How to lose weight without losing muscle

While conversations about body weight usually revolve around fat, the truth is that multiple factors contribute to our overall weight, including muscle. Of course, most dieters are focused on losing excess body fat and wish to maintain (or even grow) their lean muscle mass. Reducing the amount of fat in your body while preserving your muscles will give you a healthy, toned physique while keeping you physically fit.

Read on to learn how to shed unwanted pounds without losing the muscles you've worked so hard to grow.

1. Asking the Right Questions

Unfortunately, when people ask for advice on losing weight, the answer usually focuses solely on reducing the number of calories in the diet, which causes both body fat and muscle loss. This is because asking how to lose weight isn't the whole question. Instead, you should ask how to lose weight without losing muscle.

Initiating a conversation about how to gain muscle while losing weight can be difficult because conventional plans regarding weight loss and muscle growth are in direct opposition. Traditionally, weight loss results from a caloric deficit, which leads to loss of body fat and muscle protein breakdown. Meanwhile, muscle growth happens when your body has a caloric surplus, which can lead to gaining weight, including body fat. Fortunately, there are a few ways to be more intentional about your weight loss plan, allowing you to lose weight healthily without sacrificing muscle.

2. Plan Your Strategy

There are two main components to the process: your diet and your physical activity. When seeking to alter your diet to lose weight without losing muscle, the first step is to reduce calories less drastically, so you can enter into a calorie deficit. When you dramatically decrease your caloric intake, your body responds by burning through all the fuel available in your system.

If you make minor reductions to your daily intake instead (or, put another way, only maintain a small caloric deficit), your body can adjust more readily, targeting only excess fat. This strategy is also more effective in the long term because your body has time to become accustomed to the lower number of calories in your diet instead of signaling hunger pains or discomfort.

The other important change to make is incorporating foods with high protein into your daily meals. Not only does protein help satisfy your hunger more than other foods, but a high protein intake also promotes the growth of muscle mass. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average person consume 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day for general health, but those lifting weights regularly might want to eat up to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight to support muscle repair. 

Complete proteins, protein with all essential amino acids, makes it easy to support weight loss and muscle mass growth, but if you are a vegetarian, vegan, or have certain dietary restrictions, eating a combination of different plant-based proteins can help make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need to support muscle growth!

3. Get Active

Another important piece of the puzzle is engaging in the right kind of exercise: lifting heavy weights. Total-body strength training, which encompasses traditional strength training and resistance training, such as weight lifting, is critical to preserving your muscles while on a limited-calorie diet. Starting with small, regular workouts that build over time can help you further develop those muscles and become stronger.

A lower body shot of a man in the middle of performing a deadlift at the gym.

In between or at the end of your workouts, you can use low-intensity aerobic exercises as a method of recovery. While these will be less effective and should not be the sole source of your physical activity, they can help keep you from pushing your body too far.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), however, involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise, and can also be beneficial for people trying to lose weight without losing muscle. Unlike steady-state cardio, HIIT is less likely to cause muscle loss because it preserves muscle protein synthesis rates even during weight loss. HIIT can also increase your metabolic rate both during and after exercise, which may help you burn more calories throughout the day.

4. Don’t Crash Diet

Crash dieting, or drastically reducing calorie intake, can lead to rapid muscle loss alongside fat loss. This is because the body may turn to muscle protein for energy in the absence of sufficient calories from food. Maintaining muscle mass is crucial for a healthy metabolic rate and overall strength; therefore, a balanced approach to weight loss that includes adequate protein intake and resistance training is recommended to preserve muscle mass while reducing body fat. This strategy supports a more sustainable and healthier body composition transformation.

5. Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep each night is vital for anyone looking to lose fat without sacrificing muscle. During sleep, the body undergoes repair and recovery processes essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Lack of sleep can disrupt hormonal balance, increasing cortisol levels while decreasing growth hormone levels, both of which are counterproductive for muscle preservation and fat loss. Moreover, adequate sleep supports the regulation of appetite-controlling hormones, helping to manage cravings and maintain a healthier diet, further supporting body composition goals.


6. Manage Stress Levels

Managing stress levels is crucial for individuals aiming to lose fat without losing muscle. High stress levels can lead to an increase in cortisol, a hormone that can promote fat storage and muscle breakdown. Additionally, stress often leads to poor eating and exercise habits, which can further hinder the ability to maintain muscle mass while losing fat. By keeping stress in check, it's easier to stick to a balanced diet and regular exercise routine, both essential for supporting muscle maintenance and promoting fat loss.

7. Choose the Right Foods

Adhering to a high-protein diet with products such as those offered by Nutmeg State Nutrition will help ensure that your body receives the fuel it needs to support itself without leading to weight gain in the form of fat. By remaining in a caloric deficit and eating enough grams of protein a day, then the right exercises will further trim the fat from your body while building your muscle strength. Together, these strategies allow you to lose weight without losing muscle in a healthy way and provide you with the long-term results you want.

For more information about healthy eating, weight loss, and our high-quality protein diet food products, contact us today!

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