Tom Venuto's

Concurrent Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

Tom Venuto

“How can I gain muscle and lose fat at the same time?” That’s right up there with “How do I get six pack abs” as one of the most frequently asked fitness questions of all time. The problem is, when you ask it, you get all kinds of conflicting answers - even from experts who are supposed to know these things. So what’s the deal? Is it really possible to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously?

Short answer: Yes, you can gain muscle and lose fat at the “same time.”

Long answer: It’s difficult and it’s complicated. Allow me to explain….

First we have the issue of whether you really lose fat and gain muscle at the “same time.”

Well, yes, if your definition of the “same time” is say, a month or 12 weeks. But in that case, you’re probably not gaining muscle at the “same time” literally speaking, as in, right now this very moment you are reading this, or 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for months in a row.

The best explanation for what’s really happening is that you alternate between periods of caloric surplus (anabolism) and caloric deficit (catabolism) and the net result is a gain in muscle and a loss in body fat.

You see, if you stay in a calorie surplus, it’s the body’s natural tendency for body fat and lean body mass to go up together. And if you stay in a calorie deficit, it’s your body’s natural tendency for body fat and lean body mass to go down together.

There may be exceptions, but the general rule is that it is very difficult to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time - the mechanisms are mostly antagonistic to one another. When it does happen, it’s almost always the result of “unusual conditions” - I call them X factors.

The 4 X-Factors

The first X-factor is “training age” . Ever hear of “newbie gains?” The less trained your body is and the further you are from your genetic potential, the easier it is to gain muscle. The reverse is also true - an advanced bodybuilder with 20 years experience would be thrilled just to gain a few pounds of solid dry muscle in a year!

The second x factor is muscle memory. It’s easier to regain muscle you’ve lost than it is to gain new muscle in the first place (ergo, the fat out of shape semi retired bodybuilder who starts training again and blows up and gets ripped “overnight”).

The third X factor is genetics (or somatotype). Ever heard of the “genetic freak?” That’s the dude who sprouts muscle like weeds even when he’s on the “50-50 diet” (50% McDonald’s and 50% pizza)… and he never gets fat. (That dude chose the right parents!)

The fourth X factor is drugs. I’m not just talking about pro bodybuilders, I’m talking about “Joe six pack” in the gym - not to mention those fitness models you idolize in the magazines. How did they get large muscle gains with concurrent fat loss? Chemicals.

I’m not a gambling man, but I’ll place a wager on this any day: I’ll bet that in 99% of the cases of large muscle gains with concurrent large fat losses, one or more of these x factors were present.

That’s not all! There are actually 5 more X factors related to your body composition and diet status (the X2 factors). But I’ll have to talk about those later.

So you’re not a beginner, you don’t take roids, you’re not a genetic mutant and you have no muscle memory to take advantage of. Are you S.O.L? Well, I do want you to be realistic about your goals, but…

There IS a way for the average person to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.

The Secret: You have to change your “temporal perspective!”

Traditionally nutritionists and fitness pros have only looked at calorie balance in terms of 24 hour periods. At midnight, you could tally up the calories like a shopkeeper closing out his register, and if the balance were positive, you’d say you were in a surplus for the day. If the balance were negative, you’d say you were in a deficit for the day.

But it’s entirely possible that you might pass through periods of “within-day” surplus where you were in a highly anabolic state (for example, you eat the biggest, highest carb meal of the day after your workout), and you were in a deficit the rest of the day.

If you did intense weight training, and you timed your nutrient intake appropriately, Isn’t it possible that you could gain a small amount of muscle during those anabolic hours, while losing fat the rest of the day? Granted it might only be grams or ounces - but what if you kept that up for a week? A month? Three months?

As you pan out and look at the bigger picture, what if most days of the week you were in a deficit for the entire day, and on some days you were in a surplus? If so, then isn’t it possible that over the course of the week, you’d have a small net gain of muscle and loss of body fat a a result of the caloric fluctuation?

These within-day and within-week phases are called microcycles and mesocycles. If you also had a primary goal with a longer term focus of several months, say 12 weeks or 16 weeks, that would be a macrocycle.

What I’ve just described is nutritional periodization. Some people call it cyclical dieting. it’s where you manipulate your calories (primarily by fluctuating carbohydrate intake, hence “carb cycling”) in order to intentionally zig zag your way through periods of surplus and deficit and create specific hormonal responses.

The end result: muscle gain and fat loss during the same time period!

I know that someone out there is having a hissy fit because I’ve only talked about calories: deficits and surpluses. Rightfully so. Calories matter but there’s more to it than calories - most importantly, hormones and “nutrient partitioning.”

If you’re in a calorie deficit you are going to pull energy from your body.The question is: From WHERE? If your hormones are out of whack and you’re eating crap, you could lose more muscle than fat in a deficit and gain almost pure fat, not muscle, in a surplus!

But WHAT IF you could manipulate within day energy balance, use nutritional periodization AND control your hormones with food and lifestyle strategies?

NOW you can see how concurrent muscle gain and fat loss are starting to look possible!

Make no mistake - concurrent muscle gain and fat loss is a difficult goal to achieve. The good news: difficult does not mean impossible. Or as George Santayana said, “The difficult is that which can be done immediately, the impossible, that which takes a little longer.”

If you’d like to learn more about losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, check out my newest program, “The Holy Grail Body Transformation System.”

In it, you’ll hear all the details about nutritional periodization, cyclical dieting, hormonal manipulation, within day energy balance, nutrient partitioning, AND the all the X factors, including the 5 “X2-Factors” - which are the keys to gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.

You’ll also get my new “TNB” training system, as seen in Men’s Fitness magazine (the complete, expanded version that Men’s Fitness didn’t have room to print).

This new body transformation program is available for a limited time at a discount during our “pre-launch” promotion: Visit the new Holy Grail website for more details:

Published on 20 June, 2010


Melvin Thorne said:

Muscle Gain Technique by Tom is very interesting. I dearly hope i have the third x factor! lol

Posted on Mar 30, 2010 06:19 PM

Christopher S. said:

Thank Tom! You have a knack for making the difficult things seem achievable

Posted on Apr 15, 2010 12:34 PM

Adam said:


That is the best explanation I have ever heard to that question. My answer to that question usually depends on the person who asks it.

Because gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is so difficult I only tell the most dedicated clients that it can be done. Is that wrong? lol

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 10:22 PM

John said:

I think that not only in bodybuilding, but also in other sports the first x-factor is existing. In the beginning it can be easy and you go up quickly. But sooner or later you reach a plateau where you almost stand till. Not fair but this is true...


John Steczko

Posted on May 30, 2010 06:59 AM

F. Samuel said:

Thanks for your excellent explanation of losing fat and gaining muscle. This clarifies this complex process.

Posted on May 30, 2010 03:11 PM

Joe Lenihan said:

Excellent post! I really think there is a lot of validity to the idea of looking at food/nutrient intake over periods other than just per 24 hours. I think within the day as well as over the course of a week can be beneficial, depending on goals, etc. Thanks for the great info!

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 08:52 PM

Tom J. said:

The entire post is full with terrific information but the 'First X Factor' really amazed me. I've often wondered why when I exercise for a few weeks, I'd get ripped to a certain level but then no matter how hard I tried in the following weeks I did not see a huge improvement.
Now I know! It's really interesting...

Posted on Sep 17, 2010 11:09 AM

Trijicon said:

Great Article!!! Yeah, it is definitely possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, but it is exceedingly difficult, particularly if you are at an advanced level.

Posted on Nov 05, 2010 10:02 AM

Derek said:

I agree that gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously is a difficult thing, at least for most guys. I would personally think it's better to concentrate on one of the other, and maybe have a reasonable "cycling" period where you alternate between them would work. Have you ever heard of the ABCDE method? I've never tried it but some say it works well.


Posted on Jan 05, 2011 04:56 PM

The Captain Power said:

Really, really, good stuff Tom!!! I am always in conflict with my powerlifting/bodybuilding...

Posted on Feb 16, 2011 11:52 PM

D-Shep said:

It's true, gaining muscle and fat IS possible but tricky in a sense. Body recomposition is by far the most difficult out of the big 3, the others being bulking and cutting. Rather than do a recomp, I bulked from 132lbs to 186lbs in a year's time.

Currently cutting and blogging about my journey and guiding others.

Posted on Feb 26, 2011 11:55 AM

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