I'm a 5'10" male at 190 lbs. Some of this must be from muscle, but there is still a significant amount of fat I want to eliminate.

I'm doing StrongLifts 5x5, believing that it will give me the muscle and tone I want.

My previous workouts were endurance-based, but I did experience muscle growth even though I was eating 1900 calories with the occasional cheat meal. I believe that the gradual increase in the weight from the StrongLifts 5x5 method will eventually force my muscle to grow amazingly.

My main concern is fat. I have known for a long time that the human body is either in a catabolic or anabolic state. I now know that it's fruitless to attempt to try to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously. You can't grow muscle without at least maintenance calories, and you can't lose fat without a deficit. Unfortunately, I did not learn this lesson until recently.

This all being said, I really don't want to put on fat. I want to know if there's a way to build muscle on the days where I strength train, and cut fat on the days where I don't.

My TDEE calculates to 2200 (BMR 1800), so in order to gain muscle, I know that I need at least a 500 calorie surplus. I also know that if I want to lose fat, I need a deficit of 500 calories, according to this calculator.

My plan is to be in a calorie surplus on strength training days, and in a deficit on every other day. My question boils down to this: Is it possible for me to lose fat and build muscle by changing my calorie intake based on when I strength train that day?

I really don't want to gain fat in the process of building muscle, but if there's no other way, I just need to know. If I can't lose fat and build muscle simulataneously, I'll focus on building muscle by consuming 2700 calories per day.

  • 1
    This question has been asked before, but a couple of things worth pointing out here are as follows. 1 - 2200 TDEE seems low for a man of your weight who is also doing exercise, in the link you provided I would suggest looking at the light exercise option at minimum. 2 - You don’t need a 500 calorie surplus or deficit, it can be a 50 calorie surplus or deficit and still do the same thing (to a lesser degree). 3 - Alternating surplus and deficit days isn’t going to help, but being consistent will. 4 - You can certainly build muscle and lose fat at the same time, just not fast. Stick to your TDEE Commented May 18, 2018 at 16:40
  • get the muscle first, so that than that muscle itself will burn fat..... Commented May 30, 2018 at 6:03

3 Answers 3


I have good news for you. The age-old dichotomy "Either lose fat or gain muscle" is mostly debunked. Look here for the discussion of two studies that showed how participants increased lean body mass (LBM) while simultaneously losing fat by doing resistance training at a caloric deficit.

The key is to stay within a few hundred kcal below your actual TDEE. Now, no online TDEE calculator can possibly acknowledge all the specifics of your individual physiology and lifestyle, so the 2200 kcal you've been suggested are a mere starting point. What I recommend is that you regulate your daily caloric intake based on the changes in bodyweight so far. For example, if you strictly consumed 2200 kcal every day for a week, but the scale didn't move one bit, scrape off 50 kcal for the next week. Likewise, if you have a huge drop in weight (>1% of your bodyweight), you need to put a few more kcal on top of your daily intake. Here's a protocol that I've had good experiences with: http://www.powerliftingtowin.com/how-to-diet-for-powerlifting/

Probably the biggest issue for you will be to decide whether you should lose weight, gain weight or maintain it. This depends on how advanced you are as a lifter. Some examples:

  • If you just started Stronglifts and you followed the (imho inane) recommendation of starting every lift with an empty bar, you can safely aim to cut 0.5% weigth/week. You won't see significant hypertrophy when deadlifting 45 lbs at 190 lbs bodyweight anyways.

  • When you just hit the point where every lift requires you to put in effort, you actually start gaining serious lean body mass, the glorious "noob gains". Here it gets hard to decide whether you should aim for weight loss, maintenance or even increase. It's not uncommon for novice lifters to gain weight while still losing fat.

  • If you did it for quite some time and already hit one or two resets on every lift, your LBM increase naturally slowed down. Go for weight maintenance or aim for a conservative amount of % loss.

  • So what I think I read in the second study was that by increasing protein and decreasing fat while staying at a consistent 2200 calories (TDEE for sedentary lifestyle), I can effectively lose fat and gain muscle over time? Commented May 29, 2018 at 21:43
  • Sort of, yes. The 2200 kcal are a starting point. You need to constantly monitor your weight and your bodyfat% and need to make adjustments to that number as you progress. And despite what other answers say, it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously, not just for novice lifters. Scott Herman is an infamous broscience preacher. Commented May 31, 2018 at 14:46
  • Yes, I did notice that Scott didn't provide any sources beyond links to his own site. My plan is now this: Maintenance calories at 2200 each day, even days I don't strength train. If the scale goes up or down by 1%, I will increase or decrease by 100 calories; I may change this to 50 calories. When I hit the point where every lift requires effort, I will focus on putting on more calories by eating maintenance plus 250 calories. I believe this plan will be best. Thank you for the help! Commented May 31, 2018 at 15:03

Can't do the both at the same time...coz if ur in a caloric deficit and still take appropriate protein u would not have a positive nitrogen balance...this whole build muscle and lose fat at the same time is a big myth. Watch this video if you wanna be clear: https://youtu.be/eJYjkqaCnkg

  • The equation "protein synthesis - protein breakdown" basically means that it's impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? What about over time? Am I understanding correctly? Commented May 29, 2018 at 21:45

Building muscle and burning fat simultaneously is achievable. However, the progress is so slow that an individual mistake this steady gain with negligible progress. I would recommend you to subscribe to ATHLEAN-X Training System to accomplish this.

My answer is in accordance with this video.

For more details about this program, visit: http://athleanx.com

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