How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle: Escaping the Dreaded Cycle of Gaining, and Then Losing, all of Your Hard Earned Muscle Mass
Sep 3rd, 2011
As a bodybuilder, I always have a specific set of short term goals for my physique that I am striving to achieve, while being ever mindful to keep everything in perspective of my ultimate goal – to build as much muscle mass as possible with a level of body fat that is lean enough for my muscle definition to be on full display.
After a few years of weight training and learning how to manipulate my diet to promote muscle growth or fat loss, I became extremely efficient at transforming my body. While it was a good feeling to be able to put on muscle mass or burn unwanted body fat at will, I noticed that after many months of cycling between muscle building and fat loss that my overall gains in muscle mass were mostly unnoticeable.
I found that I was essentially spending several weeks at a time building muscle mass as fast as possible, only to turn around and lose all of my hard earned muscle growth in just a matter of weeks after switching to a fat loss cycle in order to take off the excess body fat I had accumulated while bulking up. I had been caught in a dreaded cycle of gaining, and then losing, all of my hard earned muscle mass.
Extreme Dieting is Not the Way to Lose Body Fat Without Losing Muscle
Even though I had gotten very good at forcing my muscles to grow, or ridding myself of unwanted body fat, I was using extreme dietary modifications to get these results. My extreme dieting techniques were leading to excessive gains in body fat while I was following a muscle building cycle, followed by extreme losses in muscle mass while focusing on fat loss, leaving me with zero net muscle gains.
As I said above, my ultimate goal involves building as much muscle mass as possible – which should be the goal of every serious bodybuilder. So, following a strict training and nutrition plan for months on end, with no overall muscle gains to show for it, was simply unnacceptable. Actually this kind of cycling back and forth with little or no muscle building results is a common problem among bodybuilders. I am going to share with you how you can get out of this dreaded cycle to start building, and retaining, lean muscle mass.
It really is unfortunate that this type of extreme cycling between muscle building and fat loss is so rampant among today’s bodybuilders because they are sacrificing pounds and pounds of additional muscle mass that could be gained by simply following a more conservative dietary approach.
I certainly understand the temptation of wanting to get the best results possible in the least amount of time, but when it comes to bodybuilding, slow and steady really does win the race. Short term goals are an extremely important aspect of any bodybuilding program, but they should never be reached at the expense of the ultimate goal of building, and retaining, as much lean muscle as physically possible.
Let me share with you how I was finally able to put an end to the dreaded cycle of building pounds of noticeable muscle mass and then losing every bit of it while focusing on fat loss.
Gradual Nutrition Modifications to Cut Weight Without Losing Muscle
The secret to retaining your hard-earned muscle mass while cutting fat is to make sure that your body is in a slight caloric deficit that will enable you to burn fat, but is not so extreme that your body will enter a catabolic state and begin breaking down your muscle tissue from your lagging nutrition levels.
In other words, the best way to lose fat without losing muscle mass is to find the absolute maximum amount of nutrition you can eat while still cutting fat. Attacking your fat loss goals in this manner will keep your muscles sufficiently nourished and enable you to lose weight without losing muscle.
What I always recommend to anyone who is looking to shed body fat is to start by using an initial set of nutritional guidelines and measure their results after a week to see how effective it was. I want to note that finding the right nutritional starting point is not an exact science because there are a lot of factors that cannot be perfectly accounted for (metabolism, activity level, etc.).
That being said, I have found that a good starting point for both men and women to initiate their fat loss progression should consist of 1.5 grams of carbohydrates and 1.0g of complete muscle building proteins per day per pound of body weight. So, a 200lb man would have a starting set of daily nutritional requirements for fat loss consisting of 300g of carbohydrates and 200g of complete protein sources.
After following this nutrition plan for a full week, you should be able to measure a decrease in your body weight or waist size (measured at belly button height). If neither of these measurements has decreased after a full week, you will want to reduce your daily carbohydrate and protein requirements by 10% each.
Be Patient with Your Fat Loss Measurements!
I know how tempting it can be to quickly reduce your daily nutrition plan with the hopes of inducing faster fat loss results. However, if you are concerned with maintaining your current level of muscle mass, you must be patient and only reduce your daily nutritional allowance by 10%; and only if you do not measure any indication of fat loss in your body weight or waist size after a full week of following your nutritional guidelines as outlined above.
If you want to accelerate your fat burning progress, instead of making drastic changes to your diet plan, you should incorporate as many weekly fat burning cardio workouts into your training schedule as possible.
Ramping Up for Lean Muscle Growth
Depending on your initial amount of body fat, and your level of dedication to fat burning cardio workouts, after several weeks or months you will finally have a lean physique with ripped abs and will be ready to start focusing on building up your muscle mass.
In all honesty, if your goal is to simply build more muscle mass, your nutrition plan could simply consist of eating as much food as you want, whenever you want, but following a plan like this wouldn’t take very long for you to start packing on pounds of body fat and get back to where you were before ridding yourself of all of your unsightly body fat.
Just like when focusing on losing body fat, when working towards the goal of building lean muscle mass we need to take care to slowly increase our nutrition and provide our body with just enough nutrition for optimum muscle growth without consuming excessive calories that will only turn to body fat.
To accomplish this goal, I will increase the fat loss nutritional values I was using during my last week of my fat loss cycle by 10% and use these slightly increased values as my starting nutritional guidelines for building lean muscle mass. So, if during your last week of focusing on fat loss I was eating 120g of carbs and 80g of protein each day, I would simply increase these values by 10% to give me an allowance of 132g of carbs and 88g of protein each day for the first week of your muscle building cycle.
Just as you should measure your fat loss progress on a weekly basis, you should also make sure to measure your muscle gaining results on a weekly basis as well and adjust your nutritional guidelines as needed. When focusing on lean muscle growth, you should measure your body weight and the circumference of your flexed biceps.
If, at any time, you do not measure a weekly increase in your body weight or either of your flexed biceps measurements, this is an indication that you need to make a slight adjustment to your nutrition plan in order to induce muscle growth and you will simply need to increase your previous week’s daily nutritional requirements by 10%. *
Burning Fat Without Losing Muscle Mass Is Possible With a Little Patience and Dedication
Losing fat without losing muscle mass is all about trimming your body fat through a slight caloric deficit over time – not extreme dieting techniques that deprive your body of the nutrition required to sustain your hard earned muscle growth – regardless of how tempting it might be to reach your fat loss goals in less time. Taking extreme measures to reduce your body fat percentage more efficiently will always come at the expense of maintaining muscle mass.
If you want to acheive significant long term muscle growth success, your goal should always be to shed body fat while getting as much nutrition as possible to prevent any losses in muscle mass that can occur when cutting fat. The plan I outline above will enable you to accomplish just that.
If you would like to learn more about the proper training and nutrition techniques for simultaneously shedding body fat and building muscle mass, you need to check out my book, Ripped Out