Muscle for life

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle

When you want to get lean, the goal isn’t simply to lose weight–it’s to lose body fat and not muscle. Here’s how to do it.


If someone feels they’re carrying about too much fat, they’ll probably say they need to lose some weight.

Ironically, if that’s their only goal–reducing the number on the scale–they’re like to run into a new problem along the way: becoming skinny fat.

You see, the phrase “weight loss” is tossed around by just about everyone, including myself, but what we really want is a bit more than that.

We don’t want to just “lose weight”–we want to reduce our body fat percentage and thus improve our body composition. That is, we want to reduce our total amount of body fat without reducing our total amount of lean mass.

If this is obvious to you, you’re in the minority. Most people don’t realize how much muscle they can lose with a poor “weight loss” diet and exercise routine and are puzzled when they succeed in losing weight only to be disappointed by a weak, soft physique staring back at them in the mirror.

Well, in this article we’re going to talk about how to do “weight loss” properly: how to lose body fat and not muscle and get that tight, muscular look you’re actually after.

Would you rather listen to this article? Click the play button below!

Want to listen to more stuff like this? Check out my podcast!

When “a Calorie Is a Calorie”…and When It Isn’t

Like the ridiculous anti-sugar hysteria and low-carb worship that are currently in vogue, various diet “experts” are also claiming that weight loss isn’t as simple as eating less energy than you expend. That you can’t simply get there with proper meal planning and restricting calories.

Instead, these ignoramuses and shysters claim, all you have to do to lose weight is avoid foods that cause “hormonal clogging” (whatever the hell that is) or large insulin spikes or other physiological voodoo or eat foods somehow conducive to weight loss due to efficient processing or even metabolic acceleration.

These types of sales pitches sound pretty good to the “get rich quickers” of the fitness space. You know, the people that always talk about wanting to get fit but don’t want to regulate food intake or exercise much and thus are always on the hunt for that “one weird trick” that will “melt off the belly fat.”

Well, I’ve written about the indisputable physiology of the metabolism and the science of proper calorie counting for weight loss in quite a few other articles, so I won’t review it all here.

Instead, in this article I want to focus on a paradoxical aspect of “calories in versus calories out.” Namely…

When we’re just talking about weight loss, it all boils down to maintaining a negative energy balance. Consume less energy via food than you expend over time, and your weight will go down.

What you eat to get in those calories doesn’t matter–a calorie is a calorie in this sense.  Professor Mark Haub lost 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks, and you could do exactly the same if you wanted to.

Hell, if you really want to speed things up, severely restrict your food intake as well and you could drop as much as 5 pounds per week for the first few weeks at least.

If you did these things, however, you would run into several problems including muscle loss, which brings me to my next point…

When we’re talking about losing just body fat and not muscle, however–improving body composition–we must not only maintain a negative energy balance, but we must do so with a proper balance of macronutrients.

You see, when the goal isn’t to merely weigh less but to have a lower body fat percentage with all the muscle you currently have (or more), getting the majority of your calories from junk carbs and fats and starving yourself will no longer cut it. A calorie is no longer a calorie because some types of calories are now much more important than others.

So then, let’s get to the details on how to lose body fat and not muscle, starting first with the all-important calorie deficit.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle:
Use a Modest Calorie Deficit

how to lose weight

As mentioned earlier and discussed in much detail in my other weight loss articles, losing fat requires that you consume less energy than you expend. When you do this, you’re creating what’s known as a “calorie deficit.”

Calorie restriction is a double-edged sword, however because while it will always reduce fat mass, it can also reduce lean mass if you don’t go about it correctly.

The biggest mistake you can make is severely restricting your calories. That is, maintain too large of a calorie deficit (eat too little) every day and you’ll start burning up muscle as well as fat (especially if you don’t exercise).

What is a severe calorie restriction? Well, while we’ll probably never have a “slam dunk” answer due to variables like genetics, total lean mass, and muscle conditioning, we can take an educated guess.

Based on the literature I’ve read and anecdotal evidence I’ve seen among natural bodybuilders, it would appear that problems can begin when you regularly feed your body less than 70% of the energy it burns (create a caloric deficit over 30%).

To put this in perspective, consider the following:

  • A 140-pound woman exercising 3-5 times per week will burn approximately 1,600-1,700 calories per day. If such a woman ate less than, ~1,100 calories per day for a week or two, she would be entering the problem area.
  • A 200-pound man exercising 3-5 times per week will burn approximately 2,500-2,600 calories per day. Anything less than ~1,900 calories per day would be under-eating for such a man.

It’s worth noting, however, that these guidelines can be stretched by the severely overweight and obese. Research has shown that the more body fat you have, the larger of a calorie deficit you can maintain without having to worry about excessive muscle loss.

If you’re not sure how to even work out a proper calorie deficit, check this out article of mine on meal planning.

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle:
Follow a High-Protein Diet

how to lose weight fast

Protein is the most important macronutrient to get right when you’re dieting for fat loss and is the real reason why a calorie isn’t a calorie when you want to optimize your body composition.

The research is crystal clear: a high-protein diet…

A high-protein diet is even more important if you’re exercising regularly, as this further increases your body’s demand for amino acids.

How much protein should you be eating exactly? Well, if you want the long answer, you can check out the article I wrote on how much protein you need to build muscle, but the short answer is this:

According to recent research conducted by scientists at AUT University

“Protein needs for energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes are likely 2.3-3.1g/kg of FFM [1 – 1.4 grams per pound of fat free mass] scaled upwards with severity of caloric restriction and leanness.”

I’ve found this to be very true, not only with my body, but with the thousands of people i’ve worked with.

As you get leaner, keeping your protein intake high becomes very important. If it drops too low (below 1 gram per pound of body weight, in my experience), strength and muscle loss is accelerated.

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle:
Do Strength Training

how to lose body fat in a week

Research has conclusively demonstrated that the most effective way to retain–and even build–muscle while restricting calories is strength training.

By including strength training in the mix, you’ll lose less weight over time than if you didn’t but you’ll lose more fat.

[tweet “By doing strength training, you’ll lose less weight over time but you’ll lose more fat.”]

This is especially true if you’re new to weightlifting as you can actually expect to gain some muscle while losing fat, which further throws off your scale results.

Now, how much weightlifting should you be doing? That depends on your lifestyle and ultimate goal, but even one or two days per week is enough to make sure you lose body fat and not muscle.

How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle:
Use Cardio Sparingly

exercises to lose body fat

Many people equate cardio with weight loss, and figure the more they do, the more weight they lose.

While cardio does help burn calories and thus fat, and while doing more will result in more calories burned, it’s a big mistake to do an excessive amount of cardio while dieting to lose weight.

Why? There are two primary reasons…

Your body is already under stress due to the caloric deficit, it’s easier to overtrain when you’re dieting to lose body fat. 

We experience overtraining in several ways: “burnout,” general fatigue, depression, decreased immunity, and more. It’s no fun.

Well, research has shown that intense, prolonged endurance training is a particularly effective way to induce overtraining.

[tweet “Intense, prolonged endurance training is a particularly effective way to induce overtraining.”]

You’re more likely to experience excessive metabolic slowdown, which can persist long after weight loss is stopped.

These reductions in metabolic rate are one of the things that makes it hard for many people to maintain their new weight after losing a significant amount of fat.

Because their metabolisms have slowed down, and sometimes by quite a bit, they can no longer eat as much as they were used to eating before dieting without gaining weight.

This negative “metabolic adaption,” as it’s known, is accelerated by doing excessive amounts of exercise, and particularly cardio, when you’re in a caloric deficit.

So, while cardio is an effective tool for aiding weight loss, doing a lot of long-duration, steady-state cardio is not the best way of going about it.

Much better is to focus on “high-intensity interval training,” which has you perform shorter, higher-intensity exercise. It’s not only more effective than steady-state cardio for losing fat, but also for preserving muscle.

Personally, I never do more than 4, 25-minute sessions of HIIT per week when I’m in a caloric restriction, and I usually keep it to 3.

What did you think of this article on how to lose body fat and not muscle? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
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The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Tyler

    Hey I actually was wondering what you thought of Cardio Acceleration? I’ve kind of implemented it in the workouts from your book Bigger Leaner Stronger (love the book by the way). I’m 243 34% body fat and my goal is to get down to 15-20% at least at first.

    • Michael Matthews

      Never heard of it. I’ll have to check it out.

      Great on your goal. We can do it. Let me know how it goes.

  • Nathan

    I follow your program and lift 5 days a week and do HIIT 3 days a week-M,W,F. If I just go for a walk like on tuesday and thursday is that to much cardio? Its just a leisurely walk after work like 3 mph.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! That’s perfect. Totally fine on the cardio.

  • Awesome post Mike!

    I totally agree – the goal should to lose body fat while maintaining (or building) muscle. If people trying to lose weight knew this simple fact, we wouldn’t have nearly the number of “skinny-fat” people that we do.

    Almost every woman who comes to me asking for weight loss advice equates long steady-state cardio sessions with weight loss. I do my best to explain to them that a lot of steady-state cardio isn’t the best approach, and to do strength training and HIIT instead.

    It’s sad that this bad advice has somehow become the most well-known advice. But all we can do is keep spreading the word of what REALLY works.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yup, very true. Keep up the good work brother.

  • Tom

    Started this program about five weeks ago. I am 5’9″ and at the time was 166. I’ve lost two pounds in five weeks, but reduced my fat percentage by 3 percentage points. Not disappointed at all. I look better and I have been able to lift heavier weights over this time period. I am lifting 5 day per week with two rest days.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job Tom! Keep me posted! I’d love to feature you on the site when you reach your goal!

  • Anthony

    Hey Mike,
    Currently 165 lbs at 9-10% bodyfat, and I would say I’m about as big as I would like to be. To get to 6-7% bodyfat but still have decent size and strength (I’ve done body-recomp cutting before and gotten to around 8% but looked more skinny fat than ripped), should I bulk by eating 10% more calories for 1-2 weeks until I get bigger than I would like to be, then cut to 6-7% and maintain?

    By the way, when I do get around to cutting, should the daily deficit be the same every day (and how much would you recommend for a quicker and more muscle-preserving cut), or instead do something like have a 500 calorie deficit on non-lifting days and a 300 calorie deficit on lifting days? Thanks.

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! If you’re happy with your size now let’s get you to 6-7%? No need to start with a surplus.

      You’re going to want to read my next book, which is launching VERY soon. I go over how to do exactly what you want to do both with calorie/macro manipulation and exercise and supplementation.

      • Anthony

        I’ll definitely get BBLS. When is the projected launch date, and should I just maintain my shape until I can get the proper cutting strategy from your book?

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks! Yeah it’s too much to explain in comments haha.

  • Erin

    Hi Mike,
    When calculating my BMI, I’m on the fine line between ‘severely overweight’ and ‘obese.’ I know you said with people in this range, you can safely cut calories more severely without impeding metabolism/long-term weight loss goals. I was wondering HOW much you should cut back. I am a 200 lb, 5′ 7″ female. I calculated my BMR to be ~1650, and I am exercising 4-6 hours per week. I’m currently trying to hit a 1600 cal/day diet without eating back calories I burn with exercise, though some days are better than others. Just wondering if this is too much. I don’t want to sabotage myself in the long run! I love your articles, and how you back everything you say up with ACTUAL RESEARCH.

    Look forward to hearing from you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Good question. You can eat BMR x 1.1 or 1.2 and be fine.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon! Thanks for the support!

  • Kristy

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a 5’9″ female currently at 152 lbs. just getting back into the swing of things and giving myself a 3 month window to become noticeably leaner. Have started off doing 30 min fasted HIIT sessions (about 5 days/week) and a few barre classes. I’m also restricting calories to 1300/day, focusing on high protein and minimizing carbs (aside from sweet potatoes). I believe I’m about 28-30% body fat based but need to measure with calipers this week. Any recommendations on reaching my goal of becoming leaner by October? Should I wait to begin heavy weights until I am lower in body fat %? Love your site!

  • Hi Mike,

    I went from a desk job (6’4″ 240LB) to training (205LB) but achieved the “skinny fat” look, shaped like a plank as love-handles took away from my silhouette. I’m following your book and out of the gym in half the time with twice the soreness. THANKS! Fitness is fun again and my strength gains are a good motivator and now I want to attack the midsection as a project. Keep doing what you’re doing.

    Any good motivators you recommend to keep on the fat loss track?



    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome man! Regarding the midsection, are you looking for motivation or tips for getting rid of belly fat?

      • Yes, my calories are 1900-2000/day, gym 4 times a week, mostly weights apart from warming up on bike or step machine, plenty of water, and blessed with a good metabolism that makes my girlfriends jealous, but can’t seem get rid of that muffin top.

        The bad: I drink about every 10-14 days, get very bored with cardio, and never say no to pizza, but have a knack for staying on my caloric goal.

        The worst: I smoke. I’m on a quitting plan though.

        In short, I seem to lose weight everywhere, but love handles. Do I simply need to up the training and be patient or are there certain guidelines you’ve given your trainees to help with belly fat?

        Thanks for your time Mike.


  • thomas

    Hey Mike,
    I just had a few questions. I currently do the one year challenge workout 3 days a week, the other 3 days a week I run because I like to do distances up to 1/2 marathons. I know this isn’t as good as intervals but I enjoy this way, though one of my runs would be an interval run of about 45 mins to an hour. My question is how much do you think this will affect my progress? I currently take creatine and protein also. My other question is should I do any of my runs fasted, I would be taking a bcaa supplement before hand. sorry if I posted this twice.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great! I like it. You can do just fine like this. I wouldn’t do long runs fasted personally…

  • Zeke

    Hi Mike,

    I’m a 5’6” male 142 lbs. I lift 5 times a week and do
    cardio 3 times a week. I’m cutting right now. Im eating about 2000
    calories a day sometimes less is that too little calories to maintain my
    lean muscle mass. Also I was wondering what is a realistic fat loss
    expectation per month. I am around 12% bodyfat is it realistic to get
    down to around 8% in the next few months. Thanks!

  • Bjacks

    Hello Mike,
    I’m a 5’10” male, and I currently weigh 214 with about 25% body fat. My goal is to get somewhere around 15%. Far as body type, I think I’m going for the type of physique that you have or similar to a typical wide receiver in the NFL. My question is, should I do a bulking or cutting progam? Also, how much HIIT sessions/time should I do per week? Thanks again, your book has been a tremendous help to me.

  • Wes

    Probably your best article so far, Mike!! Keep up the great work!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thank you!

  • Mxthoma1

    Ok, great timing! The calipers (and my husband) are telling me that my body fat percentage is dropping, but I am so frustrated because the scale refuses to move.

    • Michael Matthews

      Body fat going down is what matters!

  • Drew

    Hi Mike,

    I am a 5’11” Male, 186lbs with around 18% body fat. I’ve always had a problem gaining muscle so at 160: and about 12% BF I started lifting and have packed on about 10lbs in muscle however this has also come with some fat. I’m enjoying the new found muscle growth but would like to stop gaining the fat. My training days are about 60-90 minutes of lifting and 30-45 minutes of running some kind of interval about 2-3 hours apart. I do this 5-6 times a week depending on how I feel. On training days I eat 2500 kCals with 173g P/320g C/65g F and on my rest days I do 1630 kCals 173g P/ 50g C/90g F. I feel great and have lots of energy, I usually sleep well but what am I doing wrong. I enjoy all my work outs and dont want to stop gaining the muscle but the belly is starting to frustrate me.

  • Tom

    Hey mike, awesome article as always!

    I tend to overthink things. So I want to start to cut so I have my calories at 2,300 PCF 35,40,25. I just always think that since im going to workout intensely 4-5 days a week I should be at a maintenance level of calories for those days because the calories burned from a workout will put me in a deficit for that given day. Then I’ll lower my calories on non trainimg days to stay in the defecit. I just feel that with the calorie goal I have, plus working out puts me in too much of a deficit. Do you think i should do that or just keep my cals at 2300?

    I know thats a lot im one but like I said I alwys over think stuff lol

    Thanks Mike,

  • rose

    i am giving a testimony of how i become rich and famous today… i was deeply strangled up by poverty and i had no body to help me, and also i search for help from different corners but to no avail… i see people around me getting rich but to me i was so ashamed of my self so i met a man on my way he was very rich and he was a doctor so he told me something and i think over it though out the day so the next day i looked up and i keep repeating what he said to me.

    ” if you want to get rich quick and be famous”
    you need to cross your heart and do what
    is in your mind

    so i tried all i could in other for me to do as he said so later on i told my fellow friend about this same thing then my friend was interested in my suggestions so i decided to look in the internet and i found an email address of this great fraternity( [email protected]) so we decided to contact them and unfortunately we did as they instruct us to do and later they told us to get some requirements and all the rest… so this initiation took us just a week and later on the great fraternity gave us $70,000,000.00 to start up our lives…. and now am testifying that if in any case you want to join any great fraternity all you need to do is for you to contact them because they are legitimate and they do as what they instructed them to do okay so email them now at ([email protected] ) ,

  • Janel

    Hey Mike, your book, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger has been my lifting blueprint. My question is this. I teach group fitness, mainly cardio classes, up to 8-9 hours a week. I am currently 135 and trying to drop 15 more pounds. I try to stay in the 1400-1500 calorie range, but am not sure on days when I teach 2-3 classes if I should up my calories, or stay the same since I’m trying to lose fat. I still incorporate HIiT training twice a week for my own workou.

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  • Colin

    Morning mike, if I ride 20 miles a day, should my macros be increased to compensate? I’m 200 lbs with probably 24% body fat. I want to continue building muscle. Myfitnesspal always increases my intake, is that right?

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  • acirpr

    refreshing article. I just recently went to 3 30 minute semi-HIIT sessions a week versus longer cardio. Love it! quick quick, get ‘er done!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! So much better right?

  • SkateboardT

    Hello Mike,

    I’ve been training for 4 years and went from 60 KG to 75 KG and my body fat went from around 15% to 20%. Can I still gain lean muscle like a new lifter if I started a good diet and trained heavy compound workouts 3 times a week? Also I am 20% body fat now, how long do you think it will take me to get to 10% body fat on a strict clean diet, eating 2000 KCal a day?


    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on your gains! You may be able to make newbie gains. What type of lifting have you been doing?

      20-10% will take 3 – 3.5 months.

      • SkateboardT

        Thanks a lot for your reply Mike, really appreciate it. I’ve lifting for nearly 4 years and about 3 days a week on a regular basis. But up to now I didn’t know what I was doing I was just eating dirty food and just lifting, even though in that 4 years I’ve gained 15 KG, which isn’t a lot, I’d say 5% of my gains have been fat, so its not good at all. in the past 4 years I’ve been training Chest/Tri, Back/Bi/Shoulders, Legs most of the time but I have also done Stronglifts 5×5 a couple of times and mixed it up along the way with different workouts as well. I’m just worried that I may of missed my window of opportunity to have my newbie gains after 4 years of improper weight training. If I was to fully commit to lifting and getting my nutrition on point, how much muscle would I be able to gain in a year & would I be classed as a newbie or a experienced lifter? And how much muscle could I realistically gain in 4 years if I was to live & breath, training/nutrition/sleep? Thanks

      • Jules

        Is this the same for a woman? In terms of length of time? I’m 21% bf 5’6 and 127 pounds. Would it also take me around 3 months to get to 14-15%? I’m following your custom meal plan at 1440 calls a day and I’m brand new to lifting. What do you think I can expect?
        Thank you!! Great info as usual!

        • Michael Matthews

          Women progress at about half the speed of men when it comes to muscle growth.

          You also lose fat a bit slower.

          Check this out:


          If your weight is going down, you’re losing fat. It’s impossible to lose just muscle when you’re eating right and weightlifting.

          Excessive muscle loss can be seen in the gym–your strength really plummets.

  • Jamie B

    Hi Mike,

    A question in regards to overtraining/excessive cardio.

    I am currently cutting and am around 18% body fat looking to drop 8% of it.
    I’ve been doing this through myfitnesspal. It tells me to lose 0.8kg a week I should eat 1490 calories a day. Obviously I can’t do that, I like food. So what I do is ensure that I intentionally exercise to burn 600 calories EVERY DAY. This is sometimes jogging, cross trainer or cycling. I then eat about 2000-2050 calories a day.
    Is this current method a bad idea? I’m doing weights 5/6 times a week alongside it to preserve muscle mass. I wouldn’t say I’m feeling overtrained as I’m quite fit endurance wise.
    The main question is the Cardio I am doing Approx. 5-6 hours a week too much? Leading to bad composition?
    From reading your articles I have used the 1.35 calorie multiplier and am always between 20%-25% deficit not above or below.
    I do use interval training on the elliptical and as well cycling however with cycling I keep intervals going for about 45 minutes because I can’t go fully out in the sprint intervals without simply going far too fast for the roads I’m on, whatever resistance I use.Is the weight lifting and the calorie intake enough for me not to be at risk of muscle loss?

  • Joel

    This semester I will be walking a whole lot. My school is about 20 to 25 minutes of brisk walking away. Thing is, 10 minutes are uphill, and I REALLY feel it in the calves, without really getting winded. So, does this make it fall more into resistance training – such that it isn’t a problem – or does it still have the same effect as regular cardio? I don’t have a bike or anything, so I don’t really know what to do about it if it turns out to be detrimental to my muscle growth. Would it help if I slowed down the pace?

    I suppose, if nothing else, I could try turning it into HIIT by sprinting there with my heavy backpack and then spend the rest of the day stinking up the place :p

  • Joey

    Hi Mike.

    How would you calculate calorie expenditure when you work 3 days a week as a bricklayer/labourer. i.e heavy shovelling, heavy lifting for at least 6 hours each day I work.

    • Michael Matthews
      • Joey

        I have had a look through, do I account for my time a work as i would HIIT exercise. Because obviously at work the intensity is lower but its certainly as draining lifting concrete blocks all day.

        • Michael Matthews

          That makes sense. It sounds like you’ll be eating a LOT my friend, haha.

  • Diana

    I lost more than 17 pounds and literally re-shaped my body by
    following this treatment:> http://6-minutes-toskinny.blogspot.com
    I could not remove fat from my belly. But then one of my friends,
    He showed me a simple solution that I had never heard about on TV or read in any magazine. I followed this treatment for 3 weeks and lost 17 pounds in weight. I recommend this method to all my friends who have accumulated fat in the belly…

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  • Jiji

    Hi Mike,

    I’m 26 years old, female, 5’2” weighing 135lbs with 34% body fat. I have very less fat on my chest and stomach while my upper arms and thighs are annoyingly flabby. I work out 2-3 times a week (mostly cardio). I had tried religiously working for 2.5-3 months (squats, leg extensions, arm extensions etc.) along with diet restrictions to get rid of the flab but no real results.
    Could you recommend how I could reduce fat only from my upper arms and legs.

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Kate

    Hi Mike,
    I’ve been trying to lose fat while building muscle and initially adopted a high protein diet (40p/40c/20f split) but realised I have a tendency to develop proteinuria so have realised that my protein has to be around 30% for me not to notice any issue.
    This being said, I’m not sure how I should proceed in terms of diet as my body cannot handle very high protein/low carb, so what do you suggest?

  • Med

    Hi Mike,
    i know this is an old post but i’d like your feedback on the problem i’m facing :
    i started lifting like 2 months ago and i have wider hips, to give you some numbers i’am a 5’9″ with 150lbs of weight my shoulders:44″, waist:32″,chest 36″, and hips : 40″ , i exercise 4 times/week and cardio once a week
    so is there some specific exercises/diet to target my probelm
    sorry for the long post and thanks for your reply

    • Great on what you’re doing. You can’t shrink your hip size but you can downplay it by building a solid upper body, you know?

  • Allan Pearl

    I’ve been overweight all my life and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 25 pounds in one month without much exercise and it has been a life changer. I’m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I’ve been doing then I’d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I’ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day

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  • Anika

    Hi Mike,

    I am a 5’7″ female, 138lbs about 20% body fat. I’ve began weight training and HIIT training about 8 weeks ago. I workout 7 days a week. 6 days I weight train and run 8 sprints (at the end of the workout) and on the 7th day I only do cardio, usually I run 2 miles (6:20 per mile) then do 10 sprints. I eat about 1,200-1,500 calories a day on a high protein/ moderate carb and fat diet. I eat about 6/ 7 times a day with 2 protein shakes. I also drink about a gallon of water a day. However, I haven’t seen any weight loss in the last 3 weeks. Is it possible that I am eating too little? Am I putting my body in starvation? How many calories do you recommend I eat a day? I do notice that I am gaining muscle but I haven’t seen a significant difference in my body fat percentage or weight loss.

    Thank you.

  • Phil La Mere


    If I’m doing cardio on same day as fasted-state strength training, I still take 10gms BCAAs prior to cardio in addition to the 10gm BCAAs I take prior to lifting?

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  • Zenish Mahaseth

    hey mike,
    im 16 ,150 lbs at 22% body fat doing 6 hrs lifting and 1 hr cardio (combination of hiit and liss) a week. i have gained some muscle and now want to get to 10% bf, im eating 2500 cals and following my normal training. will this do?
    btw the articles on ur site are the best ones i have read.

  • Zenish Mahaseth

    hey mike,
    im 16 ,150 lbs at 22% body fat doing 6 hrs lifting and 1 hr cardio (combination of hiit and liss) a week. i have gained some muscle and now want to get to 10% bf, im eating 2500 cals and following my normal training. will this do?
    btw the articles on ur site are the best ones i have read.

  • Ezra

    Hey Mike,
    I’m a 18 year old male, 5’11”, 197 lbs 18% body fat. I have been going consistently to the gym for the last three weeks however I have gone before very inconsistently (maybe like once or twice in a month or so). I hail from an Indian family so my usual breakfast would be something like whole wheat tortillas and eggs. My lunch would consist of white rice and lentil gravy with some meat on the side. My dinners would usually have the option of either of those two meals on the top maybe with more meat. My physique is such where I am covered with fat however my arms or just my upper body is small compared to the the lower. I would like if you could help me towards a direction that would conclude with 10% body fat and a large stature.

  • Helary Broad

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  • jrnyk

    Hi mike I’m a 29 year old male 147 5″6 is 1600 calories to little for me or to much i don’t want to lose muscle in this cut thanks for all your help. My protein is about 190, Carbs around 140 and fat 30 thanks.

    • The number seems in the ballpark, you can check against this:


      As long as you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week, keeping up the heavy lifting and getting enough protein, you’re good!

      • jrnyk

        Thanks for the info much appreciate it. One more question if i can’t use caffeine can i still use forge?

        • YW! Totally fine to take Forge without caffeine. It’s still effective.

  • Tom

    Im 20

    I’m 6’3 and weighing 91kg/14.4stone.
    Im at 11% body fat.
    I Train 6-7 days a week. Very rarely below 5 times a week. I do a lot of compound movements mostly working in the strength range for sets and reps. I understand to make these workouts a little more intense to burn more fat.
    I have been training solid/consistently for 7 months. My body has reacted very well to training, I naturally have low body fat and haven’t found it that hard to put muscle on.
    I now want to take it to that next level and drop my body fat into that “wow” zone. Any help on how to just push myself over that line would be much appreciated

  • Barbara C. Baker

    Hey Mike! I am a 24 yr old female, 5´7 and 130 pounds. I have 18% body fat and I am having a hard time toning my legs, abs (trimming my waistline). I weight train 3 x a week and maybe do 5 mins of cardio;/, i am usually very fatigued while I train non stop. My diet is pretty clean, I stay away from sugar and fat however, my protein intake is around 100 or less a day, and the days that I train I drink a protein shake. I would love to lose 2 % of my body fat and still gain muscle. Should I be getting 182 grams of protein everyday or only the days i train? I really need your help!!!I appreciate your time and advice!

    • I hear you! When it comes to losing weight, it all comes down to being in a calorie deficit.

      Start with this:


      LMK how it goes!

      • Barbara C. Baker

        Thanks Mike! Im a little confused, I am already very thin, and just want to lose bf % and not lose weight/ muscle. So, do I still need to be in a calorie deficit diet? Thanks, and I am so sorry for asking so many questions:/

  • Leanlove

    Hi Mike. I’m an 18 year old girl 5’4″ 104 pounds. I know I’m “underweight” but I definitely have some fat on my arms, thighs, butt, stomach, and face to spare. I’ve been working out with a trainer 2x a week, and doing one vipr class, boot camp class, and spin class each week for about the last month. I’ve been watching what I eat, eating whole clean foods and tracking my calories closely (avg 1200). My goal is to eat around 100 G protein every day. Sometimes I hit that but most often I’m around 60g. I’m not losing as much weight as I’d like (2-3 pounds since I started) and I know muscle weighs more than fat but according to my scale, I’m not losing any body fat either. What should I be doing to accelerate my fat loss?

  • Alex H

    Hey mike, just going to say. theres a bit of a paradox, i know the whole point of fitness and muscle is usually to be healthy, but the more “healthy” i try to eat the fatter i get. I lift around 6 days a week and find that i’m pretty lean. but most of the time my diet is all over the place. sometimes its 3000+ calories a day and sometimes i find myself trying to hit numbers like 1800. In a lot of ways its getting in the way of me being able to enjoy life and even keep a job. any advice? thanks.

  • John Reedy

    Hi! Love the article. I followed it religiously and dropped my body fat from 16.3% to 12.3% (as tested by inBody machine at Lifetime). My only problem is that along with losing 7lbs of fat, I also lost 1.5 lbs of muscle. I did everything in this article, but I thought maybe one of the causes is that too much of my protein came from protein bars, and too many of my carbs came from processed crackers/breads. The amounts of macronutrients were right, but could the source have caused me not to achieve the full benefits?

    • Thanks! Great job!

      You didn’t necessarily lose muscle. When you lose water from your muscles it registers as lean mass lost but it’s not.

      If your strength remained, you didn’t lose muscle.

      • John Reedy

        That’s refreshing to hear – strength has not decreased. I’ll just keep up what I’m doing

  • Christian Carrera

    Hey Mr.Matthews, I’ve finished my 12 weeks of BLU and it was awesome. I’m 5’10 227lbs at 27% bf and I’m still not sure if I’m eating enough or too much. I think my cardio hasn’t been enough either.

  • A Hicks

    Greetings Mr. Matthews. I am a 47 yo female at 168 lbs & 27% bf. I have been following a high protein diet and eat healthy / clean. I have been adding lean muscle / toning. But I want the number on the scale to decrease. I strength / weight train @ least five tomes per week with @ least 5 / 45 minute cardio sessions of stair master or elliptical routines. I welcome your suggestions on the number on the scale decrease and not lose muscle. Thank you in advance.

    • Hey hey! Cool on the strength training and clean eating.

      If you’re new to this style of training and are gaining strength while your weight is staying the same, you are losing fat and building muscle. You should be looking leaner and your clothes should be fitting looser.

      If that’s not the case, check this out:


      LMK what you think.

      • Sherien Shaalan-Brown

        Hi, should I be eating 1 gram of protein per lb of weight I am now? Or of the weight I want to be? I weight 166lbs should I be consuming 166 grams of protein or 140 grams (my target weight)? Thanks!

  • Samantha

    Hi I’m samantha I’m doing a 30 day challenge I am 5 ft 5 in I weigh142 and body fat is at 23% I want my body fat to be at 19% or maybe even 17%.. I do a lot of strength/weight training about 5 times a week. I feel like I’m all over the place with trying to get a eating routine down to becoming more lean. Any tips???

  • Julian

    Hi Mike, I’m 24 and 220 pounds. My Total daily energy expenditure is around 3000 calories, at the moment I’m trying to cut eating 2200 calories. If I do exercise on top of this calorie deficit, will it put me too much into a calorie deficit or will it just aid in burning with fat? Thanks.

    • Julian

      What I’m trying to ask is, can exercising put me too much in a calorie deficit or as long as I am eating above 70% of my daily recommended calories, I won’t lose muscle?

      • Eh. Let’s bring it up to 2400 cals and see how you do. The goal is to lose 1-2 pounds a week. So, if you find yourself losing more or less weight than that, you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

  • Dev

    Hi Mike,

    I am 30 with weight 203 lbs, height 5.10 and BF 28%. I am trying to come down to BF 15 % in 4 months by doing Strength/Weight training. I am doing 3 days a week of Strength training. I was told that I should not do more than 3 days of Strength/Weight training. I would like to concentrate on remaining days of the week too. Please let me know if I can do 1 hour of cardio daily on non-lifting days? Should I be doing Strength training for only 3 days a week?

    What should be my diet plan and calorie intake to get ripped in 4 months.


  • Paul

    Hi Mike, I am progressing through your plan for just over 3 months. I am definitely increasing muscle mass.
    Although I am still a skinny guy, 164lbs, height 5.10, but the problem is I have 22% bodyfat.
    Should I cut, I do not really feel my physique is big enough for a cut?? Please help. Is it possibly to do an extreme cut, then start bulking?

    • Great!

      I hear you Paul. You should cut to 10-12% BF and then focus on building muscle. Here’s why:


      Plus if you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to gain muscle and strength while cutting, so you really can’t lose.

      You would make fast progress on the cut, but you don’t want to cut so fast that you lose muscle. The goal will be to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

      I’ll be setting up distribution in the UK next year. Stay tuned!

  • Michael Quinlan

    Hey Michael, I was wondering if you could help me drop weight to get back down to my weight class for wrestling. Currently I’m 140 pounds, 5’8″, around 9-10 bf% and my goal weight is 132 or maybe a little bit above because I can always cut a bit of water before a meet. My question is, how can I get down to that weight with keeping my current muscle mass and if I get to that weight will my body fat still be healthy?

    • Sure! Did you read the article?

      • Michael Quinlan

        I did, and I do regular strength training but I’m slightly skeptical about protein. Is it hard to eat around 140 grams? That seems like a lot! My main question was to see if even losing that amount of weight is feasible with my given bf %, and also for calculating bf %, what would you reccomend? We use skin fold for wrestling, is that fine?

        • Nope! You’d be surprised. Just having meats at your meals and a few high-protein snacks like greek yogurt, cottage cheese, etc, and you’ll be there. If you have trouble eating that much protein, you can supplement with protein powder.

          The caliper is great. Just make sure you’re using it correctly:


          Your goal is definitely doable. Let’s do it!

  • Vik

    Hey Michael, I’m nearing 40, male 190 pounds with a BF – 29%. I started weights training a couple of months back. I’ve dropped ~7 pounds, but worrying i’ve lost about 4 pounds of lean mass as well. There has been no change in BF for the past 7 weeks
    So I dont know if it’s the large calorie deficit or something else . I average an intake of 1700kcal and workout 5 days a week for an hour.
    What do think I am doing wrong?

  • Anika


    I workout 4-5 days a week with a good mix of cardio and weight training. I also eat primarily healthy foods (at lease 80% of my diet).

    I have seen my weight drop but unfortunately I don’t think I am loosing any fat or I’m hardly loosing any. I am a 5’8″ female and weigh 135 pounds. What concerns me isn’t necessarily my weight it is my waist. Right now, as of 2 hours ago my waist measured at 29″, my hips are 37.5″, and my bust is 34″.

    How do I loose fat? What am I doing wrong? The only thing I can think of is my sleep. It’s pretty sporadic. I work full time and I am a part time bartender. Some nights I only get 2-3 hours of sleep but I usually make up sleep on Sunday’s by not doing anything lol

    What are your thoughts?

    Thank you,

  • hojo

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the great blog, I somehow always end up here with the many questions I have about fitness!

    I am 5’11 189 lbs at 23% BF and about 9 months into consistent strength training. I’m trying to put together a cutting program, but I’m not sure how to set a realistic goal . I’d like to get to about 12% body fat by the end of this program, but it seems I’d have to get down to about 165 lbs to achieve that while maintaining my current muscle mass (I’m not expecting to put on muscle mass while cutting).

    Do you think this a realistic goal to have in one cutting program? or should I try to break this up into multiple cutting periods to not stress my body too much?

    • My pleasure!

      Glad you’re enjoying it! I’m happy to help. 🙂

      Cool on where you’re at and where you want to get to. Let’s do it!

      Your goal is definitely doable. You may need to reverse diet in the middle of the cut to speed up the metabolism and then continue cutting, but you will be able to reach your goal.

      Regarding maintaining your muscle mass, it shouldn’t be an issue if you keep your protein intake high, continue to lift heavy and don’t overdo the cardio.

      While on your cut, keep this in mind:


      Hope these help! LMK.

      • hojo

        Yes, definitely! Thanks for the response!

        Will look into reverse dieting and incorporate it into the plan as well. Thanks again!

  • Kausthub Vedantham

    Hi Michael,

    You’re really knowledgeable on lowering body fat percentage…just wondering if I could have some help?
    I’m 15 years old, 5′ 9″ and 210 pounds
    I curl 25-30 pounds, squat 230 (not deep) I bench 135 max (just to give you an idea of my body)
    I think I’m somewhere from 25-30% body fat percentage (comparing with pictures on the Internet) even though a trainer at the gym told me I was 20-25% when he looked at me.
    I want to cut down to 8-10% body fat percentage as all my life I have always been chubby/fat.
    What should I do?
    How many calories does my body burn a week?
    Any advice on what lifts to do?
    P.S. I’m vegetarian and also don’t eat raw egg (omletts, hard boiled, etc, but can eat bread, quiche, cakes, etc)

    Help! Thank you 😀

    • I’d be happy to help!

      Thanks for all the info.

      Cool you want to lose weight! I don’t recommend tracking your macros and cals and trying to get to 10-12% BF at your age though. Let’s just focus on eating lots of nutritious foods and staying active. That should help bring the weight down, and you can focus on getting super lean when you’re older.

      Cool you’re vegetarian. It makes it tough to get the protein you need daily. To help, a couple good, high-protein vegetarian foods are Greek yogurt and cottage cheese. You can also supplement with protein powder as needed.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • girl wrestler in need of help

    Hi I’m 15 years old and i’m a girl. I am about 5’6″ and I weigh 132. I am a wrestler (in Oklahoma and there’s no girl wrestling here so I have to wrestle the boys-I’m the only girl I’m good though my HIgh School coach put me on Varsity A team and I’m a freshman but I couldn’t hold the spot he was basing his opinion on last years preformance) and I’m having a hard time this year for some reason. The boys changed a lot over the summer. I trained all summer and I did move up a couple weight brackets…I put on 20 pounds this summer…no fat…i’m pure muscle. I train after school for 3 hours then I take a 2 hour break to hydrate a refuel and train for 2 more hours every day but I need to drop back down to at least 112 to compete. I should add that I was a vegetarian until last night when my mom explained to me that if I lose 20 pounds without eating a ton of protein I was going to lose muscle instead of fat. I have a really good chiropractor and he says I could safely lose 20 pounds if I introduced meat and ate a crapload of it while staying on the same workout routine. He looked at my body and showed me places that fat could come off. And he also explained that I have “marbleing” throughout my body that even though i’m hard as a rock there’s still some fat in there to lose. I cut to 126 every week to wrestle but it’s just water and it comes right back after weigh in. Can you help me??

    • Hey!

      Hmm honestly I generally don’t recommend teenagers get too crazy with cutting and gaining weight because it’s not good for your body’s natural development.

      (A prolonged calorie deficit can get in the way.)

      Is there any way you could maintain a lowish body fat percentage year round and not have to dramatically cut weight?

  • girl wrestler in need of help

    My mom just ordered your book for me!! And my mom said I should tell you that now I don’t have any kind of eating program. I eat everything. Just no meat. Lots of junk. She just thought you should know that. girl wrestler in need of help!!

  • Alex M

    Hey Mike, as usual you’ve written another great article! I’m really enjoying your site – you seem to have an article about everything I have questions about :).

    Regarding the high protein, you’ve mentioned that you recommend at least 1g per lb of body weight while cutting, though more (up to 1.2g/lb) is better for the reasons listed above regarding high protein diets, as well as in order to get below 10% BF.

    Here are my questions. Let’s say I miscalculate my macros, didn’t plan correctly a certain day etc. and end up at my calorie goal for the day but I failed to reach the minimum 1g/lb of protein. Should I eat over my calorie goal to get in that extra protein? Or is missing one day of protein not a big deal (but two days+ in a row would be)?

    Scenario two: Let’s say I get to 1g/lb of protein one day and have an extra 100/150 cals to go in my daily goal but for some reason I don’t feel hungry (which rarely happens since usually I’m always hungry haha, but it does sometimes)! Is it better to stop there since I got at least 1g/lb of protein and my deficit would be even larger that day, or is there a benefit to eating extra protein anyway and reaching my daily calorie goal?

    Thanks so much for all of your help!!

    • Thanks Alex! 🙂

      I wouldn’t worry about it if you miss your target here and there…so long as you’re not eating like sub-50 grams on those days, haha.

      If you’re around 0.8 g/lb a few days per week, you’ll be fine.

  • Don’t wanna grow old

    Hey Mike
    Soon to be 50 year old here. I have a sedentary 40+ hour a week job, spend 2.5 hours per day in the car getting to and from the sedentary job. My cholest numbers are high. I am 5’7″(5’6″ if you ask my husband, but that is another story) and currently weigh in at 145. I would like to drop 15 lbs, lower my cholest. and generally NOT feel like I’m about to turn 50. I suck at keeping track of calories, know I shouldn’t eat beef – we do eat lots of veggies and we do cook very healthy, everything is home cooked from scratch, no packaged food. I’ve joined a gym, I hit the treadmill and the rowing machine. What do you suggest?

  • Mike G

    Great article! In your experience, can muscle loss be spared with a more aggressive deficit (40 or even 50 percent) IF protein intake stays at 1.2 grams per pound? I’d much rather diet hard for a month than diet moderately (as you’ve laid out here) for 2 months. I also figure that if I lose a few pounds of muscle, it will come back fairly easily due to muscle memory. What are your thoughts?

    • Thanks!

      Hmm there are dietary protocols like that but protein intake is usually even higher and you have to be very stingy with exercise (a couple weightlifting sessions per week with some walking, for example).

      Yes, anything you lose will come back quickly.

  • Dinh Dinh Đỗ

    Thank you for such a great article! I’ve got a few questions. According to what you’ve written, the HIIT is not considered to be a kind of cardio training, isn’t it? As I have been trying to lose body fat and lose weight as well, but don’t want to gain too much muscle. I have always been told that doing a lot of cardio would slower our metabolism, so how if I do like 3 HIITs and 3 cardios per week? Would that be ok without doing the weight training at all?

  • Benjamin Conaway

    You rock,
    Everything i have known all along u have simply stated. You substantiated what i have have been trying to explain to my fiance for a long time.
    I have been in and out of gym whole life bit never really strung more than 2 months of dedicated time. Ibhave been back at it and am feeling good. All is good in the iron paradise. But right now, i am currently confused. I am 5’11 was 187 and am now 175 lb. My target weight. Goal is 175 and 12-15% bf. I use myfitnesspal. So i am at my goal weight but my bf% is approx 26%. At least according to scale. Should iset myself in app up to lose weight or gain weight or maintain current weight? I have my macros set to 40″30:30. I should also mention that my diet has been transformed to paleoish. And i am enjoyjng it. With a couple good weekly cheats. I just dont onow how to proceed to achieve my goal in the straightest line??? Thank you forbyour help

    • Thanks, Ben! Happy to help clear things up. 🙂

      Cool you’ve been training on and off for a while.

      Great job on the weight you’ve lost so far!

      First, let’s get an accurate number on your BF%:


      After that, you can see whether you cut or bulk here:


      Cool you’re following a somewhat paleo diet haha.

      Check out those articles and LMK what you think.

      My pleasure. Talk soon!

      • Benjamin Conaway

        Thank you so much for the reply! So read the articles. The mirror method takes me around 17% bf. The scale says around 26 (dont trust as far as i throw for b.f.) i am about a month on point. No real cardio but if i do it is hiit. Agreed cant be beat. Like i said i am a month into really serious in gym. Happy to see that all i am doing there you would agree with. Also eating clean (paleo with plain greek yogurt, oats etc..) no processed food. 1-2 cheats/ week. Track the crap out of everything via m.f.p. have been set to be in moderate deficit and killin it at gym so my body has shed weight and i feel great. Coming off two year lifting hiatus (should injury and surgery) so i am pretty sure i am in recomposition mode.. newbie gains. And they are coming quick.
        Unfortunately, i think i need to stay in deficit until newbie gains end. I grew up most of my life ecto and it kinda sucked. Now at 40’s doorstep i have become skinny fat but only due to a life of utter decadence. Just was unsure if there was any way to just stay at 175 and bring my b.f. down to 10%. I guess it all depends on how much “newbie gains” there are to be had for me. Plus dint want to spin wheels.
        how will i know when recomposition ends or slows?

        • Welcome!

          Cool on the BF%. Don’t worry about what the scale says.

          Cool you’re tracking your intake on MFP, and I’m glad you’re back to training and doing well in the gym while losing weight! Gotta love those newbie gains. 🙂

          You’ll want to focus on fat loss until you reach 10% BF. You may still have some newbie to gains make at that point.

          You’ll know when recomposition ends by tracking your BF%. If you see your weight staying the same for a few weeks and your BF% isn’t going down, you aren’t making any progress. At that point, if you’re still trying to reach 10% BF, you need to make sure you’re losing 1-2 pounds a week.

          My pleasure! Glad the fiance is doing it right now. 🙂

          Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Javier Antonio

    Hi Mike,

    First of all let me thank you, for the impressive amount of useful info you provided to all of us. That being said, I would like to tell you the work out I’ve been doing the last 2 months, I believe you can tell me if I am doing it right.
    I’ve been doing some cardio and weight lifting as well. At this point I’m doing about 60-70 mins of cardio, divided in 20 mins of a walking warm up, then jogging for 15 mins, then 10 mins walking, then jogging for 15 mins again, and I end up walking for 10 more minutes. Then after that I do some crunches followed by weight lifting work out ( I planned a 3 day work out ) that is chest and triceps (day 1), shoulders and biceps (day 2) and well day 3 is specifically dedicated to pull ups. I do this 4 or 5 times a week, usually leaving Wednesdays and Sundays to rest up a bit.

    Now my questions are the following: Is it ok to do cardio and then the weight lifting ? or should I do it the other way around ?
    Am I doing to much ? should I rest more often ?
    Should I do cardio OR weight lifting in a day ? or can I safely do both ?

    My current weight is 89 Kg, I’m not sure how much it is in lb though, and I believe I’m in between 20 and 25 as for body fat.
    Also, I’m eating a lot a veggies and fruits. But not so much meat any more, and I kinda became the “salad man” haha, but always with some soya, fish, chicken or (last resort) red meat. Is that ok ? Should I eat more Protein ?

    Thank you again.

  • Luis Braga

    Hey Mike, what are your thoughts on supplementing on HMB while cutting?

    • If you’re training fasted, it’s great! I have it in my fasted training product, Forge. Otherwise, there’s no need for it.

  • Ise Rod

    Thanks for sharing this very informative article. I am def a very, skinny fat person now. However, my lack of definition is mostly due to a digestive & motility disorder that causes severe bloating and abdominal distention. I can barely digest meat and a lot of other foods so am now finding myself forced into a stupid vegetarian diet. I’m already abstaining from a lot of protein and starchy carbs that I used to love eating. WOULD YOU PLEASE RECOMMEND ANY ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS THAT ARE ‘EASIER’ TO BREAK DOWN? Legumes are normally a great healthy alternative but when you suffer from IBS-C, they can be detrimental. Its also been suggested I avoid dairy foods to help with my digestive disease which further limits vegetarian protein options. Finally, to add to the level of difficulties in trying to get fit, I sprained my back and shoulder on New Year’s Day so exercising is very limited still. I was always very athletic & physically fit, being of a very small frame (5′ 3″ & about 105 lbs.) but up until 5 years ago my overall health has been rapidly declining and this is very difficult for me. Since I am only about 105 – 107 lbs. I really can relate with the term “skinny fat.” However I think most people think I’m obsessed with looking thin, while I’ve always felt I’m too skinny. Now I know this isn’t a healthy body even though my body fat is only 19%, it’s literally all around my midsection and it looks awful. On really bad days I usually look like I’m 6 months pregnant due to the disease, and most days I look like I’m 3 mos. pregnant! Which for the record i most certainly am not! So thanks for any insight u r willing to share with this 42 yr old Mama of 5.

    • Have you looked into a low-FODMAP diet? It can do wonders for people with IBS and IBS-like symptoms.

      Regarding protein, I’m really not sure because it depends on your situation. Are you working with a dietitian or doctor?

  • Whitney Hardman

    Thank you for sharing all these wonderfully informative articles. I recently started a more healthy lifestyle and exercising 5 days a week. But my sister suggested I may be skinny fat and that got be curious. I started researching what that meant. I found you on YouTube and subsequently was directed to your articles. I am 5 ft 5 and 132 lb (female).I have very little muscle definition. While I look good in clothes, once they come off, I am obviously squishy and untoned.
    I want to lose fat, gain muscle, and feel good about myself. Do you think is reasonable to aim for real resultsoon in 2 months? My family seems to build muscle quickly with little effort. But I want to put in the work and get the right, healthy results. Thank you for any advice you may have to offer.

  • Cassandra Margilaj

    Hi Mike,
    I am curious as to why my weight and my body fat percentage seem to have stayed the same but my body composition has changed? I am definitely more defined through my legs arms abs and thighs, but body fat remaining at about 20% still. I hit my macros and keep high protein. I strength train two-3 days a week, on other days i do a mile run for fun or just a very busy women around the house and my little keeps me busy. Sometimes i might to pilates because ive always enjoyed it or a session of hiit. My calorie in take as of right now is 1358. So why no change in weight or body fat? I thought if you make gainz BF will go down?

  • Rhonda Rose


    I am struggling with figuring out how many calories I need to lose fat, build muscle but not be too unhealthy. I’ve been on my program for 2 months and have lost 34 pounds with my daily calorie intake set at 1,300 (which I hardly ever reach); protein at 45%; carbs at 30% and fat at 25%. I’m currently at 253 pounds but I’ve always weighed a lot due to big bones and a lot of muscle from playing sports and working out. My 3rd baby put my weight over the edge and, at age 35, I’ve struggled with fat. My LBM (according to this site’s calculator) is 167 and body fat percentage is 34% according to the Accumeasure chart.

    Can you please help me figure this out? I need to lose about 50+ more pounds but I don’t want to lose muscle! I have a lot under this blubber! I drink whey protein first thing in morning and after I workout if that helps. I’m also afraid of carbs! The carbs I do eat are all from fruits, vegetables and yogurt. I’m currently reading Thinner, Leaner, Stronger but not that far into it.

    Please help! 😁

  • Diana C

    Hi, thank you for writing this wonderful article. Is it okay if I ask you some questions?

    I am 5 ft 7in, around 140lb, and in early 20s (female). I don’t know about my body composition but I know I have big bone structure (genetics), and more on the curvy shape. As I get older, I realized my body does not look as lean as I used to in my teen ages (I was lucky enough to have curvy fit body without much of an effort), and now I have squishy fats and flabby arms under my clothes. So I decided to go to gym.
    I am not a sportive person, and I have very low cardiovascular endurance. I was born physically weak (although I don’t look like one), and constantly suffered from low immune system. I tried every sport out there (ice skating, tennis, swimming, soccer, kendo) since I was young, and I was always a mediocre at my best. Anyhow, my immune system and physical strength only gotten worse – so here is another reason why I should work out.

    So this is what I’ve been doing for past week.
    I go to gym 3 times a week, and I do 30 minutes weight training and 30-40 minutes aerobic exercises. I tried to keep it simple but getting things done.
    My immune system got lowered after the first workout from burnout, and I immediately caught cold. So I decided not to go so extreme. My body is seriously so weak, and it’s not even funny.

    Have you ever encountered people like me? If so, what are your tips?
    Would I see results following this routine? When should I start increasing the intensity?
    I just don’t grasp what is the right amount of workout to get toned body.
    Also how intense should it be? Should I feel as if my muscles are ‘burning’ while I am lifting and have muscles ache/sore/numb the next day? If I don’t feel the ‘pain’ do I increase the intensity?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Hey Diana,

      What’s your diet look like? Eating well and healthy? Enough sleep?

      For your workouts, try this out:

      8-10 reps is your target, where the 11th rep is so heavy that you can’t lift the weight. This is the intensity level, and how to gauge it.

      • Diana C

        Thanks so much for your quick reply! I also spent some good hours reading your articles including the post you linked. Again, thanks so much for very informative articles!
        What I need, I think based on your article, is more of weightlifting and less of cardio.

        I have bad eating and sleeping habit because of my irregular life style – two meals a day and sleeping hours vary every day. So I need to get that fixed first!

        One more question, please – you said 8-10 reps is my target where the 11th rep is so heavy that I can’t lift the weight. How many set should I do per type of exercise? Do I increase the weight as my body get ‘used’ to it?

  • Mudit

    Hello!!! thanks for giving this superb knowledge of diet with all of us ,,myself Mudit from India i read your article i found it quite helpful….plus i need your assistance also……I am 20 years of age and i weigh 85.27kgs and my height is 5.8′, i have been gyming from last couple of years but with breaks , now completely i hav started gyming with full dedication ,but i want to loose my weight asap and als build muscles ,but Indian food is not so supportive and m really confused what should i eat after my gym, before my gym and all day whnever m hungry … m really confused and worried bcz working out for hours and again coming back and eating tht diet which gains the loss simaltaneously is totally being fool !!!
    i will be waiting if i get my answers !!!
    thanking you in anticipation
    cheers !!!

  • Sarah Jin

    Hi mike, thanks for this great article. However, I’m a bit confused about what I could do for my own personal workouts. I am 5’2″ weighing at 133 pounds and have 25 percent body fat. I don’t look like I’m overweight or big, just very out of shape from what I’m used to. I’m trying to lose all the unnecessary fat hugging around my arms, stomach, and thighs, while preserving muscle because I want to look fit and healthy. I do weight train, and I know that will give me significant results, but do you have any suggestions on what is the best Kind of cardio I can do? I do 10 30 second sprints on 8.5 after each lifting session. Is that enough? What should I do on the days I don’t lift? Is cardio necessary to do everyday when burning fat? Sorry I’m just confused.

  • Antonio Calhau

    Hi mike again! So i see that i really need to take much more protein to dont lose protein! But how many days should i do Strength train and how many days in HITT? How can i plan that, can i do in the same day?


  • Barbara calazaes

    Hey Mike ! I’m a little confused because my personal trainer put me on a high level protein diet like you mentioned but he is making me do steady cardio (130-140 heart rate) for 45-60 mins 5 days a week. I’m also doing strength training but scared I will lose muscle doing all this cardio … What should I do !? I’m 5’8″ and 135 p , 20% bf. Thank you once again !

  • Nathan

    Hey Mike.

    I’m a 5-foot-7, 158 lb male. Unsure of my body fat percentage (if you have an idea of what it may be, I’d love to hear), but know I still have some loose skin/fat in the lower midsection to tighten up to make my lower abs pop. Top four do already.

    My question comes to carbs. I’m unsure of how many carbs to eat per day. I dropped all my weight (started at 260) by slashing carbs and working out hard. So adding back in now is tough. But how many grams of carbs per day do you suggest?

    I generally consume 200g of protein a day and hover around 1,600 calories per day. My workouts are splits — MWF is abs with HIIT sprints for 20 minutes with some light weights thrown in sometimes, and TThSat doing weight training.

    Thanks a lot!

  • Rocky

    Hi Mike, if someone has a good amount of fat to lose, and has never really tried to put on muscle before, would it make sense to focus mostly on eating properly and doing cardio until they reach a lower body fat, and then start weight training? Perhaps that’s not ideal, but I figure losing muscle isn’t as huge of a risk in this particular case?

    • Hey Rocky, you’d do better starting off on the right foot with weight training. It’ll be far more effective than cardio for lowering your body fat.

  • Taylor Kuzik

    Hello, Mike Matthews. I’ve read some of your articles and must say they are very informative. It’s hard to find straight to the point kind of articles here on the web. I’m trying to get 8-10% BF because it’s easier to sustain than 5-8% BF, I envy those who can walk around with 5-8% BF naturally. 8-10% BF is associated with the classical beach body that every guy wants. I’m not into bodybuilding nor a fitness model because of the strict diet they do. I do know diet and exercise is important for fat loss/building muscle. I’m around I believe 12-13ish BF, which is lean because I can see muscle definition and working on getting that elusive six-pack. I can see them under certain lighting/shadowing and right angle but not enough to have them look like I’m flexing when actually am not. When I first working out back in 2009, I was around 15-20% BF aka “No Man’s Land” and had a 34″ waist. Granted I wasn’t exactly watching what I ate back then. Fast forward to now, I have cut out junk food pretty much. Sadly I can’t take creatine because of my seizure disorder. I want to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Truth is, I’m not sure if I’m 150 pounds in bodyweight or has changed. I multiplied it by 15 and the result it came up with is 2,250 calories. I’m assuming that is how many my body needs to sustain my weight. I need some help getting through that last push to reach 8-10% BF.

    • Sure thing, Taylor! Take a look at this:


      That’ll get you started on setting your macro targets.

      • Taylor Kuzik

        Okay so I read both articles and gave me some ideas on what to do but the thing is I don’t have a smart phone to keep track of my macros even if I download myfitnesspal on my tablet. Also since I am doing a workout program called Athlean X where it trains you like an athlete for 90 days or less depending on the program. I completed AX-1 and little over halfway done with AX-2 which is more focused on building muscle. After that, I plan to do Xero since it uses your own body as a gym. The meal plan is different for each program but I do like the variety of exercises since that’s key to getting into shape if you just started or toning up. Well, in addition to getting to 8-10% BF, I use only supplements that scientifically backed and based on reviews like yours. I know supplements aren’t necessarily required but it can help get you to results faster or fill in gaps in daily nutrition since everyone’s body is different, young or old. I have been reading about carb cycling where you do low carb days for about two days then go medium carbs for the same amount I think and finally high carbs for probably workout days. Your body will spare muscle as long as your protein intake is sufficient enough because having your body eating away at muscle for energy is something you don’t want. I do know that if you’re dieting for fat loss, you will lose some muscle mass but you want to minimize as much as possible.
        Another problem is what body type I have. Don’t know if I’m an ectomorph aka hard gainer or typically skinny guy that has difficulty putting on muscle, mesomorph which are the genetically gifted that can put on muscle or lose fat easily which is the ideal body everyone is after and finally the endomorph who can store fat more easily but have a hard time getting it off. I know it’s not uncommon for someone to have traits of two body types like an endo-mesomorph. I certainly don’t take mass gainer because I think they’re pointless because the amount of ingredients, vitamins and creatine they have and the heaping scoops most have. ON’s Pro Complex Gainer is likely the only mass gainer that has no creatine so it’s a cleaner alternative but it still has that heaping scoop problem that some supplement companies have solved.
        One last problem I have trouble with is the number of helpings you should have with dinner, the portion control issue is something I’m figuring out. With breakfast and lunch, I only have one helping to keep me full throughout the day and have a snack 2-3 hours to my energy levels up because my energy levels get zapped easily because of my 4-hour part-time job as a cart attendant at my local Target store and keeps my blood sugar levels stable and made sure it has the proper amount of protein, carbs and fat like a protein bar but with dinner I have one or two helpings. When I was a teen I had three because my body was still maturing.
        Given that I work out 4-5 days a week and rest one day because of the workout schedule AX-2 has, I am uncertain on how many helpings I should have with dinner. I do have the occasional Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Angry Orchard hard cider or soda with them but I am trying to keep those to a minimum.
        Sorry if this sounds like much but I still have problems with getting that ideal body even with nutrition and proper exercise program.

        • Hey Taylor,

          1. You can do it by hand and log things onto a spreadsheet
          2. Body type doesn’t matter much. Just make the necessary adjustments if you’re not gaining or losing.
          3. Meal plan and weight out your food. Refer to http://www.caloriecount.com to see macros

  • Bobbi jo wickman

    Hi Mike!
    Wow i have been all over and i swear everyone has different answers for everything…
    Ive been on a fitness journey my whole life staying active but just this past November really dialed into portion control etc..ive lost 20 lbs and plateaued since but since march of this year have been weight lifting and the changes in my body are awesome..stuff ive never had before when i kinda just went to the gym with no plan. And did cardio..etc
    So ive lost inches and my shape is changing but im still ar 185..im female 5′ 5 29 years old body fat about 28 based on measures capiler accu measures and mirror etc..i am.more of a muscle thicker legs gal not tall and thin but i still want my next goal of 165 lbs..
    Ive been doing a program called body beast alot of dynamic set training huge sets progressive sets etc and its been really great..i have to work out at home i have 2 kiddos and still breastfeeding the 1 year old..but she also eats alot of food..so i know ive been cycyling a bit and after a defcit was in a surplus..etc..
    have taken some breaks and a vacation but now i really want to kick start my fat loss ..while continuing to lift heavy and ill add hitt cardio..3 times a week..any other tips or advice you can give..ive tried looking at my macros and ive come between 1695 to 2000..cals..which should i try so im still able to to lift and be a happy mom hahah! And lose fat.. ive had numbers come to 163 protein 127 carbs and 65 fat..are those a good range..?


    • Hey hey Bobbi! Awesome job on losing 20lbs.

      Try this to start, and adjust based on results:
      1812 cals
      220g protein
      129g carbs
      39g fat

      Try to be as accurate and consistent as you can. A 300cal drift is way too much. +/-50 is ideal. It’s going to take consistency with your intake to see results! Keep up the great work.

  • Farhan Khan

    My solution for losing body fats and not muscle was blue fat freeze system (www.fat freezekit/com) which helped me lose 3 inches around my waist in 2 months. But consult a doctor before using this kit as its not effective for every one and a certain body structure is required.

  • Mary

    Hi Mike…I am overweight and I need to lose fat. Do you think doing HIIT with a rowing machine will be effective for weight loss?

  • Vee


    I am:
    42 y.o female
    141 lbs
    21% BF
    I lift heavy 3x week (push, pull, legs) I squat 200lbs
    HIIT 3x week

    I have lost 15 pounds in the past 8 months and have gained substantial muscle mass however, my butt has disappeared. From my understanding, I should increase my protein and possible reduce my Hiit or change to steady state cardio.
    I feel the macros calculator are too generalized when asking the activity levels and might be skewing my numbers.
    So how do I know what and how to adjust accordingly?

    Thanks for your help!


  • Chaitra Gopalakrishna


    I am 35 Y 0 Male
    28% body fat
    I do strength training twice a week and HIIT 3 times a week
    I am trying to reduce my body fat percentage
    what should be macro and calorie target.

    • Hey Chaitra, I recommend you do 5 days of weight lifting. The current activity is not enough. On a 5 day split with 3 HIIT cardio sessions is:

      P 118g
      C 142g
      F 29g

      • Chaitra Gopalakrishna

        Type error in my previous post. I am 35 y female. Should I still follow same schedule and calorie count?

  • M-Hadi Assi

    I am 28 y o male – weight: 72 kilograms
    i have 16.4% body fat
    i have this rate since about 7 months with no improvement where i want to reach 10% body fat..
    workout 4 times every week with 40 min cardio
    i eat 150 g of protein (including whey protein) and 130 grams of carbs and 35 grams of healthy fat…
    it looks like my body is not responding any more
    what should I do to lose fat (not weight), and where is the problem exactly.
    note: everything in my body composition test was normal

  • brooksms

    Hi Mike! Just curious- How long can someone safely eat at a steep deficit and do extra cardio without risking muscle loss? For example, if you have trip coming up in a couple of weeks and want to temporarily push extra hard for fat loss beforehand.

  • Gary

    Hi i enjoyed reading your article.

    Im a man 47. Im not in great physicsl shape at all. I am 5’8 with a 43 inch waist. I need to loose around 9 inches around my middle before it becomes a health issue. Ive been going to the gym 3 times a week for 3 months now just using weight machines. I do 3 sets of 12 reps on 9 different machines exercising my legs chest and arms. I dont think i eat a huge amount each day. Typically during the week a bowl of cereal for breakfast a can of mackeral fillets and 2 peices of fruit for lunch and usually something with chicken pork pasta rice or potatoes for dinner. I seem to have put on weight and although i feel my arms andnlegs are stronger im not loosing anything around my middle. What would you suggest?

  • Andrew

    Hey mike, I’m an avid 5-10k runner, and I’m curious if there’s a way that I can go on a cut without stopping my training or losing muscle.
    My TDEE is about 2,200 calories and I shoot for an average of running about 3-4 miles a day. Should I include regular weightlifting in my training, dial back on the deficit, or both?

  • Marc Chamberlain

    Hi Mike

    Always loved your stuff!

    Question I’m in about 4 weeks of my first cut and I’m trying to drop my body fat from 24.1 to 10 before a true bulk. Now I’m losing weight about 8 lbs thus far with my calorie deficit and weight training 4-6 days a week. Now I have noticed a drop in body fat bit thus seems to go up and down. Last week I only lose 2 lbs but lost nearly 2% body fat. This week I lost 3lbs but but back on body fat. Now my macros don’t change and are hitting close to my target but never over. I’m on a deficit of 25%

    I just want to ask is this normal with the body fat going up and down. As long as my weight is coming down will my body fat follow it am I missing out something.

    I don’t do any HIIT or cardio. Just weight about 50mins to 1 hour a day following your program.

    Any suggestions, I’m drinking 1 gallon of water or more a day.

  • Tonka100200

    Hi Mike,

    I am at 26% bodyfat 217 ilbs 6’1″. I usually cycle to and from work 4 days a week during the summer months which equates to 8 hours cardio. Now started weight training full body workout 3 days a week. Does this mean I am doing to much cardio. I am eating around 2000-2200 cals a day.

  • Aska Man

    Hi Mike,
    I’m 49yo, 6’3″, 194lb 7,8- 8%bf. I never went too far from this % even during winter, even though I wasn’t exalty dieting, just eating clean at around 2500 cal/day and that way I remained quite lean all year round with a max bf of 11%. The problem is that I tried to decrease the calories to 2100 cal while mantaining my training routine and after 3 weeks almost nothing happened. Then I increased training sessions from 4 to 6 a week, and I slightly improved my BF for an other couple of weeks, but immedatly reached a dead point. So I lowered to the actual 1850 cal for one and a half week and again I saw the results getting to 7,7% bf.
    But honestly I don’t know how far I can keep going down from here. Do you suggest me only to have patience and keep my calories intake like now, maybe with some carb refeeds every 2 weeks, and allow time to my BF to get down to 4% – 5% that is my goal? Or should I give me a break of one week going back to 2400, before starting again?

  • Latish Patil

    i am doing cardio in the morning and gym in evening . No supplements just natural . Eventually i feel i have gained lot of weight and a big belly too i dont know how and its making me very irritate and frustrate …. i am very worried about this what should i do ??watching myself with such a big belly make me give up on gym or cardio or something… i am feeling to big how to loose that weight and fat …. 🙁 please help…. waiting for your message

  • Latish Patil

    i am 21 years old 5’7″ 170-180 pounds 🙁 ….. there was a time where i did cardio in morning and evening and i got slim and in good shape but after joining gym i had a sprain in my hand that took me out of action for 7 months…. and i gained weight like crazy i got too big and that demotivated me every single day but i dont want to give up… when i started again i am trying hard Sir…
    Now….. i am doing cardio in the morning and gym in evening . No supplements just natural . Eventually i feel i have gained lot of weight and a big belly too i dont know how and its making me very irritate and frustrate …. i am very worried about this what should i do ??watching myself with such a big belly make me give up on gym or cardio or something… i am feeling to big how to loose that weight and fat …. 🙁 please help…. waiting for your message

  • Arun Pal

    Hello sir,
    I have lost 10 kg of my weight in 6 months and my now weight is 62kg with 110gm protein is this a fat loss or muscle loss?

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