Concurrent Muscle Gain &
By Tom Venuto, CPT, CSCS
“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
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
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. 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?
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
So you’re not a beginner, you don’t take roids,
you’re not a genetic mutant 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
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
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
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
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
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
But WHAT IF you could manipulate within day
energy balance, use nutritional periodization AND
control your hormones with food and lifestyle
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
If you’d like to learn more about losing fat and
gaining muscle at the same time, check out my newest
program, “The Holy Grail Body Transformation
In it, you’ll hear all the details 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 my new “TNB” training system, as
seen in Men’s Fitness magazine (the complete,
expanded version that Men’s Fitness didn’t have room
This new body transformation program is available
for a limited time at a discount during our
“pre-launch” promotion: Visit the new Holy Grail
website for more details:
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder,
certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and a
certified personal trainer (CPT). Tom is the author of "Burn the
Fat, Feed The Muscle,” which teaches you how to get lean without
drugs or supplements using methods of the world's best
bodybuilders and fitness models. Learn how to get rid of
stubborn fat and increase your metabolism by visiting: