Many people wonder if it’s possible to lose weight while maintaining lean mass. well, in these precious articles, we’ll further discuss details and steps on how to lose weight while maintaining lean mass. Pro Bodybuilders achieve a massive amount of lean mass while prepping for the competition. The question is:
- How do they do that?
- Can You Gain Muscle While Losing Weight?
The answer is: Yes, You can lose weight while maintaining or gaining lean mass.
You can, but you’ll have to follow these science-backed strategies and stick to them until you see the desired results. Always remember that physique transformation doesn’t happen overnight. it takes consistency, persistence, motivation, and sacrifice.
Losing weight can be great. But not if that poundage comes from muscle loss.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time, when people lose weight, they wind up with a lot less muscle than they started out with. Some even find their body fat percentages increasing.
Why? Because when you consume fewer calories than you burn every day – a prerequisite for losing weight – you tell your body to put your muscle health on the back burner. “Lower calorie diets decrease the intracellular signaling necessary for your body to synthesize new muscle proteins,” explains Washington D.C.,-based board-certified sports dietitian and certified strength and conditioning specialist Bigflex Dogg. He also notes that, when dieting, muscle tissue may be less sensitive to the protein you eat. As a result, muscle is less likely to use any amino acids (from protein) floating through your bloodstream to strengthen your muscles.
“Unfortunately, muscle cells naturally shed proteins every day, ready for your body to replace them with new healthy ones. So when the new ones don’t show up, you lose muscle – sometimes drastically”.
Since muscle is the single greatest determiner of your metabolic rate – how many calories you burn each and every day – this muscle loss largely explains why so many people struggle to keep weight off once they lose it. Their metabolism drops. For instance, that’s why research found that people who had lost weight on The Biggest Loser had to eat as many as 800 fewer calories a day to maintain their weight loss compared to people of similar weights. Their metabolisms had slowed that much.
On the flip side, though, building muscle while you lose weight does the exact opposite – stoking your metabolism and making it easier to hit your fat-loss goals and maintain them. Plus, muscle increases your strength, reduces the risk of injury, and can improve your overall health.
So, how can you build muscle while still losing fat – when biology is working completely against you? By following these expert-approved strategies.
1. Consume More Protein at Every Meal
In one 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, of men following a program that consisted of both diet and exercise, men who followed a low-calorie diet that was high in protein for four weeks lost 10.56 pounds of fat while gaining 2.64 pounds of lean muscle. Those who followed a diet with the same amount of calories, but less protein, only lost 7.7 pounds of fat and gained less than a quarter-pound of muscle.
To gain muscle while losing fat, a review published in Sports Medicine recommends consuming between 2.3 to 3.1 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight (1.09 to 1.41 grams of protein per pound of your body weight). “In addition, this protein intake should be spaced out evenly throughout the day,” Bigflex Dogg says. As a general rule, aim to include at least 25 to 30 grams of protein in every meal – and even slightly more if you are vegetarian or vegan.
While it can be tempting to try to lose as much weight as quickly as possible, drastic drops in weight tend to be the result of losing not just fat, but also muscle says registered dietitian Jim White, spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios in Virginia. For instance, in one Obesity study, when people followed an extremely low-calorie diet, 18 percent of their weight loss was from muscle. When people stuck to a more moderate approach, that percentage dropped to 7.7.
Your goal? Lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to White. While every person will need to cut calories and/or increase their activity levels slightly differently to lose weight at this rate, reducing caloric intake by 500 calories per day is a good place to start.
2. Strength Train at Least Three Times Per Week Consistently
“A lot of people who try to lose weight ramp up their cardiovascular activity. This can be beneficial but not if it replaces weight training,” White says. Case in point: In one 2015 Harvard School of Public Health study of 10,500 adults, those who performed strength training gained less abdominal fat (while building more muscle) over a period of 12 years compared to those who spent the same amount of time dedicated to cardio.
“We need to include at least two days of weight training a week to maintain existing muscle mass and three or more times a week to build muscle,” White says. Focus on fitting in these workouts first and then you can start to think about adding the right cardio workouts to your routine.
3. Always Keep Your Cardio Workouts Short and Sweet
When it comes to getting the most fat loss and muscle gain out of your cardiovascular workouts, it’s best to focus on high-intensity interval exercises such as repeated sprints on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike. These workouts will burn fat while building muscle, whereas low- to moderate-intensity steady-state cardio burns both muscle and fat, White says.
4. Remember To Give Your Muscles a Break
“Most people think more is better”. When it comes to building muscle this is not necessarily true,” White says. “Muscles need rest to grow.” How much time? Although the exact time will differ slightly from person to person and workout to workout (which is why you need to listen to your body!), one Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise meta-analysis determined that for optimal strength development, it’s best to rest a given muscle group for one to two days before working it again through strength training. So, if you perform an intense lower-body strength routine on Monday, wait until at least Wednesday to target your lower body again. You can always perform upper-body lifts on Tuesday. Then, every week, schedule at least one to two days of full rest from structured exercise.
This might be the hardest tip of all, but it’s important to keep in mind, especially as you progress through your “burn fat and build muscle” plan. That’s because, while you may notice yourself making great gains to start with, they will naturally slow over time. “It becomes progressively more difficult to increase muscle while losing fat as you become more trained and get leaner,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Brad Schoenfeld, a board member for the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
“It’s just how the human body works: The more excess fat we have to lose, the easier it is to lose 5 pounds of fat. The more muscle we need to gain, the easier it is to gain 5 pounds of muscle. As you get closer to your goal, expect to see more subtle changes in your fat and muscle levels, and don’t get discouraged”.
Weight loss can be as simple as shedding pounds. Optimal weight loss is another story.
An excess of body fat is unhealthy. So too, is a deficit of lean muscle.
Have you ever heard the term “skinny fat”?
It refers to a body type that looks slender and attractive when clothed, but, well, not so great naked – because lurking beneath is a weak, flabby body, devoid of muscle tone and strength. This can be an unfortunate result of attempting to burn fat with no regard for the retention of muscle.
The primary requirement for simple weight loss is a caloric deficit.
In plain English, this means consuming fewer calories than what the body requires for all the physical tasks it performs over the course of the day.
When a caloric deficit is achieved, the body MUST, and WILL, find an alternate source of fuel.
Under ideal circumstances, this would be stored fat. However, if given poor nourishment or the wrong signals, the body may just as easily burn the precious hard-earned lean muscle mass which anyone would, of course, prefer to retain.
So, what’s the best way to burn fat without losing muscle tissue?
Start With Protein. Protein is what muscles are made of. In its absence, the muscle cannot grow or be sustained. Even without a proper strength training regime, increasing one’s consumption of dietary protein primes the body to burn fat and spare muscle. The bodybuilding world’s standard – 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight – is plenty. For some people, particularly those who are not highly active, a lower intake may be perfectly adequate.
Stay Firm Strong… Increasing strength and maintaining current strength levels are not the same thing. The former requires progressively overloading muscles; the latter simply requires not reducing one’s current training intensity.
By falling into the trap of lifting progressively heavier weights, performing more repetitions with lighter weights while under a caloric deficit in order to “tone” and lose weight, the body is signaled to not maintain muscle mass. If calories are lacking and there is a sudden reduction in (but not the elimination of) weight-bearing activity, the built-up muscle may be consumed as fuel.
The biggest mistake I see people make when trying to maintain lean body mass and drop body fat is reducing the weight and increasing reps. You MUST continue to lift heavy weight in order to retain muscle and burn calories.
…But Don’t Overdo It. Fewer calories mean less energy. Unfortunately, this condition is unsuitable for intense training and the requisite recovery and rebuilding. Attempting to push harder when the body’s preferred source of fuel is diminished will result in a drop in strength.
Muscles Make A Person Strong. Less strength means less muscle mass. A maintenance routine is all that is needed to burn fat without losing muscle. Fewer repetitions and/or fewer workouts per week will help preserve lean mass.
Always Eat The Right Foods, in the right amounts and at the right times. Any workout, whether to get big or to get lean – needs fuel and nourishment – the former for energy; the latter to rebuild.
Start by consuming equal amounts of protein and carbs – about 0.25 grams per pound of your target body weight – in the form of real, solid food, an hour and a half to an hour before exercising.
Short on time?
Consume the same macronutrient ratios and amounts, but from a shake or something else that’s quick and easy to digest, half an hour or less before hitting the gym.
Afterward, consume plenty more protein and carbs. Simple, isn’t it? Following exercise, the body is as ready as it will ever be to accept nutrients – the same nutrients that feed the muscles before working out will nourish and help them recover after.
Please note that too great a caloric deficit can negatively impact progress. Consume more calories on strength training days and fewer calories on rest days. Something to remember is that protein consumption should be sustained every day of the week; carbs and fat can be eaten more or less according to training frequency.
No matter the potential benefits to one’s physique, the body’s preferred state is not one of a caloric deficit. Taking a short break – one to two weeks – from sub-maintenance caloric intake not only provides a mental and emotional reprieve from hunger but helps gear the body back up for optimal performance and recovery.
The bodybuilding community often snubs its nose at cardio – running in particular – and for people attempting to improve their body composition, not only achieve simple weight loss – cardio, especially too much of it, can have a detrimental effect, overloading muscle fibers and the nervous system, and reducing the ability to recover from heavy training. Cardio may shed weight and tone muscles to an extent, but relative to strength training and the resultant benefits that muscle mass confers, its cons typically outweigh its pros.
Make sure your pre and post-workout nutrition and supplementation are nailed. Consume 20 – 40g of protein 1 – 2 hours before training and after training.