How to Build Muscle and Lose Fat (Elite Body Lifestyle Guide 5)

Do you want to learn how to build muscle and lose fat to create a truly elite physique?

I’m talking about a well-muscle physique below 10% body fat.

That’s exactly what you’re going to learn in this article today.

Here’s how we’re going to break it down:

  • Can you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?
  • Catabolism vs Anabolism;
  • How to build muscle and lose fat with bulking and cutting cycles;
  • How to build muscle and lose fat with supplements.

Let’s get straight to it!

(This post contains affiliate links, so I would get a commission if you chose to purchase through a link I provide (at no extra cost to you). Thanks in advance for supporting the work I put into this site!)

 

CAN YOU BUILD MUSCLE AND LOSE FAT AT THE SAME TIME?

This is a very important question to answer because, rather sadly, many fitness “gurus” give out the wrong information.

You might have been told before that you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time but it’s pretty much impossible.

Why?

Because your body cannot be in an anabolic state and a catabolism state at the same time.

Allow me to elaborate.

 

Anabolism vs Catabolism

Anabolism is absolutely central to building muscle.

Catabolism is absolutely central to losing fat.

 

What is Anabolism?

Anabolism is a metabolic process that builds small molecules (carbs) into larger molecules for useable energy and muscle growth (if you workout) (source).

It involves the following hormones:

  • Estrogen;
  • Insulin;
  • Growth hormone;
  • Testosterone.

You want to get your body into a constant anabolic state to:

  • Provide your muscles with energy for heavy lifting;
  • Provide your body with the required building blocks for muscle growth.

 

What is Catabolism?

Catabolism is a metabolic process that breaks down large molecules (fats) into smaller molecules for useable energy (source).

It involves the following hormones (source):

  • Adrenaline;
  • Cortisol;
  • Cytokines;
  • Glucagon.

You want to get your body into a constant catabolic state for fat loss because your body will break down body fat for useable energy (if you eat at a calorie deficit).

 

Anabolism State vs Catabolism State

Your body builds when in an anabolic state.

Your body demolishes when in a catabolic state.

You simply cannot build and demolish at the same time! (unless you take steroids – which you hopefully don’t!).

To optimally build muscle, you need to be in a constant state of anabolism. And yes, this means that you will probably increase your body fat %.

To optimally lose fat, you need to be in a constant state of catabolism. And no, this means that you can’t effectively build muscle.

 

 

HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE AND LOSE FAT WITH BULKING AND CUTTING CYCLES

The solution to building muscle and losing fat to create a well-muscled lean physique is bulking and cutting cycles.

Just because you can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time, it doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle over short periods and then lose fat over short periods, to create the elite physique that you’re aiming for.

 

How Long Should Bulking and Cutting Cycles be?

The length of your bulking and cutting cycles depend entirely on:

  • What your starting body fat % is;
  • How much muscle you want to build.

I’m fairly happy with my muscle mass but I like to stay below 10% body fat for most of the year.

So for me, I’ll do 6-8 week bulking cycles and a 4-6 week cutting cycles.

This means that I can add a bit of muscle mass without going above 12% body fat (so it’s easy for me to drop back below 10% after 4-6 weeks).

But your goals and way of doing things might be different.

Perhaps muscle building is more important to you than your body fat %. So you might want to do 8-12 week bulking cycles.

Perhaps your body fat % is more important to you than muscle mass. So you might want to do 8-12 week cutting cycles.

The choice is yours but I would offer the following rule(s) of thumb:

  • Start your bulking cycle at no higher than 10% body fat;
  • Finish your bulking cycle at no higher than 15% body fat.

If your body fat is higher than 15%, read my How to Lose Fat Fast Guide.

If you want to significantly increase your muscle mass, read my How to Build Muscle Fast Guide.

Read on if you’re moderately content with your muscle mass and body fat % but you want to push on and create an elite physique.

 

Bulking Cycle

Let’s break down how a bulking cycle works in practice.

 

Muscle Building Diet

 

Basal Metabolic Rate

Hopefully you’ve read all about BMR in my Essential Dieting Principles Guide.

Basically, your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories you need to consume per day to function in a resting state.

But in order to get your body into a constant anabolic state, you need to be eating at a daily calorie surplus.

This needs to be based off your personal basal metabolic rate, so if you haven’t done so already, please calculate your basal metabolic rate HERE.

 

Muscle Building Calorie Surplus 

So what exactly should your calorie surplus be for muscle building?

(This is where most people drop the ball).

1lb of muscle equates to roughly 700 calories…

BUT

Your body requires energy to store calories during weight gain (roughly 2000 calories to build 1lb of muscle).

So 1lb of muscle actually equates to roughly 2700 calories.

Even the most genetically gifted athlete can only build a maximum of 23lbs of muscle in a year, so let’s do the math based on that.

23lbs of muscle per year = 0.48lb per week (roughly).

1lb of muscle = 2700 calories (roughly).

So:

0.48 of 1lb = 48%

48% of 2700 calories = 1296 calories.

This means that your weekly calorie surplus should be 1296 to build up to 0.48lb of muscle per week (daily surplus of roughly 185 calories).

 

Excess Calories

A very important aspect of diet planning is accounting for excess calories.

Many people make the mistake of just adding their target calorie surplus to their basal metabolic rate, but what about the calories you burn throughout the day?

You need to factor in those excess calories!

This can include your workouts, daily tasks, and even calories burned during your social life.

 

Total Calorie Intake

With that in mind, let’s see how this works in practice.

Your basal metabolic rate is, in this example, 2200 calories.

You work an office job, go to the gym 5 days during the week, and walk your dog at weekends.

 

You burn:

  • 500 calories during workouts;
  • 200 calories during your office job;
  • 200 calories walking your dog.

 

Your weekday calculation should be something like:

  • 2200 (your BMR) + 200 (office job) + 500 (workout) + 185 (calorie surplus) = total calorie intake of 3,085.

 

Your weekend calculation should be something like:

  • 2200 (your BMR) + 200 (walking your dog) + 185 (calorie surplus) = total calorie intake of 2,585.

 

This is just a basic example but I hope you get the gist.

  • Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR);
  • Account for excess calories;
  • Plan a daily calorie surplus of roughly 185 calories.

 

Muscle Building Macronutrient Ratios

As I’m sure you know, you can’t eat 60% chocolate, 30% simple carbs, and 10% protein, and expect to build muscle just because you’re eating at a calorie surplus.

The type of calories you eat are just as important as the amount.

 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are pivotal in making sure your body is in a constant state of anabolism.

Your body will lap up those small molecules and easily convert them into readily available energy for your workouts.

(I’m referring to complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, and wholewheat pasta).

Your carb intake should ideally be between 40%-50%.

 

Protein

Protein is obviously very important for repairing and building muscle!

You need between 1g-1.4g per lb of your bodyweight for muscle building.

So let’s say your daily calorie intake is 3000 and you weigh 170lbs.

You would need to consume between 170g-238g of protein per day (roughly 25%-35% of your daily calorie intake of 3000).

As a general rule of thumb, keep your protein macro ratio between 25%-35%.

 

Fat

Although not as important as carbs or protein for muscle building, healthy fats still play a role.

Aim for 15%-25% fat and make sure you include foods like eggs and fatty fish.

 

 

Muscle Building Workouts

 

Muscle Fibres

Understanding muscle fibres is really important because you need to know how many reps you should be doing per set to build muscle.

Unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation bandied around gyms about rep ranges, so allow me to clear it up.

 

Slow-Twitch Muscle Fibres

Slow-twitch muscle fibres are catered towards slow, endurance-based movements.

Basically, you want to activate your slow-twitch muscle fibres for endurance-based sports like marathon running.

 

Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres

Fast-twitch muscle fibres are the largest type of muscle fibres in your muscles, catered towards powerful, explosive movements.

Basically, you want to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres for muscle growth and explosive sports like 100m sprinting.

 

How to Activate Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibres

To maximise muscle growth, you need to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres.

You can do this by lifting heavy weights over short rep ranges.

But as mentioned earlier, there’s seems to be confusion over muscle building rep ranges within bodybuilding circles.

Many personal trainers recommend 10+ reps per set but this is simply not optimal for muscle building!

Studies have shown that 3-7 high-intensity reps is the optimal rep range for activating fast-twitch muscle fibres.

While 8-12 reps will certainly give you more of a pump, 3-7 reps is without a doubt superior for strength and muscle building.

Any “expert” who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about (sorry if you’ve been mislead).

 

Progressive Overloading

The best way to build muscle is through progressive overload.

This essentially means that you need to gradually increase the weight your lifting over time to build new muscle fibres.

 

How to Ensure Progressive Overload

The trick is simple.

You already know that you need to hit between 3-7 reps for compound exercises (you can increase the rep range to 6-8 for isolation exercises).

 

So you just need to adhere to the following rules:

  • Compound exercises: if you can do 7 or more reps, you should increase the weight on your next set;
  • Compound exercises: if you can do only 2 or less reps, you should decrease the weight on your next set;
  • Isolation exercises: if you can do 8 or more reps, you should increase the weight on your next set;
  • Isolation exercises: if you can only do 5 reps or less, you should decrease the weight on your next set.

 

Following those rules means that you will:

  • Increase the weight your lifting as soon as you hit 7 reps (progressive overload);
  • Increase reps week-on-week so you can hit your 7 rep target (progressive overload);
  • Always be sticking within the muscle building 3-7 rep range.

 

Increasing weight week-on-week is unlikely but you should always aim to at least increase reps (progressive overload) to experience muscle growth.

So take a notepad with you to the gym and record your sets, reps, and weight lifted for each exercise. This will enable to you see your weekly progress and identify areas where you need to improve.

 

Workout Splits

You need to decide how many days you can train each week.

You can do a 3-day split, 4-day split, or a 5-day split.

I recommend a 5-day split because you can isolate muscle groups and hit them harder vs a 3-day or 4-day split.

Below are examples of how you could schedule your workouts.

 

5-Day Split
  • Monday – Legs;
  • Tuesday – Chest;
  • Thursday – Back;
  • Friday – Shoulders & abs;
  • Saturday – Arms.

 

4-Day Split
  • Monday – Legs;
  • Tuesday – Chest & triceps;
  • Thursday – Back & biceps;
  • Friday – Shoulders & abs.

 

3-Day Split
  • Monday – Legs & shoulders;
  • Wednesday – Chest & triceps;
  • Friday – Back & biceps.

 

Sets & Rep Ranges

Your rep range for heavy compound lifts should ideally be between 3-7 reps.

Your rep range for isolation exercises should ideally be between 6-8 (the increase in reps is so you can maintain good technique when isolating smaller muscles).

Aim for 3 sets per each exercise (but include warm up sets for the first exercise of each muscle group).

So your workout should look something like this:

 

Legs:

  • Squats – 3 sets of 3-7 reps;
  • Romanian deadlifts – 3 sets of 3-7 reps;
  • Leg press – 3 sets of 3-7 reps;
  • Leg extensions – 3 sets of 6-8 reps;
  • Calf raises – 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

 

Resting Times

Short rest periods between sets causes a greater release of anabolic hormones vs longer rest periods.

It’s very important to adhere to the following rest periods:

  • 3-7 reps should have a rest period of 2 minutes;
  • 6-8 reps should have a rest period of 90 seconds.

 

The Bottom Line

Follow the principles we’ve just covered during your bulking cycle (6-12 weeks).

 

 

Cutting Cycle

Let’s move on and cover your cutting cycle.

 

Fat Loss Dieting

 

Basal Metabolic Rate

In order to get your body into a constant catabolic state, you need to be eating at a daily calorie deficit.

This needs to be based off your personal basal metabolic rate, so if you haven’t done so already, please calculate your basal metabolic rate HERE.

 

Fat Loss Calorie Deficit 

What exactly should your calorie deficit be for fat loss?

Well, 1lb of fat equates to roughly 3500 calories.

So in order to lose 1lb of body fat per week you need to be at a calorie deficit of 3500 calories.

I prefer to break it down to a calorie deficit of 500 per day.

You could also aim to lose 2lbs of body fat per week by running at a calorie deficit of 7000 per week / 1000 per day.

Don’t try to lose more than 2lbs of body fat per week though as you will burn yourself out very quickly!

 

Excess Calories

Many people make the mistake of just deducting their target calorie deficit from their basal metabolic rate, but what about the calories you burn throughout the day?

You need to factor in those excess calories!

This can include your workouts, daily tasks, and even calories burned during your social life.

 

Total Calorie Intake

With that in mind, let’s see how this works in practice.

Your basal metabolic rate is, in this example, 2200 calories and you want to lose 1lb of body fat per week.

We’ll use the same example as before – you work in an office job, go to the gym 5 days during the week, and walk your dog at weekends.

 

You burn:

  • 500 calories during workouts;
  • 200 calories during your office job;
  • 200 calories walking your dog.

 

Your weekday calculation should be something like:

  • 2200 (your BMR) + 200 (office job) + 500 (workout) – 500 (calorie deficit) = total calorie intake of 2,400.

 

Your weekend calculation should be something like:

  • 2200 (your BMR) + 200 (walking your dog) – 500 (calorie deficit) = total calorie intake of 1,900.

 

This is just a basic example but I hope you get the gist.

  • Calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR);
  • Account for excess calories;
  • Plan a daily calorie deficit of roughly 500-1000 calories.

 

Macronutrient Ratios for Fat Loss

The key to fat loss is getting your body into a constant state of catabolism.

You’re going to do this by adhering to ketogenic dieting principles.

 

Ketogenic Diet for Fat Loss

how to build muscle and lose fat

Simply put, to maximise fat loss, you need to force your body to target fat as its main fuel source instead of carbohydrates.

Why is this great for fat loss?

It comes down to what we discussed earlier regarding catabolism. You want your body to be in demolishing mode for fat loss, not building mode.

By eating a high-fat / low-carb diet, your body will adapt and start breaking down fat to convert into energy.

Combine this with the calorie deficit we talked about earlier and your body will target stubborn body fat for energy as soon as it runs out of fat from recently digested food.

Basically, ketogenic dieting bypasses carbs altogether so your body is constantly breaking down fat instead of building energy from carbs.

Let’s do a quick run-down of ketogenic dieting benefits.

 

Fat Loss

Various studies have shown high-fat diets to be significantly superior to high carb diets for fat loss (s1s2s3).

 

Decreased Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood.

Any calories your body doesn’t need after eating are converted into triglycerides and stored as fat if you don’t use them for energy.

Studies have shown a significant reduction in triglycerides on high-fat/low-carb diets. This is very helpful for fat loss.

 

Decreased Insulin Levels

Studies have shown that high-fat/low-carb diets can lower insulin levels.

Low insulin levels make it easier for your body to burn stored body fat.

 

Decreased Blood Glucose Levels

High blood glucose levels lead to diabetes so you want to keep it under control!

Studies have shown that high-fat/low-carb diets can reduce blood glucose levels.

 

Increased HDL cholesterol

Increasing your HDL cholesterol levels can improve your metabolic health. This means that you can eat more calories without gaining fat or eat at a calorie deficit and lose fat even quicker.

Studies have shown that high-fat/low-carb diets can increase your HDL cholesterol levels.

 

Reduced Hunger

Studies have shown that high-fat/low-carb diet can make you feel less hungry compared to higher-carb diets.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why feeling less hungry is beneficial for fat loss!

 

Ketogenic Diet Macronutrient Ratios

I recommend the following ketogenic macronutrient ratios:

 

On non-workout days:

  • 60%-70% fat;
  • 20%-25% protein;
  • 5%-10% carbohydrates.

On workout days:

  • 50%-55% fat;
  • 30%-40% protein;
  • 5%-15% carbs.

 

 

Fat Loss Workouts

 

HIIT Cardio

The best type of workouts for pure fat loss are HIIT cardio workouts.

 

What is HIIT Cardio?

HIIT cardio is basically where you combine high-intensity intervals with short rest periods over a 20-30 minutes.

So you could, for example, run as fast as you can on a treadmill for 2 minutes, rest for 1 minute, and then run as fast as you can again for 2 minutes. You would repeat this pattern over 20-30 minutes.

HIIT cardio workouts like this are fantastic for fat loss.

Let’s examine why.

 

Total Calories Burned

There’s a common misconception that steady-state is better for fat loss than short, high-intensity cardio (HIIT).

People generally think this because:

  • When you do steady-state cardio, your body tends to tap mainly into its fat zones for energy.
  • When you do HIIT cardio, your body taps mainly into its glycogen stores.

So you might be thinking that steady-state cardio sessions are better for fat loss…

But it’s not quite that simple!

Although you would burn a higher % of calories from your fat zones during a steady-state cardio session, you would burn more calories overall during HIIT cardio sessions. And in turn, you would burn more overall calories from your fat zones.

For example:

  • You burn 300 calories during a steady-state cardio session, 200 of them directly from your fat zones;
  • You burn 500 calories during a HIIT cardio session, 250 of them directly from your fat zones.

So although you burned a lower % of calories from your fat zones doing HIIT cardio, you still burned more than you would have done doing steady-state cardio.

You can take a look at this study to see the fat loss benefits of HIIT cardio vs steady-state cardio.

 

Time

Another benefit of HIIT cardio is time.

We’ve all got busy lives and spending 60-90 minutes at the gym 3-5 days per week just isn’t feasible for some of us.

HIIT cardio is a great solution for this because you can smash out a workout in 20-30 minutes and get back to your busy schedule!

 

The Bottom Line

As you will want to maintain muscle during your cutting cycle, I recommend sticking to 5-day bodybuilding splits but add HIIT cardio to your chest, shoulders, and arms workouts.

 

 

HOW TO BUILD MUSCLE AND LOSE FAT WITH SUPPLEMENTS

Let’s finish off today by talking about some of the best supplements for muscle building and fat loss.

 

Muscle Building Supplements

 

Whey Protein

There are many different types of proteins but they don’t all carry the same benefits.

Whey is a quick-absorbing protein that contains a fantastic amino acid profile, among other nutritional benefits.

It’s been heavily studied and is used as a supplement for building muscle.

 

Whey Protein Benefits
  • Building muscle – whey contains growth factors that make it ideal for building muscle;
  • Protein content by weight – most protein powders contain 80% or more protein by weight and little fat or carbs;
  • Post workout recovery – whey is fast digesting so is ideal for post-workout recovery.

 

Whey Concentrate vs Whey Isolate

Whey concentrate is the least processed form of whey and usually contains between 70%-80% protein content by weight.

It generally contains more growth factors that make it ideal for increasing muscle strength and muscle mass than other types of whey protein.

Whey isolate goes through more processing steps than whey concentrate to produce a higher percentage of protein content by weight, at 90% or more. But in doing so, it sacrifices some of those growth factors that concentrate keeps.

 

The bottom line:

Whey isolate is more suitable for those of you aiming to build lean muscle.

Whey concentrate is a better option for those of you aiming to build muscle mass.

 

The Best Whey Concentrate

how to build muscle and lose fat

 

Creatine

Creatine is the second must-have muscle building supplement.

 

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule found in meat, eggs and fish. It’s very useful for building muscle because it quickly produces energy to aid cellular function.

 

What does that mean for your workout?

Your fast-twitch fibres need energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate from your phosphagen system. The problem is that phosphagen only lasts for 3 seconds before it needs to replenish again.

 

Translated into English:

When you do a bicep curl, for example, your body desperately tries to source energy to support the contraction.

It sources this energy from your phosphate system.

Guess what the most energy dense phosphate is? Yup, it’s creatine.

Creatine is the difference between doing 4 reps and 6 reps.

If you get to rep 4 and your phosphagen stores are low, you’re going to fail at rep 5.

If your phosphagen stores are high (because you’ve been supplementing creatine), you’re going to smash out another rep or two.

The way you build muscle is by progressively lifting more weight.

Creatine is essential because it helps you increase reps and then, in turn, muscle size.

 

The Best Creatine Supplement

how to build muscle and lose fat

 

Fat Loss Supplements

 

Legion Phoenix Fat Burner

Legion Phoenix Fat Burner is a fantastic well-rounded fat burning supplement.

how to build muscle and lose fat

I always rave about Mike Matthews and his company (Legion) because they care about science and don’t sell products that haven’t been fully researched.

Let’s take a look at the benefits.

 

Synephrine

Studies have shown synephrine to increase metabolic rate and lipolysis (source). You want to increase both for fat loss.

 

Naringin

Naringin has been shown to stimulate the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which regulates fat mobilization.

What does this mean for you?

Naringin can basically increase the breakdown of fats in your body.

 

Hesperidin

Hesperidin has been shown to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation.

How does this benefit you?

Improving your blood flow is important because it helps you break down more stubborn fat.

Studies have actually shown that if you combine synephrine, naringin, and hesperidin you can increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 183 calories. Very impressive!

 

EGCG

EGCG can speed up fat loss and reduce belly fat (source).

 

Forskolin

Forskolin carries various benefits.

Reducing fat mass (source), reducing fatigue (source), increasing lean mass (source), and reducing overall weight (source) are the benefits most closely related to fat loss.

 

5-HTP

5-HTP has been shown to have a very notable effect on appetite suppression.

how to build muscle and lose fat

 

Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea

Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea is a must have fat loss supplement because it’s cheap and very effective.

how to build muscle and lose fat

Matcha is one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants on the planet. One of those antioxidants is EGCG.

Most shops sell green tea bags that don’t include the EGCG dose required for it to be effective for fat loss.

This is why matcha green tea is a better option.

Jade Leaf matcha green tea contains an amazing 114-136mg of EGCG per teaspoon. That’s 2-3 times more than most green tea bags!

 

Jade Leaf Matcha Green Tea Benefits

 

Fat oxidation

Green tea can increase the levels of calories you burn from fatty acids instead of glucose (source).

Why is this beneficial? You’ll burn fat quicker if your body targets fatty acids instead of glucose.

Do you want to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill burning glucose (carbs) or would you rather burn fat?

One study found that men who took green tea burned 17% more fat than their placebo counterparts. Very impressive!

 

Increased blood flow

Increasing your blood flow is important for breaking down stubborn fat.

Do you store fat on your bum or stomach? This is partly due to poor blood flow to those areas.

You need to get catecholamine hormones into your stubborn fat zones to help break them down.

How do you do this? Supplement matcha green tea (source) and increase blood flow to stubborn fat zone areas like your bum and stomach.

 

Insulin sensitivity

Some studies have shown that green tea can raise insulin sensitivity levels.

Why is this important?

The more insulin sensitive you are, the more carbs you can eat without raising your insulin levels.

Low insulin sensitivity levels are a common problem that can cause weight gain (and type 2 diabetes).

Why?

Carbs release more fatty acids (which store as fat) if you have low insulin sensitivity levels.

 

Oxygen uptake

One particular study showed that green tea can increase oxygen uptake.

Why is this beneficial?

Your cardio will improve if you can consume more oxygen per kg of body weight.

This can lead to more weight loss because you’re able to do cardio for longer periods of time.

 

Carbohydrate absorption

study comparing 28 subjects found that those who had taken green tea extract (4g) absorbed 30% fewer carbs than their placebo counterparts.

More research needs to be done though.

 

 

 

So there we have it! That’s all you need to know about how to build muscle and lose fat!

Thanks for reading. Have a great day!