Josh Pitzalis

Should I lose fat first or build muscle?

When deciding whether to prioritize fat loss (cutting) or muscle gain (bulking), an individual's current body fat percentage is the primary consideration.

Research suggests that bulking is likely to be most effective when body fat levels are within an optimal range for facilitating muscular gains. This range is estimated to be 9-17% for men and 19-28% for women. Outside of this range, the body's ability to partition nutrients effectively between fat and lean tissue may be impaired, potentially limiting muscle growth.

For individuals with body fat percentages above the optimal range, the recommended first step in a long-term body recomposition plan is to focus on cutting until they reach the target range. Bulking at higher body fat levels comes with risks, including impaired muscle gains, potential for loose skin following subsequent fat loss, and negative impacts on overall health.

Within the optimal body fat range, the choice between cutting and bulking becomes a matter of individual goals, preferences, and psychological factors.

It is worth noting that being significantly below the optimal body fat range can also be detrimental to muscle growth. Extremely lean individuals may experience impaired recovery, hormonal disruptions, and reduced appetite.

In conclusion, unless an individual is already lean and driven by personal reasons to become even leaner, the priority should generally be to cut down to a body fat percentage that optimizes nutrient partitioning and overall health before shifting focus to bulking.