How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Losing Weight

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When starting a weight-loss plan, most of us hope to lose body fat, specifically—not muscle mass. But when we lose weight, a large percentage of the total weight lost can be muscle. Is there any way to reduce that muscle loss?
How to Lose Weight (Body Fat)
To lose weight you need to create a caloric deficit by consuming fewer calories than you are burn each day. This is usually accomplished by: 1) eating less food (fewer calories), 2) burning more calories by exercising more, or 3) a combination of both.  In an ideal world, all of the weight we lose would be body fat, but in truth, losing weight means losing fat—and some muscle, fluids, etc.
How to Maintain Muscle Mass
Your muscles actually help hold some of your body fat in place. Therefore it is natural that you will lose some muscle when you lose body fat because that muscle tissue is longer needed. But you don’t want to lose large amounts of muscle, especially from your large muscle groups. To prevent the loss of muscle mass while on a weight-loss plan:
  • Do not cut calories drastically. Drastic and sudden drops in caloric intake will result in a higher percentage of muscle loss. (See notes for a general progression below.)
  • Eat to meet your protein needs. You don't need to go above and beyond (it won't provide additional benefit). 
  • Perform muscle-building strength training exercises at least two times weekly. If you're not lifting weights, up to 30 percent of the weight you lose could be muscle tissue.
Best Practices for Maintaining Muscle during Weight Loss
Everyone begins a weight-loss plan with different eating habits, disease conditions, physical abilities, and needs. These factors will affect how quickly and easily you lose weight. The guidelines that follow are general suggestions. You may be able to progress faster, or you may have to go somewhat slower. Work with your health care provider and assess your needs as you chart the course for your specific, individualized weight-loss plan to lose body fat and build muscle.
  • Weeks 1-2: By the end of week 2 you should be eating within your new reduced calorie range most days of the week. Don't worry yet if all the other numbers (protein, etc.) aren't quite on target.
  • Week 3: Tweak your diet to meet your recommended protein, fat and carbohydrate ranges most days of the week while staying within your calorie range.
  • Weeks 4-8: By the end of week 8, you should be burning at least 2,000 calories each week through planned exercise.
  • By week 12: You should be incorporating at least 2 sessions of strength training each week for all of your major muscle groups. To maintain muscle mass, exercises should work your muscles to fatigue by the end of each set.
A combination of dietary changes, aerobic exercise and strength training—not just one or two of the three—is the most effective plan to follow to lose body fat, while preserving lean muscle tissue.

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WILDKAT781 9/21/2019
thank you Report
MNABOY 5/18/2019
Thanks for sharing Report
ANHELIC 5/16/2019
Thanks for the information. Report

I loved what you shared, especially that of performing muscle building strength training exercises at least twice a week. If you are not lifting weights, up to 30 percent of the weight you lose can be muscle tissue. I'm going to combine it with what I'm doing, http:/ since with the DVDs and books I acquired, I can get better results, Thanks and good day! Report
RO2BENT 2/4/2019
Gotta do the hard work Report
PATRICIAANN46 12/8/2018
Thank You for a great article. Report
RO2BENT 11/20/2018
Science!!! Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 11/20/2018
Great information. Report
HOLLYM48 10/28/2018
Great article! Report
MIYAMO 10/28/2018
Great advice. Report
SHOAPIE 10/28/2018
Let’s do it. Report
1SUZIQ11 10/27/2018
Always worry that I'm losing muscle. I do lots of walking but ST I don't really care for. Report
RAPUNZEL53 10/27/2018
Thanks. Report
MSROZZIE 10/27/2018
I will put this need-to-now information into exercise routine. Report
SPINECCO 10/27/2018
Great information. Thanks. Report
JAZZEJR 10/27/2018
Good article, great discussion! Report
EMGERBER 10/27/2018
Good information and an item we need to pay attention to. Report
Good information. Report
Thanks great! Report
Great article. After reading it, I learned a lot about how to prevent muscle fat. Report
Thanks! for sharing Report
Good advice Report
great article Report
Great information! Thank you! Report
Thanks for this. Report
thank you for this helpful article Report
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Mohandas Gandhi Report
Thanks! Report
Great article Report
good points Report
- calories in..+ calories out.. Report
Thanks for the helpful information! :) Report
Every true love song, by its very nature, is a duet.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie Report
very useful Report
such important information. Our muscles are the furnace for our bodies, burning those calories! The more muscle, the better we burn our fuel. Report
Good to know! Report
Thank you. Report
Burning 2,000 calories from planned exercise seems a lot to me. I'm a pretty small build and, not vastly overweight. Taking into account my current physical abilities, I'd have to be exercising for about 8 to 10 hours per week to burn 2,000 calories. Report
Exercise is mostly so you lose fat instead of muscle, which happens if you just focus on calories. I like the general guidelines. Details are always individual. Report
Love this article! Report
2000 calories a week for me is 3 days of my weight lifting program and 7 days of walking only 2 miles a day. Totally doable. Report
These are great moves-- Report
Interesting. Wish I'd read this at the beginning, although it turns out that I followed a lot of this advice except the strength work. Report
Whoa, super leery of the one size fits none, everyone should burn 2,000 calories, each week working out philosophy! Holy that is a ton of calories! I wear a Charge HR, so I get a total calories burned based on my heart rate at the end of each workout. Heart pumping in the peak/cardio range can mean 400 calories for 50 minutes of work. That intensity, five days a week?! Not likely. I know that I burn waaaaay fewer calories than most thanks to my PCOS. However, the assumption that everyone needs to burn the same number is ridiculous. We don't eat the same number, so burning/expending the same is neither plausible or feasible. Otherwise, the suggestions given to maintain muscle mass are appreciated! ;) Report
a lot of comment about how 2000 Kcal a week is to much especially for newbies.... that is true. But the recommendation for that goal was at weeks 4-8. That accommodates the starting points for each person. I think or a petite person that would be more difficult. But it is guidelines. Just thinking Report
Burning 2000 cals a week through exercise? Surely that depends on gender and how overweight you are - or frankly, just how much you weigh? For example, my husband burns around 600 cals on a 5k run (according to Spark) while I burn 250. That goal seems a bit too general! I probably do hit it, but I'm pretty committed and active.

Ladydl, that's true, muscle fibres don't regenerate, but (outside the heart, sadly), cells divide and fuse onto the muscle and protein can be laid so muscles can grow. And they can also shrink.

When I was losing, I was worried about losing too much muscle- it's definitely good to feel stronger as you get fitter and slimmer, but strength training can include yoga or core work if you're a weakling, as I was when I started out. Report
My understanding of physiology is that you are born with a certain number of muscle fibers. You can increase the size(width) of the muscle or through inactivity the muscle will shrink in size, but you don't get more fibers and you don't lose any fibers.
?? Report
Thought this would be difficult but surprisingly after I starting wearing a 'fit bit' tracking steps and calories burned - it calculates it for me. Last week, I came it at about 10,200 calories burned when walking 2 to 5 thousand steps. Based on your weight calories burned moving is higher. Good luck moving more. Report
For those of us just starting out or with health issues, no way is burning 2000 calories a week through exercise feasible just a month or two into a program. Start gradually & build up or risk injury.
I'm new here,just getting started.But I like it so far. Report