You CAN’T Build Muscle and Burn Fat at the Same Time!!

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to build muscle and burn fat at the same time? If so, this video will answer your question once and for all. In this episode of “AX JEFF”, Jeff Cavaliere and Jesse Laico will answer the viewer’s question about burning fat and building muscle at once and exactly how it works.

While many will argue that in order to build muscle, you have to be in a caloric surplus and that to burn fat, you need to be a caloric deficit. This is partly true. While you need to be in a deficit to burn fat; to build muscle, you are not looking at a surplus of consumed calories, but an energy surplus.

In order fuel muscle protein synthesis, your body can use stored body fat as it’s preferred energy source. The more body fat you have, the easier this is because you often times have a readily available source of this stored energy. Of course, the person looking to build muscle and burn fat at the same time has some body fat to lose!

There are some key elements of caloric intake that need to be done right in order to successfully burn fat and build muscle at the same time. There needs to be a caloric deficit from your maintenance levels, but people often fail by attacking this deficit too aggressively. Exceeding a 15% deficit is setting yourself up for failure. If you go above this amount in an attempt to speed up the process of fat loss, you will have far less control over limiting the supply of calories to body fat stores and likely start breaking down muscle in order to energize the process. This is definitely not good if you are looking to build muscle.

Speaking of building more muscle, we also know this will require you to increase your protein intake, but not as much as you think; I’ll get back to that in a minute.

It is also important to make sure you dial in your nutrition by removing the junk from your diet and introducing nutrient dense foods that will provide your body what it needs without the excess calories.

So, how much protein do you need in order to build muscle? While it has been traditionally said that you need 1 gram per lb of bodyweight, recent studies have shown that that number is about .8 grams per lb of bodyweight. While rounding up provides an even 1:1 ratio that’s easy to follow, a 20% difference makes an impact on your grocery bill as the amount of money you need to spend decreases by 20% as well.

Building muscle and burning fat doesn’t start and end with nutrition; training is a major factor as well. Most people think that simple cardio will be enough to burn fat, but I will argue that it is not necessary. What IS necessary is resistance training! Why? You can burn fat by remaining in a caloric deficit, but to build muscle, resistance training is required. However, cardio and conditioning are necessary parts of training to be a healthy, functioning human being.

It is also important to note that this sets you up for success because instead of cutting out 500 calories of nutrient dense food from your diet, you can cut 300 calories and burn the extra 200 from your training. That’s 200 calories you are saving worth of important nutrients, especially protein.

Now some might argue that the most effective way of burning fat and building muscle would be bulking and cutting, I am going to disagree. Yes, while a successful bulk and cut might be faster, the key word is successful. I would argue that for every successful bulk and cut, there are a million people out there who have failed at it.

Let me explain. What often happens during a bulk and cut is that people lack the proper nutritional discipline to successfully change their diet in order to cut. Thus, they stay in a perpetual bulk and continue to increase in size and body fat.

This leads to what I call “The Big Guy Lie”. That is, because they failed their original goal of burning fat, they decide that being lean is overrated and all that matters now is to be as big and strong as possible instead of achieving the goal they originally set out to achieve.

If you’re looking to have your question answered in a future episode of AX JEFF, leave a comment below and you just might be selected next.

If you are looking to build muscle and burn fat at the same time, our step-by-step training programs and nutrition plans will help you to achieve just that. You can check them out at and be sure to take our program selector quiz to find the workout plan that best suits your current goals.

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59 thoughts on “You CAN’T Build Muscle and Burn Fat at the Same Time!!

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    *NOTIFICATION SQUAD GIVEAWAY* – It’s back!! Alright guys, I’m giving away a complete 30 Day Workout program to 100 lucky clickers within the first hour this video is published! Remember, this is NOT THE FIRST 100, but those randomly selected within the first hour the video is published. Click the link to see if you’ve won. No strings attached!

    If you don’t win, no worries, you’re not going away empty handed. Just be sure you have your notifications turned on so you can get to my next video quickly and try again. Good luck and thanks for being a loyal subscriber…

    • Eshan K says:

      A question for the next time you do a video like this – a Q/A – My question: I have been training now for the last 6 years and I am interested in becoming a trainer. At my gym, all of the trainers have degrees in some science field – like biology, kinesiology, etc. Is it necessary I get a degree like that? Because I have a degree in business. What must I do to become a trainer? Thanks Jeff!

  2. Fred says:

    Anyone with half a brain has a serious brain imbalance, and need to do lots of face pulls to correct this imbalance.

  3. Street Bike Takeover says:

    You’ve definitely changed Jesse for the better he’s way more confident than he used to be. Love the content, Keep it up gentlemen

    • Shaun Duke says:

      Man …Geoff hasn’t even mentioned somatypes. So how do I know if this for me?

      If only he had a magic questionnaire…

  4. Calum O'Hanlon says:

    Jeff and Jesse:

    How strenuous is weight lifting to your joints and body over a long period of time? Can you lift your whole life without damage being done, and what supplements can help with joint stress? Is bodyweight training more sustainable long term?

    • Dave Baxter says:

      With proper load management, progressing smartly and not overtraining, it doesn’t matter what kind of resistance training you do. You can mess up load management with bodyweight (moving too quickly to a more intense progression) just as easily. And if you’re not progressing (sticking to a bodyweight exercise you’re already good at, over and over again) you won’t be stimulating your body to adapt to anything, and that also can turn into stress on the joints without any benefit.

      Variety, load management/smart progression, and consistency, regardless of where the weight comes from, is how you avoid issues both now and later.

    • JulienMV says:

      Same here please Jeff make a video on this we need to know how to train until we’re 80 years old 🙂

  5. j e says:

    I’ve lost inches on my waist while gaining inches on my arms. You can build muscle and lose weight. Jeff is 100% correct.

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