Worried about losing your hard earned Muscle when dieting?
Here are 3 tips to avoid (or at least minimise) muscle loss when deiting:
1) Keep your training hard and heavy: use it or lose it!
There is a tendency to think we should lighten the load and up the reps when dieting. This will likely result in muscle loss due to a reduced stimulus on the muscles. The body is looking to get rid of unused tissue. If you are not using your muscle (or at not using it as much) it is much more likely to be broken down and used as energy. If you are using that muscle then your body will be reluctant to get rid of it.
Let’s look at an extreme example of inactivity: bed rest.
I’m using bed rest as an example here because there is a lot of research in this area. Complete bed rest is obviously an unrealistic example for a dieting example however, as little as 10 days bed rest can result in a significant loss in muscle size and strength. One recent study observed a ~1.5kg reduction in lean body mass and a ~7% reduction in 1 rep max after 10days bed rest (Dirks et al., 2016).
I have no data to support this but from experience and observation it seems to me that inactivity (or a reduced training stimulus) has more to do with muscle loss than nutritional factors. This largely comes from the observation that people can do a lot ‘wrong’ (or sub optimally) on the nutrition side but still get great results if they can maintain a high training stimulus. Note: this is a bit of a pointless observation as both are obviously important and neither should be neglected.
2) Keep protein high..possibly increase
Eric Helms suggests up to 3.1g/kg FFM and well, if you want to know how to preserve muscle mass ask a successful natural body builder.
3) Don’t overdo it on the cardio
There are some contradictory adaptations to endurance training when it comes to building and maintaining muscle. That’s not to say you can’t utilise cardio or that it should be avoided.
Alex Viada has definitely shown you can have high levels of both strength and endurance.
However, one key adaptation to endurance training is economy. This means trying to spend as little energy as possible for the activity. Carrying around massive biceps isn’t going to make you a very economical runner.
Some cardio is good.. Do a lot of cardio and some compromises will be made.
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