Mission Impossible: Build Muscle And Burn Fat At The Same Time

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
August 10th, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
66.3K Reads
Mission Impossible: Build Muscle And Burn Fat At The Same Time
Is it possible to build muscle without gaining fat and burn fat without feeling scrawny? Read on for the secret weapon that helps you get a shredded physique!

Building muscle and losing fat at the same time is a goal for most gym-goers seeking a better physique.

Whether you want to gain a sizeable amount of muscle or shred up, you never plan to pack on the fat or lose muscle. The cards sometimes seem to be stacked against you.

An impossible mission?

Not entirely. It can be done with some planning, self-discipline and persistence. It’s not a walk in the park, however. Just like in the movies when Ethan Hunt takes on challenge after challenge, the impossible always ends up being possible.

How To Gain Muscle and Lose Fat Simultaneously

The “how” is important. Again, you will need an ample supply of patience and a little faith in the program in order to be successful. Carbohydrate cycling will be your secret weapon. You will go from several low carb days to higher days throughout the week while keeping your intake of proteins and fats in check.

The low days will initially burn fat while preserving muscle. Once you get to the point where your metabolism, mood, and fat-burning start to take a nosedive, you will reintroduce replete amounts of carbs back in. This higher intake only lasts for a day or two – just enough to crank start you back into fat-furnace mode and filling up your muscle energy stores.

Cycling this way will prevent muscle loss and keep your adipose-destroying engine going.

Carb Cycling Macros

1. Start With Protein

Make sure you are taking in at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of desired bodyweight. This can be increased to 1.25 or even 1.5 grams per pound, but start in the lower range for now. Great protein choices can include lean chicken, turkey and red meat, low-fat dairy such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, whole eggs, whey protein powder, and fish.

Build Muscle And Burn Fat At The Same Time - Consume plenty of protein

2. Choose Healthy Fats

No longer the falsely-accused villain, fats are essential while dieting. Not only can they replace a low-carb intake for energy, they also serve many hormonal functions while on a low-calorie eating plan. Start with about .60 grams of fats per pound of desired bodyweight. Opt for oil-based dressings, avocado, all kinds of nuts, natural nut butters, and the yolk in whole eggs.

3. Cycle Those Carbs

Here’s your secret weapon in action. On low days you will go with about .75 to 1 gram of carbs per pound of desired bodyweight, for moderate to high days go with 1.5 to 2 grams per pound and on highly intense training days go with 2.5 grams. Now, this isn’t a green light to have a high carb day several days per week. Use the high days only for those times when you are feeling especially weak, rundown, and exhausted from training.

Sample Training Week with Carb Cycling

Day Training Carb Intake
Monday Strength training Low/moderate carb
Tuesday Strength training Moderate carb
Wednesday Cardio Low carb
Thursday Strength training Low carb
Friday Intense strength training High carb
Saturday Rest or cardio Low carb
Sunday Rest or light activity Low carb

Notice Monday is low to moderate for the simple fact that you will have had 2 low days over the weekend and may be in need of a little energy boost. Also, the high carb day may be an intense lower body training day.

Complete Line of Dymatize Supplements

The Mission Impossible Diet Plan

The following diet plan is for a 200 pound lifter looking to lose fat and build muscle with a goal weight of 180 pounds. Low carb days are set at 135 grams, for moderate carb days go with 270 grams, and for high days shoot for 450 grams.

Low Carb Days

Meal 1
  • 3 eggs and 4 egg whites or 1.5 scoops of whey protein powder
  • ½ cup oatmeal (dry measure)
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
Meal 2
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1.5 oz almonds
Meal 3
  • 6-8 oz meat, fish, or chicken
  • Green salad with 2 tbsp olive oil dressing, veggies, and 1 oz sunflower kernels
Meal 4 (pre-workout)
  • ½ of an apple
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder mixed with water
Meal 5 (post-workout)
  • 2 scoops of whey protein powder mixed with water
Meal 6
  • 6-8 oz meat, fish, or chicken
  • Broccoli, green beans, peas, or green salad with ½ avocado

Moderate Carb Days

Meal 1
  • 3 eggs and 4 egg whites or 1.5 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 1 cup oatmeal (dry measure)
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
Meal 2
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 oz almonds
  • 1 piece of fruit
Meal 3
  • 6-8 oz of turkey with two slices Ezekiel bread, 1 slice of low-fat cheese, mustard, tomato
  • Green salad with 2 tbsp of olive oil dressing, 1 oz sunflower kernels
Meal 4 (pre-workout)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder mixed with water
Meal 5 (post-workout)
  • 2 scoops whey protein powder mixed with water
  • 8 oz Gatorade
Meal 6
  • 6-8 oz meat, fish, or chicken
  • Broccoli, green beans, or peas, or salad with ¼ avocado
  • 1 cup of wild rice cooked

Build Muscle And Burn Fat At The Same Time - Carb cycling meal plan

High Carb Days

Meal 1
  • 3 eggs and 4 egg whites or 1.5 scoops whey protein powder
  • 1.5 cup oatmeal (dry measure)
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • ½ tablespoon of natural peanut butter
Meal 2
  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 oz almonds
  • 1 piece of fruit
Meal 3
  • 6-8 oz fish
  • Green salad with 2 tbsp olive oil dressing
  • 1 ½ cup of wild rice cooked or medium sweet potato
Meal 4 (pre-workout)
  • 1 banana or apple
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder mixed with water
Meal 5 (post-workout)
  • 2 scoops whey protein powder mixed with water
  • 12 oz Gatorade
Meal 6
  • 6-8 oz meat, fish, or chicken
  • Broccoli, green beans, or peas, or green salad with ¼ avocado
  • 1 medium sweet potato or 1 ½ cups of wild rice cooked

The Mission Impossible Training Plan

Try the following fat-fighting, muscle-building training plan to go with the diet plan above. It’s fast, intense, and designed to work every aspect of your physique: speed, strength, power, muscle, and endurance. Perform each workout once per week such as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Exercises notated with both numbers and letters (e.g., 1a. Chin-Ups and 1b. Dumbbell Press) are to be performed as a superset. For these, complete the reps for exercise "a" immediately followed by the reps for exercise "b" before resting and completing the prescribed number of sets.

Build Muscle And Burn Fat At The Same Time - Box jumps for power

Begin with some foam rolling and/or mobility work: Roll major areas for a few minutes. Also, be sure to stretch out major joints such as hips, glutes, hamstrings, and lumbar. Just go with light stretches to get some mobility.

Get dynamic: Do a quick dynamic warm-up. 1 or 2 rounds of the following exercises should do it:

Exercise Reps
Full-Range Bodyweight Squats 20
Burpee to Push-Up 10
Walking Lunges 10 (each leg)
Floor Crunches 10
Jump Squats 10

Post-workout: be sure to perform a comprehensive stretch routine focusing mostly on the areas you worked that day.

Day 1: Speed and Strength
Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (in seconds)
1a. Neutral Grip Chin-Up 1x12 3x8-12 --
1b. Flat Bench DB Press 1x12 3x8-12 60
2a. Barbell or DB Shrug -- 3x8-12 --
2b. Hyperextension -- 3x8-12 60
3a. Floor or Decline Bench Crunch -- 3x15-20 0
3b. Hanging Leg Raise -- 3x15-20 0
Sprints (at least 20-30yds) or 5-10sec on a stationary machine 3 min. slow jog 5 rounds all-out effort 120
Timed Shuttle Run (at least 10yds) or sled push or farmer's walk -- 5 rounds all-out effort 60-120
End with 3-5 mile jog at a steady pace (optional)
Day 2: Strength and Power
Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (in seconds)
1. Plyo (hand clap) Push Up 1x10 3x5-8 30
2. Explosive DB Flat Bench Press (explode up and slow on the way down) -- 3x5-8 60
3. Single-Arm Kettlebell Clean and Press 2x12-15 3x5-8 60
4. Explosive Bent-Over DB Row (explode up and slow on the way down) 1x12 3x5-8 60
5. Jump Squat or Box Jump (generate maximum power!) 1x10 4-5x10 30
6. 3-way Plank: alternate from side, middle, to other side without rest - 10 sec each -- 1 set alternating every 10 sec --
Sprints (at least 20-30yds) or 5-10sec on a stationary machine 3 min. slow jog 5 rounds all-out effort 120
Day 3: Strength and Muscle Gain
Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (in seconds)
1a. Incline Bench DB or Barbell Press 2x12 4x5-8 --
1a. Wide-Grip or Reverse Grip Pull-Up -- 4x5-8 60
2a. Inverted Rack or TRX Row -- 3x10-15 --
2b. Feet-Inclined Push-Up -- 3x10-15 60
3. Barbell Back or Front Squat 3x8-12 4x5 120
4. Barbell or DB Romanian Deadlift or Lying Leg Curl 1x12 4x5 120
5a. Hanging Bent-Knee Leg Raise -- 3x15-20 0
5b. Bicycle Crunch -- 3x15-20 0
End with 2-5 mile jog at a steady pace
Day 4: Muscle Gain and Muscular Endurance
Exercise Warm-Up Sets Work Sets Rest (in seconds)
1. Bulgarian Split Squat 2x12 4x10 (each leg) 30
2a. Standing Barbell Shoulder Push Press 2x12 4x10-15 --
2b. Dumbbell Upright Row 2x12 4x10-15 60
3a. Standing Barbell or EZ Bar Curls 1x12 4x10-15 0
3b. Parallel Bar Triceps Dip or Diamond Push-Up 1x12 4x10-15 0
4a. Push-Up -- 3x15-20 0
4b. Single Leg Calf Raise with Dumbbells -- 4x15-20 0
5a. Incline 3-way Sit-Up -- 3x15-20 0
5b. Lying Leg Raise -- 3x15-20 0
6. Sled Push or Farmer's Walk -- 3 lengths 60

Complete Line of Dymatize Supplements

19 Comments
Ryan
Posted on: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 16:51

Hi Brad,

I am curious how you arrived at these recommendations for protein. 1g per pound of body weight seems high.

Corey
Posted on: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 04:33

Just started this workout, looking forward to seeing the results I get. I like that it covers all areas.

Samii
Posted on: Wed, 09/30/2015 - 08:59

Hi Brad Borland
I am interested to try this routine, but i want to tell you that i am 160 pounds & i want to get shredded , any advice about the diet plan ?

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Thu, 10/01/2015 - 10:50

Hi Samii. Just lower the amounts of the macronutrients by 15 to 20% or so. Start there and then adjust were necessary.

A.D.
Posted on: Mon, 09/21/2015 - 21:01

Hi Brad. I am really interested in this routine and I am looking to lose fat while maintaining and possibly increasing my muscle. Should I consume a daily calorie count of 1500 with a gram per pound of protein and reduce the overall amount of carbs and fat as specified in the diet above?

Thanks!

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Tue, 09/22/2015 - 15:06

Hello. Well, 1500 is a bit low. You really need to base your caloric intake on how much you weigh.

Johnny Fisher
Posted on: Tue, 08/18/2015 - 15:28

I have a question I would like to try to gain 10 pounds would I still use 1 gram of protein per pound of desired weight or is that only if I want to drop some weight?

Thanks

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Wed, 08/19/2015 - 11:18

That would be desired weight either way you go. So, add 10 more grams. Thanks!

Ehab
Posted on: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 06:06

Very good article Brad as i follow most of your article but i have a question if i wanna replace protien shake after and before workout with any natural thing as i had just finished chemotherapy from Lemphoma so i afraid that supplements may be the root cause for it.

Pls advice me as i know that your are a survivor like me.

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Mon, 08/17/2015 - 23:00

Hey man! Good luck with your recovery.

You could easily replace supplements with Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, deli meat, skim milk, tuna fish in water, just to name a few.

TJ
Posted on: Tue, 08/11/2015 - 23:18

Really nice article Brad.

Would you recommend increasing fat intake for someone who works a physically demanding job? I would say its about a 5-6 on a scale of 1-10. Im thinking fats because the slower digesting calorie dense healthy fats would better carry me from meal to meal better where as more carbs would defeat the purpose of carb cycling and would "burn out" of my system faster. What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks for the great read.

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Wed, 08/12/2015 - 09:19

Hi TJ. You could try that. An important thing to remember is that everyone processes carbs and fats a bit differently. You may do well by increasing fat intake. But just be careful not to overdo it. Fats have around 9 calories per gram while carbs have around 4 calories per gram. So, it's easy to eat too many.

Scotty
Posted on: Tue, 08/11/2015 - 09:21

Might have to try this out but one question.. As i see most meals plans are built around someone going to gym around 5-6 pm, what about someone like myself who workouts first thing in the morning? Would I eat breakfast wait an hour, have a pre workout meal hit the gym then post-workout meal? Or wake up have pre workout meal, hit the gym, post work meal then wait an hour or so to have meal 1? Just looking for a good way to approach it.. Thanks

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Tue, 08/11/2015 - 18:10

Hi Scotty. Yes, most of these programs/diets are built around the 5-6pm workout. However, I will be featuring some early morning plans very soon.

To answer: It depends on how early you are up and how soon you want to hit the iron. A good rule of thumb is to get something small in your stomach upon waking and then have a post-workout meal and/or breakfast after training.

You could wake up, drink a tall glass of water, a whey protein shake and a small piece of fruit to get you going. After 30 minutes or so you will be good to go.

Stay tuned on Muscle & Strength for some early morning info...

M&S Team Badge
MikeWines
Posted on: Mon, 06/06/2016 - 13:04
Mike
Posted on: Sat, 06/04/2016 - 12:35

Hi Brad,

You said you will be posting an article about those of us who go to the gym first thing in the morning. I haven't been able to find it, would it be possible to share a link?
I usually get up around 5:30-6 and get to the gym about 30-40 mins later and don't eat anything until after my workout when i have my protein shake and breakfast. So i am just curious to how you have adapted the plan for an early morning workout.

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Mon, 08/10/2015 - 13:24

Let me know if you give it a try...

Kev
Posted on: Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:42

I regularly workout at 5am (Mon,Tues,Thurs,Fri) usually just go with a shake before if anything, however after I'm never sure if I should fats and protein or carbs and protein after?? Any advice?

M&S Team Badge
BradBorland
Posted on: Thu, 08/13/2015 - 17:08

I would go with protein and carbs to help replenish your energy stores.