This is the most asked question on any bodybuilding forum, channel or place where guys interested in getting fit hang out. Even personal trainers have said that this is the toughest question they face and they get it all the time.
The reason that this question is so difficult to answer is because it is next to impossible to do both at exactly the same time. In order to lose weight, your body needs to consume fewer calories than it burns off. This is known as a calorie deficit and your body is in a catabolic state.
For your body to gain muscle, you need to consume more calories than you expend. This is a caloric surplus and your body is in an anabolic state.
Since the two states are mutually exclusive, technically, it is impossible to do both at the exact same time. Of course, there are very few exceptions to this rule. Genetically gifted people, people who are just starting out with body building and those using steroids.
For absolute newbies to weight training, they can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time for a short while. This is known as ‘newbie gains’. However, these gains will taper off in a while and they too will be like the rest who can’t achieve both goals at the same time.
The professional bodybuilders have phases known as bulking and cutting. During the bulking phase, they will be on a caloric surplus and consume huge amounts of food. They will get massive during this period. They will be making gains in muscle and fat. Some bodybuilders will eat all types of junk food just to meet a caloric surplus. This is known as a ‘dirty bulk’.
Once they have reached the desired weight they want, they’ll go into a cutting phase. This is when they clean up their diet and only eat healthy. They will be at a caloric deficit and aim to burn off the fat without losing any muscle.
The fact of the matter is that there will be some muscle loss but this is par for the course.
Now, you may wish to follow the bulk and cut method. It is the easiest way to get big. There are many arguments that you can gain muscle while on a deficit as long as your body has protein, etc. All these arguments may make sense and work but they are just too much hassle and require a lot of discipline. It is just easier to bulk and cut. Just do not overdo either phase.
If you don’t wish to get fat too fast, you may alternate between short periods of bulking and cutting. For example, you may bulk for 2 months and cut for one month. In this way, your fat level will not be too high and you will not face the agony of cutting for a few months at one go.
This is how most guys who get big go about it. You will have to experiment and see what suits you. With time, you’ll know how your body responds. Once you understand how your body works, it’ll be much easier.