Bill Roberts, you once wrote about beginners...

Mr. Roberts, sir,
You wrote in an old Q&A column: “I recommend focusing simply on retaining muscle while dieting. The only exception to that is with a relatively novice trainer, one who has gained less than 25 lb of muscle from his starting point, or 10 pounds of muscle from her starting point.”

I am a beginner. I was wondering what you would recommend to best take advantage of the potential to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously.

Here are my specifics: I’m 140 lbs, 19-20%bf. I’ve been training for 5 weeks, doing a whole body workout 3 times per week. I started with 3 sets per bodypart, but I cut it down to 2 to avert overtraining. Thusfar, I have not done cardio (but I’m considering doing 20 min of moderate cardio on the days after weightraining
to aid recovery). At 2200-2400 calories each day (maybe more, some days I wasn’t a good record keeper), I gained about a pound per week, so I’ve cut down to 2100 (15 times bodyweight) since I assume one loses fat faster than he gains muscle if both are happening at the same time.

I’d appreciate any advice you have for me on my
training and diet to help take advantage of this window of opportunity.

Thank you,

Brian, I think your planned number of calories – 15 per lb of total bodyweight, which in
your case is almost 19 calories per lb of
lean bodyweight – is probably appropriate
for muscle gain, but not for losing fat at
the same time. If you can lose fat at 15
calories per lb of lean bodyweight, which
would be about 1700 calories per day, you
are blessed in your fat-burning metabolism.

I would focus on consistency, being quite
sure of how much you are eating and having
the kind of diet you want in terms of protein,
carbs, and fat, and adjust the diet according
to your results over periods of several
weeks. If you’re losing fat faster than say
1 lb per week, then probably you’re really
compromising your ability to add muscle at
the same time, and calories should come up
some… if you are not seeing yourself losing
at least say 1/2 an inch off the waist per
3 or 4 weeks, or about that 1 lb per week
value, then I’d trim calories so fat will
come off a little faster.

Thanks for your advice, Bill.

Currently, I’m taking in 1 g of protein per pound bodyweight, giving me a ratio of 25% protein/25% fat/50% carbs.

Is this a good ratio or is something more isocaloric, like 40/30/30, more appropriate for my goals?

Do you support the 25 lb. guideline for all heights and weights (I'm 5'6"), or should I look for a sign from the scale or the calipers that my capability to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously has ended?

Again, thank you. Brian

Brian, I’d definitely try increasing both
your fat and protein intake, at the cost
of carbs. It’s well-demonstrated in bodybuilding (under natural conditions, not
with steroids) that results are better with
fat being at least 30% of calories, or about 4.5 to 5.5 grams per lb of LBM; and in the
last few years it’s been shown scientifically
that testosterone production is significantly
higher with this amount of fat compared to
lower amounts. Approximately equal protein
and carbs is probably about optimal, except
when on high calories where there would
be no point in pushing protein quite that high.
However, the protein/carb thing comparing
between where you are and making them isocaloric, is pretty much a fine-tuning thing,
but the fat issue can make a very substantial

The 25 lb figure I estimated for being a value where, if you’ve gained more muscle than that,
you can definitely forget the idea of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time under natural conditions, is only an estimate and
surely varies a lot among individuals. Also,
it’s a white-turning-to-grey-turning to black
kind of thing: for most men, 15 lb is already
pretty grey, and gaining muscle while losing
fat is not easy for them and under many conditions won’t occur, though in others it
may occur with slow muscle growth.