How to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Fast

Eating to Build Muscle Mass
A personal trainer can help.

There's no big secret to how to lose weight and gain muscle fast. Vitamin stores will sell you magic formulas and books will promise to let you in on the mysteries of muscle-building. You don't need secret strategies, though. You just have to do the work.

Fat vs. Muscle

If you're trying to figure out how to lose weight and gain muscle fast, crash diets with extreme calorie restrictions aren't going to be for you. When you lose weight by dieting, you lose both fat and muscle. Exercise can preserve the muscle you have and add to it. Choose a healthy diet and a vigorous exercise program, and your muscles will get stronger as your extra fat begins to shrink away.

Food to Build Muscles

To build muscles, you need to feed them. Proteins are your muscles' building blocks, which is why bodybuilders drink protein shakes to "bulk up." However, your muscles also need energy from carbohydrates, and they won't work as well without it.

The trick to losing weight and gaining muscle fast is to eat a balanced diet. You need a little extra protein to build muscles up, but not huge amounts. In fact, two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight marks the high end of athletes' protein needs. Without exercise, you need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight to keep the muscles you have. Many Americans already get more than that in our everyday diets. So those protein shakes, which can add hundreds of grams of protein, aren't necessary. In addition, all that extra protein can be hard on your kidneys.

Don't Cut Out Carbs

In spite of what some bodybuilders will tell you, don't cut out carbohydrates. Although proteins are important, it's the combination of carbs and proteins that actually allows muscles to grow.

Don't forget plenty of fruits and vegetables, plus lots of water to keep you hydrated. You need all your nutrients to keep your body running smoothly.

Counting Calories

Increasing your exercise can help you lose weight, even if you don't cut down on calories, because you're burning more calories each day. Odds are, once you start getting in better shape, you'll start paying more attention to what you eat, too. You'll notice that you feel better when you eat healthier foods. You might even find it easier to "tune in" to your body's signals about when you're hungry and when you've had enough.

If you need some extra guidance, the USDA's ChooseMyPlate has calculators to help you plan your caloric intake.

Building Muscle

Bulking up doesn't happen overnight. If you're willing to put the time and effort in, though, you'll begin to see results in just a few weeks. You'll also see those results without any magic powders or secret routines.

Here are some must-do's when you're trying to lose weight and gain muscle fast.

  • Start slow. Trainers say that they see a lot of injuries in people who try to do too much at once. Start with weights you're comfortable lifting. As you build up strength over time, add a pound or two more each time your reps start to feel easy.
  • Do it right. If you're not familiar with body-building exercises, invest in a session or two with a person trainer. Learn to lift weights properly so you won't get sidelined by injury.
  • Match your weight training to your goals. Heavier weights, with fewer repetitions, will bulk up muscles more than lighter weights with lots of reps.

How to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Fast: Not Just Weights

Weightlifting is a great way to build muscle, but it won't help you lose weight fast. If you're trying to get rid of extra flab, you need to add aerobic exercise, like running or biking, as well. Aim for at least three days a week, four or five if you can manage it. Again, start slow and work your way up. If you're really out of shape, start with short walks. Gradually add in a few minutes of running, then work your way up to running a mile or two. It's a good idea to check with a doctor before you start any exercise plan, to make sure you're healthy enough to exercise.

Stay Off the Scale

Muscle weighs more than fat. Advice on how to lose weight and gain muscle fast often includes the suggestion to stay away from the scale. Better measurements are how you look and how your clothes are fitting. If you're succeeding in your plan, you should be losing inches off your waist and gaining inches on your biceps no matter what the scale shows.

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How to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Fast