Can You Lose Fat or Gain Muscle Without Losing or Gaining Weight?
People who want to improve the way their body looks or performs have all sorts of potential problems that can prevent them from reaching their goal.
But sometimes, it’s the specific goal itself that is the problem.
I want to look at 2 such examples of this right now and show you why these goals exist and what you’re supposed to do about them.
Problem #1: I Want To Lose Fat Without Losing Weight
Something you’ll often here from “skinny-fat” people (people who are kinda skinny, but still not really lean or “toned“) is that they want to lose more fat so they can get leaner, but they don’t want to lose any more weight.
This might be because:
- They’re already skinnier than they’d like to be, and they certainly don’t want to get any skinnier.
- The number they see on the scale is already lower than they’d like it to be and they don’t want to see it get lower.
- They’re happy with the weight they’re at, but unhappy with their body fat percentage.
In my experience, this seems to be more of a guy problem, although it’s definitely an issue girls deal with too. But usually you’ll see a guy of average height (say 5’9-6’0) who is maybe 150-160lbs or so. They want to gain muscle and get bigger, but at the same time, even though they are fairly skinny right now and weigh less than they’d like to, they’re still not as lean as they’d like to be.
Basically, in a shirt they appear skinny and small and like they probably don’t have much body fat on them. But take that shirt off and you’ll see a nice amount of belly fat covering the six pack they wish they had.
And so they have a dilemma. They want to get leaner and see their abs, but they don’t want to lose any more weight and get smaller overall. How do they do it?
I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first look at the other similar problem.
Problem #2: I Want To Gain Muscle Without Gaining Weight
If the first problem is usually a bit more common among men, then this problem is usually a bit more common among women. Although again, guys deal with it too. And that is, when you would like to build more muscle, but you’re happy with your current body weight and don’t want it to increase any further.
This might be because:
- The idea of watching your weight go up (usually after you worked so hard to make it go down) doesn’t sit so well with you mentally/emotionally.
- You have some kind of “goal weight” in your head that you are happy with, and that’s the weight you want to be at when you have your ideal body. You don’t want to exceed it.
- And then there’s the always fun issue many women have, where they want to build some more muscle in all the right places, but the reality of actually adding X pounds of muscle “weight” to their body scares them (ya know, because they’ll get “big, bulky and manly“).
Basically, you’re happy with your weight, but unhappy with the amount of muscle you have.
So once again there is a dilemma. You want to get more muscular and build some more lean mass, but you don’t want to gain any more weight. How do you do it? Let’s find out.
The Solution To Both Problems Is…
It’s actually pretty easy, and the solution is identical in both cases. The way to lose fat without losing weight and gain muscle without gaining weight is… you don’t.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s a tiny fact that people with these goals seem to forget or just not understand in the first place.
And that is, muscle and fat both weigh something.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that if you add or remove weight to or from something, the overall weight of that “something” (which in this case is your body) has to change.
So the people who want to lose more fat without losing any more weight are gonna have a tough time. It’s going to be pretty hard to drop 5lbs of fat from your body without seeing a 5lb decrease in your body weight. The same goes for the people who want to gain 5 more pounds of muscle, but don’t want to see their weight go up any further.
Now I know the average skinny-fat 160lb guy who still has fat to lose in order to see his pretty abs doesn’t want to hear that he’ll need to get into the 150s in order to reach the level of leanness he desires (maybe even the 140s!), but sorry… you will.
You just don’t have enough lean mass on your body right now for you to be that lean at a higher body weight.
And I know the average 120lb girl who is finally happy with her weight but would love to add another 5-10lbs of muscle to her body doesn’t ever want to see their weight on the scale go back up higher and higher week after week. But, like it or not, you will.
You just can’t gain the muscle you want to gain without this happening.
But Wait, Aren’t You Forgetting Something?
This is the point where you’re supposed to think I’m just some idiot who is overlooking a very simple and obvious way of solving these problems.
Supposed Solution #1
To lose fat without losing weight, a person would just need to gain an equal amount of muscle at an equal rate. Duh! So for example, if a person could lose 1lb of fat per week while simultaniously gaining 1lb of muscle per week, their weight wouldn’t change and they’d successfully solve this problem.
In theory, this is 100% correct. And in a magical fantasy world, this is how it would always work. But in reality, it’s just not going to happen.
The average rate of muscle growth is significantly slower than the average rate of fat loss. So unless you plan on losing fat about 5-10 times slower than you easily could or should, then you will damn near ALWAYS lose fat MUCH faster and MUCH more consistently than you will ever gain muscle.
And having this conversation in the first place assumes that losing significant amounts of fat while building significant amounts of muscle AT THE EXACT SAME TIME is even possible. With a few rare exceptions (mainly fat beginners, people regaining lost muscle and steroid users)… it’s not. More here: Losing Fat And Building Muscle At The Same Time
So while the idea of losing fat while simultaneously replacing that lost weight with muscle at the exact same rate and in the exact same ratio is a beautiful one… it’s also one that just isn’t realistic.
So if you want to get leaner, you’re just going to have to accept that your weight will need to decrease for it to happen. If you’re unhappy with your weight at that point, focus on building more muscle.
Supposed Solution #2
The same thing applies to the people thinking they can gain muscle without gaining weight as long as they just lose an equal amount of fat at the same time.
Now this idea again suffers from the same issue as before, which is that most people just aren’t going to be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time (especially at anything close to an acceptable and tolerable rate). But in this case, there’s another issue preventing this theory from becoming reality.
Many of the people looking to add muscle to their body without their weight increasing are often already quite lean and happy with their current body fat percentage. Meaning, there’s just no more fat left for them to lose to counterbalance a gain in muscle.
So how exactly does a person who doesn’t want to lose any more fat go about gaining muscle without gaining weight? Simple… they don’t. So if you want to add more muscle to your body, you’re just going to have to accept that your weight will need to increase for it to happen.
Choose Your Goals Wisely
Like I said at the very beginning, there are all kinds of reasons for why people fail to reach their diet and exercise goals. The easiest way of all is by setting a goal that either isn’t possible or is just so completely unlikely that it might as well be impossible.
And in all honesty, trying to lose fat or gain muscle while your weight stays exactly the same are perfect goals to set if you enjoy spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.