Fat Loss Vs. Muscle Gain

Woman Doing Stretching Before Sports Training At Morning

Losing fat and gaining muscle are two popular fitness goals -- but they do not share much in common beyond that. Fat loss and muscle gain require different workout routines and nutritional approaches. In addition, certain supplements may help enhance your fat loss and muscle gain. Consult a doctor prior to using any supplements or beginning a workout routine.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Properly fueling your body for exercise is vital for fat loss and muscle gain -- but the calorie and nutrient content of meals varies depending on your goal. If you want to lose fat, you need to create a calorie deficit, so a smaller meal is preferable. Try to consume fewer calories than you will burn in your exercise session. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds and intend to lift weights for 60 minutes, eat something that contains fewer than 273 calories. Consuming a meal rich in protein may be preferable. A study from the May 2010 issue of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" found that consuming 18 grams of protein prior to workouts increases your metabolic rate for 24 hours after your workout.

Pre-workout meals for muscle gain should be rich in protein and carbohydrates, and contain more calories than you intend to burn during your exercise session. High levels of carbohydrates will prevent your body from using protein for energy, and it can instead be used to build muscle.

Post-Workout Nutrition

Post-workout nutrition is key for muscle development, but it may hinder fat loss. Consuming too much food after you exercise can cancel out the calories you burned during your workout, stalling your fat loss progress. Consuming a light protein snack following your workout can stave off hunger and halt muscle breakdown. A whey protein supplement may be an optimal choice. Research from the October 2010 issue of the "British Journal of Nutrition" indicates that whey is more filling than lean meat, fish and eggs. To gain muscle, consume a large meal of carbohydrates and protein after your workout.

Weight Training

Weight training can be beneficial for fat loss and muscle gain. To maximize muscle gain, you should work out every other day, as this will provide time for your muscles to recover. If your only concern is fat loss, you can train with weights on consecutive days, as this will allow you to burn more calories, albeit at the expense of your muscle gain. Compound exercises, or those that use multiple muscle groups at once -- the squat and deadlift, for example -- are beneficial for fat loss and muscle gain, as they promote increased release of growth hormone and testosterone. Both hormones can enhance muscle gain and fat loss, according to research from the June 2009 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism."

Cardio Training

Cardio training refers to running, jogging, swimming and other non-resistance training exercises. Cardio training can be useful for fat loss because it burns calories, but you may want to minimize your cardio training when gaining muscle, as it will cut into the calorie surplus required for mass gain. In addition, research from the January 2009 issue of the "American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology" indicates that cardio blunts appetite more than weight training because it promotes the release of appetite-suppressing hormones and reduces the release of appetite-increasing hormones. Thus, cardio training is better suited to fat loss than muscle gain.