weight loss

Weight Loss or Muscle Building – What Comes First?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Weight loss and muscle building are obviously two parts of an overall balanced regime aimed toward getting you to the body of your dreams. If you want to achieve an athletic physique and stay healthy year-round, you need to focus on both losing weight (or burning fat, rather) and gaining muscle.

But if you’re someone dedicated to losing weight, burning fat, and slimming down, whether you want to lose 5, 10, or 100 pounds, there’s always one question lingering that has kept both athletes and coaches up at night.

And that question is…

If you want to slim down, should you focus on weight loss or building muscle?

Like we said, muscle-building and fat-loss each have their unique place in a plan for achieving that body composition goal you’re after. That’s exactly why so many experts have been debating – which one should be your main focus point?

Here’s what you should know for starters:

Essentially, shedding pounds and burning off fat from your body (especially if it’s around your waist), has a couple of effects on the body.

  • First, it speeds up your metabolism.
  • Second, you’re able to withstand harder, more intense workouts due to the increase in energy capacity you’ll get over time.

Coincidentally, this also means you’ll have much more success in all your muscle-building endeavors. This is because building muscle also supports fat-loss due to the fact that muscles are some of the most metabolically active tissues in the body.

What this means is the more muscle you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. In other words, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’re going to be burning at rest – your body is going to use more energy to sustain the muscles in your body, translating into more muscle = more fat loss.

If you gain muscle, you lose more fat. If you burn more fat, you can then build more muscle as a result. So which one should you approach first?

Here are the two sides of the story:

The argument for focusing on cardio first for weight loss

Experts point to the fact that you’re likely going to be seeing weight loss results much faster than you will muscle gains. Furthermore, when you are initially revving up your body with strength training workouts, you can even see your weight go up a bit which can be extremely discouraging and point people away from the idea that muscle-building can come first.

And think about it – when you get leaner and slim down, your body’s natural hormonal balance basically paves the way for more effective muscle-building in the future (which is a result of better insulin sensitivity.)

Finally, when you’re focusing your efforts on losing weight first, you won’t be putting that much initial stress on your joints, making it easy to transition to strength training workouts only once you feel like you’re ready for the extra challenge.

To recap:

  • Cardio will help you see initial weight loss results faster
  • Weight loss training paves the way for better muscle-building results
  • Weight loss training puts less stress on your joints which is why it’s a good idea to start with it and move your way upward to more intense challenges

The argument for focusing on muscle building for weight loss

Starting your weight loss journey with a muscle-building routine has many pluses. Ultimately, the more muscle you build, the better and more optimized your metabolism and therefore the more effective your body becomes at burning fat.

Some experts recommend that if you were someone who wants to lose weight effectively and consistently, the best approach to do this is to start with a strength training circuit and up your protein intake.

Some studies have discovered that, out of a range of people who participated in high-intensity exercise, lifted weights, and kept a consistent calorie deficit, those who focused on consuming more protein lost almost 30 percent more fat (all while gaining as much as 8 times the lean muscle mass) than those who didn’t increase their protein intake significantly.

To recap:

  • Strength training is a great way to achieve a better overall body composition (and not just lose fat around the waist.)
  • Strength training boosts your metabolism and helps your body burn more fat in the long-term.
  • Regardless of whether you choose to start with muscle building or cardio training, increase your protein intake if you want better weight loss results.

What should you focus on for the best weight loss results?

At the end of the day, deciding whether to lose weight or build muscle first is down to personal choice. Ask yourself – what do you want? Do you want to drop 20-30 pounds with a consistent, sustainable routine? Then focus on weight loss. Do you want to just look amazing, become stronger, and have more energy throughout the day (while still burning fat?) Then go for strength training.

You really can’t go wrong with either of these types of training when it comes to losing weight and burning fat, but ultimately, it comes down to what you want to do and what you will find enjoyable enough to turn into a sustainable habit.

But now, you’ve become familiar with the pros of each type of training, and you can make a better, more educated decision on what’s best for you and your goals.

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