How Do I Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle?
Did you know when people say they want to lose weight, most of the time they actually mean they want to lose fat? There is a big difference between losing fat and losing weight, and even though losing fat will make you lose weight, losing weight is not always related to losing body fat. In fact, if your diet and workout routine are not appropriate, you could start losing muscle instead of fat during your weight loss quest.
Think of it this way: your body weight is the sum of every single part of your body – muscle, fat, organs, bones, hair, water… Some of this weight can’t be modified as much as you want it to (how would you make your bones thinner?) and a good percentage of muscle mass prevents from early aging and from risks of getting injured, while too much body fat mass is usually the cause of a number of health conditions. It is also what can make your body look less pleasant according to today’s standards of beauty.
So how do you lose fat, then? Well, the only way of getting rid of fat is by caloric deficit – this is, burning more calories than you eat overall in a day. It can be done by reducing your intake of calories by dieting and increasing your output by exercising. Unfortunately, this method will also make you lose muscle… Oh, no! Is this one of those universal paradoxes that are impossible to solve?
You will be happy to know that no, it isn’t. Losing fat without losing muscle is actually pretty easy, if you keep an eye on your diet and workouts. Here are 5 tips for losing weight while maintaining muscle that you are going to love!
1) Eat enough protein. As previously said, fat loss is all about caloric deficit, however this deficit can’t come from the proteins you are taking. Muscles are basically made of two types of filaments (actin and myosin), which are both proteins.
If you cut the amount of proteins you are going to take every day, this will necessarily impact on your muscle mass. Plus, proteins have the power of satiety, therefore taking the right amount of proteins will help you feel full even when dieting.
So we could say, protein is the most important requirement for muscle maintenance in terms of diet.
But what is the right amount of protein you should be eating per day? It mainly depends on your weight, being between 0.8 grams (if sedentary) to 1.3 grams (if athlete) per pound you weight.
So if you are a male who weighs 165 pounds and who also exercises 3 to 5 times a week, you should be taking roughly 214 grams of protein, spread throughout the day.
2) Reduce just the right amount of calories. You want to lose fat and you want to lose it quick, so you decide to cut down your intake of calories by half, so from 2500 calories per day (an average of what is healthy for a man) you start eating 1200 calories per day.
This is never a good idea, for several physical and psychological reasons, from hunger, sleep issues and anxiety, to hormonal issues, metabolic slowdown and increase of the time your body takes to recover from training.
The more you reduce the calories you are taking, the larger negative impact this will have on your body. The best way of ensuring your diet is as healthy as productive, is getting in touch with a nutritionist or a doctor. They will probably create a diet specifically for you, by cutting down your calorie intake by around 20%, subtracting calories from the right foods (for example, calories coming from fats and carbs, instead of proteins or fibres).
3) Don’t forget about your pre and post workout meals!
Pre and post workout meals play a vital role in your training sessions: your pre workout meal should give your body the fuel for a high performance training, while your post workout meal will optimise the recovery process after the session.
As your work and recovery capacity decrease when you reduce your daily calorie intake, pre and post workout meals become even more important when on a fat loss diet.
To keep training at your best level and ensure your body recovers as soon as possible, remember to take a good portion of proteins and carbs one to two hours before and post workouts.
While some recommend to base your pre workout meals on carbs and your post workout meals on proteins, the truth is you can basically mix them, as long as you take the meal one to two hours before and post training session.
Some of the foods that will give you the energy to get through your workout session and will help your body recover quickly are eggs, chicken or salmon (proteins) and oatmeal, brown rice or any other source of complex carbs.
- Keep up with strength training!
The best way of not losing your muscle mass is, in fact, strength training as if you were traying to build muscle instead of losing fat. The reason for it is really simple: as soon as your body deosn’t need to make the effort of lifting or moving weight, it starts burning energy from your muscles instead of your fat mass. Just the opposite of what we are looking for!
On the contrary, if you stick with your strength training plan, lifting the same weight you were using before starting your fat loss process, it will be very hard for you to lose your muscle. You could even get stronger if you keep training hard, especially if you are a beginner!
- Reduce weight training volume and/or frequency.
As we have mentioned before, the caloric deficit necessary for losing weight can have a negative impact in your body, reducing its ability to recover and heal itself. Therefore, it will take you longer to be back at full capacity.
We have also said that it is really important that you keep training your strength to maintain your muscles. However, you need to take the longer recovery periods into consideration and modify your strength training plan according to this. A deficient recovery period (too short or not really allowing your body to rest) could inevitably lead to a loss of muscle.
How can you avoid this? You will just need to adjust your weight training program to compensate this slower recovery process, by reducing the training volume (the number of sets, reps or exercises per muscle group) or/and reducing the training frequency (number of workouts per week or per muscle group). This should give your body more time to get back to full capacity, but remember to keep lifting the same amount (or even more!) of weight you are used to.
How Do I Eat For Weight Loss?
As we’ve said many times before, to lose weight you need to create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume. Ideally, you will be increasing your caloric use by exercising more often or harder, and you will be decreasing your caloric intake by improving your diet. However, there is a secret we need to tell you: the reason why dieting makes a 80% of the results in losing weight is because cutting calories off your meals is easier than burning them!
Here is an example: an average piece of chocolate cake has 371 calories; to get rid of it you could:
- Run at 8 miles per hour for 30 minutes;
- Do high-impact step aerobics for 45 minutes;
- Play tennis or football for an hour;
- Walk at 4 miles per hour for an hour.
It sounds like a lot of effort, doesn’t it?
When you are trying to lose weight, you usually want to cut down your calories by approximately 500 calories a day. If you were just to do it by working out, you would need to spend more than an hour in the gym every day. Who has time for that?
Eating better will help you achieve quicker results in your weight loss process. It’s not only easier and more convenient than spending all your evenings or mornings in the gym, it will also boost your energy levels and improve your overall health, allowing you to perform better in pretty much every aspect of life.
But how should you eat to lose weight?
Although this is kind of an open question, which answers may vary depending on you and what you want to achieve, here are some simple tips you can implement in your daily life to start losing weight by dieting.
Find out your daily caloric requirements
First of all, you should find out how much you should be eating to maintain your body weight. Your daily caloric requirements are based on your basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories your body burns at rest. Your BMR is influenced by lots of aspects of your life and body (height, weight, lifestyle – sedentary, mildly active, highly active, hormone cycles…) but you can estimate a number with a simple formula.
There are thousands of calorie calculators online, but if you love maths, you can do the maths yourself:
Men: BMR=66.47+ (13.75 x weight in kilos) + (5.0 x height in cm) – (6.75 x Age)
Women: BMR=665.09 + (9.56 x Weight in kilos) + (1.84 x Height in cm) – (4.67 x Age)
The result of this equation shows how many calories you should be taking per day to maintain your weight. But the plan was losing some pounds! A healthy dieting plan shouldn’t take off more than 20% of your daily intake. So if your daily intake is around 2000 calories/day, you should reduce your intake by 400 calories, setting your goal on 1600 calories/day.
However, keep in mind that during your gym days you are going to burn more calories than during a non active day. To adjust your calorie intake to your workout routine, you can focus on the amount of calories you should be taking per week (1600×7 = 11200) and organising them according to your training days. This is called calorie cycling.
|11200 cal/ week||Cal. burnt in gym||Calorie intake|
Plan your meals and log what you eat and drink
Now that you know how much you are supposed to eat within every day of your week, you can plan your meals ahead. It’s the easiest way of keeping control of what you eat and it will also make your life easier as you can meal prep on a Sunday for your whole week.
Keep track of what you eat and drink, especially in the first stages of your weight loss journey. We know counting calories isn’t fun and it can become an obssession, but don’t worry! You will just need to keep an eye on them until you learn how big portions need to be according to your needs. Then, you will be able to stop counting calories because you will know exactly what you need to eat and, more importantly, you will have created new eating habits.
Learn how to cook and enjoy it
One of the main causes of overweight is found in processed and ready-to-go meals, the ones you get in your nearest supermarket to have lunch in the office, because you just didn’t have time (or the will) to make food the night before at home.
A processed food is one that has been chemically processed and it’s mainly made of refined ingredients and artificial substances, they are usually highly caloric while they don’t really contain essential nutrients. Although one of these processed foods from time to time doesn’t by itself represent a problem, a diet based on these foods will have a negative impact in your body.
On the other hand, we have whole foods. These ones are closer to their natural form as they only undergo the bare minimum of processing, so they keep their natural taste and most of their nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fibers, etc.). The only “problem” here is, you will need to cook them and transform them into a wonderful, tasty dish.
Cooking can be a relaxing and enjoyable moment of your week, and learning how to do it in a healthy way will only give you so many benefits that you will start wondering how didn’t you learn cooking before?
|Foods to include in your weekly diet plan||Foods to avoid in your weekly diet plan|
|Seeds||Pastries, cookies, cakes|
|Whole grains||Candy bars|
|Greek yogurt||White bread|
|Whole eggs||Not-home made fruit juice|
Drink more water
Drinking a gallon of water per day will keep your body hydrated without the unwanted calories that come in a glass of beer or soda. When drinking water before meals, it will also feel full sooner, helping you reduce your calorie intake naturally and it could even help you stop snacking, as the hunger we feel sometimes is really only dehydration.
Have you ever heard the motto “Don’t drink your calories”? It may sound a little bit strange at first, but it references the amount of calories we take without even noticing, as they are hidden in our drinks. A Frappuccino from Starbucks contains from 500 to 600 calories, almost a 25% of what an average adult should eat in a day; a can of Coca Cola contains a 139 calories, a 7% and just a bit less than a pint of beer, with 179 calories.
Just consider how many calories you would cut if you started drinking cold, clean water instead of these beverages!
Indulge from time to time
Dieting is a hard exercise. Changing the habit of a life time can become a really difficult task, which is why so many people fail in the process. Despite all the tips we have given you so far, we want to recommend you to let yourself have fun from time to time.
There’s no harm in a Frappuccino once a week, or a delicious pizza on a Saturday night with friends. If the calories of your treat fit into your weekly plan, fantastic! If they don’t, treat yourself anyway! Just make sure you don’t fall into these little treats too often, or you will find yourself back at square one!