Can you gain muscle and lose weight at the same time?

If you've recently started a workout regimen, you may have wondered if it was possible to gain muscle as you lose weight. The good news: If you're new to exercising, then you're going to naturally do both at the same time if you do the right kind of training, combined with eating healthy foods. The bad news: The fitter you get, the tougher it is to lose those last few pounds of fat while growing muscle.

Losing fat while gaining muscle is a bit of a contradiction: One requires a deficit of calories, while the other requires enough fuel to build. You'll need to be careful with your caloric consumption. Too few calories, and your body will struggle to put on muscle, and your metabolism will be negatively affected as well; too many calories, and your body will continue to hold on to those stubborn fat stores. And when you eat matters. Focus your carbohydrate consumption around your workouts for the most benefits, while ensuring that throughout the day, you're eating plenty of lean protein (via Verywell Fit).

What kind of exercise should I do?

High-intensity interval training and strength training are likely the two best places to focus as you try to lose weight while gaining muscle. For lean muscle while burning calories quickly, high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is the best option. One study found that incorporating HIIT workouts along with plenty of protein allowed men who were eating at a large caloric deficit to continue to grow their lean body mass (muscle) while losing weight (via Insider). And strength training with heavier weights is the simplest way to gain muscle, when done gradually and regularly (via Nerd Fitness). 

Other lifestyle factors like sleep, in addition to good nutrition and regular, consistent exercise are critical for achieving the difficult combination of fat loss and muscle gain. As you get closer to your goal weight, the tougher it will become to find the balance between healthy eating and training that gets you closer to your goal body composition, without overdoing it. Therefore, stick to the slow gradual approach and avoid crash diets (via Precision Nutrition). 

Lastly, remember that your body will ebb and flow. You likely will have some weeks where you see no change, and others where you notice shifts. Don't push too hard or too long in the gym, because progress isn't made by overtraining, it's made by training smart (via Verywell Fit).