Most people have a hard time multitasking in their daily lives, yet when it comes to changing their bodies, they think they can do everything at once.

While it’s possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, it’s highly unrealistic. What usually ends up happening is people do neither very well.

But there is a plan you can follow that will cycle your training to get you to your goal of building muscle and losing fat.

Why you can’t double up
Most people can’t build muscle and lose fat at the same time because it requires two commitments that are extremely challenging. 

One is that you need to have a training regimen that would lead you to train on depleted glycogen storage, which is a difficult level to reach. It also requires strict nutrition that most people would struggle to follow.

A common formula used by fitness experts is daily food intake made up of 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates and 20 percent of healthy fat. The reality is the average person usually consumes 20 percent protein, 70 percent carbs and 10 percent of good fat each day.

Here’s an effective option that focuses on cycles to build muscle, add strength and burn fat.

1. How to build muscle
The first thing you want to focus on when you’re building muscle is a good resistance training program. One example is German volume training, which is a simple, effective program based on 10 reps per exercise for 10 sets. 

Start with a weight you can manage, below 70-80 percent of your one-rep maximum. The key here is time under tension. Muscle builds not just with weight, but with weight under time with the load.

Most people pick up heavy weights because they think that’ll make them stronger. However, the weight is so heavy they’re usually pushing very fast. For example, they might pick up 80-pound dumbbells and quickly count from one to 10, which maybe takes them a total of 16 seconds to do 10 reps.

However, if you choose 50-pound dumbbells and slowly count one, two, three, four and then up for one, two counts, that takes six seconds per rep for a total of 60 seconds to do 10 reps.

For 60 seconds your muscle has had the tension of 50 pounds compared with 16 seconds of the tension of 80 pounds. See the difference?

Creating tension generates healthy damage to muscle fibres, which in turn repair themselves and become stronger through recovery.

Start off with 50 pounds and go up each week by five to 10 pounds.

Recovery plays a crucial role
Recovery encompasses consuming protein and water, stretching and sleeping well.

You want to repair the healthy damage you did through your exercise, so the first thing you’re going to need is protein. Forty percent per day is a great goal, but a realistic goal is from 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per a person’s weight in kilograms.

You want sustainability, so increase your protein slowly, which also helps with digestion and avoids putting stress on the kidneys.

Increasing water intake should also be incremental, aiming for three to four litres per day depending on gender and body size.

Next is managing any soreness by keeping your joints and ligaments moving well and lengthening your muscles. This is where stretching comes in. Finally, aim to get six to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep.

This first cycle is a multifaceted process, which is exactly why a person needs to focus on one goal at a time.

2. How to develop strength
Strength is a key component in building muscle because it stimulates your neurological system. Think of it as an upgrade to your smartphone so your body can function better.

Building strength involves lowering reps but increasing weight, up to 90 percent of your one-rep maximum (Someone new to the gym should stick to five- or eight-rep maximums). Most of the strength exercises are compound movements.

While doing these movements, the brain sends a massive array of signals to the whole body. The more stimulation of the nervous system, the more beneficial it’ll be when you return to muscle building. You’ll have a higher capacity to use more weight, the coordination to do more complex and intense exercises and the ability to train longer.

3. How to burn fat
When we move to the fat-burning phase, we want to increase our heart rate, raise our metabolic conditioning and create a response in our body to burn calories. 

Using a squat example, lighten the weight and increase the repetitions and speed of the exercise. You can also boost the intensity or complexity of the exercise by adding something like squat jumps. Those can be performed because of the muscle and strength that’s been gained, especially in the joints and connective tissue.

The cycling timeline
- For muscle building, do your plan for six to eight weeks. After eight weeks, muscles may feel drained so move on to adding strength
- Do the strength stage for four to five weeks and then switch to the cardio phase
- Key on the cardio for no more than four weeks. If you do too much, you start to lose the muscle mass you’ve just gained
- After that, go back to the muscle-building phase and try to start at a higher point than where you left off

The results
All body types are different but following this cycling pattern will likely cause the average person to safely gain three to nine pounds of muscle in a year.

That may not sound like much, but that single digit represents a massive increase in your metabolism. You might not see a huge drop in numbers when you step on a scale, yet your body will be noticeably leaner, tighter and firmer.

It takes time and deliberate effort to build muscle and lose fat. Forget multitasking and focus on doing each cycle correctly and you’ll see and feel the results.