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Gain strength and lose fat at the same time

By November 17, 2010January 13th, 201716 Comments

I get excited when I’m trialling something, and it actually works out

There’s a myth floating around that you can’t gain strength and lose fat at the same time. It’s kinda like saying, you can’t go away for a birthday and end up getting engaged at the same time either.

Speaking from experience on both counts, I can say the seemingly impossible, is in fact possible.

The discovery

As you may or may not know, I’m on the final week of Phase III of Visual Impact and I’ve been coupling it with a combination of Eat-Stop-Eat and lean gains. This particular phase is predominantly focussed on strength gain. Most exercises contained within it, are all focused around the 2-4 rep range.

Why is the low-rep range important?

You need to be working in the lower ranges to activate your Type IIa and Type IIx muscle fibres. This is where your strength will come from.

What about fat loss?

To achieve fat loss whilst you’re gaining strength, you should be training in a fasted state.

Andreaz Engstrom is a prime example of what you can achieve whilst training in a fasted state.

Won’t I lose muscle training in a fasted state?

As I’ve pointed out in articles written over at, this is in fact a bit of a myth. Martin Berkhan actually makes a great point of debunking the myths that you need to eat before training.

My own personal experience with intermittent fasting

I went to the gym around 9am today. All i had consumed in the morning was about 10grams of BCAAs in water. I took another bottle with me containing another 10grams of BCAAs.
The Branch Chain Amino Acids will protect your muscles from being used as fuel for your workout.

Did my lifts suffer?

Not at all. I lifted the same on all my lifts but with the added bonus that I was using my fat stores as the primary fuel for my workout.

Not only that, but I increased the achievable reps on a number of my lifts.

Here is Andreaz training in a fasted state…

To sum it up

This is purely my own experience of course and may be different for you. I found that I became a little light headed during the workout when I attempted to super-set some exercises. The body was clearly telling me i was ‘pushing my luck’.

Editor’s Note: Do you ever train fasted? What are your results? Comment below.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • Mrs Cassie says:

    I would be interested to know if this is the case for women too.
    I have tried fasting a few times and can say that i personally do not find it easy. All I can think of is food! i have stopped lateley because my personal trainer wants me to eat like 20 times a day which i have ignores since i just dont get that hungry. Its hard for me to find the happy medium.
    Interesting article though Clint.

    And Congratulations :)

    • I think it’s important to take baby-steps when trialling ‘fasting’ for the first time.
      Start with a 12 hour fast, then next time do 16 hours etc.
      The first few weeks that I tried doing a cold-turkey 24 hour fast, i was chewing my arm off ;)

  • I always train fasted in the morning whether its SS cardio, sprints or lifting weights; its a personal preference I don’t think it matters if you eat say breakfast or not its not long enough to cause an effect cause food is still floating around in the body being digested..But unless you fast greater than 24 hours and try to do intense workouts I believe you would be flat as a tack.
    I think the phrase “exactly at the same time” is impossible cause your body can only be mostly catabolic or anabolic at one time but lift weights and eat you’ll build something … fast a bit later and you’ll lose a bit and maybe it can all happen in 1 day yeah … but if it worked for you thats really cool.

    • In terms of ‘strength’ id argue that both are possible at the same time.
      I definitely agree with you that adding muscle-size at the same time would be extremely difficult.

  • Bryan Pope says:

    Hmm, I have never fasted in my life ( voluntarily at least ). I am able to stretch out my eating and lower the amount of food but even without working out I feel excessively weak. I know the way that I lost a majority of my fat was by not eating past 6 PM, doing a good 30-60 min cardio session and either not having water or very little ( about 1 cup ). Then I would hit the bed and feel refreshed in the morning. To be honest, I would rather work at one at a time, but I feel that anyone can find the medium to obtain both goals within a small timeframe.

    • It sure is a case of ‘what works for you’ when it comes to fat-control.
      For me, I used to feel weak when i trained on an empty stomach, now every single one of my morning workouts is done (like Raymond) fasted with a bottle of BCAA’s in water and THAT’S IT.
      Took a while to get used to it of course ;)

  • Clint,

    These days, I always train in a fasted state. I do this mostly for emphasis on fat burning. I’m not really trying to gain mass at this point, just maintain what I’ve got. For this purpose, training in a fasted state works fine for me. I don’t feel that it hinders my workouts and I can even progress over time just like I did before when I didn’t train in a fasted state.


  • Alejandro says:

    I do the same as Alykhan, I train on a fasted state daily at 6:30 am as this is where I am able to have an empty gym and also have my nights free.. after a while I just get used to it. not sure if its better or worse for muscle gain but I like it and thats more important.

  • Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

  • Jan says:

    I like to go for a run in the morning before I have anything to eat. It works for me.

  • Hi Clint,

    I have been learning the whole training, fasted stated and fat loss process over the past few months.

    I started on the 4HB diet – dead keen to lose 30Kgs (100 down to 70). My journey started with an initial 10Kg loss in about 4 weeks or so. Things slowed down then and I began to explore how to go further.

    Today 4/5 months latter I have lost about 22/23Kg in fat. I have been training for about 6 weeks. So my net weightloss is about 18Kg. I have a tape measure to watch and ensure that I am losing weight/size, and I can see muscle definition as evidence of muscle gains.

    Having stumbled across lean-gains, and then eat-stop-eat, a buddy of mine mentioned your site. I discovered Visual Impact/Rusty Moore and Gary Taubes.

    So today I am nearly into 2 months of fasting and minimalist training. I do still tend to stick to a slow-card diet although i have two break out sessions a week -love that ice cream. I am a daily booze hound and if I am not nailing three martinis at my favourite ribs joint, it will be a half bottle of red. Interestingly though I just find going low carb has meant by ability to manage beer is gone – a real bugger cause i friggen love that stuff.

    Having read eat-stop-eat, 4HB, the protein myth, visual impact/supplements myth (rusty moore) and a few other things I feel i am getting vaguely close to actually understanding what the fuck is going on. But I got a couple of questions for you – I am very definitely on a shed another 10/12Kg of fat, and gain another 3-5Kg of muscle.

    1. there is not a real load of clarity on the whole calorie counting v. low carb in light of these above methods. Rusty/Brad almost imply that calorie counting is still the appropriate method for observing fatloss. My experience (Taubes/4HB) though counters that – i lost a load of weight, ate a load of veggies, meat and once to twice a week nailed about 20 fucking donuts to fight the sugar cravings. So here is the thing – clearly sugar/carbs will make you a fat bugger, but how does a low carb diet (smart carbs only) impact you in a training/fasting state such as what you do and what I am doing?

    2. Creatine: I take a bunch of shit, uppers, downers, siders and stuff. All natural, all possibly a load of old bollocks, but hey i am happy with it. But Creatine as got me confused. Would you be taking creatine in a fasted state? I just started and expect to see results in about two weeks AND apart from the desire to puke I am wondering, is it worth it now? Or should i wait until i have lost that extra fat?

    Mike “from Sunny Bali” McKerlie

    • Clint Nielsen says:

      First off, congrats on your massive weight-loss – inspiring stuff.
      It can be quite confusing I agree. This is a heap of info out there, and a lot of it is either misleading or conflicting.
      I think calorie counting is necessary at the beginning of any ‘life-style’ changing dieting strategy. Once it’s in place and you are accustomed to what calories actually ‘look like’, you can then stop counting them and in the process, stop going mental :)
      You can then use the mirror/photographs to gauge if you are eating too much or too little (putting on fat etc).
      In answer to your first question, it sounds as though the cravings you are getting are directly related to your constant low-carb strategy.
      When I feed and break my fast at lunch, I eat a LOT of food. High quality protein foods and believe it or not – carbs.
      You will need the carbs to grow and lose fat, just make sure they are the ‘right’ carbs – By that I mean, complex carbs such as yams, sweet potatoes, veges etc.
      We are all human though, and I myself get sugar cravings. I negate those cravings with naturally (stevia) sweetened things such as the muffins I posted about a while back.
      I train fasted though, and the lack of carbs makes absolutely no difference to my strength/energy in the gym. It is actually the opposite and I feel stronger.
      In regards to Creatine – it’s probably the only supplement you actually will get the MOST benefit from in the long run. It won’t suddenly give you ‘super-human’, steroid-like strength, but it WILL allow you to squeeze out more reps per set and increase your endurance to cope with heavier loads.
      If it’s making you sick, you might need to try a different brand or variation. Monohydrate has been known to upset the stomach. Perhaps try a ‘blend’ or Tricreatine malate.

  • Kevin says:

    There’s really nothing quite like dropping weight while increasing lifts. Not only does it look cool to see a “smaller” guy … aka, not a HUGE/fat guy … busting out some decent lifts. Gaining strength while dropping weight/fat can definitely be done and it should be in many cases.

    Great advice to stick to low rep training, I find that works great for me as well.

  • Mark says:

    Nice post! Lately I have been focusing more on cardio, but still lifting. I am trying to find that happy medium, and I think I am almost there. I also practice low reps…thanks for sharing
    Mark T

  • Jazzie says:

    Hi Clint,

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and have decided to try the fasting method. For a person like me, who works at a desk from 8:30-5:00 for 5 days a week, would you have any suggestions on a schedule? I find I’m best to go to the gym right after work but if it’s best to train in a fasted state, I wonder when I can fit in lunch….cuz I know I’m going to be starving during the day.

    • Clint says:

      I’d eat straight after training at say 7 for a good session. Then stop eating at around 9pm.

      Skip breakfast the next day and don’t eat until around 12.30-1pm for a BIG lunch. Repeat.

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