If you want to change the way you look, you’ll need to do two things: build muscle and lose fat. Both goals will converge to create a lean and athletic physique, but they also require different approaches to training and nutrition. Unless you are a very deconditioned beginner, it’s almost impossible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Which you prioritise first very much depends on your starting point. Focusing on the wrong thing could make reaching your goals a harder, slower process than it needs to be.

Let’s take a look at how these two goals differ, and how to decide which one should be your priority.

Gaining muscle first

Gaining muscle requires strength training combined with a calorie surplus. When you lift weights, you break your muscles down at a microscopic level and then, after adequate rest and nutrition, they grow back bigger and stronger than before. This process, when repeated over several months, will result in muscle growth and strength increases.

During this time, it is common to gain a little body fat along with your muscle increase. If you consume too few calories or nutrients, you run the risk of undermining your progress. Subsequently, it’s best to eat a little above maintenance calories to support muscle growth and recovery.

Nutritionally, you’ll need to consume around 1.8 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight, a reasonable amount of natural fats for health and satiety, and adequate carbs to power you through your workouts. Trying to build muscle without sufficient carbs is like trying to drive your car without fuel in the tank.

For all of these reasons, if you are fairly lean but lightly muscled, increasing your muscle mass should be your immediate priority. Increasing your muscle mass in key areas such as your shoulders, back, glutes, quads will emphasise your womanly figure and help to create an hourglass shape. My Lean and Strong stack contains the optimum combination of supplements to support you when you are aiming to increase muscle, optimise recovery and get the most out of your training.

Losing weight first

Losing weight or, more specifically losing body fat, requires a calorie deficit. In other words, you need to eat a little less Calories than your body burns to encourage it to use fat for fuel. Yes, workouts that burn a lot of calories will speed up the fat loss process. But strength training is also vital as it can help preserve your current mass, increase metabolism long term and tone the body. Thus, a program that combines strength training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) will bring you closer to your goal of decreased body fat.

Nutritionally, eating for fat loss means decreasing total daily Calories. Protein is important for muscle maintenance, satiety (feeling full) and boosting your metabolism and so should contribute to a significant portion of your Calories. You should also consume ample carbs and fats to fuel your body. It’s also worth noting that the more body fat you are carrying, the lower your insulin and carbohydrate tolerance is likely to be. This is another sound reason for managing (but not eliminating) the carb ratio within your diet.

When you are in a Calorie deficit it is imperative to focus on consuming a high quality diet. This involves eating nutrient dense foods such as lean protein, vegetables, whole grains, fruits, legumes and healthy fats. This will help to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to fuel your workouts, recover optimally and keep you feeling full. For added support to help keep you on track while in a Calorie deficit, I put together my Ultimate Weight Loss Stack. This specific combination of supplements will help your body optimise fat burning, both day and night, improve your recovery and keep you energised so you can power through even the toughest workouts.  

If you have a higher level of body fat, or already possess a fairly muscular build, you should prioritise fat loss over muscle gain. The good news is that fat loss is a relatively simple process and, so long as you train consistently and eat clean, you will start to see progress in just a few short weeks.

In general it is important to remember these key factors when looking to change your body composition:

  • Be patient!

The process of losing body fat, theoretically, is quicker than building muscle mass, however if you wish to improve your physique in a sustainable and healthy way, taking it slowly is key! When your goal is fat loss, a 10-15% decrease in Calories per day, combined with a well programmed training plan will produce results that will be consistent and maintainable. When your goal is muscle gain, the same applies, but with a 10-15% Calorie surplus. If you are looking for support and guidance, I have fully personalised training and meal plans available that have already helped thousands of women achieve their goals.

  • Be consistent!

Good things come to those who work hard, day in and day out. Commit to a training plan that suits your goals, support your body and recovery with a nutrient-dense, whole food diet, and repeat every single day!

  • Trust the Process!

Select your program and stick to it. Give your body and mind the time to adjust to your new lifestyle for at least 4 weeks. Fat loss and muscle gain do not happen overnight, so it is imperative you allow ample time for your lifestyle changes to have an impact. If you are eating well, training hard and prioritising your health and fitness, the results will follow!

I want to know what you are focussing on! Tag me in your pics to show me if you are looking to lose body fat or gain muscle mass! @laurensimpsonfitness #LSFbabes.




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