Plenty of people will tell you that muscle growth and fat loss can't happen at the same time. Don't believe them. Sure, you might lose more weight, more quickly if you focus squarely on weight loss in a training phase. The same for muscle growth. But if you're patient and strategic with your training and nutrition, you can absolutely chip away at both goals at once—and maybe keep the gains you make for longer than if you chase one alone.
One more factor working in your favor: Some of the best supplements for muscle growth also happen to be the best supplements for fat loss. Here are the ones that will be your best allies in the quest for lean gains.
Whey Isolate Protein
Your approach for chasing two goals at once can be wrapped up in seven words: "provide for the muscle, starve the fat."
In both cases, that demands getting enough protein. That starts with prioritizing high-protein foods to provide the muscles with what they need to grow. But if you're restricting your total daily calories to create a deficit, a whey protein isolate can help you get your protein levels close to the science-backed benchmark of 1 gram per pound of body weight without having to "spend" too many calories doing it.
How much: 20-40 grams 1-2 times a day, either post-workout or as a snack or meal replacement anytime
Numerous studies have backed up that creatine helps increase strength, power, and overall muscle growth. But as Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., explains in "Why Everyone Should Take Creatine," it also improves workout recovery and aerobic performance. Considering that you're going to have to do both cardio and lift to build muscle and burn fat, that sounds like a valuable combo.
One other reason to take creatine: Studies have shown that it can help trained athletes maintain their strength and athletic ability while cutting weight.
How much: 3-5 grams, taken daily. Doing a one-week high-dose loading protocol is optional, but doesn't give any added benefit over the long term.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
BCAAs are immensely popular for several reasons. One, the best blends taste great and help hard-training athletes stay hydrated. No matter what your goals are, that's a big plus!
They offer more specific benefits, too. A major one: They can help control fatigue during workouts. But they can help preserve muscle mass when you're dieting and even enhance your body's ability to use fat as fuel when you're low on carbs or following a low-calorie diet, as Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., explains in the article, "Should I Drink BCAAs with My Workout?"
Aminos are essential for athletes looking to maximize performance on low calories!
Nitric Oxide Boosters
They're also great at helping get a pump during your workouts, which is why you'll find them in many of the best pre-workouts. As you're leaning out, this can help you look as defined as possible in your latest selfie. Nothing wrong with that!
This longtime fave of cutting bodybuilders is still popular among athletes who need to stay lean and strong at the same time. L-carnitine works by shutting fatty acids into the mitochondria to be used as energy instead of stored as body fat. Carnitine has also been shown to preserve muscle tissue, boost blood flow, and improve workout recovery, all reasons it is a year-round go-to for supplement expert Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.
How much: 1-3 grams, preferably with a carb-rich meal.
Grains of Paradise
This is a popular ingredient in some of the best fat burners, both with stimulants and without. It's probably not going to do much to help you build muscle, but research has shown it can help burn calories and fat in an interesting way. Specifically, grains of paradise help "activate" so-called brown fat cells, the kind that burn calories when you get cold.
If you're hesitant to take a full-on fat burner because you don't want your caloric deficit to get too drastic, a non-stimulant ingredient like this could help you chip away at body fat while holding onto gains.
Attack body fat without stimulants.