Should I lose weight before building muscle?

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If you are new to strength training you may have many questions. However, there is one question in particular that we see a lot; Should I lose weight before building muscle? Let’s dig in.

We think the best thing here, would be to discuss how you build muscle first..

What is muscle building?

Muscle building refers to an increase in muscle. As a result, this will cause your weight to increase too.

How to build muscle?

We don’t want to go into too much detail so we do not go off track. However, in order to gain muscle mass, you will need to eat at a caloric surplus. This means that you will need to eat more calories than the amount of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight.

On top of this, you will also need to lift heavy weights. Also, every couple of weeks you should increase the weights you lift in order to build bigger muscle and so on and so on.

That’s it, as your muscles grow, you will need to increase your daily calories to keep up with your muscle growth. The more muscles you have the faster your metabolism becomes. Therefore, you will need more calories. Check out our macro nutrient calculator to calculate your calories!

How many calories should I eat to build muscle?

Calculate your maintenance calories and then increase those calories by 15%. For example, if my maintenance calories are 2000 x 0.15% = 2300 calories per day. We believe this is a moderate technique which will ensure to build muscle and minimise fat increase. If you’d like to be a little more aggressive, we suggest increasing your maintenance calories by 400-500 calories.

If you’d like all of this calculated, check out our macro nutrient and calorie calculator. It is a FREE tool to use and it will do all the calculations for you.

Should I lose weight before building muscle?

If your goal to tone up? Or maybe to build muscle with minimum fat gain? Whatever you goal is, you’d need to do one or the other. You shouldn’t try to build muscle and lose weight at the same time as this only slows your progress.

How quickly would you like to achieve your goal?

The fastest way to grow muscle and shed fat is by growing your muscles first. You need to build the muscle first to speed up your metabolism. In turn, this will make shedding fat stage seem like a piece of cake.

You need to set yourself a realistic goal though. Depending on how big or how toned you wish to get, will determine the amount of time it will take. If you just wish to tone up, then you won’t need longer than approximately 12 weeks. If toning up is your goal, we would suggest consuming 100-200 calories more than your maintenance calories.  However, if you wish to do it properly, give yourself approximately 6-12 months. Spend the first 6 months gaining muscle, and then shed fat for the following 1-2 months.

Why build muscle before losing weight?

Building muscle first sets you up for a GREAT start and success! Why? Well, 1lbs of muscle burns approximately 60 extra calories at rest per day. So, think about it. An average person will lose approximately 150 calories during sleep. Whereas, if they had muscle, they would be able to burn SO MUCH MORE!

This is the main reason why you should build muscle first; speeds up your metabolism.

Now, that we have discussed what will happen if you build muscle first, let’s take a look at losing weight first.

What will happen if I lose weight before building muscle?

How to lose weight?

In order to lose weight, you’d need to eat a caloric deficit. This means that you’d need to eat less calories than the amount of calories your body requires to maintain your current weight.

This brings us to your question.

SO, why should I build muscle before losing weight?

As mentioned previously, growing muscle is truly of great importance. The main drive of weight loss is a caloric deficit, and muscles make it so much easier to create a bigger caloric deficit by speeding up your metabolism. If you are scared you will grow too muscular, don’t worry. Unless you are a man or a woman who takes steroids, your hormones will not let you get huge.

Once you gained muscle, your body will be burning more calories at rest than normally. This will help you be in a bigger caloric deficit and drive weight loss. As your metabolism speeds up, this will also help you maintain your weight loss.

Of course, for the first few months you’d have diverted from your main goal of getting toned. But once you have built enough muscle and you are happy with what you have, you can then decrease your daily calories in order to shed the fat that may be covering your muscles.

What if I gain muscle but not lose fat?

Let’s say you have started your workout regime and notice “I’m gaining muscle but not losing fat”. Well, the only way to gain muscle is to eat at a caloric surplus. When you consume at a caloric surplus, you’ll gain muscle and body fat. It is impossible to eat more than what your body requires to maintain your weight, and gain muscle only. If you exercise regularly and do progressive overload (increase weights every 2 weeks), then you will gain more muscle than fat.

Unless you are new to the gym, it is almost impossible to gain muscle and lose weight at the SAME time. You need to first focus on one thing and then another. If you try to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, your progress will be very slow.

You need to be patient, and accept the process, concentrate on the end goal. When you shed your fat and your get that lean physique you have been waiting for.

What if I can’t exercise regularly?

We would suggest having a slight increase to your calories rather than an aggressive one. If you eat too much and you are not able to exercise as regularly as you should, then you will gain more fat.

What if I lose weight before building muscle?

If you lose weight first, and your goal is to tone up. You can increase your calories by approximately 50-100 calories per week (reverse dieting) in order to build lean muscle.

However, as you increase those calories, you are at a bigger risk of gaining the weight back due to your suppressed metabolism. If you still choose to lose weight first, be careful and monitor your body changes.


Build muscle first and then lose weight. You will not look as pretty doing it but you will get better and faster results. You will be able to build your muscle and shed fat MUCH easier if you choose to go this way.


Building muscle will allow you to burn more calories at rest, creating a bigger caloric deficit for you to lose weight later. Therefore, once you have built enough muscle, you can reduce your calories by a small amount and let your metabolism take care of the rest.

By doing it this way, you will avoid bringing your calories to crazy low amounts, like 1200 calories per day. Not only, this will be difficult to adhere to but also, your hormones will start playing tricks by increasing your hunger. This is also how people also gain weight after dieting.

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