Should I Lose Weight Before Building Muscle? [Full Guide]

Updated: Sep 7

You are wondering whether you should lose weight before building muscle?


Well the answer is: no, you should aim to build muscle while also trying to lose weight, by training hard and being in a caloric deficit at the same time.


Here's two reasons why:

  1. This will cause your body to use stored body fat as energy for the workouts, while also providing energy for muscle growth.

  2. Another reason for lifting weights while trying to lose weight is that you will increase your metabolism over time.


As long as you eat enough protein, your body has enough calories stored as fat to grow new muscle, in turn increasing your bodies energy demands, which increases your metabolism.


Aim to build muscle in a caloric deficit.

If you’re overweight, do these two things:

  1. Eat in a caloric deficit.

  2. Train like you are bulking.

How Do I Eat In A Caloric Deficit?


There’s a concept called energy balance.


Basically, energy balance is the balance between the energy (calories) you consume and the energy (calories) you expend.


Here’s an illustration:

Energy Balance (Calories In vs Calories Out)

Therefore to lose weight you must eat less calories than you expend through exercise and resting metabolism.


To maintain your weight, you must match the calories you eat to the calories you expend through exercise and your resting metabolism.


In order to gain weight you must eat more calories than you expend.


You get the idea. Eat less calories than you burn.


But...


How do I know how many calories i expend?


You need to work out your TDEE.


Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is an estimation of how many calories you burn per day when exercise is taken into account. It is calculated by first figuring out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), then multiplying that value by an activity multiplier.


Click here to work out your TDEE


Once you have your TDEE, aim to eat less than this, or do more exercise, or both.

Benefits Of Gaining Muscle If You're Overweight


When you lose weight, generally you will lose both fat and muscle mass. Lifting weights and training hard will help you lose more fat and less muscle, possibly gaining new muscle.

  • Muscle is a lot more metabolically active than fat is, as a result, the more muscle your body carries the higher your metabolism is.

  • Maintaining muscle mass is very important for your overall health. The loss of muscle mass is detrimental to your long term health and can even result in certain diseases.

  • You’ll look and feel even better when you do lose weight. When you do lose the weight you want to lose, you will have a layer of new-found muscle.


Of the methods tested, weight loss plus combined aerobic and resistance exercise was the most effective in improving functional status of obese older adults. (Study from ncbi)

Q: Should I Start Lifting Weights While Still Overweight?

A: If you are physically able and healthy enough to lift weights, then why not? However if you are not able to lift weights, any exercise you can do is good. In fact lifting weights may be safer on your joints than many other exercises, such as running.


Q: Should I Skip Cardio & Only Lift Weights?

A: You should aim for a mixture of cardio based exercises and weight lifting. The mixture depends on your goal, for example; if you are behind on your weight loss target, add 15 minutes of cardio to your sessions.


Q: Should I Eat To Lose Weight While Lifting Weights?

A: This depends on your goals, if you are aiming to lose weight then yes, eat in a caloric deficit. Remember if you are trying to gain muscle, aim for around 1-1.6g per kg of body-weight protein intake (read more about protein intake here).

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