Some people believe the craziest of things in life, and, one of the craziest of things in bodybuilding people believe is that it’s possible to gain muscle and lose body fat at precisely the same time.
It’s not possible. Here’s why…
It all comes down to energy. In order for our bodies to grow (in fat, muscle, or both) we need to be taking in more energy than we are expending.
In order to lose fat, our bodies need to be taking in less energy than we are expending.
It’s simply not possible for both to happen simultaneously. It’s like someone telling you to stand on one foot, without standing on one foot.
Our bodies can only do one thing at a time; our bodies are a marvellous piece of engineering, but they are far from magic, and subject to all of the laws of physics just like everything else.
When people report muscle gains and fat loss ‘at the same time’, what is likely happening is, some days (or weeks) for whatever reason, they are in an energy deficit, so burn fat. Other weeks, they may be in an energy surplus, so they gain muscle.
And then they report that they ‘lost fat and gained muscle at the same time during X months’. So in effect, it’s true – but it confuses the hell out of newbies, and this game is complicated enough as it is.
It should also be noted that while the body can only do one thing at a time, once it gets in the swing of doing that particular thing, it takes time for it to do the exact opposite. The body always resists change, so constantly changing from anabolic (growth) to catabolic (reduction) prevents the body from working at optimal levels consistently on one thing.
So, what we do as bodybuilders is periodize. We aim to complete a specific task during a period of time, and don’t concern ourselves with anything else.
For instance, we may have a bulking phase, where we aim to eat a surplus of food, and stay anabolic for maybe 3, 4, 6 months or whatever period of time. While it’s inevitable we will put on a little fat during this time, we never concern ourselves with trying to lose that fat. We’re in one gear, going in one direction for the duration, got it?
Then, we have a period known as cutting. During this period, we continue training and eating just enough to hold onto our muscle mass, but, not enough to hold onto our fat. The result is, we retain our muscle mass (or most of it) and we lose the fat.
Yes – we may lose some muscle during this period, but, again, we don’t concern ourselves with overeating to get that muscle back. Remember – we’re in one gear for now.
There will always be unwanted aspects of periodization, such as fat gain during bulking and muscle loss during cutting, but the main thing is we always end up with more of the results we want – more muscle mass, and less fat, and we only do that by sticking to the script until the very end, no chopping and changing.