With most of my clients, the primary goal for them is to change their body composition. But with that question comes another; should you focus on weight loss or muscle gain first? In this post, we’ll go over both paths’ benefits and some strategies to try.
Deciding between weight loss or muscle gain first really depends on the individual. They each big unique benefits. An easy rule of thumb is to pick a healthy weight for your age and height, now you must either lose or gain weight until you reach that weight.
That’s not all though! Keep reading for some more strategies and pros and cons of weight loss or muscle gain first.
Pros and cons of picking weight loss or muscle gain first
Pros of Weight Loss First
Losing weight first is a pretty normal route to go down. There are benefits to doing so.
Faster Appearance change:
Typically, it is much faster to drop weight. The visual changes that 1 pound of fat mass has on the body are also staggering.
So if your goal is primarily appearance-based, then losing weight first might make you feel more accomplished and motivated to keep going.
Avoiding more fat gain:
It is a lot to ask to start eating healthily. If you decide to gain weight first and don’t manage to pick healthy foods then you could be asking for a steep increase in your total body fat.
By starting with weight loss first, you could learn the ins and outs of proper dieting without digging yourself into a big hole.
If you are looking for a little more specific help to lose weight at home check this article out:
Pros of Muscle Gain First
Increased Calorie Burn:
Muscle mass is a very needy tissue. Your body needs to use more calories to maintain is vs fat tissue.
By focusing on muscle growth first, you can put your body in a state that will burn more total calories throughout the day.
This means you can eat a lot more food!
Hunger is a very common big issue to deal with when dieting for weight loss.
Better body composition at a higher weight:
Let’s compare two body types. 130 and 150. Both have the same body fat %, so the 150-pound person has a significantly higher amount of muscle mass in the body.
So by focusing on muscle gain first, you can end at a much higher weight and look just as good if not better once you are ready to start losing weight.
3 Strategies to try for losing weight and gaining muscle
Now for the fun stuff, let’s go over 3 strategies you can use to help you decide whether you should focus on weight loss or muscle gain first.
Decide based on body fat percentage
An easy indicator to help you decide when it is time to start losing weight or gaining muscle is by keeping track of your body fat percentage.
You have various tools to measure, just make sure that you stick to the same device each time.
The idea behind this strategy is simple, decide on a body fat percentage that you don’t want to be higher than, and one you would like to not get below.
For this example, we’ll use 12% body fat as the minimum and 18% as the maximum. If you are at or above 18% body fat, then you should start losing weight.
If you are at or below 12% then it is time to start putting on muscle.
This strategy is nice because it gives you an exact number that adjusts with your weight.
Use Mini Phases
One very common dieting strategy that lifters use is incorporating mini phases into their routine.
This means alternating between mini cuts and bulks along the lines of about 2 weeks.
Starting with either is okay because you won’t be in that phase for long.
The idea behind this one is that you can avoid plateaus as well as work specifically towards body recomposition as you will spend short bursts losing body fat followed by gaining muscle.
This strategy is ideal for those who tend to fall off the wagon due to boredom or are afraid they might overdo a weight loss or gain phase.
Focusing on a weight number
The Final strategy you can use to help you decide whether you should focus on weight loss or muscle gain first is deciding on the ideal weight.
There are a few ways to do this such as BMI or just preference.
The idea is that you are aiming to balance losing weight and gaining weight without veering too far from your ideal number on the scale.
If you want to weigh 165 for example, you can lose weight if you are above that number or gain weight if you are below.