muscle gain and fat loss

Can You Build Muscle While Losing Fat?

This is one of the most hotly debated questions in the fitness world, and a topic my clients are commonly interested in. Recent research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides strong evidence that you can in fact work towards building lean mass AND losing fat mass simultaneously.

Key Factors

There are two key factors to making this happen though: consuming a high protein diet and maintaining a high training frequency. In this study, two groups of participants were studied to determine what the difference would be between eating a calorie restricted diet with 1.2 g/kg BW of protein per day (the “low protein” group) vs. a calorie restricted diet with 2.4 g/kg BW of protein per day (the “high protein” group).

Both groups performed the same exercise routines during this 4 week calorie restriction. The findings indicated that both groups improved exercise performance and lost comparable amounts of weight; however, the low protein group maintained their muscle mass, while the high protein group gained muscle mass. Because the total weight loss was comparable, this also means the high protein group lost more fat in total.

The Take Away

The take away here is that training at a high intensity most days of the week AND consuming a high protein diet does allow for muscle to grow even during energy restriction. However, this level of activity and protein intake is not sustainable or appropriate for everyone, so if you aren’t already a seasoned exerciser this may not be the best place to start for weight loss.

For those looking to really take their fitness to the next level though (and who have no pre-existing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure), this could be a great strategy to achieve a stronger, leaner physique!

If you want to know if this strategy for weight loss/muscle building is appropriate for you, leave me a comment or send me an e-mail and I will be happy to offer guidance. If you would like to read more about the study quoted in this post, you can see the reference for the original research below.


Longland, TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchel CJ, et al. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016; 103:738-746.

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