If you are about to begin your journey into fitness, the first question you are probably asking yourself is: “Should burn fat or build muscle first?”
Which is actually a pretty common question.
If you’re too overweight or too thin, the answer is EASY. Therefore, this question usually comes from those people who are in some kind of middle.
Who are these people? Well, just standard or mildly overweight people with low muscle tone and some fat.
Those ones are known as: “Skinny fats”.
Does that sound familiar to what you see in the mirror?
It probably does, and in this article, we will tell you what the best option for you is, burning fat or building muscle first. Keep reading!
The reason behind skinny fat: what’s best? Cutting or bulking?
A skinny fat person may enter into two different categories, and it’s essential to determine which one you are in.
The first category is simply that person who is visibly chubby, even fat, without being obese, but with no muscle tone at all.
On the other hand, you have those really skinny people that have some localized fat like in the back of their arms, their thighs, their belly, etc.
And, while they probably do not have a high muscle mass rate in their body, they usually have a bit of tone, (these are the ones really represented by the term “skinny fat,” But now it has spread a bit).
These people see their fat, whether general or localized, and they think they need to cut calories or do lots of cardio to reduce that fat.
But, is it really better to burn fat first, instead of growing muscle? The answer may surprise you!
As we mentioned in the description of both categories, what outstands is not the presence of fat, but the lack of muscle mass or tone.
Have you ever heard that you are what you eat?
Well, in this case, it happens backward; you can not be what you don’t ingest. And your lack of muscle is directly proportional to the shortage of FOOD!
Yeah, just like you’ve read, and especially if you already train a lot and don’t see results, the answer is, most likely, not enough calories.
Not having enough calories also means that your body doesn’t have enough energy to recover and create new muscle fibers.
Therefore, no muscle can grow or get toned; they are famished!
In that sense, you may say that if the question is: “Should I burn fat or build muscle first?” The answer is: build muscle.
And to build muscle, you need to eat.
We’ve got that settled, right? So, what’s the catch? Why isn’t everyone just muscular, if overeating is common? Let’s take a look!
Building muscle: dirty bulking vS clean bulking
So, losing fat vs. building muscle, right? The answer is number 2.
For this purpose, we need to eat, and this process is usually called in the fitness world “Bulking”.
This term is used in opposition to cutting, but the right words should be: “feeding you right.”
Because yes, you should eat more, but most likely you need to eat BETTER! And here we enter the topic of this section: dirty vs clean bulking.
When you’ve heard about bulking, you may have heard how it means eating whatever you want just to increase your mass.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? And it might be!
It might be if you’re already an experienced athlete with massive muscle index, with a regular and normalized training routine, etc.
In these cases, eating whatever you want, even if it’s that giant pizza with a coke and a box of donuts for dessert.
Why can they do this?
Because people who are already bulked and want to increase even further, their mass has it harder for growing.
Their mass levels are almost up to their limit.
Also, on the other side, having enough muscle, and also being used to hard-training, won’t have problems with burning a little extra fat.
However, the story for a skinny fat person or one with not-so-much muscle mass is quite different.
And what we will address next, would also kind of apply, if you were obese or morbidly obese (for this last one, you should see our article on how to lose weight if you weigh +200 LBS).
Clean bulking: the best way to go!
When you are in any of these groups and start to eat whatever you want, meaning, “Dirty Bulking”, yes, you will gain some muscle mass.
But, what you may not be analyzing is that you will also get extra fat alongside that mass.
And let’s be honest, if you are not much of an athlete, struggling to train 2 hours 3 times a week, and you don’t even have muscle mass…
Chances are that when you start consuming all that “whatever fat,” you won’t be able to burn it fast enough.
And as a result, it will end up becoming more notable than the little muscle you have been able to build.
So, “what should I do? Is it better to cut first instead of bulking then?”
We already answered that. But, of course, there are some subtleties to the concept.
What you need to do is clean bulking, which may even make you both lose fat and build muscle at the same time (or at least it would if you were honestly consistent).
By clean bulking first, instead of cutting fat – and this will seem odd – you will be cutting fat.
WHAT? It does not make sense, right? Well, let’s go back a bit…
When we said that if you ate whatever you wanted, you would get muscle and fat, it’s because of the quality of the food, not necessarily the quantity.
Eating whatever you want will most likely lead you to eat tons of saturated fats, refined flours, and sugars, tons of chemicals, etc.
And that’s what you already eat most of the time, aren’t you? What sense makes adding more of that, and expecting better results?
What you need to add is plenty of healthy, organic if possible, whole foods.
We’ve already talked a lot in other articles about what is considered clean eating and how to build lean muscle mass.
But, we’ll do a quick review here so you know what you should be doing:
- Increasing your intake of whole, non-processed foods.
- Increasing your vegetable and food portions throughout the day.
- Avoiding sugars, saturated fats, refined flours, etc.
- Consuming preferably non-refined carbs such as whole grains, legumes, dried nuts, etc.
- Increasing your lean protein intake by adding more chicken, fish, eggs, and in fewer portions, red meat to your diet.
- Cooking without many condiments, oils, etc. Using these elements in moderation or making sure they’re natural.
- Reducing your salt intake.
- Include healthy fats in moderation. Some examples are avocados, egg whites, nuts, etc.
- Eating on more-or-less regular schedules.
- Choosing a regime that fits your lifestyle while it’s sustainable in time.
- Make sure the combination of food you consume provides enough macros for you (Protein, carbs, and fat), and micros (fiber and micronutrients). Even if you don’t track them, you may guarantee it by consuming adequate food.
Basically, these are the secrets to a clean bulk.
And it’s in that balance that you will now include in your eating habits, where the “losing fat while you’re gaining muscles” occurs.
Why? Because you won’t be eating less, you’ll be eating MORE.
But, the food you’ll be eating won’t generate as much fat, even in higher quantities, than the food you used to eat.
Plus you’ll be giving your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly.
Therefore, while you will be indeed eating more food density, you will also start to burn that fat that you’ve accumulated.
This consumption will replace the excess you’re no longer getting from the food. SIMPLE! But what about building muscle?
P.S: It doesn’t work for everybody, and for those ones who are total beginners, they will naturally lose fat while gaining muscle, but just for a short period. So, while these are facts, they’re not a magic recipe, remember each body is different and have particular conditions.
You are what you eat: eating healthier for building muscle!
Ok, so here it comes again, we said it earlier in the article, and you’ll probably hear it many times more: you are what you eat.
But, it’s not only about how much you eat but about WHAT you eat, especially if you’re skinny fat or considerably overweight.
That’s the point we’ve just made in the last section, but how does it help to build muscle?
Food balance is indispensable in the creation of muscle mass, and protein is the main factor in that equation.
Protein is what feeds your muscles, helping them recover, and increasing their fibers, which, in consequence, makes them grow.
If you are not muscular enough, with some localized fat, and you start reducing, you’ll get your body into fatigue.
When you get to that point, you won’t be able to either perform correctly nor build muscles.
So, once again, increase, and specifically increase protein.
But, how much protein should I consume?
The amount of protein you have to consume for this goal actually varies.
Some theories say 2grs for each pound of muscle, others say 1,5grs, but it will have more to do with your own body.
You can use these references – or simply start adding more protein than you regularly eat – and with time, your body will let you know what it needs.
When thinking about what to do first, burning fat or building muscle, it’s easier to cut after you’ve been bulking.
In this sense, and as you won’t be eating less, but MUCH MORE food, when it comes the time to cut, you only need to get into a slight calorie deficit.
Getting that slight decrease will be easy because almost any reduction you make on your portions or foods will be enough to show results.
This method will also make your deficit more sustainable on time, as you won’t get a critical point nowhere soon. You have plenty of extra calories to spare!
The hard part is always the diet part, that’s not a secret for anyone.
And you need to make sure your protein is lean to assure you won’t be getting too much fat from the source.
But, if you do this all at the same time, it will be a matter of weeks that you start seeing the difference.
And not just a physical difference, your whole organism will thank you, and you’ll probably feel more energized, fresh, and even younger!
By building muscles rather than burning fat, you will get all these benefits without having to endure the food deprivation.
And the reason why this is good news is because those regimes are not sustainable, and affect both your physical and mental health.
What Are The Benefits Of Bulking First Instead Of Burning Fat?
Cutting First Could Alter Your Insulin Levels.
And if your insulin is not in the right proportion, it won’t work along with your body to burn fat or build muscle anyways. So, the efforts would be useless.
Muscle gain will accelerate your metabolism
While this is not entirely true, muscle does produce more heat than fat, and therefore, burns more calories, making you burn fat faster.
Your body will repair the possible damage caused in your muscles by the malnutrition, and you’ll be able to become stronger faster.
You’ll feel more energized as you’re recovering your nutrients levels, and you’ll feel more able to perform better when training.
You will improve your health
Your general health will improve if you change your eating habits to clean bulk.
how to increase muscle mass Quickly?
You need to sleep 7-9 hours every day, so your muscles have enough time to recover and grow.
Being hydrated is essential for your muscles to perform optimally and, therefore, maximize your gains.
While not ALL supplements are recommended, natural supplements such as D-Bal can significantly help you in building mass.
This may be obvious. But, complementing your clean bulking with weight training and a little bit of cardio – emphasis in the “little bit” – is essential to turn that fuel into muscle.
You can’t sustain neither bulking nor fat-burning forever.
Your body may decompensate, and sooner or later, you will crave and fall into temptation. Or, you will enter a plateau.
To avoid any of these situations and stimulating your muscles growth, you need to alter from cutting and bulking cycles.
Final Thoughts – Should I Burn Fat Or Build Muscle First?
Now that we’ve evaluated what’s the best option between losing fat or growing muscle first, we need to state that this is NOT an absolute rule.
This rule applies to who we believe is the majority of you!
The regular people who, as we said earlier, are mildly overweight with no muscle mass or tone, or skinny with localized fat and no muscle mass.
Other people with different conditions shouldn’t necessarily be following this approach.
Obese or morbidly obese people, people who are recovering from eating disorders, and even seasoned lifters, may have to attend their own needs in specific ways.
Because, due to their particular conditions, their body also may work slightly differently than regular people’s body does (in some cases for the bad and in others, for the better).
So, if you’re under any of those categories – or are professional, year-round lifter – you should begin your journey by attending your specific needs.
But, if you’re just like anyone else around, who’s not in the fitness world.
If you’re someone who’s not even into dieting sometimes and want to make the most of your body, you already know what to do when the question “Should I burn fat or build muscle first?” comes to your mind.
So, dinner is served!