How to Preserve Muscle While Burning Fat
How is it possible to burn just fat and not muscle? We are a nation focused on losing fat but also want six pack abs. We forget that we are losing muscle mass too. And losing hard earned muscle mass is frustrating and makes us question what we should focus on at the gym. In this article today we answer a few of the most asked questions
- How can you preserve muscle mass while cutting?
- What are some nutrition tips to help preserve muscle mass while cutting?
- How much muscle can be preserved while cutting, and how much can be lost?
How Can You Preserve Muscle Mass While Cutting
In order to understand how we can preserve muscle while burning fat it is important to understand the biological reason behind these processes. During periods of reduced caloric intake (i.e. dieting) the body must compensate for this lack of energy. The body does this by breaking down fats in our fat tissues and proteins in muscle tissue – to be used in synthesizing glucose, which is used for energy.
What does that mean? It means that we need to make sure that the body has proteins constantly in the blood stream. Making it less likely to go to muscle tissue for those proteins. We should be frequently feeding our body with sufficient amounts of high quality protein, especially during phases of reduced calorie intake.
Another vital concept is homeostasis. Homeostasis is where our body is maintained at a steady state. Our body likes you just the way you currently are. It does not want you to gain or lose weight. And there are numerous biological mechanism in our body that maintain this steady state of homeostasis.
Your body can only do 1 of 2 things at any given time: build muscle, or break down fat. This is just how the body works – so we need to accept it. Our body can’t build muscle and lose fat tat the same time. In the fitness world there is to have more muscle but less fat. But you can’t do both at once! It’s like your body is working against you – to maintain that homeostasis.
Both diet and exercise can help you create the desired change in your boy. Controlling both is vital.
What are some nutrition tips to help preserve muscle mass while cutting?
Let’s go back to that word homeostasis. You can minimize the unwanted effects (muscle loss or fat gain) by having your body vary slightly from homeostasis. When changing your body, either gaining or losing weight, you need to do this slowly. Otherwise you will experience that bodybuilding friction and end up gaining either extra fat or lose extra muscle.
So how quickly can you lose weight? Every individual is different and with time you will understand how your body responds. As a general rule, losing more than 2 pounds per week will cause your body to start losing muscle mass. So if you’re trying to lose weight keep it to the 1-2 pounds a week, not more. And then you need to make sure that you are eating the right number of calories for your goal. There are numerous online calculators that can help you determine this amount.
Generally you want to start by eating your basal metabolic (BMR) of calories per day (can be calculated above). Then, weigh yourself daily under the same circumstances. For example, right after you wake up and have used the restroom. Keep track of your weight and adjust your calorie intake. If you find that you are losing weight too fast, then increase your calorie intake by 5-10%. If you are not lose weight fast enough then reduce your calories by 5-10%.
Be sure to drink enough water throughout the day. Take your body weight in pounds. You should be drinking at least that many ounces per day. If you aren’t drinking enough water it can slow down your metabolic processes and it will take much longer to hit your goals.
How much muscle mass can be preserved and how much can be lost?
This is a more difficult question to answer because we are all different. There will be a lot of variables: genetics, food quality, water intake, hormone levels to name a few. But if your weight loss is steady (not more than 2 pounds per week), then you should see a very small amount of muscle being lost.
Remember that that our body wants to be in homeostasis. Getting out of homeostasis will result in negative effects (fat gain, muscle loss). So be sure to set your body composition goals to those that can be consistent, long term changes. Not quick fixes that long term do your body more harm than good.