This is actually a question that I get a lot. Do I have to lose weight before building muscle? The simple answer is that it depends.
In this article, we are going to go over those dependent factors and how to actually make progress happen.
When I first started working out, I was insanely skinny, so my perspective is coming from someone starting at the bottom.
In our day and age, we have so much information that tries to sway our opinion one way or another. My goal with these articles is to empower you to make the best decision for your situation.
By the time you are finished with this article, you will have the tools in your belt to decide what is best for you.
Losing weight is the easy part?
For those who have struggled to lose weight in the past, you might be shaking your head at this question. What do I mean when I say that losing weight is the easy part?
Well, losing weight requires one thing. A caloric deficit. Meaning all you have to do is eat less calories than your body burns every day of the week.
When you ask the question, do I have to lose weight before building muscle, I always will tell you that I actually do think you should. Why? Because if you don’t have the consistency to lose weight, you will struggle with building muscle also.
A lot of people will try to outwork their diet. They think that working out is going to be enough to shed the fat that they desperately want to get rid of. But according to this study, the average workout burns between 180-500 calories in an hour.
That is not a ton of calories compared to how much you are probably consuming.
Here is what you need to do:
- Calculate your maintenance calories
- Workout 3-5 days per week
- Be consistent
Now you can eat at a caloric deficit. Start by going 500 calories under your maintenance calorie number per day.
The problem with a lot of crash diets is that they require you to go thousands of calories under your maintenance per day.
That is not sustainable, which is why most people bounce back to their previous weight and more.
The takeaways from this section are that technically you can lose weight without working out assuming you are eating consistently at a caloric deficit. Obviously I highly recommend working out to maximize your results.
Learning more about your body
We talked about maintenance calories in the previous section. These are the calories that your body burns on a daily basis without gaining or losing weight. People might also refer to this as total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) or your metabolism.
It is important to understand that everyone differs with their maintenance calorie number. Some are low, some are high. But if you are currently overweight, chances are you have a lower than average maintenance calorie number.
That is ok though. This is a great time to decide what your next steps are. Do I have to lose weight before building muscle? Well, what is your current body fat percentage?
You can learn how to identify your body fat percentage here. Anything over 25% is considered obese, while 21-25% is considered overweight.
If you are overweight, it might benefit you to cut down on fat before bulking up. It will teach you the discipline necessary to keep going.
Remember, there are only 3 things you need to understand when you are thinking about changing your body. Know your caloric intake, workout regularly, and be consistent in both.
Not that hard, right? Well, considering that 73.6% of the US population is overweight, it seems that others find it extremely difficult.
You might find that your progress slows down a few weeks or months into your journey. Most people get frustrated here. But this is just a great opportunity to re-calculate your maintenance calories.
That 500 calorie deficit that you were using before is probably going to change as your calorie requirements change.
When you are on this journey, your body is going to be constantly changing. But remember, this is for the better. Your body is adjusting to your new lifestyle and eliminating fat.
Making the best decision for your situation
Depending how overweight you are, that is obviously going to be a driving factor is what decision you make. If you really want to lose weight before building muscle, you should go for it.
In this case, I recommend dropping down to 10-14% body fat before you start bulking up. It will give your body a nice solid base of low fat before you start building muscle and inevitably more fat.
But don’t worry, you need fat to build muscle. And, you can apply the same principles as your caloric deficit to building muscle. Remember when I said that you will need to start by eating at a caloric deficit of about 500 calories per day to lose weight?
It’s the opposite for building muscle. You need to eat at a caloric surplus of 500 calories per day. And you might find that 500 calories per day over maintenance is not enough for you. Or maybe it is too much for you.
That is why we have the ability to adjust our diets to hit our goals. This is why I push so hard to know every calorie that you are consuming. You will have significant control over what happens to your body.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are bulking up, and eating at a caloric surplus of 500 calories per day. After 2 weeks, you have only gained a half pound, or a quarter pound every week.
That is a good indication that your caloric surplus is probably not big enough. And another 250-500 calories per day on top of your current surplus and go from there.
The same thing applies to losing weight. If you only lost a pound in 2 weeks, drop your calories.
Main Point: Do I have to lose weight before building muscle?
The question that we all came here for should now be answered. Do I have to lose weight before building muscle?
If you have read this far, you know the answer is somewhat complicated. It really depends on your current situation. If you are obese or overweight, I definitely recommend cutting down before bulking up.
The only time I wouldn’t recommend cutting down before bulking up is if you think you won’t be able to commit to what it is going to take. If you eat at caloric surplus everyday, take advantage of that at least by going to the gym. Your muscles will grow.
At the end of the day, it is all dependent on personal preference. Just know that transforming your body takes a ton of time and effort.
Don’t buy into the idea that you can get shredded overnight. It is a process that is not only going to change you physically, but it will challenge you mentally and make you a stronger person.
I cannot tell you how much confidence I gained from going from skinny to muscular.
Get comfortable with the idea of counting your calories. People might give you a hard time about it, but this is just a reality that we have to live with if we want to transform our bodies.
Funny enough, the people that used to give me a hard time for counting calories are the same people asking me for advice now.