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Losing Weight or Gaining Muscle Mass: Which Comes First and Why

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Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is the philosopher’s stone that anyone seeks to improve their body composition. Over time we realize that the optimal thing is to focus on one and then the other. The doubt comes when we have to choose what to do first: lose fat or gain muscle.

Beginners in strength training can lose fat and gain muscle mass at the same time for a limited time . Also some exceptional cases endowed with enviable genetics. However, it is normal for fat loss processes to alternate with other periods of hypertrophy.

Reasons to lose fat first and gain muscle mass later.

We need less time to lose fat than to build muscle mass.

Depending on your fat percentage, it is recommended to lose more or less weight per week. A range between half a kilo and one kilo of weight is usually the general recommendation , varying depending on our initial weight. As a result we can lose between two and four kilos per month. To gain those kilos of muscle mass we will need much more time.

Increasing muscle mass is “easier” if we start from a low fat percentage

Our body has a more suitable environment to build muscle mass if the body fat percentage is low . Some authors recommend not exceeding 18% fat in men and 28% in women since the effectiveness of our system to develop muscle mass may be reduced .

The explanation corresponds to the hormonal and metabolic environment that differs from subjects with athletic percentages of body fat to those with excess fat. Even training and eating the same thing, the body will respond more efficiently if those fat levels are not high.

We will be more motivated if we see ourselves better in the mirror.


By simply losing fat we will look bigger, despite having the same muscle mass as when we were more covered. If we are able to first lose enough fat to look good in the mirror and then gain weight in a controlled manner, we will have a lot to gain.

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On the contrary, if we start covered up we will look worse and in a short time we will think about changing volume for definition . To avoid this, we can solve this problem before it appears and stay in volume for longer.

By seeing ourselves with little fat we will really know what our muscular state is.

In many cases you can see large people who seem to have a good muscle base, but after a stage of fat loss they lose many more kilos than they expected. Once we are at that low point of fat, we can develop a plan to increase muscle mass , really knowing where we are starting from.

All of the above only applies if we have excess fat.

In some cases there are very thin people with little fat who want to lose that “love handle”, but who already have low levels of fat. In these scenarios, it is advisable to start directly with a long stage of controlled volume , to avoid reaching high fat levels too quickly.

During the bulking stage we will always accumulate fat. The important thing is that we increase the maximum amount of muscle mass possible with the minimum fat gain . That way we will see well in the mirror, our metabolic environment will be our ally, we will know what our muscle status is and the subsequent stage of fat loss will be shorter.

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This content is based on scientific research and written by experts.

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1,2,3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific researches.



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