How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle: We Asked the Experts

Understanding How to Lose Fat 

Ok, so your weight loss program is going along fine. Until you realize you might be losing muscle as well. Where did those hard-trained for biceps go? You wanted to trim fat and cut pounds, but not at the expense of losing your muscle tone as well. 

The real answer lies in walking a fine line with the workouts you are doing and the calories you consume––the types of calories you consume, to be even more specific. As you might expect, consuming fewer calories than you burn each day is necessary to lose fat. However, to keep building muscle you must keep exercising, as cutting calories alone can lead to weight and muscle loss. 

The key is to keep a close eye on what you are eating, and what kind of exercises you are doing. It’s important to follow some best practices in order to lose weight without losing muscle. Read on for some pro tips and advice from our experts.

DIET: LOSING FAT WITHOUT LOSING MUSCLE

If your goal is to lose weight without losing muscle, you need to start with the right kind of diet: a diet that creates a caloric deficit. A caloric deficit refers to consuming fewer calories than your body requires. You create a deficit by deliberately limiting caloric input. 

To maintain a caloric deficit requires a lot of discipline. To be more specific, that means counting and limiting calories while also trying to amp up your caloric output (aka your fitness routine). Keeping your body looking for energy as you squeeze its caloric input is how to reduce body fat. And while it may get some of the needed energy from converting stored fat, it is just as happy converting lean muscle tissue into calories.

Here are some ways to combat muscle loss with a caloric deficit diet:

  • Make sure your body is not too restricted on calories. In a severely restricted diet, your body is way more likely to feed off your muscles and turn to them as an energy source. 
  • Go slowly. Losing weight too quickly may contribute to muscle loss.
  • Eat the right foods. It’s essential to not waste precious calories on any kind of trans fats, processed food, complex carbohydrates or excess sugar. 
  • Get more protein. This has been proven time and again by studies as a great way to continually build muscle, feel full, and power your body for long stretches of exercise without feeling burnt out.  

Because you don’t want to lose muscle mass, but are aiming to trim fat, you should include your protein intake in the daily foods that you monitor. Aiming to get somewhere between 1.0 and 1.2 grams of protein / pound of your body weight should be more than enough protein to minimize muscle loss during a calorie-restricted diet.

EXERCISE: LOSING FAT WITHOUT LOSING MUSCLE

So what kind of exercise should you be focusing on? Ditching the heavy lifting is the first part. Next up in your regimen should be combining max reps along with slow aerobic cardio to help you reduce body fat effectively, while still maintaining and building muscle. You don’t even need weights for some workouts! 

Here are some fitness tips to keep you from losing muscle while showing your body how to burn fat.

Cardio - Cardio should be your #1 go-to routine if you’re really aching to get rid of extra fat. To lose fat and gain or maintain muscle mass you should be working on slow aerobic cardio as well as interval training. 

Great examples include:

  • Walking on the treadmill at a higher speed with the incline all the way up
  • Swimming laps in the pool
  • Using a stationary bike to do interval training - with one minute of slow recovery time and 2 minutes of ramping up your RPMs.

Max Reps - Pure strength training, such as lifting heavy singles, doubles, or triples, relies heavily on your neural drive, the speed you shift from using Type I to Type II muscle fibers, and your ability to get the utmost muscle fiber engagement. 

While those are extremely beneficial for setting PR’s in the gym, they don’t maximize how much muscle you put on or maintain during a cutting phase. 

Instead, focus on doing max reps with lower weights than you are used to working with to create an intense muscle-building workout while targeting problem areas. 

Great examples include:

  • Free weight exercises such as prone rows, dumbbell squats or weighted carry. Keeping the body in motion will help lifting lighter weights feel like more of an exercise.
  • Use weighted exercises that also target your core. Since this is where pesky fat tends to build up, it's important to hone in on these spots while you build lean muscle. 
  • Alternate heavy and light weights with rest in between. 

What Our Experts Say: 

When it comes to using diet and exercise to eliminate fat while keeping and building strong lean muscle, our experts recommend choosing certain exercises and viewing your diet with caution and care. Supplementing with high quality protein is the quickest way to maintain your muscle mass while delivering your body with the energy it needs in a calorie deficit diet.

Jen Widerstrom, Transformation Head Coach, former trainer on The Biggest Loser, and Fitness Director of Shape Magazine, suggests choosing the right protein. “I like to say that muscle pays for the party. I can put muscle on again...I didn’t change my diet dramatically, the only thing I changed was I put Transformation Protein in after my workouts...and the muscle started to come back. I started to get leaner, and it just changed my mood, my focus, my ability to achieve at the gym.”

Gunnar Peterson, world’s top celebrity trainer and Transformation Partner, suggested taking a strict approach when it comes to losing weight and counting calories: “People think that you have to get three meals, and that’s what you get because you’re raised that way. No, you don’t get a certain amount of calories, you get a certain amount of macro[nutrients], that’s how it's allotted. If you choose to eat it all at four o’clock and then feel bad, you don’t get dinner because it's dinner time, you’re done.”

Nick Andrade, Basecamp Lead Trainer suggests this tip in order to cut fat without forfeiting muscle: “Lift heavy weights 2-3 times a week and incorporate at least 2 high intensity functional training sessions in your week. Shorter sessions with higher intensities will always produce a greater calorie burn than a longer slower strength session.”

FUEL YOUR BODY WITH KEY AMINO ACIDS TO BURN FAT

When it comes to losing weight and maintaining and growing muscle, exercise is only half the battle. Nutrition needs to be a focal point of your fitness routine as well. Protein kick-starts the muscle-building process, and boosts your metabolism. Your body turns protein into amino acids. Those amino acids are then used to repair and grow new muscles. So including a high quality protein powder into your post-workout routine will help you achieve your goals faster. This ability to increase muscle protein synthesis and guard your muscles means that you can recover from your workouts faster. 

Transformation Protein’s formula was developed with your fitness goals in mind, so you can get results from a balanced multi-protein formula. Three types of protein support your need for strong, sustained energy throughout your workouts and throughout the day. 30g of total protein per serving with plant, collagen, and egg white proteins also includes essential vitamins and all 9-amino acids to help fuel your body the way it needs. Ditch the fat and keep the muscle with the right nutrition. 

I’m Ready To Protein Like A Pro!