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Building muscles while losing weight. Should I take Whey protein?

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Hi All,

I have a doubt about trying to build muscles while also trying to lose weight.

I could not find any conclusive answer to this yet. So any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Some stats about me first:

I am 177 cm, 29 Male.

Weight: 81 kg today, down from 103 kg in July 2008

How I lost it? By targeting 1500 calories on weekdays & walking on treadmill +  light weights to prevent muscle loss. (On weekends I eat without any guilt :) and hardly exercise)

Target Weight Goal: 75 kg to 78 kg.

Trouser size down from 40 to 35 inches.


Question: My friends are now persuading me to hit the gym (My 1 year goal is to have a fit & muscular body).

I am confused as to whether I should wait till I reach my weight goal. I worry that if I increase my food intake, it would hamper my weight loss. On the other hand, If I don’t eat more calories, wouldn’t lifting all those weights in gym be futile?

I am wondering if I can add whey protein supplement to my food intake to help with building muscles? The whey protein wiki says that it is used for weight loss as well? So I am thinking of continuing to maintain 1500 calories + having 2 servings of whey protein for building muscles.

Does this approach make sense? Has anyone tried it? Or should I just postpone gym? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Best Regards,


PS: Many thanks to this site & all the contributors here. The nutrition info here and the suggestions in the forum have made a lot of difference to my life. 


9 Replies (last)

Your a bloke - you should never put off resistance training.  Tongue out

You aren't going to build muscle while you are eating at a calorie deficit.  I've got pretty similar stats (except I'm taller - 185cm) started at 103.4kg in June '08 and down to 81kg now. 

When you go into muscle building you are likely to put on some fat when you are building (i.e. bodybuilders phase it - cut and build phases).  Its really a matter of what is your target - do you want the fit(ter), (more) athletic look or would you like to be bigger (for you)?

I am about 3kgs away from my target weight, when I hit that (about six or eight weeks away) I am going to try and build some muscle (concentrating on upper body) by going through a building phase.

You really need to set your own goals.  And adding whey is going to add calories so you need to decide whether you can/or how you can include them in your calorie budget depending on your goal.

Original Post by michaelduff:

.......You aren't going to build muscle while you are eating at a calorie deficit.  .......

I've seen it mentioned in several other threads that you can't gain muscle while eating at a calorie deficit.  After definitely gaining muscle while losing weight, albeit very slowly because I have a calorie deficit every day, I wanted to see if I could find anything on the topic.  Here's what I found:

"With very few exceptions, losing a lot of fat and gaining a lot of muscle at the same time is very hard to do. That's because of the opposing demands these goals impose on your body..........  overfeeding led to far greater gains in muscle than underfeeding. And underfeeding led to a greater loss of fat than overfeeding."  Click to read more but take it for what it is considering that it's just another article on the Web and not from a medical site.  I just happened to find it interesting and it did help explain how I was losing weight and gaining muscle while eating at a deficit.

Unfortunately it didn't mention anything about adding protein to the equation.

EDIT:  In repsonse to some of the posts that were written after this, I would indeed consider myself a 'beginner', which is probably why I've seen some gain in muscle.  Although I've been doing strength training for more then a year, it's only been since last Fall that I've been really pushing myself. What a difference!

Now it's just a matter of finding that balance where I'm eating the correct amount of calories that will help me continue to lose weight while also allowing me to maintain what muscle I've managed to gain.

If you build muscle you will burn more calories.

Eat nutrients that enhance muscle building. If you work a muscle it will become stronger (even if you are dieting). Putting off muscle building will not do anything for your muscles - so the best bet is to try it.  There is nothing bad that can come of weight training as long as you work within your body's capacity.

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Definitely take the whey protein and preferably immediately after your workout.  Even though you will not gain nearly as much muscle when under a calorie deficit than a calorie excess, you can definitely gain muscle while losing weight (men at least) . So you might as well do everything you can to help gain (or at least maintain) muscle mass.  This would include making sure you have adequate protein (~0.75 g/pound body weight) and getting the protein in your system at the right time - i.e., shortly after completing a lifting session.  While there are various protein source you could use, whey protein shakes are very easy to handle right after a workout.


I have heard many people say that you can't gain muscle while losing weight, but the only sources I've seen that cite actual studies, all indicate that you can gain muscle mass while under a calorie deficit.  A decent summary of three studies is here e.html  Note that the conclusions are not that you can't increase muscle mass when in a calorie deficit, but that you still gain muscle but at a slower rate than if you are overfeeding.


If you'd looked under Melkor Geeks Out: add your favourite study!  in the FAQ you'd have found these two studies:

D, DE, and DES demonstrated a similar and significant (P <= 0.05) reduction in body mass (-9.64, -8.99, and -9.90 kg, respectively) with fat mass comprising 69, 78, and 97% of the total loss in body mass, respectively. -
Kramer, Volek et al. Influence of exercise training on physiological and performance changes with weight loss in men.

and Hunter : Resistance Training Conserves Fat-free Mass and Resting Energy Expenditure Following Weight Loss. In the Kramer study, a third of the weight loss in the diet-only group was muscle(2.98 kg, or 6.5lbs) and the diet+cardio exercise group also lost significant muscle(1.98kg or 4.35lbs), while the diet+cardio+strength training group mostly retained theirs, losing 0.297kg or just shy of 0.6lbs of muscle.

 People who gain muscle in a calorie deficit - i.e. go into a net positive nitrogen balance - are either total beginners or using steroids.

As a beginner, you can gain muscle mass while running a caloric deficit although that will taper off in a matter of months. However, you can still get stronger without gaining mass as the central nervous system is trained to use muscles more efficiently.

You should absolutely start now with weights. While running a caloric deficit, inevitably a certain amount of the weight lost is going to be muscle. If you load the muscle and force it to adapt to the stresses of weight while taking in sufficient protein, you will preserve the existing muscles and more of the weight lost will come from adipose tissue. As you lose weight that is largely composed of fat, it will reveal the existing muscle underneath. If you simply run a caloric deficit with little effort given to preserving muscle, your body will catabolize muscle at the same time you are losing fat. You may lose pounds, but your body composition may not get significantly better.

Additionally, the more lean mass you have, the higher your basil metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn without any activity). As the body breaks down muscle, the amount of calories it takes to sustain that shrinking mass decreases significantly. You'll have to cut your calories more and more as you drop weight and it will be easier to regain should your exercise or diet habits slip. If you minimize muscle loss and maintain more lean mass, your body will burn more calories daily which should help with your overall weight loss goal.

I just started supplementing with whey protein and it's only been a few weeks but the way I figure it is, I keep within my calorie limits for weight loss, but I want to just have more protein within those calories to help rebuild my muscle.  Is it working?  I'll let you know in a few weeks but I think it is.  I don't know if this is "building" muscle but I can see a definite, visible improvement.

I also gotta say ditto on start NOW on the weights.  I'm doing a lot like you - I watch my calories and exercise during the week and do what I want on the weekends, though I'm finding that I don't tend to overindulge.  I don't do much cardio although I'm going to start couch to 5k next week... other than that, my workouts are all just lifting.  I've lost a tremendous amount of fat, and have a net loss of 44lbs since August.  With the amount of muscle gain, I don't know how much fat I've actually lost but what I'm trying to say is - definitely do the weights NOW.  Lift as heavy as you can.

After you work your muscles, you MUST supplement them with a protein - within ONE hour of workout - and then give them rest.  If you do not do those two things, your already stressed muscles will tear apart instead of build up.  THAT IS A FACT.

Whey protein is VERY low in fat, can be added to just about anything.  I add it to a cup of skim milk [vanilla flavor whey] after a workout. 

I often see people eat at such a deficit and then work so hard at the gym and wonder why they see little or NO results.  Two things are going on there.  Eating at a defecit only works in weight loss for a short period of time.  The body will go into 'starvation mode'...bascially, metabolism slows so much that when more calories are added, quick weight gain instead of maintain of weight is the result!

I find that eating a diet rich in protein and WHOLE grains and  furits and veggies - is best bet.  IF you do that, and workout, you will see SLOW and PERMANENT body transformations!!! There is NO quick solutions to weight loss and muscle build.  Like all good things, it takes time..but it is worth it!!!!

-A personal trainer

Many thanks to all of you for the valuable advice.

@kaufmkk, melkor & rwnorth: Thanks for the links.

I have decided to try out the gym for 2 months and then take it further, based on the results.
I will also start taking whey protein (Will cut down on other food intake, so that my calorie deficit does not change)

Hopefully, I will have the beginners' luck too and will gain muscles, while loosing fat :)

@bdasko: I hope the strategy works for you too. All the best. C to 5K seems interesting.
@michaelduff: Congrats on your weight loss.

Once again, thanks everyone for taking the time to reply.

Best Regards,

9 Replies