Gearing up to go on a fat loss diet? Whether you simply want to shed 10 pounds or get contest-lean, one of the top concerns that should be on your mind is the loss of lean muscle mass.
You’ve worked hard in the gym over the last few months or years to build up your total lean muscle mass, and the last thing you want to do is go and lose it. But yet, this is what happens far too often.
As a result, many trainees simply go in an endless cycle of building muscle only to diet it off when they try and lose the fat that’s come on in the process.
While trying to avoid fat gain while building lean muscle is one of the most critical things you can do to avoid having to diet in the first place, you’ll never build 100% lean muscle. Some fat will always come on, so your effort is to minimize it, and then diet down smartly.
In this guide, we’re going to look at how you can diet down so that you preserve as much of that lean muscle mass as possible.
Here’s what to know.
Never Go To Immediate Extremes
The very first thing that you must know and remember is to never let yourself go to immediate extremes. In other words, if you were just eating 3000 calories to build lean muscle mass, don’t one day decide it’s time to diet and drop your intake down to 1500 calories.
Doing this will simply scare the body and make it more probable that it’ll hold onto body fat stores while burning up lean muscle as quickly as possible.
Instead, adjust downward gradually. Aim to cut your calorie intake back by about 10% every 3-4 days. So the first day, eat 300 calories less for instance. Then take it down another 250 calories or so. Keep going until you’ve reached the place where you want to hold constant to see fat loss occur.
And remember, lower is not always better. Take your calories too low and you’ll also be at a very high risk of burning up muscle mass as your body perceives the situation as a threat to survival.
Keep Some Carbs In Your Diet Plan
Moving along, it’s also key that you keep some carbohydrates in your diet plan. You may have heard that very low carb dieting is the top way to shed fat fast. While low carb diets definitely do help, you shouldn’t remain very low carb for extended periods of time.
Either have some higher carbohydrate days in your plan each week or do a very large carb-up every week or two depending on how lean you currently are (the leaner you are, the more frequent these carb ups should be).
This will provide the preferred source of fuel to your body and also help replenish muscle glycogen levels so that you can maintain intense workout sessions. As you’ll soon learn, keeping your workouts intense is another important part of maintaining lean muscle mass.
Most people will find that as they get leaner, if insufficient carbohydrates are eaten, they’ll be hungry all the time, energy will plummet, and fat loss will come to a crawl. The leaner you are, the more important carbohydrates become.
Bump Up Your Protein
Another important macronutrient to look at is protein. While many may think that their protein intake would go down when on a fat loss diet, the opposite is true.
Because of the fact that you’re taking in fewer grams of fat and carbs – the two energy providing nutrients to the body, there is a higher chance that you may begin to use some incoming protein as a fuel source.
If you do, this means there is less protein left over to help with all the normal tasks protein does – including maintaining lean muscle mass.
This in turn leads to a loss of that tissue. Therefore, by providing a little more protein than you normally would, you give your body extra so that even if some is used as a fuel source, you’ll still have enough left over to maintain lean muscle tissue.
Aim to take in at least 1 gram per pound of body weight of protein per day, if not slightly higher into the 1.2-1.5 grams/lb. range.
Keep Lifting Heavy
Heavy weight on the bar is what will signal to the body that it needs to maintain lean muscle mass in the face of a low calorie diet plan.
Far too many people think that when fat loss is the goal, it’s time to bump up the reps and take down the weight. This is opposite of what you should be doing.
Instead, cut the volume of your session if you need to, but make absolutely sure that you are lifting the same heavy weight you normally do. It’ll be the best defense against muscle loss.
Limit Excessive Cardio Training
Finally, the last training point to note is that you should be limiting the amount of excessive cardio training you’re doing. This is another big error that too many people make. They believe that since they’re now losing fat, they should be spending hours on the treadmill, bike, and elliptical daily.
Not so. Keep cardio minimized as best as possible, only adding it in when you really need to such as when you hit a fat loss plateau.
Instead, focus on having your diet do most of the work for you.
So there you have a few of the most important points to keep in mind as you go about your workout and nutrition protocol to lose fat. If you use smart strategies, you can ensure that the weight you do lose is fat mass, not the lean muscle that took so long to build.