Fat loss ranks as one of the best ways to improve your fitness. Fat loss boosts metabolism, performance, mobility, balance, metabolism, and endurance. However, an unintended outcome of fat loss is the loss of muscle mass. Improper training and poor dietary habits all contribute to declining muscle mass when you embark on your fat loss journey.
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Below are suggestions of effective strategies to preserve muscle mass while losing weight at the same time:
Eat a Protein-Rich Diet
Eating a diet that is rich in proteins is the most useful strategy to lose body fat and preserve muscle mass. If you are trying to lose fat while maintaining your muscle mass, ignore the common advice to lower your calorie intake by focusing on the quality of your diet. In terms of nutrition, losing fat without losing muscles involves eating enough protein since muscles are made up of proteins. Even when you do not engage in weight training, eating enough protein will ensure that you will maintain your current muscle mass while losing fat at the same time. However, be careful not to indulge in excess protein. How much protein should you take when you want to lose weight but maintain your muscle mass? Refer to the good old dietary practice, “take one gram of protein per pound of body weight". Therefore, a person who consumes 2000 calories every day should take between 50 and 175 grams of protein every day.
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Strength or intensity training is a mainstay requirement for people who want to lose fat but maintain their muscle mass. Maintaining your current levels of strength is a stimulus for the body to burn more fat. Conventionally, increasing your strength levels signals the brain to increase muscle mass. This principle works when you want to burn fats. When you maintain your strength levels, you signal your body to maintain your muscle mass. When you turn off this signal, your body is ready to let the muscle burn away.
You might be tempted to increase the intensity of strength or intensity training in your fat loss journey. Be careful that this temptation does not lead you further away from your goals. Although it might be possible for beginners to increase the intensity of strength training while losing weight, it will become nearly impossible to maintain consistent strength training routines. Your focus while trying to lose weight and maintain your muscle mass should be on maintaining your current strength levels. Therefore, just maintaining your strength levels is enough to prevent loss of muscle mass.
Reduce Weight Training Volume or Frequency
You lose fat when your body is in a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit means that you burn more calories than those that you consume. A caloric deficit is a key to fat loss but it is not without risk to your muscle mass. Usually, a caloric deficit creates an energy deficit making it hard for recovery, performance, and work capacity. This means that the regular workout that you use to maintain your strength and muscle mass will be too much for you in a caloric deficit. You should make sure that the weight loss technique that you are using promotes sufficient recovery. It is advisable to reduce the intensity or frequency of weight training during your fat loss journey. This involves reducing the total amount of reps or sets and reducing the total amount of workouts that you do per week.
Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition
Nutrition before and after a workout is an important factor in your weight loss journey. A caloric deficit is the easiest way to weight loss, and it affects different aspects of your fitness including recovery, performance, and work capacity. When you want to lose weight while maintaining your muscle mass, you should optimize your pre-and post-workout nutrition. When you want to build muscle, you should pack your diet with proteins and fats. However, if you want to lose fat alone, reduce the number of fats in your diet. Also, it is important to limit your caloric intake while balancing against the need to maintain muscle mass.
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Calorie cycling involves eating more calories on some days and fewer calories on certain days. Ideally, you should take more calories during training days and reduce your calorie intake when you are not training. You start calorie training by manipulating the carbs and/or fat. After all, you want the calories to remain constant because you want protein intake to remain high especially when you want to lose fat but not muscle. In the simple fat loss diet, you consume the same amount of calories and be in a caloric deficit every day of the week. However, with calorie cycling, you aim to be in a higher caloric deficit on some days of the week and a smaller deficit on other days. However, the total amount of calories consumed at the end of the week will be similar for both approaches.
Everyone who wants to lose weight wants to achieve the goal as soon as possible. But, let’s be honest. Maintaining a consistent caloric deficit is a tiresome and torturous activity. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that the body and the mind do not like to be in a caloric deficit. You will struggle with performance, mood, and general wellbeing throughout your weight loss journey. This is where the concept of a diet break comes in. A diet break is a brief (3-4 days) period when you engage in normal calorie intake especially when you are struggling with fat loss. Ideally, a diet break will benefit those who have less fat left to lose more than people who are in the early stages of fat loss.
These are a few suggestions to help you lose fat but maintain your muscle mass. Fat loss often involves maintaining a caloric deficit that, in turn, results in loss of muscle if not managed properly. Remember to take sufficient protein, maintain strength training, reduce weight training volume, monitor pre-and post-workout nutrition, and incorporate calorie cycling to maintain your muscles while losing weight. Remember that your end goal in fat loss is to maintain a healthy weight while retaining your muscles. So, if you are concerned that you might lose muscle when trying to lose, these strategies will prevent it.