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.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


2000 cals a week is so much .__.
I wonder if I can do it if I increase my workouts to 5 times a week? o.o Report
strength training burns calories long after you are done doing the workout and can be up to 24 hours later you are still burning calories. cardio burns calories while you are doing it and once you stop doing it the calorie burn stops. I do also know that how much protein you eat depends on your workout goals. I am a weight lifter so I have to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of what I weigh. Report
Burning 2000 calories each week isn't that hard really. A 150-200# woman will burn around 75-100 calories for each mile walked at a pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour. If you walk a mile morning and evening each day -take your 4 legged friend and he will love you for it, you will have burned around 1050-1400 calories each week by just walking. Pick up the pace and burn a bit more for the same distance, or take a longer walk on the weekends, add some strength training and you have your 2000 calories without killing yourself to get it.
I usually walk / run 3-5 miles each day broken up into 2 to 3 sessions each day and have no trouble getting in my 2000 calories burned per week. Report
Two key truths that women frequently overlook (that changed my life):

1. Sure, lifting weights burns less calories than going for a run (for example). But when your body has more muscle, you burn more calories watching movies, driving your car, and doing EVERYTHING else you do day to day.

2. A pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat, so the only way to get bigger by strength training is to GAIN weight. If you're not gaining weight, you are not bulking up. You're getting smaller - even, at the same weight - if you're adding muscle. So ladies, please stop believing the lies sold to you by magazine headlines in the grocery store check out. The women on the covers do NOT lift 5-10pound weights or do "wall pushups" (though that's a great place to start). Those ladies got those bodies by progressing to HEAVY weights. (And as for the ladies on those OTHER magazine covers...I won't get into the many years of extreme choices, "supplements", and single-focused effort it takes to achieve that look, but I promise you, nobody accidentally over-does it and starts looking like a man. Ever.) Report
2000 cals??? I thnk my plan has about 920. I usually exceed that, but nowhere near 2000! And strength training burns fewer calories... If I aimed for 2000, I should get discouraged, or overexercise, or both!
Apart from that, very realistic, helpful article.
Incidentally, by setting my goals low and then having success exceeding them, i reachd goal weight months ahead of plan! Report
Burn 2000 calories a week?? Um . . . clearly I'm doing something wrong. Thanks for this, though! I have been wondering how many calories I should really be aiming to burn each week through exercise, and although I feel a bit discouraged that I am nowhere near that target, at least now, I know. And have a new number to shoot for! Report
Good advice to follow! Report