Building muscle and losing fat?

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Basically I’ve spent my whole life dieting but I’m determined to lose weight healthily this time. I’m very aware of how calorie deficits work, but the problem is I have no idea how muscle works. In the past, I’ve ended up with a lot of loose skin from rapid weight loss + cardio and I hated it. So this time, I’m building muscle by weight training, as well as Pilates, yoga and Zumba classes.

How exactly do you build muscle at the same time as losing fat? Because everything I’ve read has said you need to eat more calories to build muscle… but I don’t want to gain weight. I’ve set my calorie counter to 1,200 but I’ve been eating more like 1,500 most days because I’m working out several times most days (roughly -800 cals). Should I be eating more or less to achieve my goal? I’m confused, can someone help?

Replies

  • tomcustombuilder
    tomcustombuilder Posts: 1,747 Member
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    What is your height and weight? That will determine which path to take.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,874 Member
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    Outside of relatively modest noob gains if you're new to resistance training you aren't really going to gain appreciable muscle in a calorie deficit. The benefits of resistance training while in a calorie deficit are muscle retention. When you diet you are in a catabolic state and muscle mass is an expensive commodity for the body to maintain so if it's underutilized the body will canabalize muscle as well as fat. Resistance training mitigates this substantially because you're actually using it and therefore holding onto muscle has a purpose. Building muscle is an anabolic process and you can't really be catabolic and anabolic at the same time.

    You should also get on a good, structured lifting program if you haven't already. Also, working out several times per day is probably going to be counterproductive. Rest and recovery is actually where the magic happens.

  • Retroguy2000
    Retroguy2000 Posts: 1,531 Member
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    Male? Female? Current body fat %?

    As cwolfman said, if you have noob gains to come, and your calorie deficit is not large, then you can build some muscle. The body requires energy for that, and your fat is energy. Generally though, resistance training in a deficit is for general health purposes and muscle retention.
  • xv5msppsbz
    xv5msppsbz Posts: 4 Member
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    Thanks everyone that’s really helpful! I haven’t weighed myself or calculated my body fat percentage because I’ve had eating issues previously, so I’m trying to lose the weight from a binge episode without relapsing and/or getting loose skin. I’m female, and have just started weight and resistance training with a PT as well as doing weights at home.
  • tomcustombuilder
    tomcustombuilder Posts: 1,747 Member
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    BF% isn’t needed however height and weight is. For many, too much fat and a focus on fatloss is more important than trying to build muscle simultaneously. A program that would allow for muscle RETENTION. A larger calorie deficit would be in place as added muscle would not be in the equation, however until you state your stats it’s just a guess on what you should be doing.
  • vivmom2014
    vivmom2014 Posts: 1,647 Member
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    Why a calorie goal of 1200? That's punishingly low, unless you're tiny.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,442 Member
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    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    Thanks everyone that’s really helpful! I haven’t weighed myself or calculated my body fat percentage because I’ve had eating issues previously, so I’m trying to lose the weight from a binge episode without relapsing and/or getting loose skin. I’m female, and have just started weight and resistance training with a PT as well as doing weights at home.

    Without even knowing exactly what your body fat percentage is, the underlying message is that losing weight relatively slowly favors muscle mass preservation; and if there's any chance at all of muscle mass gain during weight loss, the chance is slightly better in a context of slow loss.

    We don't know enough about you to give more specific advice: Age, current weight, height, what your daily life activity is, what type/intensity/duration of exercise you're doing, and more.

    If you're extremely obese, and especially if you already have negative health conditions or major risks that are fostered by excess body weight, your best may be to prioritize fat loss and lose a bit faster at first, maybe up to 1% of current body weight per week.

    On the flip side, if you're somewhat overweight, maybe not happy with your appearance as your major motivator (vs. current health problems or risks), then losing 0.5% or less of your current weight weekly would be a good plan.

    Personally, when I've needed to (re-) lose a few pounds that had crept on in weight maintenance after major loss, I've chosen to lose ultra-slowly (like less than half a pound a week) to make the process quite painless as well as to keep my strength and athletic performance well-fueled.

    So, unless your current weight creates major health issues, try to lose fat slowly but consistently, get good overall nutrition (especially but not exclusively ample protein), faithfully follow a good progressive weight training program that aims for muscle preservation/gain (a formal program, not just "lift stuff"). That will give you your best odds of what it seems like you're looking for.

    Wolfman is spot on about over-exercising. It's counter-productive. Exercise breaks down muscle. The rests/recovery between workouts are when the muscles get rebuilt better and stronger. As a general rough rule of thumb, you don't want to be working out the same muscle groups on successive days; take a day off in between working the same muscle groups. If you want to work out daily, there are programs designed to properly alternate between areas. Otherwise, full body 3 times a week is a good basic idea.

    Cardio is not evil. Do some, if you have time, but don't overdo intensity (especially), frequency or duration. (Overdoing can mess up the muscle recovery). Keep it moderate, manageable, energizing, a small challenge, but not excessive. The exact definition of "excessive" depends on current fitness level.

    As far as calories, 1200 calories gross intake is too low for a fairly large fraction of women, and 1500 gross intake would result in weight loss for many. If you're very petite, not actually overweight, older, sedentary daily life, not much exercise, then that might put you in a position to have a low-ish calorie goal for weight loss. Calorie needs are individual, and the so-called calculators aren't magically accurate for everyone.

    Someone else's weight loss rate tells you nothing about yours. That said, I lost quite rapidly at age 59-60, sedentary outside of intentional exercise, 5'5", female, starting at 183 pounds (just barely into obese BMI), while eating 1400-1600 calories before exercise, and a gross intake more like 1600-2000 most days because I ate my carefully-estimated exercise calories. I'm a mysteriously good li'l ol' calorie burner for my demographic, but what I'm trying to say here is that "all women must eat 1200 (or less!) for weight loss" is a popular idea, but inaccurate.

    P.S. If your food logging and exercise calorie estimates are accurate (a big "if", and that's not a diss), then eating 1500 and exercising 800 is about the same as eating only 700 calories daily, in energy terms. That would be a really bad idea for an adult woman in the average height range at any age.

    Logging/estimating can be surprisingly subtle skills, so all of us make some mistakes - especially at first. Usually those mistakes tend to under-estimate eating, and over-estimate exercise, which is an explanation of my "big if" remark.

  • xv5msppsbz
    xv5msppsbz Posts: 4 Member
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    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    Thanks everyone that’s really helpful! I haven’t weighed myself or calculated my body fat percentage because I’ve had eating issues previously, so I’m trying to lose the weight from a binge episode without relapsing and/or getting loose skin. I’m female, and have just started weight and resistance training with a PT as well as doing weights at home.

    Without even knowing exactly what your body fat percentage is, the underlying message is that losing weight relatively slowly favors muscle mass preservation; and if there's any chance at all of muscle mass gain during weight loss, the chance is slightly better in a context of slow loss.

    We don't know enough about you to give more specific advice: Age, current weight, height, what your daily life activity is, what type/intensity/duration of exercise you're doing, and more.

    If you're extremely obese, and especially if you already have negative health conditions or major risks that are fostered by excess body weight, your best may be to prioritize fat loss and lose a bit faster at first, maybe up to 1% of current body weight per week.

    On the flip side, if you're somewhat overweight, maybe not happy with your appearance as your major motivator (vs. current health problems or risks), then losing 0.5% or less of your current weight weekly would be a good plan.

    Personally, when I've needed to (re-) lose a few pounds that had crept on in weight maintenance after major loss, I've chosen to lose ultra-slowly (like less than half a pound a week) to make the process quite painless as well as to keep my strength and athletic performance well-fueled.

    So, unless your current weight creates major health issues, try to lose fat slowly but consistently, get good overall nutrition (especially but not exclusively ample protein), faithfully follow a good progressive weight training program that aims for muscle preservation/gain (a formal program, not just "lift stuff"). That will give you your best odds of what it seems like you're looking for.

    Wolfman is spot on about over-exercising. It's counter-productive. Exercise breaks down muscle. The rests/recovery between workouts are when the muscles get rebuilt better and stronger. As a general rough rule of thumb, you don't want to be working out the same muscle groups on successive days; take a day off in between working the same muscle groups. If you want to work out daily, there are programs designed to properly alternate between areas. Otherwise, full body 3 times a week is a good basic idea.

    Cardio is not evil. Do some, if you have time, but don't overdo intensity (especially), frequency or duration. (Overdoing can mess up the muscle recovery). Keep it moderate, manageable, energizing, a small challenge, but not excessive. The exact definition of "excessive" depends on current fitness level.

    As far as calories, 1200 calories gross intake is too low for a fairly large fraction of women, and 1500 gross intake would result in weight loss for many. If you're very petite, not actually overweight, older, sedentary daily life, not much exercise, then that might put you in a position to have a low-ish calorie goal for weight loss. Calorie needs are individual, and the so-called calculators aren't magically accurate for everyone.

    Someone else's weight loss rate tells you nothing about yours. That said, I lost quite rapidly at age 59-60, sedentary outside of intentional exercise, 5'5", female, starting at 183 pounds (just barely into obese BMI), while eating 1400-1600 calories before exercise, and a gross intake more like 1600-2000 most days because I ate my carefully-estimated exercise calories. I'm a mysteriously good li'l ol' calorie burner for my demographic, but what I'm trying to say here is that "all women must eat 1200 (or less!) for weight loss" is a popular idea, but inaccurate.

    P.S. If your food logging and exercise calorie estimates are accurate (a big "if", and that's not a diss), then eating 1500 and exercising 800 is about the same as eating only 700 calories daily, in energy terms. That would be a really bad idea for an adult woman in the average height range at any age.

    Logging/estimating can be surprisingly subtle skills, so all of us make some mistakes - especially at first. Usually those mistakes tend to under-estimate eating, and over-estimate exercise, which is an explanation of my "big if" remark.

    Hi thanks for your reply! I try to always be as accurate as possible re: calories eaten. I always weigh my food and use the calorie count on the packet, I don’t just estimate based on guesswork. Exercise wise it’s less clear as I don’t have a Fitbit or anything like that so I have to rely on the estimates here on MFP or another calorie counter online. I’m not obese just a bit larger than I would like at U.K. size 10-12 (5 ft 3) and scared of gaining too much more. I always had a sedentary lifestyle (graphic designer/content producer) and just recently started exercising more - but because I always controlled my weight in the past by restricting calories 1,200 feels normal to me, but now that I’m a lot more active (attending 2x gym classes per day + swimming/walking + weights) I don’t know how much I should be eating now. Intensity wise I’m doing a variety of high impact and low impact options - weight training most days, with a PT 2x per week, Zumba and running for cardio, and low impact wise, swimming, Pilates, yoga and walking.
  • xv5msppsbz
    xv5msppsbz Posts: 4 Member
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    vivmom2014 wrote: »
    Why a calorie goal of 1200? That's punishingly low, unless you're tiny.

    I’m 5 ft 3 so not tall and new to working out. 1,200 was fine when I was living a sedentary lifestyle but now I’m more active I don’t know how much would be a realistic target
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 32,442 Member
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    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    Thanks everyone that’s really helpful! I haven’t weighed myself or calculated my body fat percentage because I’ve had eating issues previously, so I’m trying to lose the weight from a binge episode without relapsing and/or getting loose skin. I’m female, and have just started weight and resistance training with a PT as well as doing weights at home.

    Without even knowing exactly what your body fat percentage is, the underlying message is that losing weight relatively slowly favors muscle mass preservation; and if there's any chance at all of muscle mass gain during weight loss, the chance is slightly better in a context of slow loss.

    We don't know enough about you to give more specific advice: Age, current weight, height, what your daily life activity is, what type/intensity/duration of exercise you're doing, and more.

    If you're extremely obese, and especially if you already have negative health conditions or major risks that are fostered by excess body weight, your best may be to prioritize fat loss and lose a bit faster at first, maybe up to 1% of current body weight per week.

    On the flip side, if you're somewhat overweight, maybe not happy with your appearance as your major motivator (vs. current health problems or risks), then losing 0.5% or less of your current weight weekly would be a good plan.

    Personally, when I've needed to (re-) lose a few pounds that had crept on in weight maintenance after major loss, I've chosen to lose ultra-slowly (like less than half a pound a week) to make the process quite painless as well as to keep my strength and athletic performance well-fueled.

    So, unless your current weight creates major health issues, try to lose fat slowly but consistently, get good overall nutrition (especially but not exclusively ample protein), faithfully follow a good progressive weight training program that aims for muscle preservation/gain (a formal program, not just "lift stuff"). That will give you your best odds of what it seems like you're looking for.

    Wolfman is spot on about over-exercising. It's counter-productive. Exercise breaks down muscle. The rests/recovery between workouts are when the muscles get rebuilt better and stronger. As a general rough rule of thumb, you don't want to be working out the same muscle groups on successive days; take a day off in between working the same muscle groups. If you want to work out daily, there are programs designed to properly alternate between areas. Otherwise, full body 3 times a week is a good basic idea.

    Cardio is not evil. Do some, if you have time, but don't overdo intensity (especially), frequency or duration. (Overdoing can mess up the muscle recovery). Keep it moderate, manageable, energizing, a small challenge, but not excessive. The exact definition of "excessive" depends on current fitness level.

    As far as calories, 1200 calories gross intake is too low for a fairly large fraction of women, and 1500 gross intake would result in weight loss for many. If you're very petite, not actually overweight, older, sedentary daily life, not much exercise, then that might put you in a position to have a low-ish calorie goal for weight loss. Calorie needs are individual, and the so-called calculators aren't magically accurate for everyone.

    Someone else's weight loss rate tells you nothing about yours. That said, I lost quite rapidly at age 59-60, sedentary outside of intentional exercise, 5'5", female, starting at 183 pounds (just barely into obese BMI), while eating 1400-1600 calories before exercise, and a gross intake more like 1600-2000 most days because I ate my carefully-estimated exercise calories. I'm a mysteriously good li'l ol' calorie burner for my demographic, but what I'm trying to say here is that "all women must eat 1200 (or less!) for weight loss" is a popular idea, but inaccurate.

    P.S. If your food logging and exercise calorie estimates are accurate (a big "if", and that's not a diss), then eating 1500 and exercising 800 is about the same as eating only 700 calories daily, in energy terms. That would be a really bad idea for an adult woman in the average height range at any age.

    Logging/estimating can be surprisingly subtle skills, so all of us make some mistakes - especially at first. Usually those mistakes tend to under-estimate eating, and over-estimate exercise, which is an explanation of my "big if" remark.

    Hi thanks for your reply! I try to always be as accurate as possible re: calories eaten. I always weigh my food and use the calorie count on the packet, I don’t just estimate based on guesswork. Exercise wise it’s less clear as I don’t have a Fitbit or anything like that so I have to rely on the estimates here on MFP or another calorie counter online. I’m not obese just a bit larger than I would like at U.K. size 10-12 (5 ft 3) and scared of gaining too much more. I always had a sedentary lifestyle (graphic designer/content producer) and just recently started exercising more - but because I always controlled my weight in the past by restricting calories 1,200 feels normal to me, but now that I’m a lot more active (attending 2x gym classes per day + swimming/walking + weights) I don’t know how much I should be eating now. Intensity wise I’m doing a variety of high impact and low impact options - weight training most days, with a PT 2x per week, Zumba and running for cardio, and low impact wise, swimming, Pilates, yoga and walking.

    Eat your sedentary calorie weight-loss goal plus estimated exercise calories as a start. Do that for 4-6 weeks (whole menstrual periods, if that applies). Then, first look at the first week or two. If they look very different from the later weeks, ignore them and go for another week or two. At that point, look at your average weight loss per week. If the loss is 0.5% of current weight per week on average or less, you're fine (given your muscle-related goals). If losing faster than that, eat more, using the assumption that 500 calories per day is a pound a week (and doing the math if the adjustment is fractions).

    I still think you could be overdoing exercise, if all of that is new stuff for you. Gradual increase in exercise is better for both fitness improvement and weight loss. Extremes can be very counter-productive.
  • rimcdave
    rimcdave Posts: 21 Member
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    Bodybuilders will tell you that you can't add muscle with a calorie deficit. Other fitness expert will say that if you have high body fat you can draw from those fat reserves and add muscle mass and still loose body fat.

    The import thing to remember is you have to consume enough protien to support muscle growth and enough carbs to fuel your workouts.
  • kshama2001
    kshama2001 Posts: 27,980 Member
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    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    AnnPT77 wrote: »
    xv5msppsbz wrote: »
    Thanks everyone that’s really helpful! I haven’t weighed myself or calculated my body fat percentage because I’ve had eating issues previously, so I’m trying to lose the weight from a binge episode without relapsing and/or getting loose skin. I’m female, and have just started weight and resistance training with a PT as well as doing weights at home.

    Without even knowing exactly what your body fat percentage is, the underlying message is that losing weight relatively slowly favors muscle mass preservation; and if there's any chance at all of muscle mass gain during weight loss, the chance is slightly better in a context of slow loss.

    We don't know enough about you to give more specific advice: Age, current weight, height, what your daily life activity is, what type/intensity/duration of exercise you're doing, and more.

    If you're extremely obese, and especially if you already have negative health conditions or major risks that are fostered by excess body weight, your best may be to prioritize fat loss and lose a bit faster at first, maybe up to 1% of current body weight per week.

    On the flip side, if you're somewhat overweight, maybe not happy with your appearance as your major motivator (vs. current health problems or risks), then losing 0.5% or less of your current weight weekly would be a good plan.

    Personally, when I've needed to (re-) lose a few pounds that had crept on in weight maintenance after major loss, I've chosen to lose ultra-slowly (like less than half a pound a week) to make the process quite painless as well as to keep my strength and athletic performance well-fueled.

    So, unless your current weight creates major health issues, try to lose fat slowly but consistently, get good overall nutrition (especially but not exclusively ample protein), faithfully follow a good progressive weight training program that aims for muscle preservation/gain (a formal program, not just "lift stuff"). That will give you your best odds of what it seems like you're looking for.

    Wolfman is spot on about over-exercising. It's counter-productive. Exercise breaks down muscle. The rests/recovery between workouts are when the muscles get rebuilt better and stronger. As a general rough rule of thumb, you don't want to be working out the same muscle groups on successive days; take a day off in between working the same muscle groups. If you want to work out daily, there are programs designed to properly alternate between areas. Otherwise, full body 3 times a week is a good basic idea.

    Cardio is not evil. Do some, if you have time, but don't overdo intensity (especially), frequency or duration. (Overdoing can mess up the muscle recovery). Keep it moderate, manageable, energizing, a small challenge, but not excessive. The exact definition of "excessive" depends on current fitness level.

    As far as calories, 1200 calories gross intake is too low for a fairly large fraction of women, and 1500 gross intake would result in weight loss for many. If you're very petite, not actually overweight, older, sedentary daily life, not much exercise, then that might put you in a position to have a low-ish calorie goal for weight loss. Calorie needs are individual, and the so-called calculators aren't magically accurate for everyone.

    Someone else's weight loss rate tells you nothing about yours. That said, I lost quite rapidly at age 59-60, sedentary outside of intentional exercise, 5'5", female, starting at 183 pounds (just barely into obese BMI), while eating 1400-1600 calories before exercise, and a gross intake more like 1600-2000 most days because I ate my carefully-estimated exercise calories. I'm a mysteriously good li'l ol' calorie burner for my demographic, but what I'm trying to say here is that "all women must eat 1200 (or less!) for weight loss" is a popular idea, but inaccurate.

    P.S. If your food logging and exercise calorie estimates are accurate (a big "if", and that's not a diss), then eating 1500 and exercising 800 is about the same as eating only 700 calories daily, in energy terms. That would be a really bad idea for an adult woman in the average height range at any age.

    Logging/estimating can be surprisingly subtle skills, so all of us make some mistakes - especially at first. Usually those mistakes tend to under-estimate eating, and over-estimate exercise, which is an explanation of my "big if" remark.

    Hi thanks for your reply! I try to always be as accurate as possible re: calories eaten. I always weigh my food and use the calorie count on the packet, I don’t just estimate based on guesswork. Exercise wise it’s less clear as I don’t have a Fitbit or anything like that so I have to rely on the estimates here on MFP or another calorie counter online. I’m not obese just a bit larger than I would like at U.K. size 10-12 (5 ft 3) and scared of gaining too much more. I always had a sedentary lifestyle (graphic designer/content producer) and just recently started exercising more - but because I always controlled my weight in the past by restricting calories 1,200 feels normal to me, but now that I’m a lot more active (attending 2x gym classes per day + swimming/walking + weights) I don’t know how much I should be eating now. Intensity wise I’m doing a variety of high impact and low impact options - weight training most days, with a PT 2x per week, Zumba and running for cardio, and low impact wise, swimming, Pilates, yoga and walking.

    I'm also concerned that you might be overdoing exercise in general, and specifically weight training. Did your PT create your plan for the 5 days you are not with them? There is generally a lot of recovery time built into structured strength training, as recovery is necessary for muscle growth.