It’s natural to lose some amount of muscle mass when you are on a cutting diet. But, to ensure that you won’t lose more of your hard-earned muscles, you should follow some strategies that are proven in minimizing muscle loss.
Here’s what you can do…
Don’t cut too many calories at once
The best possible way to maintain muscle mass while losing fat is to cut your calories slowly and gradually. Cutting them too fast will probably result in muscle loss no matter what you do.
Always start with a smaller calorie deficit of 300-500 and increase the deficit gradually as you progress in your diet. The one way to know if you need an extra calorie deficit is to track your progress in the mirror. If you’re losing fat with 500 calories, stay there.
Only increase your calorie deficit if you’re stuck on the same weight for weeks or if you don’t see any changes in the mirror.
One most common mistake people make is to cut as many calories as possible at the start of a diet, which may help them lose weight fast in starting weeks, but most likely hit the plateau later in the diet.
Also, when you cut too fast, there are more chances of muscle loss during the diet and weight gain once you stop dieting.
In one study, athletes who reduce weight slowly lose more fat and gain 2 pounds of lean muscle mass, while athletes who reduce weight fast lose less fat and don’t see any changes in muscle mass.
Eat More Protein
Protein is a building block of the body and is the most vital nutrient regardless of your fitness goal. When aiming for fat loss, you should eat at least 30 grams of protein in every meal.
A consistent supply of protein every 3-4 hours ensures that your body stays in an anabolic state (muscle-building state), which helps maintain muscle mass while cutting.
Also, eating more protein may help you burn fat and increase muscle mass at the same time.
How much amount of protein you need per day to lose fat without losing muscle?
According to the studies, the recommendation of protein intake for elite athletes during weight loss to prevent muscle mass is 1.6-2.4 g protein per kg of body weight a day.
Normal people should consume between 1.5-1.8 g of protein per kg of body weight a day. Eating 20-30 gms of protein every meal is the best practice for weight loss.
Train For Muscle Mass
Many people are a victim of this myth that high reps with low weights help in fat loss. By doing that, you are training for endurance, not for muscle gain which may result in muscle loss.
To maintain muscles, you must train for muscle & strength building with heavyweight and moderate reps between 10-12.
Focus on compound movements like deadlift, bench press, military press, squats, etc. unlike aerobic exercises, this type of movement if done heavy recruits type 2 muscle fibers, which help prevent and increase muscle mass.
Heavy lifting also triggers the production of HGH (human growth hormone) and testosterone that support muscle building and retention.
One study shows that resistance training prevents muscle mass when in a calorie deficit state.
Limit Typical Cardio & Start HIIT
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. HIIT is a short, intense method of physical training followed by intervals of the shorter rest period.
For example – Sprints on a treadmill for 2 minutes then slow down for 30 seconds and continue sprinting until exhausted. HIIT is effective at burning calories both during and after exercise.
And unlike traditional cardio, it recruits type 2 muscle fibers which helps prevent muscle loss. Have a look at this HIIT workout you can do at home.
HIIT has been proven to lose fat without losing muscle.
Don’t Avoid Carbohydrates
Carbs are the main source of energy and provide the body with minerals, vitamins, and fiber. A low carbohydrate diet is not necessary to achieve weight loss. Diets low in carbohydrates may impair muscle maintenance and growth by limiting your exercise performance.
You don’t need to go low on carbs as long as you are under calorie deficit and eating high-quality carbs such as oatmeal, brown rice, whole grains, etc.
The best time to eat carbs so they don’t store as fat is to eat them at breakfast or before a workout. Eating carbs before workouts improve performance and aid in better recovery.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is important for recovery and helps you get the most out of your workout. Your sleep also impacts muscle loss by influencing hormone levels.
Poor sleep is associated with high cortisol levels which hinder weight loss and support muscle degradation. Meanwhile, getting enough sleep increases human growth hormone, mostly peaks at during sleep, and aids in muscle growth.
One study on women’s found that individuals who sleep less than 7 hours a day are more likely to be overweight or obese as compared to people who sleep for 8-9 hours per day.
Thanks for reading this article, I hope this information will help you lose fat without losing muscle.