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Q. I want to bulk up while getting leaner. How can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?


A. It’s difficult for the body to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Building muscle requires calories. If you are restricting calories to lose undesired body fat, your body does not have the fuel it needs to create new muscle tissue. Instead, the body breaks down muscle to use for fuel.


A dieting athlete can minimize muscle loss with—

1) a small calorie deficit that contributes to slow fat loss.

Knock off 200 to 400 calories a day (not 800 to 1.000 calories!).


2) an adequate protein intake (i.e., enjoy a protein-rich food at each meal and snack).

A reasonable target is about 0.7 to 1.0 gram protein per pound body weight, or about 100 to 150 g protein for a 150-pound person. That equates to 1 quart of milk (32 g), 1 can tuna (35 g) and 6 ounces chicken breast (45 g), plus the protein you get in other foods (bread, cereal, vegetables). Protein supplements tend to be needless; food can supply what you need.


3) frequently eaten meals that offer a constant supply of protein and fuel.

Eat at least every three or four hours, and have a small protein-rich bedtime snack, such as some cottage cheese.


4) strength training to help protect against muscle loss.

Your body protects the muscles you use, but breaks down the muscles that are less active and uses them for fuel.


For more information on how to lose fat and maintain energy for exercise, see

my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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