Gaspari Nutrition

Ron Harris

Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat

Happy New Year everybody! I hope you all enjoyed New Year's Eve safely.

Let's start the new year off with a couple very common questions I get that are clearly on the minds of many lifters out there.


"I was curious and was wondering if I could get some insight. I'm about 190 pounds and 15% body fat. I'm looking to lean up, but would like to gain some muscular weight. Lean mass, I'm at 165 pounds. Would you recommend enough calories for me to gain mass and not be too concerned about gaining new body fat, or should I reduce my calories to cut some fat and then start adding calories to build muscle? Thank you very much for any help you can offer.

Tim P."


This is the age-old question from those who are neither as big nor as lean as they would like to be - which pretty much encompasses all of us! Should you lose the fat first and then bulk, or keep bulking and get lean later? Really, it doesn't matter which goal you attack first, so long as you do choose one to focus on. There are 3 unique situations in which it's possible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, and they are:

1) A person just starting out. The shock of weight training is so traumatic to the body that it will struggle mightily to adapt to the new stress. That means you can add muscle mass even while eating fewer calories than you will ever be able to make gains on again in your life. Novices to training, unless they make a conscious effort to eat massive amounts of calories, typically do get bigger and leaner simultaneously for at least a few months.

2)A person regaining previously existing muscle mass. It is far easier to regain muscle size that you had in the past than it is to gain fresh new muscle tissue you never had before. Often when a person stops training for periods of months or even years, they will revert back to the size they were before they started training. Obviously, the longer you have been training and the larger you are, the longer it will take to lose that size. But 'muscle memory' is a very real phenomenon. I have seen many cases where a person gets back into training and starts eating clean again, and within a few short months becomes much bigger and leaner.

3) A person using HGH. These drugs not only promote muscle growth and fat loss (HGH does that), they also prevent you from losing muscle mass while getting lean. In fact, many of the 'old school' bodybuilders of the Seventies didn't even use HGH year-round. They mainly used them in the roughly 12 weeks leading up to a competition, during which time they would get bigger and leaner every week. Just as a small example, Arnold 'only' weighed about 220 pounds most of the time when he was Mr. Olympia. He stayed lean and athletic for much of the year, then would show more definition and size in the weeks leading up to the big show, where he would weigh anywhere from 235 to 245 pounds.

So to answer your question, if you are still a relative beginner, I would recommend cleaning up your diet and attempt to lose fat while continuing to build muscle mass. If you're past that stage, choose one goal. If you want to lose fat, you will have to take in fewer calories than you expend (caloric deficit). If you want to gain muscle, you will have to take in more calories than you expend (caloric surplus). Very simple math!


I know you're extremely busy and I appreciate your time. I prefer to train 4 days a week, Monday-Tuesday-Thursday-Friday. I really want to give my delts priority cause they are lagging and I'm not sure how to set up a split to keep from overtraining them with chest and triceps. Thanks again for your time.

Bart C.


I trained for many years on that same schedule and liked it a lot. It gives you three full rest days a week, plus you never have to train on weekends and can spend those doing other things with friends and family.

Whenever you are trying to give a lagging bodypart priority, there are a couple very simple rules to follow. One, always train it after a complete day of rest so that you will have maximum energy and enthusiasm to devote to it. And two, if a complete day of rest the day after isn't possible, then be sure you aren't training anything the next day with 'overlap.' For example, if I were training shoulders today, I would not want to work chest tomorrow. I probably wouldn't even train back if I could swing that, because the traps are involved in both shoulder and back exercises, as well as the rear delts. So with that in mind, this is the way I would arrange your split:

Monday: Shoulders and biceps

Tuesday: Legs

Thursday: Chest and triceps

Friday: Back

This has you working shoulders after two full days of rest, so you should be fully charged and ready to rock. Nothing in the upper body is worked the following day, so your shoulders can rest and recover until they are called on to assist in your chest workout 72 hours later. After that, the rear delts will get a bit of ancillary work with back, but then you have another 72 hours of full rest where they can recover and grow.

Good luck!

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