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How do I prevent muscle loss?


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A lot of people on the forums say that when you lose weight, you end up losing a lot of muscle mass which results in a decreased metabolism. First of all, is this true? If so, how do I ensure that I don't lose my muscle mass? I don't want to kill my metabolism/muscles and end up as blob of fat/skin once I get down to my goal weight!

Also, is it true that I can't gain muscle mass while on a calorie deficit?

Sorry for the n00b questions!

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Yes it basically true, people lose muscle along with fat when dieting, which contributes to a lowered metabolism.  To minimize muscle loss in a deficit there's a few things that need to be done. 1) Increased protein consumption. 2) Weight resistance training. 3) Keep your deficit a reasonable number....20% for example.

When dieting and following the USDA's guideline for protein the result would be almost a chronic increase in cortisol which taxes our endogenous protein (muscle) breaking it down for energy through a metabolic pathway called, gluconeogenesis. Increasing protein acts like a buffer, still allowing protein to be used for protein synthesis (the uptake of amino acids into muscle fiber), and still have enough for other functions that require protein, which are many......It's a well known fact that including weight resistance to our exercises can minimizes and can pretty much shut down muscle breakdown in a deficit. So doing both of these will minimize muscle loss. Everyone is effected differently so your going to have to tweak your routine as time goes on. And of course the more of a deficit your in the bigger the chance you're going to lose muscle, so keep it around 20%...good luck.

Original Post by beachbabeby2011:

A lot of people on the forums say that when you lose weight, you end up losing a lot of muscle mass which results in a decreased metabolism. First of all, is this true? If so, how do I ensure that I don't lose my muscle mass? I don't want to kill my metabolism/muscles and end up as blob of fat/skin once I get down to my goal weight!

Also, is it true that I can't gain muscle mass while on a calorie deficit?

Sorry for the n00b questions!

I have struggle with this issue for years. I have found some information that may help you. If you are over 100lbs...like myself...a cardio is king! Weight-lifting at this weight only increases the pain and discourages you when you attempt to trim things down.

So, this is what I suggest. Making changes every 50lbs. For me I will do cardio for an hour, adjust my diet until I get down to 300lbs. Once at 300lbs I will introduce one day of upper body. Once I get to 250 I will introduce 2 days of weightlifting. Once again, diet and workout will be adjusted as I get leaner.

If you are between 30-50lbs over weight. I would do 4 days of cardio (1hr) and 2 days of weight-lifting.

Best of Luck

Konqueror

P.S - Hopefully this helped

 

 

I agree with everything neanderthin said. The important things are to eat plenty of protein, weight train, and don't have too high a calorie deficit.

It is possible to gain muscle mass while on a calorie deficit. It is easiest for obese people without much muscle mass to do this. For people that are lean or strong or both, it is very difficult or impossible. But even if you can't gain muscle mass while on a calorie deficit, weight training will help prevent losing it.

 

Thanks for your responses! They've really helped me out so much!

Just a few follow ups:

1) How much protein should I be taking in?

2) Can I take my protein in the form of protein powder/shakes/bars?

3) How many days a week should I be weight training and for how many minutes?

In case you need my stats: 
-CW = 176lbs 
-Height = 5'0" 
-Age = 20
-Female
-2-3 days of cardio/week, 30min/session (but otherwise sedentary)  

I've been informally researching this topic of several months now. Reading books and scientific articles as well as peoples' anecdotal experiences that they post here or elsewhere on the web. I think at least this much is true:

1) The people that are already serious athletes and have very low fat% already (like professional body builders) can't lose weight without losing some muscle. Remember, they are close to the lower health limit of fat and they have tons of excess muscle. Those two things affect their metabolism and ratios of what they burn during exercise.

2) People that are obese only have to do moderate amounts of strength training to maintain their muscle while they lose weight. That makes good sense when you consider that their obesity causes high levels of triglycerides to be circulating in their blood and that would be a handy energy source.

3) There are some national challenges  that are based on changing your body composition rather that losing weight. Some of those people have reported the results here on CC. All the people in these challenges were tested (before and after) with calipers or hydrostatically, by certified technicians. Many of the people were overweight but not obese, and a significant percent of them lost weight and gained muscle during the period of the challenge.

4) Personally, I did a "self experiment." I had a steady (for months) start weight. I wasn't obese or even overweight (196 lbs and 6'5" tall). I was very fit endurance wise, but was low on muscle mass, by weight lifting standards.  I lost one pound a week for 14 weeks while strength training and doing at least 6 hours of cardio a week. I measured my body density (hydrostatically) four times during the period. I lost more than 17 pounds of fat and gained at least three pounds of muscle to end up 14 pounds lighter at 182 lbs.

Since I had mostly done only minimal strength training (upper body, climbing specific exercises) before this experiment, I probably benefitted from "newbie gains" in the large lower muscles.  I would think that that was significant for the people in #3 above too.

Here is one scientific article that shows people can lose weight and gain muscle at the same time.

http://www.exrx.net/FatLoss/WTCalLBWStudy.htm l

OGR

Original Post by beachbabeby2011:

Thanks for your responses! They've really helped me out so much!

Just a few follow ups:

1) How much protein should I be taking in?

2) Can I take my protein in the form of protein powder/shakes/bars?

3) How many days a week should I be weight training and for how many minutes?

In case you need my stats: 
-CW = 176lbs 
-Height = 5'0" 
-Age = 20
-Female
-2-3 days of cardio/week, 30min/session (but otherwise sedentary)  

I would increase from the .8 g's that is recommended for every kg of body weight to about 1.3 to 1.8g's for every kg of body weight if you exercise at least 3 times a week and closer to the 1.8 if your adding 2 or 3 days of weight training. Weight training should be at least 3 times a week for 45-60 minutes with weight that would be difficult to lift/push after the 8th rep. imo

Considering your in a deficit real food would be better than powder, but you certainly can use a protein shake if it's easier.

And like the oldguyrules pointed out you have an opportunity to maintain if not build some muscle while weight training is still brand new to your routine.....this will stop after a while, but it's nice to take advantage of it now.

You may also think about adding or replacing 1 cardio session with HIIT, it'll burn more calories during and along with the weight training it'll continue to burn a few calories per hour for quite some time after, which can add up to a few hundred more calories burned per day. The changes of hitting a plateau or your metabolism reducing is almost nil except for the lower body weight from fat loss.

I started at 350 lbs, 55% body fat, so that ends up leaving about 158 for lean mass.  I'm at 235 lbs now, 28% body fat, so about 170 lbs of lean mass.  I added a great deal of resistance training to my regime right from the beginning, whether I do it on a bike at low cadence for my legs, or low rep/high weight for my upper body.  This all happened since the beginning on July 2009,  so a 12 lb lean mass gain with all of the weight loss in that 9 month span seems like a good amount.

 

As for nutrition, before and after resistance or weight training, I took whey protein (quick digesting), about 0.15-0.10 grams per lb of body weight, and would take casein protein (slow digesting) at nights, or during the day when I felt I needed protein to get up to about 1.2 gram protein per pound each day.  It's a lot of protein to consume, but I would lower my intakes each day after the training (I train twice a week) to about 0.8 g protein per pound.  This worked for me,  I didn't have any crazy low calories intakes this whole time either and my metabolism is faster than ever. I think protein shakes are great, with the fast digesting whey the most important, plus it is cheap, even the high quality stuff.

 

That with 4-5 days cardio a week (about 45 minutes per session plus two of them HIIT and one anaerobic/VO2 max session per week), I was able to lose fat and gain lean mass at the same time. Yes I have excess skin, but I can also clearly see the muscles gains, as they somewhat have filled out that real estate.

 

 

Original Post by rage675:

I started at 350 lbs, 55% body fat, so that ends up leaving about 158 for lean mass.  I'm at 235 lbs now, 28% body fat, so about 170 lbs of lean mass.  I added a great deal of resistance training to my regime right from the beginning, whether I do it on a bike at low cadence for my legs, or low rep/high weight for my upper body.  This all happened since the beginning on July 2009,  so a 12 lb lean mass gain with all of the weight loss in that 9 month span seems like a good amount.

 

As for nutrition, before and after resistance or weight training, I took whey protein (quick digesting), about 0.15-0.10 grams per lb of body weight, and would take casein protein (slow digesting) at nights, or during the day when I felt I needed protein to get up to about 1.2 gram protein per pound each day.  It's a lot of protein to consume, but I would lower my intakes each day after the training (I train twice a week) to about 0.8 g protein per pound.  This worked for me,  I didn't have any crazy low calories intakes this whole time either and my metabolism is faster than ever. I think protein shakes are great, with the fast digesting whey the most important, plus it is cheap, even the high quality stuff.

 

That with 4-5 days cardio a week (about 45 minutes per session plus two of them HIIT and one anaerobic/VO2 max session per week), I was able to lose fat and gain lean mass at the same time. Yes I have excess skin, but I can also clearly see the muscles gains, as they somewhat have filled out that real estate.

 

 

Great example! I hope that it helps enlighten and encourage people. I found the numbers quite interesting (that you gained the 12 pounds of mucle over 9 month, because the articles that I have been reading all agree that gaining 1-2 pounds a month of muscle is all most people can achieve without steroids. So, you're numbers are right in there with those guys, even though you were at an overall deficit. 

Good job.

OGR

Original Post by oldguysrule:

Original Post by rage675:

I started at 350 lbs, 55% body fat, so that ends up leaving about 158 for lean mass.  I'm at 235 lbs now, 28% body fat, so about 170 lbs of lean mass.  I added a great deal of resistance training to my regime right from the beginning, whether I do it on a bike at low cadence for my legs, or low rep/high weight for my upper body.  This all happened since the beginning on July 2009,  so a 12 lb lean mass gain with all of the weight loss in that 9 month span seems like a good amount.

 

As for nutrition, before and after resistance or weight training, I took whey protein (quick digesting), about 0.15-0.10 grams per lb of body weight, and would take casein protein (slow digesting) at nights, or during the day when I felt I needed protein to get up to about 1.2 gram protein per pound each day.  It's a lot of protein to consume, but I would lower my intakes each day after the training (I train twice a week) to about 0.8 g protein per pound.  This worked for me,  I didn't have any crazy low calories intakes this whole time either and my metabolism is faster than ever. I think protein shakes are great, with the fast digesting whey the most important, plus it is cheap, even the high quality stuff.

 

That with 4-5 days cardio a week (about 45 minutes per session plus two of them HIIT and one anaerobic/VO2 max session per week), I was able to lose fat and gain lean mass at the same time. Yes I have excess skin, but I can also clearly see the muscles gains, as they somewhat have filled out that real estate.

 

 

Great example! I hope that it helps enlighten and encourage people. I found the numbers quite interesting (that you gained the 12 pounds of mucle over 9 month, because the articles that I have been reading all agree that gaining 1-2 pounds a month of muscle is all most people can achieve without steroids. So, you're numbers are right in there with those guys, even though you were at an overall deficit. 

Good job.

OGR

Now were building muscle to the human limit (without steroids) in a big caloric deficit................I feel sorry for all those professional body builders that have a hard time gaining 12 lbs of muscle in a year eating a surplus of calories (or is this article your reading building muscle in a deficit).........you should write a book......Once upon a time...........j/k

One thing to note is that I was a beginner, my upper body was weak, and that can play a factor.  Another thing I did, was right when it started getting cold outside, I dropped back on cardio big time which also happened to be the time I moved and couldn't get time for much cardio, and I bulked up for about 2 months, where I maintained a low deficit and kind of hovered around the same weight give or take 5 lbs.  Then I got the bike, resumed cardio and dropped, maintaining a high protein intake, mixing weights twice a week.  Then I bulked up last month, again with a low deficit, maybe 200-500 total. 

 

Now I am back outdoors and will concentrate on my intervals and fat loss cardio, plus looking back to the previous season, I made clear advances in riding speeds and control compared to then and now (13.7 mph average on MTB the last 3 rides vs, 10.5 mph my last ride back in Sept. with occasional stops at red lights/stop signs I hit before the path included in those averages). All I care is that is I am seeing results with fat loss, lean mass gain and performance gains, all without junk supplements (creatine included).  I don't know why this worked, maybe it's genetics and maybe it could work for others too. 

Rage:There are lots of variables involved. One thing is that overweight people generally have more triglycerides in their blood, which makes fat much more available to burn. I am guessing that starting with a low muscle mass would also have some metabolic effect (difference in blood chemistry or hormone levels) that makes it easier to gain muscle and to make it very unlikely that you would use any protein as an energy source.

Remember, average guys can make all kinds of improvements that aren't available to elite athletes, who are close to their ultimate limits. Even at my age (50), in a year, I could improve my 10K time by a minute, squat with 50 pounds more, increase my broad jump by a foot. A pro or olympic athlete can't experience any of those improvements, because he is up against his ultimate limits of performance. I am no where near my limit on anything, including body composition! Hah, lol. That is how I look at it.

 

Right nothing is more true than old guys rule!!!!!!!  Are you for real!!  sorry i'm a little excited i can't even read the article you posted i had to reply :) 

I've been running losing weight steadily on a 500 deficit. I started lifting weights (heavy free weights) and cut 1 day a week of running out since i was lifting. I was told lifting weights is best to lose weight.  So here I am lifting weights for the past 3 weeks or so and I have gained constantly!  I am up 2lbs.  well the scales are fluctuating and they never use to.  I'm not giving up because i see a difference. I am starving all the time.  But this made my day.  thank you for telling your story.

Original Post by oldguysrule:

Rage:There are lots of variables involved. One thing is that overweight people generally have more triglycerides in their blood, which makes fat much more available to burn. I am guessing that starting with a low muscle mass would also have some metabolic effect (difference in blood chemistry or hormone levels) that makes it easier to gain muscle and to make it very unlikely that you would use any protein as an energy source.

Remember, average guys can make all kinds of improvements that aren't available to elite athletes, who are close to their ultimate limits. Even at my age (50), in a year, I could improve my 10K time by a minute, squat with 50 pounds more, increase my broad jump by a foot. A pro or olympic athlete can't experience any of those improvements, because he is up against his ultimate limits of performance. I am no where near my limit on anything, including body composition! Hah, lol. That is how I look at it.

 

I actually had high triglycerides, along with cholesterol, until recently so you're on to something there. My triglycerides were very high for a while (about 500), but with a changed diet, and the exercise, I got them down to 128, and I'm off cholesterol medication.  

 

I also have to agree with the performance limits, I'm just happy I can see progress, I always hear people trying weight loss note that they don't see progress.  But my progress is very real and I happy about the results, even if it doesn't put me in elite athlete territory.

 

leslee, I never have the feeling of starvation eating 4-6 times a day now, are you trying that?  I also get at least the recommended fiber intake, so that probably keeps me satiated for a while.

yea i eat small meals.  When I eat large meals lately is the only thing that helps.   I'm eating high protein and high fiber grrr  :) 

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