Building muscle while losing weight is a challenge but it is important for overall health and wellness. This is because lean muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more calories, which helps increase your resting metabolic rate. Muscle also helps improve mobility, heart health, and metabolic health, making it essential to preserve while losing weight.
Unfortunately, when losing weight, the body typically uses muscle tissue for energy before breaking down fat, which can lead to muscle loss. To build muscle while losing fat, you need to create a caloric deficit, strength train, and consume lean protein. In this article, we will delve deeper into expert-approved strategies for building muscle during weight loss.
Get a baseline
Before you start your weight loss and muscle-building journey, it is important to get a baseline for where you are starting. Undergoing body composition testing such as the InBody analysis or DEXA scan can help determine how much of your current body mass is fat versus lean muscle and bone. These tests can also provide information about your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories your body needs to power its basic functions while at rest.
Monitoring your progress periodically as you go is also important. Keep track of your progress by regularly measuring your body weight, body fat percentage, and tracking your strength training progress. This can help you to adjust your approach as needed.
Keep your caloric deficit small
Gaining muscle while losing fat simultaneously is definitely possible, thanks to a process called “body recomposition.” However, this process needs to be managed carefully. Weight reduction is always caused by a calorie deficit, however, If you cut too many calories, you’ll stifle your muscle-gaining efforts. Aggressive diet plans that put you in a big caloric deficit can lead to losing both fat and muscle, so it’s important to balance your caloric intake.
Keeping your caloric deficit smaller means you’ll break down less muscle as you lose weight. A smaller deficit – just enough to lead to about half a kilogram or 1.1 pounds per week – also increases your likelihood of being able to actively build muscle. Your goal should be to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. Reducing caloric intake by 500 calories per day is a good place to start. Over the course of seven days, those 500 calories add up to 3,500 calories, or 1 pound of body weight.
It is also recommended to cut by 500 calories or fewer per day to keep muscle while losing fat. Drastic diet changes or fad dieting can often make it difficult to maintain weight loss efforts in the long term.
Being patient is important when trying to build muscle while losing fat. It may take time to notice significant changes, as it becomes progressively more difficult to increase muscle while losing fat as you become more trained and get leaner.
For some people, noticing these changes as a number on the scale might be slow initially too. Keep in mind that muscle weighs about 20% more than fat, so you may actually be losing fat but not losing weight. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight is likely to have health advantages, such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels.
Eat lean protein throughout the day
Consuming protein is essential when building muscle. Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Consuming protein throughout the day can help you maintain muscle mass while losing weight. Aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
Consider intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It has been shown to promote fat loss while preserving muscle mass. Intermittent fasting can help you keep your caloric deficit small and provide enough time for your body to burn fat for energy.
Strength train frequently
Strength training is one of the best ways to build muscle. It is recommended to strength train at least two to three times a week, with each session lasting for at least 30 minutes. Resistance training, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, helps to break down muscle fibers, which then repair and grow stronger during periods of rest.
In addition to building muscle, strength training can also improve bone density, enhance balance and coordination, and boost metabolism. When combined with a healthy diet, strength training can also aid in weight loss and improve overall body composition.
Prioritize rest and recovery
Rest and recovery are just as important as exercise when it comes to building muscle. During periods of rest, the body repairs and strengthens muscle fibers that were broken down during exercise. It is recommended to take at least one rest day per week to allow the body to recover.
Additionally, getting enough sleep is crucial for muscle growth and recovery. The body produces growth hormone during deep sleep, which is essential for muscle repair and growth. Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support muscle growth and overall health.
Building muscle takes time and consistent effort. It is important to stay consistent with both exercise and nutrition in order to see results. Set realistic goals and create a workout plan that fits your schedule and fitness level. Consistency and patience are key when it comes to building muscle.
You can absolutely build muscle while shedding unwanted pounds. It’s all about finding a balance between fueling and training your muscles while maintaining a small caloric deficit. Don’t aim for quick fixes or drastic changes, but rather focus on sustainable habits that you can maintain over the long haul. Remember, both fat loss and muscle gain are a journey that requires patience and dedication. Remember to be patient and stay consistent, and you will see progress over time.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.