How to Prevent Muscle Loss While Dieting

Going on a diet and changing up your meal plans is essential for those looking to burn fat and achieve great weight loss results. However, just because you might be trying to lose fat, doesn’t mean you also want to lose that strong, lean muscle that you’ve worked hard to build.

The issue is, if you put your body into a caloric deficit for weight loss, then your body will begin to lose muscle as well. A caloric deficit is a requisite for fat loss, you simply can’t start shedding fat without taking in fewer calories than you burn each day. Weight loss is of course great for lowering blood pressure, bad cholesterol and blood sugar. But dieting may become less attractive once your previous muscle gain results start to fade. 

In order to achieve muscle gain results you need to be in a caloric surplus, which means consuming more calories than you burn each day. Muscle tissue actually helps to burn more calories at rest, as well as giving your body a better shape and functional ability. Around 20 to 30% of the weight you lose by cutting calories can come from having more muscle. So, it makes sense that people take steps to prevent muscle loss while dieting to lose fat – and here’s how you can too…

Focus on weight and resistance training

Cardiovascular exercise can be very effective for working your aerobic muscle fibers. Although these types of exercises are good for increasing oxygen extraction and burning fat, they aren’t ideal for maintaining or building muscle mass. If you only choose to cut calories and adopt a cardiovascular focused training regime, you’ll likely lose muscle mass fairly quickly. 

Instead, you need to take your training to the next level by focusing more on weight and resistance exercises, while also boosting your daily protein intake. Weight training can not only help you achieve some serious muscle gain results, there’s also plenty of evidence supporting how it can preserve muscle during dieting.

Resistance training works to break down your muscle, but crucially this stimulates the process of muscle protein synthesis. This is otherwise known as the repair of muscles, as providing you have consumed enough protein, this repair process will ensure your muscles heal and grow back bigger and stronger at the same time.

When strength training with weights, the best exercises to focus on are compound movements like squats, deadlifts, chest presses, bent-over rows and shoulder presses. You can start out with 2 to 3 sessions per week and if you remain consistent, you’ll see the results you want. Just remember that resistance training is great for slowing any decline of muscle mass when in a caloric deficit.

Maintain a good protein intake

When cutting calories to shed fat without losing your muscle, you should take care not to cut down on your protein intake. Protein is essential for building strong, lean muscle mass, and during a diet it serves as a powerful nutritional stimulus for maintaining muscle. 

Plus, if you consume plenty of protein it will make you feel fuller for longer. Not to mention that it’s also the least likely nutrient to be stored as fat even when eaten in excess. Studies have shown that for those who are both cutting calories and exercising, maintaining a diet high in protein will still result in lost fat while gaining extra pounds of muscle at the same time. However, if you just stick to a low-calorie diet in general, you’ll end up shedding both fat and muscle mass. 

How much protein you need to consume each day will depend on a few factors, but generally speaking, you should consume between 0.4 to 0.55 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight per meal for optimal muscle growth. Focus on eating whole-food sources of protein, such as eggs, nuts, beans, Greek yogurt, seeds, cottage cheese, lentils, meat and seafood etc. 

Be sure to prioritise your recovery

In order to get the most out of your diet and exercise regime, it’s hugely important to practice active recovery. In particular, getting plenty of quality sleep should be a top priority. As the amount of soothing shut-eye you get directly impacts whether or not you lose muscle as you lose fat, because your hormone levels are greatly influenced by sleep time. 

If you deprive yourself of sleep on a regular basis then your diet is sure to suffer. This is because levels of cortisol, an inflammatory hormone, increases when you get too little sleep. When your cortisol levels are too-high it can inhibit weight loss and actually promote muscle degradation. 

When you take the time to get the right amount of quality sleep, you’ll promote more human growth hormone, which aids in muscle synthesis. Getting better sleep than a person who’s on the exact same diet as you, will provide you with better results, as human growth hormone peaks at night. Plus, sleep deprivation reduces your insulin sensitivity, which can lead to your body storing more fat.

At Prep, we can take all the hassle and stress of sticking to a strict diet out of the equation, with our fresh, tasty and nutritiously rich weight loss meal plans. We can deliver these mouth-watering meals straight to your door, leaving you to get back to your workouts.