rightfully so. Calories matter but there’s more to it than calories – most importantly, hormones and “nutrient partitioning.”

If you’re in a calorie deficit you are going to pull energy from your body.The question is: From WHERE? If your hormones are out of whack and you’re eating crap, you could lose more muscle than fat in a deficit and gain almost pure fat, not muscle, in a surplus!

But WHAT IF you could manipulate within day energy balance, use nutritional periodization AND control your hormones with food and lifestyle strategies?

AHA! NOW you can see how concurrent muscle gain and fat loss are starting to look possible!

Make no mistake – concurrent muscle gain and fat loss is a difficult goal to achieve. The good news: difficult does not mean impossible. Or as George Santayana said, “The difficult is that which can be done immediately, the impossible, that which takes a little longer.”

Train hard and expect success,

-Tom Venuto

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program: How to Gain Muscle and Lose Fat at The Same Time

holy grail ebook coverYou can learn more about gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time in Tom Venuto’s new e-book called, “The Holy Grail Body Transformation System.” I’ve read it, twice actually, and it’s a superb look at how concurrent fat loss and muscle building is possible from a scientific perspective. Although it covers many different variables that come into play (lifestyle factors, training programs, etc.), the main focus of the book is on nutrition.

You’ll learn all about nutritional periodization, cyclical dieting, hormonal manipulation, within day energy balance, nutrient partitioning, AND the all the X factors, including the 5 “X2-Factors” – which are the keys to gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.

You’ll also get Tom’s new “TNB” training system, as seen in Men’s Fitness magazine (the complete, expanded version that Men’s Fitness didn’t have room to print).

At the moment, The Holy Grail ebook is not for sale separately and there is only one way you can get it.

From now until Midnight (PST), May 13th, 2010, you can get a copy of the Holy Grail Body Transformation program ebook for FREE when you purchase the Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle e-book from this web page:

After May 13th, The Holy Grail will be taken off the market and will be placed in the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle store for $47 soon after.

Visit the Burn The Fat website now and jump on this deal while you still can.

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional

6 Responses

  1. Great article, John! Thanks for posting. I have a question about Tom’s books please: Would they be appropriate for a vegetarian or began? I would guess that the fitness and hormonal aspects apply. But I’m wondering about the dietary part as this appears from this article to be a significant part of his program. Thank you!

    • Hi Priyam, Tom doesn’t discuss vegetarian options in this ebook specifically. Although, the book talks about the overlying principles involved, which you could use to adjust the strategies. In the included meal plans, there aren’t any vegetarian options either. If you’re still interested in the ebook, my advice would be to join the Inner Circle, where Tom regularly posts articles and Q+A columns about vegetarian options for his Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle system (which is the system that the Holy Grail method is based on). The ebook is available for download in there and there’s a discussion forum where you can have Tom and the other contributors discuss your specific questions.

  2. John Paul Tan

    Hi John, I went to Mr. Venuto’s website and I found a list of diets that he did in this lifetime. One of the diets mention is the “high egg hormone precursor diet” by a famous late bodybuilding guru from Hollywood. I am pretty sure he is referring to Vince Gironda. Can you please ask him about his experience in Gironda’s diet? I am very interested to know the results since Vince Gironda and his egg diet is the first diet and training knowledge that I researched. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi John,

      I know Tom thinks very highly of Gironda, but I don’t think he’s ever written specifically about his diet recommendations (mostly just training info). Regardless, I’ll pass the question along. He probably won’t answer it though – he simply has no time for reader questions. He gets thousands of emails a day as it is, and many of them are asking for his thoughts or advice about certain subjects. Maybe he’ll consider it for a future newsletter though or even a featured article in the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle if it’s a good enough topic for a broad audience.

  3. Hey John, Tom’s “Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle” was the first ebook I ever purchased online. I think I bought it 6 years ago, if memory serves me correctly. Anyway, well worth the money and I’ve referred to it many times over the past few years. Does this course cover enough new material to warrant the purchase? It sounds pretty solid.

    -George D

    • The Holy Grail program is definitely a rock-solid program, George. It’s not quite the encyclopedia-volume length like Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle, but the info is straight to the point – and the strategies work. This is one that may get a lot more attention in the coming months and years.

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