How To Build Muscle, Lose Fat, And Improve Performance: The Ultimate Nutrition Guide

Image that shows the 5 nutritional priorities: calories, macronutrients, food composition, nutrient timing, supplements.

Let me guess…

You spend hour after hour, week after week, month after month, year after year in the gym.

And you still don’t look like you want to look and your lifts are nowhere near where you want them to be.

Yet you put in so much effort.

The good thing is that you already have the discipline to actually work out consistently. You only need to adjust a few things with your nutrition and training to improve your body, strength, and confidence.

Up for that?

The reason you’re still weak and look unimpressive is probably because you haven’t followed a training and nutrition program that actually works.

Throughout your year, you should be using muscle building phases, fat loss phases, and maintenance phases to get the best results.

In this article, I will give you the exact framework you can use to divide your year into different phases, and you’ll learn how to build muscle, how to lose fat loss phase, and how to improve your performance so you can build the body you imagine.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

The Nutritional Principles: Learn How to Build Muscle, Lose Fat, and Improve Performance:

Image that shows the 5 nutritional priorities: calories, macronutrients, food composition, nutrient timing, supplements.

Listen.

Any successful endeavor should be based on principles, and that includes nutrition.

If you want to learn how to gain muscle, or how to lose fat, first you need to understand the nutritional principles behind a successful diet.

Once you’re aware of what the principles are and how they rank in order of importance, you’ll easily be able to set up your own diet, and you’ll know what to focus on and what matters.

There are 5 nutritional principles:

  1. Calorie Balance
  2. Macronutrients
  3. Nutrient Timing
  4. Food Composition
  5. Supplements.

They are listed in order of importance, with Calorie Balance and Macronutrients accounting for over 80% of a successful diet.  If you can only focus on a few things, focus on these two principles.

Cool?

Let’s start with the most important principle when it comes to diet success:

Principle #1: CALORIE BALANCE

Now, let’s talk about calorie balance.

Calorie balance refers to the ratio between the number of calories you consume and the number of calories you use on your daily activities. Think of it as the amount of energy you take in versus the amount of energy you use by moving around.

Input VS Output.

There are three states of calorie balance, and you can only be at one at any given time.

Image that explains calorie balance.1) Negative Calorie Balance (or Hypocaloric State):

Negative Calorie Balance is when you consume fewer calories than what you use to fuel your activities.

This means you are creating an energy deficit.

A negative calorie balance ALWAYS leads to weight loss because the body has to make up for the deficit by breaking down other tissues for energy (fat or muscle).  If your training and nutrition are on point you’ll lose fat and not muscle.

If you’re in a negative calorie balance, you can do ANY diet out there, and you’ll still lose weight.

Most of the diets out there that actually work do so because they place restrictions on your life that force you into a negative calorie balance. Like cutting out a food, or only allowing you eat within a time window every day. 

If you understand nutrition and its principles, you can do a diet that doesn’t place any crazy restrictions or force you to completely cut out foods and you’ll still lose weight by placing yourself in a negative calorie balance.

2) Calorie Balance (or Eucaloric State):

Calorie balance is when you consume the same amount of calories than what you use to fuel your activities.

In this case, you’re eating the same amount of energy you’re using. Therefore, you’re in calorie balance.

This state always leads to maintaining your bodyweight and is the best option if improving performance is your #1 goal.

Short-term weight fluctuations can happen, but on average, you’ll maintain your bodyweight over weeks, and months.

3) Positive Calorie Balance (or Hypercaloric State)

Positive calorie balance is when you consume more calories than what you use to fuel your activities.

When you do this, you create a calorie surplus.

That means you’re feeding your body more food than it needs.

The extra calories you’re feeding your body are stored in the form of muscle, fat, and glycogen.

A positive calorie balance ALWAYS leads to weight gain – and if your training is on point, most of the weight will be muscle.

Principle #2: MACRONUTRIENTS

Image explaining what macronutrients are.

Macronutrients refer to the sources you get your calories (energy) from: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

What do you do after you know your calories? You divide those calories into protein, carbs, and fats.

Let’s talk about each macronutrient, and their degree of importance when it comes to achieving your best body composition:

1) Protein (contains 4 calories per gram)

Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to body composition and health.

Your muscles are literally made out of protein, so you need to consume enough of it to either build more muscle or maintain the amount of muscle you have now.

Feeding your body enough protein is crucial, both during fat loss diets to prevent the breakdown of your current muscle tissue, and during muscle gain diets to build new muscle.

Research suggests that around 0.8 grams–1 gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight is sufficient to cover your needs, and there doesn’t seem to be any additional benefit from consuming more protein after this. [1] [2] [3]

2) Carbohydrates (contain 4 calories per gram)

When it comes to body composition and strength, carbohydrates come in second place.

If you eat sufficient protein, but not sufficient carbs, you’ll be like a greased-up car with no gasoline: you’ll go nowhere. [1]

Carbs will provide the energy you need to have great workout sessions.

The general rule is that the longer and more intense your session is, the more carbs you’ll need to go through it and to recover from it.

Here are two reasons why carbs matter when it comes to performance:

  • Glycogen Is The Best Fuel For Your Workouts: During intense training sessions, your body uses this thing called glycogen as its fuel source. Glycogen is a form of carbohydrate that is stored in the muscles and liver.

    If your glycogen levels are low prior to a training session, you’ll probably struggle to complete it with high performance.

    Glycogen is depleted during intense training sessions, and the best and fastest way to replenish it is by consuming carbohydrates.

    Glycogen allows you to train hard, not only in one session but over time. And hard training is what causes your body to adapt, grow, and get stronger.
  • Insulin Grows Muscle: Carbohydrates spike insulin levels in the blood. The more carbs you eat, the more insulin you secrete into the bloodstream.

    You can think of insulin as a bus that takes amino acids (protein) and delivers them to your muscles, which helps them recover and grow stronger and bigger from workout sessions.

    It seems that when you combine weight training with sufficient protein intake and high insulin in the bloodstream you’ll benefit from growing more muscle.

    Sadly, insulin is also anabolic to fat, so if you excessively consume carbohydrates, you run the risk of gaining fat.

    But don’t worry about this. We’ll get more specific into how many carbs you actually need later in the article.

3) Fats (contain 9 calories per gram)

Fats play a very important role when it comes to regulating some hormones in the body.

Several studies have shown that when your fat intake doesn’t meet the minimum required amounts, some hormones are negatively affected.

One of them is testosterone, which seems to decrease if you don’t consume enough fat. [1] [2]

I’m sure you know how important testosterone is for strength training, body composition, and health in general.

You don’t want low testosterone levels in your body.

It seems like consuming somewhere around 0.3–0.5 grams of healthy fats per pound of bodyweight is enough to promote health and to cover your basis, and there doesn’t seem to be additional benefits from consuming more than this.

Principle #3: NUTRIENT TIMING

Image of a timer.

Nutrient timing refers to how you distribute your proteins, carbs, and fats around your day and your training sessions to optimize your recovery and body composition.

Generally speaking, you want to allocate:

  • Your proteins evenly throughout the day.
  • Most of your carbohydrates around your workouts.
  • Most of your fats and fibers as far away from your training session as possible.

Why?

1) Your muscles need a steady stream of protein throughout the day to recover and to repair the damage.

2) Carbohydrates provide energy and help with recovery, muscle retention and muscle growth, and you want them as close to your training as possible so that they provide energy for your workouts and improve your recovery.

3) Fat and fiber are very difficult to digest and by consequence delay the delivery of nutrients to your muscles, which ends up negatively affecting the recovery process if you consume them close to your workouts.

Also, consuming fatty foods too close to the workout window might cause stomach distress, which might cause you to puke during intense training sessions.

No bueno.

In summary, spread your protein evenly throughout the day, eat most of your carbs around your training, and eat most of your fats and fibers as far away from training sessions as possible.

Principle #4: FOOD COMPOSITION

Food composition is a very small detail when it comes to creating a successful diet. It literally represents around 5%, so unless the other three priorities are not under control, you shouldn’t even worry about it.

That being said, if you do have the other priorities under control and you want to take it one step further, then you can start prepping your meals based on the composition of the food you eat.

Let’s talk about protein composition:

Image of different animal proteins.

It refers to the quality of the proteins you ingest.

Generally, animal proteins rank higher than plant-based proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids, whereas for plant proteins you need two or more to get all the essential amino acids. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve a great physique on a vegan diet. You totally can, but it would probably be a bit better if you consumed animal proteins.

Lean animal protein are at the top of the list, along with whey protein and egg whites.

Carbohydrates composition:

Image of different carbohydrates

Carbohydrate composition mostly refers to the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how fast a food increases blood sugar and insulin levels. The higher the GI, the bigger the spike in blood sugar and insulin.

Carbohydrates with high glycemic index are digested faster than ones with lower GI.

The closer you get to the workout window, the higher the GI of the carbohydrates you consume should be, and the farther you get from your workout the lower the GI of the carbohydrates you consume should be.

Here’s a list of carbs and their GI:

  • Dextrose 100
  • Gatorade 80
    Bananas 65
  • Honey 60
  • Brown Rice 50
  • Skim Milk 30
  • Peanuts 5

What about fat composition?

Different fats: avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Fat composition refers to the quality of the fat source. There are four types of fats:

  • Monounsaturated fats: olive oil, avocados, canola oil, and nuts. They are the healthier option and most of your fat intake should come from these sources.  
  • Polyunsaturated fats: this type of fat is mostly found in grass-fed animal meat and fatty fishes. A large part of your fat intake can come from polyunsaturated fats.
  • Saturated fats: eggs, dairy, bacon, meats, coconut oil. It’s recommended that you also use saturated fats as part of your diet.
  • Trans unsaturated fats: the unhealthiest type of fat, mostly used in baked or fried foods. You should largely avoid them.

Principle #5: SUPPLEMENTS

Supplements are meant to SUPPLEMENT your diet.

Please, remember this:

The other four nutritional principles should be COMPLETELY under control before you even think about adding supplements to your arsenal. You’d be wasting money otherwise.

Supplements WILL NOT do a thing for you otherwise.

Yep, that’s right.

There are only a handful of supplements that have been tried and tested over the years. Those can help you get bigger and stronger legs, and a better physique overall.  

I’m not going to talk about the supplements that don’t work because it’s outside of the scope of this article. New powders and magic potions come out every day and they promise MAGICAL fairy-tale transformations – and they are all bullsh#t.

That said, let’s talk about what supplements actually work:

1. Creatine

Creatine already occurs naturally in the human body.

The more you have of it in your body the longer you will be able to exert maximal efforts during training. Let’s say you can squat 225 for 8 reps. With creatine you might manage to squat it for 11 reps.

Creatine helps improve performance, muscle retention, and muscle growth. However, some people experience stomach distress when taking it. If that’s your case, you have two options: quit it, or deal with the distress.

What creatine should you buy? There are some creatines with fancy names out there, but there are no studies that show those work better than regular creatine monohydrate, so just stick to monohydrate.

Recommended dose: 5-10 grams per day.

2. Whey Protein

Whey protein is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, digesting and highest quality proteins out there. Given how fast you can digest it, it makes a great post-workout supplement.

3. Carb Supplements

Carbohydrate powders spike insulin, which helps with muscle growth. They are great to consume post-training to help with recovery, growth, and glycogen repletion.

No need to get fancy here. Gatorade powder will do the trick.

4. Caffeine

Caffeine will allow you to train a bit harder, it’ll increase your tolerance for pain slightly, and it will blunt your hunger.

Caffeine is a great supplement when you’re on a fat-loss diet. Consider taking caffeine if you have long, hard workouts and you’re feeling tired.

A triple-espresso 10-20 min before training will do the trick.

Should You Lose Fat or Gain Muscle?

Alright, now that you know the five nutritional priorities, let’s look at how to use them to create a custom diet for you.

First things first. You need to have a body composition goal.

Every time I ask a new client:

“What’s your #1 goal with nutrition and training during the next three months?”

The answer is usually something along the lines:

“I want to gain muscle, lose fat, and get stronger.”

That’s not one goal.

Those are three goals, and you have to pick ONE.

Here are some guidelines that will help you decide:

Goal #1: Should You Lose Fat?

Losing fat is what most people want.

If you look at yourself in the mirror and can’t see your abs, then it’s probably a good idea for you to focus on losing fat for the next couple of months.

A side effect of weight loss diets is that, at some point, your performance might suffer because you’ll place yourself in a negative calorie balance.

Hence, why it’s really hard to improve performance while losing fat.

This is temporary though.

Once you stop the fat loss diet and increase your calories, you’ll quickly get all your performance back, and you’ll be at lower levels of body fat and bodyweight.

Goal #2: Should You Gain Muscle?

When you’re on a muscle gain diet, three things will happen (assuming your training is on point):

  1. You will gain muscle
  2. You will gain fat.
  3. You will get stronger.

Before you start a muscle gain diet, you MUST be lean.

By lean I mean that you can clearly see your abs in the mirror. Otherwise, you’ll become frustrated because your body fat levels will only increase on a muscle gain diet.

Every time I work with clients, I make sure that before they start a muscle gain diet, they’re lean enough so that they feel comfortable putting on some extra fat.

If right now you can’t stand the thought of adding more fat to your body, then you should first focus on losing fat before starting a muscle gain program.

Either way, you need to be willing to put on a bit of extra fat for a period of time while you’re gaining muscle. Later on, when you lose that fat, you’ll look freaking AWESOME.

If you look more like me on the left, focus on gaining muscle.

Whereas, if you look more like fat me (on the right), then focus on losing fat.

Goal #3: Should You Maintain Your Weight And Focus on Performance?

If all you care about is performance, then your best route is to maintain your bodyweight with a maintenance diet.

During a maintenance diet you’re not trying to alter your bodyweight.

You’ll eat enough food to promote performance and recovery without adding or losing tissue.

When you train for long periods of time on a maintenance diet, it’s very likely that you’ll get some body recomposition.

Meaning you’ll lose some fat and gain some muscle.

Recommended length of a maintenance phase: as long as you wish.

Planning Your Year: Muscle Gain Phases, Fat Loss Phases, and Maintenance Phases

Whether your goal is to improve performance or just look better, you should think about splitting up your year into muscle gain, fat loss, and maintenance phases to get the best results.

Having dedicated phases of muscle gain and fat loss will allow you to build your dream body.

This chart gives you a very simple framework you can use to divide your year:

How to divide your year with different diet phases.
Aim to start your muscle gain phase at around 10% body fat, so if you’re not at these body fat levels yet, then you should alternate between fat loss and maintenance phases until you reach at least 10% body fat.

Once you’re at 10% body fat, then you could start a muscle gain phase (red line) where you will slowly gain weight for 3 months until you get yourself up to ~15% body fat.

Then it’s time to enter a 3-month long maintenance phase. This will help your body get used to the new muscle, and the chances of keeping that muscle during a fat loss phase will be higher.

Then move into a 3-month fat loss phase to get your body fat levels low again, and finish your year with a 3-month long maintenance phase, after which you can start over.

Repeat this process for a couple of years, and every 12 months you’ll be leaner, stronger, and more muscular.

Tools You Will Need to Run Successful Fat Loss, Muscle Gain, or Maintenance Phases


In order to do this diet successfully, you’ll need two tools:

  • A bodyweight scale.
  • A food scale.

Make sure you have those available before you start your diet.

Your Maintenance Calories: The Starting Point of a Muscle Building, Fat Loss, or Maintenance Phase

As you already know, calories are king.

So step number one, whether you’ve decided to lose fat or to gain muscle, is to figure out the number of calories you need to maintain your current bodyweight.

There are complicated formulas you can use to calculate your caloric intake such as the Harris Benedict Equation (which we will cover in a bit).

I took the liberty and did all the complicated calculations for you, and the chart below gives you the average caloric needs for different bodyweights.

Maintenance Calories for different bodyweights.

Your individual needs might differ a bit from the number on this table (depending on your age, gender, and activity level).

This will be your starting point. Later on in the article I will explain how to modify this caloric intake whether to gain muscle, lose fat, or maintain your weight and improve performance.

IMPORTANT: if all you want to do is maintain your bodyweight, you can just use the calories in the chart above for as long as you wish.

How Much Protein, Carbs, and Fats Will You Be Eating?

We’ve come a long way, my friend.

This section will be the foundation for either your fat loss, muscle gain, or maintenance diet, so DON’T SKIP THIS.

Now that you know your maintenance calories, let’s break them down into your macros.

The ratio of protein/carbs/fats will be the following:

  • Protein: 1 gram per pound of bodyweight (4 calories per gram).
  • Fats: 0.3 grams per pound of bodyweight (9 calories per gram).
  • Carbs: the rest of the calories (4 calories per gram).

Macronutrients per bodyweight.

This table gives you the recommended macros for all bodyweights. Write down yours or take a screenshot. We’ll use these numbers later to set up either your muscle gain or fat loss diet.

Turning Your Macros Into Actual Meals

For the sake of keeping this article simple, I’ll only convert the amount of every macro into 4 meals per day.

It’s really up to you to decide how many meals you want to do, but in general 3-6 meals is what’s recommended.

Why?

You want to feed a steady stream of amino acids from protein to your muscles throughout the day.

Alright, let’s break down your macros into meals:

Macros for a 4 meal per day nutrition plan.

All you need to do is eat the amount of protein, fat, and carbs that correspond to your bodyweight four times per day.

Also, I created this tool which allows you to input your info (bodyweight, calories, and number of meals), and it’ll tell you how many macros are needed per meal.    

To track your macros intake you can use an app. I like MyFitnessPal.

Recommended Foods: Your Grocery Shopping List

So now that you have your diet ready, it’s time to go out there and buy groceries.

Recommended list of groceries.


Stick to the recommended foods in this table, and when preparing your meals, make sure you’re varying the foods.

Get creative, and have fun!

Tracking Your Bodyweight

When you start this diet, whether for fat loss, muscle gain, or maintenance, you need to stick to it for a minimum of two weeks before making ANY changes.

The reason is that you’ll probably have some bodyweight fluctuations due to water loss or water retention, and you need to give your body a bit of time so that your weight stabilizes.

The easiest way to decide whether you need to modify your diet or not is by tracking your bodyweight.

How to track your bodyweight:

The only way you’ll know what’s happening with your diet and your body is by tracking your bodyweight.

This is where the bodyweight scale comes in handy.

You need to know whether the starting diet makes you maintain your weight, lose weight, or gain weight.

And you will do that by weighing yourself 3 times a week first thing in the morning (as soon as you get up from bed), and calculating a weekly average.

You can weigh yourself on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as soon as you wake up, before using the restroom.

Then at the end of the week, average out the numbers. After two weeks you’ll know if the diet is making you gain weight, lose weight, or maintain.

Here’s a spreadsheet you can use to keep track of your bodyweight.

How to Build Muscle: The Diet

Before and after picture of a 15 lbs muscle gain difference

192 lbs vs 204 lbs

Recommended length of muscle gain phase: 8-12 weeks

Recommended weight gain per phase: 5% – 10% of your bodyweight per phase.

Before we dive into the ins and outs of setting up your muscle gain diet, let’s talk about five cool things that happen when you train and eat to gain muscle:

  1. Your metabolism accelerates — The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn while resting – which means you get to eat more food :-). One pound of muscle burns 6 calories per day, whereas a pound of fat only burns 2 calories per day. [1]
  2. Your bones get thicker, your joints get stronger, and you become more of a badass in general — As you age, you tend to become weaker, more fragile, and your metabolism slows down. A great way to avoid these age-related effects is to carry a lot of muscle mass.
  3. You’ll look better naked when you get leaner — When you gain muscle, you also gain fat – that’s just way it is. But once you get rid of the fat and get to show off your new muscle, you’ll look amazing. Even if all you want is to be really ripped, the more muscle you carry the better, and the more defined you’ll look at lower body fat levels.
  4. Your potential to get stronger will increase — If you like lifting heavy, then you should probably focus on building muscle for at least 1–2 years. The more muscle you carry the stronger you can get in the long term.
  5. You’ll become more useful in general — There are two kinds of people, the ones that can get the lid off of the jar, and the ones that ask for help. Which one will you be?

Most people, especially women, are scared of gaining muscle because they think they’ll get too “big” or “bulky.” But the reality is that gaining muscle is really hard, harder than losing fat, and it gets harder the older you get.

So if you’re scared of getting too big, you can relax. It will not happen, even if you try really hard.

Gaining muscle will only make you stronger and look more awesome, so if you’re against looking sexier, you can stop reading now.

Otherwise, read on.

How to Build Muscle: Recommended Gain Rates

When you start a muscle gain phase, ideally you want to gain as much muscle and as little fat as possible.

And that is possible, my dear grasshopper. But keep in mind that you will ALWAYS gain some amount of fat.

So let’s look at how you can minimize fat gain during a muscle building diet:

  1. Start your muscle building phase already lean (at least at 10% bodyfat).
  2. Gain around 0.25%–0.5% of your bodyweight per week.  This allows for noticeable changes in the amount of muscle you carry, and will keep body fat levels low.  
  3. Gain between 5%–10% of your bodyweight per phase (the more advanced you are, the less you should try to gain).

Optimizing Your Diet for Muscle Gain

You’ll start your muscle building diet with your maintenance diet, which we defined above. Here it is again so you don’t have to scroll up.

Macros for a 4 meal per day nutrition plan.

As mentioned above, you’ll stay on the maintenance diet for a minimum of two weeks and you’ll track your bodyweight.

What to do after the first two weeks of your muscle gain diet?

Glad you asked. A few things can happen:

  1. You maintain your weight.
  2. You lose weight.
  3. You gain weight.

What to do if you maintain your weight?

If after the first two weeks, you maintain your bodyweight, then you need to add more calories.

You’ll start by adding 300 calories (of carbohydrates), and then tracking for another two weeks.  

What to do if you lose weight?

If you lose weight, then you need to add more calories as well.

However, this time you’ll add 500 extra calories.

What to do if you gain weight?

If you gain weight at the desired rate, then stay with the diet until you stop gaining.

If you gain at a higher rate, then decrease 300 calories from your daily intake, and measure your bodyweight for two weeks.

Finishing a Muscle Gain Phase

A muscle gain phase should last around 12 weeks.

If you go less than 12 weeks, it will probably not be enough to make significant gains, and if you go longer, then you’ll probably end up adding too much body fat.

To end a muscle gain phase, you need to reduce your caloric intake back to maintenance levels.

In order to do this, you will start subtracting calories from your total intake. Start by subtracting 300-500 calories and tracking your bodyweight for two weeks.

Repeat as many times as needed until your bodyweight stabilizes.

Don’t embark on a fat loss diet right after a muscle gain phase because you’ll probably lose most of the muscle you gained.

Muscle Gain Dieting Tricks

Muscle gain phases are really cool because you get to eat A LOT.

The problem? Sometimes a lot is too much.

And you can actually get sick and tired of eating too much food.

The main trick is to consume low-volume foods with high amounts of each macro per gram.

For example:

High Glycemic Index Carbs

There’ll be a point when you have to eat so many carbs that you’ll get a bit sick, especially if you try to consume nothing but “healthy” carbs.

A hack for those times when you have to consume a big meal of carbs is to use high glycemic index carbs because they have a higher concentration of carbohydrates per gram than any other carb.

Kids cereal is a great choice. It contains a high concentration of carbohydrates per gram, so the amount you’ll have to consume to hit your numbers will be less than if you eat white rice or fruits.

For example, if you want to eat 100 grams of carbs, you can do so by consuming either 1250 grams of strawberries or 120 grams of Froot Loops.

Froot loops

Eating 1250 grams of strawberries might leave you feeling full for the rest of the day, whereas anyone can eat 120 grams of Froot loops and have another meal a couple of hours later.

How to Lose Fat: The Diet

Recommended length: 8-12 weeks

Recommended weight loss: no more than 10% per fat loss phase.

Alright, alright, this is probably what you’ve been looking for.

Most people (90%) just want to lose fat, and I’ll assume that you’re probably among them. Who doesn’t want to be leaner, right?

If your main concern is improving your body composition (more muscle, less fat), then you should use fat loss phases as primers to muscle gain phases.

As you already know (if you read the sections above), when you gain muscle you also gain fat, so the leaner you are before starting a muscle gain phase, the less fat you’ll gain.

Cool things that happen when you lose fat:

  • You look better naked: well, duh! When you lose fat your muscle will be more noticeable and you’ll look better with no clothes on (you’ll also become a sex machine).
  • You’ll prime your body for a muscle gain phase: leaner people gain more muscle per unit of weight gained than fatter people, so when you get lean your body is primed to start a muscle gain phase.
  • You’ll get healthier: generally, lowering your body fat levels will make you healthier (unless you drop to crazy-low-bodybuilding-show body fat levels). Most people can improve their health by getting themselves to somewhere around 10%-20% body fat.
  • You’ll become more confident: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be confident if you have high body fat, but you’ll inherently get more confident if you have a ripped body. It’s just human nature.

Now, not everything is good and sweet with fat loss phases. There are a couple of caveats that I need to mention:

  • Your performance is likely to decrease: a fat loss phase requires a calorie deficit, so if you perform at your best while eating 2800 calories per day, and suddenly you drop to 1400 calories, it’s very likely that your performance will decrease for the duration of the fat loss phase.
  • You’ll become a turtle: your body is designed to save energy for survival (back when we were nomads our main goal was survival), so when you drop your calories you’ll start moving less unconsciously. It’s your body’s defense mechanism against famine.
  • You might feel like you’re starving all the time: did I mention your body doesn’t like losing weight? Ol’ stubborn body wants to stay the same no matter what. It’s normal to feel hungry, like really hungry, during a fat loss diet.  Be aware of it.
  • You might become a zombie: for some reason when you run a fat loss diet, it gets hard to get a  good night of sleep. The longer and harder you diet for, the worse you’ll sleep. This is one of the reasons to limit your fat loss to no more than 12 weeks.

Whew!

Now that we got the pros and cons of fat loss diets out of the way, let’s look at how to run a successful fat loss phase.

How to Lose Fat: Bodyweight Changes

When running a fat loss diet, you want to lose as much fat as you can while preserving as much muscle as possible.

If you go crazy and start losing a bunch of weight too fast, then you’ll lose muscle –which sucks – and you don’t want that because muscle is REALLY hard to gain.

Let’s look at the general fat loss recommendations to preserve the most amount of muscle and to lose fat sustainably:

  1. Aim at losing between 0.5%–1% of your bodyweight per week (if you’re a larger individual that needs to lose A LOT of weight, it’s okay to lose a bit more).
  2. Don’t try to lose more than 10% of your total bodyweight in a single diet phase (if you’re a larger individual that needs to lose A LOT of weight, it’s okay to lose a bit more).
  3. If you’re losing less than 4% of your bodyweight per fat loss phase, that’s too little.
  4. Run a maintenance phase after every fat loss phase that’ is at least the same duration as the fat loss phase.

Optimizing Your Diet for Fat Loss

You’ll start your fat loss diet with your maintenance calories, which we defined above. Here it is again so you don’t have to scroll up.

Macros for a 4 meal per day nutrition plan.

As mentioned above, you’ll stay on the maintenance diet for a minimum of two weeks and you’ll track your bodyweight.

What to do after the first two weeks?

As you already know, three things can happen after you run your maintenance for two weeks:

  1. You maintain your weight.
  2. You lose weight.
  3. You gain weight

What to do if you maintain your weight?

If after two weeks of running your maintenance diet, your bodyweight stays the same, then you need to eat less calories.

In this case subtract 300 calories from your maintenance calories, and run the new diet for another 2 weeks while tracking your bodyweight.

Repeat if needed.

What to do if you lose weight?

Awesome! Stay with this diet until your weight loss stalls.

What to do if you gain weight?

You need to eat less.

Subtract 500 calories from your maintenance calories and run the new diet for another two weeks while tracking your bodyweight.

Repeat if needed.

Finishing a Fat Loss Phase

A fat loss diet should last somewhere between 8–12 weeks.

If you try to go for more than 12 weeks, the phase will get detrimental due to the low caloric intake, and you’ll enter a point of diminishing returns.

To end a fat loss phase, you need to bring your calories back up until your bodyweight stabilizes.

You will do that by adding 300-500 calories to your diet and tracking your bodyweight.

Repeat as many times as needed until your bodyweight stabilizes.

If you dieted for 8 weeks, then you need to be at maintenance for at least 8 weeks before embarking on another diet. This will help you recover psychologically and physically from dieting.

You’ll probably get big cravings after you finish a fat loss diet. Don’t give in.

It’s really easy to put all the lost weight back on.

Fat Loss Dieting Tricks

These are just some tricks that will make fat loss phases easier to deal with:

1. High-Volume Foods

You will get hungry during a fat loss diet.

What’s cool about that? Well, honestly, not much.

But, luckily, there are plenty of foods that have a low macronutrient content per gram. That means that you’ll need more of certain foods to get your macros in.

For example:

If you want to eat 10 grams of carbs, you can either eat 125 grams of strawberries or half of a granola bar. Which one do you think will leave you feeling fuller?

The strawberries of course.

100 calories worth of strawberries vs 100 calories in a granola bar

Another example is egg whites. To get 20 grams of protein, you need 200 grams of raw egg whites. Whereas 100 grams of raw chicken breast will give you around 20 grams of protein.

So when you’re on a fat loss phase and struggling with hunger, make sure most of your meals consist of high-volume foods.

All Hail the Veggies

Veggies will become your best friends during fat loss phases.

What’s good about veggies? They have tons of volume and very few calories so they will leave you feeling full. Like really full.

So if you’re struggling during a fat loss phase because your hunger is too out of control, increase your serving of veggies, and you’ll feel better.

Coffee for the Win

Some people call it unicorn’s blood, but that’s a bit mean. Nobody wants to hurt unicorns to drink their blood.

I like to call it liquid gold. Coffee is AWESOME.

And it’s even more awesome during fat loss phases.

Why?

It blunts hunger, it gives you energy, and it has a slight fat-burning effect.

If you’re struggling with energy or with your workouts during a fat loss diet, just chug on a double Americano and you’ll be good to go.

IMPORTANT: drink black coffee with artificial sweeteners. Don’t get crazy and order triple pumpkin spice lattes with 10000 calories per serving. Cool?

Training for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

Okay, by now you should already have a diet plan either for fat loss or muscle gain, so it’s time to talk about your training.

The cool thing? The training is the same for both fat loss and muscle gain.

You’ll have to focus on hypertrophy training. This consists of moderate weights, lots of reps (8-18 per set), and lots of sets (12-24 per week per muscle group).

Why?

During fat loss phases your body becomes a catabolic machine, meaning it will break down tissue (ideally fat), but it can also break down muscle for energy (which sucks).

When you train for hypertrophy you’re basically telling your body that it needs to preserve the muscle. Doing low volume strength phases is not recommended while you’re running a fat loss diet – you’ll lose muscle.

During muscle gain phases your body becomes an anabolic machine, meaning its main goal will be to store the extra calories coming in. Ideally you’ll store them as muscle, but you can also store them as fat (ewwww).

When you train for hypertrophy, you’ll be telling your body that you need to gain muscle, so ideally you’ll gain more muscle than fat.

How To Be The Coolest Person At The Gym

Being lean is cool.

Being lean and strong is cooler.

Being lean, strong, and muscular is way cooler than cooler.

Don’t be one of those people who spend years going to the gym and still looks the same. Commit to doing what it takes to improve your body composition and your health.

If you’re investing time in it, you might as well do the best possible job. Stop half-assing your workouts and your nutrition and start following a plan that will get you results.

Just imagine how you will look with a bigger chest, bigger arms, bigger legs, or a bigger booty (ladies). Or all of them.

Your confidence will go up. You’ll get stronger. You’ll look better. Your bones will get thicker, you’ll become more useful in general, and you’ll probably need a new wardrobe.

You will become a better version of yourself.

 

2 thoughts on “How To Build Muscle, Lose Fat, And Improve Performance: The Ultimate Nutrition Guide”

  1. This is pure gold! Thanks for posting and making it so in-depth. I’ve been trying to achieve fat loss for the last year and a half, but I’ve mostly maintained my body weight, gained strength, and shed a little bit of fat (not the six-pack results I was looking for). I have reduced the inches on my waist considerably (from 40 inches to 34!) but still have a stubborn layer of fat that just won’t go. BUT, I stumbled into fat loss dieting by accident, increased my caffeine to maintain energy (ON Amino Energy to the rescue), and I stuck with hypertrophy, and over the last 4 weeks started getting much better results. Just downloaded your guide and I’m gonna stop half-assing it!

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