Losing Weight While Gaining Muscle

Losing weight while gaining muscle is a topic I hear a lot about. From the people I coach, from other trainers, on message boards and comment threads. It’s a popular topic. A long time ago I went to a seminar for personal trainers. I had lunch with a handful of them and the topic of losing weight while gaining muscle came up among us. One of them was an online and phone remote trainer. There’s nothing wrong with that. I do that now, so I can respect that. He worked for a national chain. When I pointed out the extreme difficulty and unlikelihood of losing weight while gaining muscle, he replied:

That’s just not true. 100% of our clients lose weight while gaining muscle. Our system works for everyone all the time. You’re just wrong.

I didn’t bother talking to him after he quoted their marketing materials. I’m sure there’s some weird set of conditions for claiming that grossly exaggerated number. The fact is that it is very difficult. If it were as easy as he claimed everyone would be doing it. You could buy it in a pill bottle labeled “Lose Weight Gain Muscle”. You could read a $.99 ebook and wake up the next morning totally buff and without body fat.


losing weight while gaining muscle is very difficult - 12% bodyfat
losing weight while gaining muscle is very difficult – 12% bodyfat

Are you tough enough for losing weight while gaining muscle?

Sadly, losing weight while gaining muscle is asking your body to do two completely different things at the exact same time. In general, to gain muscle, you need to train your muscles with a bodybuilding protocol. You will do a moderate volume of training at heavy weights. You will go to failure. Your muscle cells will grow and multiply. With more and bigger muscles you will weigh more. This is simple math with simple proven medical science. Your metabolism will adjust so that you can rest more while muscle growth occurs. Sometimes you will have to eat more. If losing weight while gaining muscle is your goal, the trick is to interrupt the resting process and lose more fat weight than the weight of the muscle you gain. This (lose weight gain muscle) is a fine line to walk metabolically, physically, and psychologically.

Most people cannot do it. When you set your goal on losing weight, you generally cut your calories down to a really small number and do lots of cardio. You could lose weight for a while, but a lot of that would be muscle weight as well. You won’t be getting enough calories to keep your muscle mass intact. You wouldn’t be stimulating your muscles to preserve themselves with weight and strength training. This is one major failing common to most of the unguided attempts at losing weight.

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“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” — Abe Lincoln

225 pounds of Charles Miske in August 2005
225 pounds of Charles Miske in August 2005

When your goal is to lose fat you cut your calories down to a specific level, do cardio at a specific level, and weight train at a specific level. Normally you could train either at high weights and low volume, or low weights and high volume. The idea is to create just enough stimulus to your muscles to preserve them as you lose fat. I recommend that most people start here and work their way up to the body composition they dream of. Turn your dream into a goal with directed action that follows a specific plan.

Losing weight while gaining muscle: My Experience

It is possible. I’ve done it a few times. But losing weight while gaining muscle is tough. Dang tough. Without a support system, without logging and journaling, without an accountability partner system in place, without proper goal setting and achievement, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I was training for Elbrus Race 2010 the first time I successfully put on muscle while losing fat. I was really motivated to suffer, no matter what.

Your major directing goal should be something that wakes you up in the morning and rolls you out of bed and gets you moving. You should be excited every minute of every day. — from the Steve House seminar in Ouray Colorado

180 pounds of Charles Miske in November 2011
180 pounds of Charles Miske in November 2011

I did it a few other times as I trained for Elbrus Race 2012 and 2013. I’m doing it right now for Elbrus Race 2014. And having been through it a few times now I can honestly say that most people shouldn’t even worry about losing weight while gaining muscle. Most people should lose that fat. Stabilize. Then they can work toward their sports performance goals. Then they can work toward their body composition goals.

You want to gain the most muscle in the shortest time?

The way I see it training volume is the amount of work you do in a workout, averaged over time. Work is loosely defined as force x distance in elementary physics. We’ll think of force as the amount of weight or resistance you’re going to generate to move a weight. The good old fashioned iron weights work best for explaining this train of thought. If you lift a 100 pound iron weight 2’ that’s work. The math becomes a bit trickier when you add in pulleys and cables and bands and bent fiberglass wands or fan blades in a cage. You know which machines I mean, right?

But even if you are using one of those machines you can still use many of these principles to measure your training volume for all practical purposes. My own experience is that I subtly decrease my training volume when confronted with a plateau in my training. My clients have reinforced that opinion over time. It’s surprising how you do it and don’t even notice. — from Weight Training Secret Manual: 8 Hacks to Beat the Plateau

Don’t fall prey to the plateau! For the optimum goal – lose weight gain muscle – combine the diet plan book below with my new “Weight Training Secret Manual: 8 Hacks to Beat the Plateau” and get on the fast track to muscle growth and strength.


You really want to give it your best?

You really want to try losing weight while gaining muscle. What’s that worth to you in time and effort and ambition and sticking to it with rock solid tenacity? I trained for up to 4 hours a day. Now and then even more. I had partners I shared my training and nutrition journals with. I had 100% support from my family and loved ones.

How about you?

Would you train for 2 hours a day 6 days a week and log every single last set and rep and tenth of a mile in your training journal? Would you eat strictly according to simple 5th grade math and sound scientific principles? Would you do that over and over in 6 week cycles until you had achieved your goal? What is that worth $100/mo? $80/mo? $60/mo? What if it were only $10/week to have your

  • Training and nutrition journals analyzed and assessed
  • Your strengths magnified
  • Your weaknesses countered
  • Your success amplified

Would you sign up for all of that if it meant losing weight while gaining muscle?

Losing weight while gaining muscle – Diet – the starting point to success

In my book “The 100 Calorie Diet Plan” I outline some of the steps in this plan. I describe journaling, food portion control, how to determine your actual scientific caloric needs, how to create your own daily menu, how to create your own weight training program. Most of all I explain how to create goals and measure progress. CLICK HERE if you want to know more.