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Should You Lose Fat or Build Muscle First?

So, you’ve decided to go through a body transformation. You’ve got your eye on the prize, you’re striving to forge the ultimate physique. The one you’ve always wanted but just never quite attained.




You’ve completed the hardest step already -- deciding to make the change to fitter, healthier, and more enjoyable life.


The next decision you, and many of our people face, is how to begin your body transformation -- burn fat or build muscle?


In this article, we’ll give you some of our best tips to help you decide whether you should bulk or cut first,


Should I Build Muscle or Lose Fat First?


The answer to this question is a bit more complicated than just the shape of your current physique. Things such as age, training experience, and history of dieting come into play.


For instance, if you’re someone who is just coming off of an extreme dietary protocol (i.e. a fad diet) that had you only sipping lemon water and eating kale salads everyday, the last thing your body needs is to remain in a calorie deficit. It likely needs a break whereby you eat at maintenance calories for a week or two before adopting a properly constructed fat loss phase.


All that being said, there are a few times where the answer of whether you should burn fat or build muscle first is a bit clearer.


If you are an experienced male over 15% body fat or female over 23%, you can choose to build muscle first. Just realize you may put on some body fat too.


If you’d rather not exceed these body fat percentages, you should consider burning fat first.


If you are an experienced gym rat who has considerable amounts of weight to lose (e.g. 20-30 pounds overweight), the answer is pretty cut and dry -- burn fat.


If you are new to the gym with little muscle mass and a moderate amount of body fat (i.e. skinny fat), just focus on training hard for the next 6 months while eating at maintenance. YOU, my friend, will be able to take advantage of the phenomenon known as “newbie gains” whereby you’re able to more or less build muscle and lose fat at the same time. This can happen due to the simple fact that you are new to weight training and your body will make some amazing changes during your first six months of diligent training.


If you are new to the gym, have a considerable amount of body fat to lose (20-30 pounds) along with little muscle mass, your best bet is to focus on burning fat.


Now, this means you’ll reduce your daily calorie intake to create a negative energy balance and create the optimal environment for fat loss.


At the same time, you’ll also be training hard in the gym, and, since you’re a newbie to the life of lifting, you’ll also be able to build some muscle, even while you’re in a calorie deficit thanks once again to the phenomenon of newbie gains!


The Bottom Line on How to Approach Your Body Transformation


At the end of the day, a number of factors need to be considered before you decide whether you should build muscle or burn fat first during your transformation.


If you are a gym newbie or have never really followed a structured training program before, you can likely pull off a “recomp” where you build muscle and lose fat simultaneously.


However, if you are a seasoned gym rat, you will likely need to choose one goal or the other. If you are a guy well above 15% body fat or a girl well above 23% body fat, you will want to focus on burning fat first. If you’re in the 12-15% body fat for men or the 20-23% body fat for women, you can focus on building muscle first.


Whichever route you choose, just realize that 1UP Nutrition is here to help you regardless if your goal is to burn fat or build muscle. We’re committed to helping you achieve all of your health and fitness goals, and that’s why we’ve created a versatile arsenal of high-quality supplements specifically tailored to meet your needs where it be fat loss, muscle building, or everyday health and wellness.


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