How Fast Can You Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle?

So you want to lose weight for summer, but you’ve spent all winter putting on hard earned muscle. Or maybe you just started a diet because you have decided that this is the summer when you WILL look good at the lake house boat party and get looks and compliments from everyone.  This is good because you should be paying attention to your diet.  Diet modification is where all good changes in body composition start and end. How much or how little you eat has a lot to do with your body composition.  The big issue I see is that people go at it too aggressively at first, only to see their efforts wasted half way through their diet. Eating only salad and one and a half protein shakes a day might do more damage than good. It's hard to stick to and you will end up losing too much muscle. Here are the facts...

There is an acceptable rate of weight loss over time that will help prevent the loss of muscle.  This magic percentage is somewhere in the realm of 0.7-1% of total body weight per week. The slower you lose weight, the more muscle you will maintain over the course of a diet. Most people want to get that summer body by the end of June so we really only have a few months to go.  

To be brutally honest, most people probably have more weight to lose than they think to get the swimsuit body they want. So,10% of your body weight is a good reasonable number to shoot for; though it might not get you in photoshoot shape, you will look and feel good on the beach. Taking that into account, let's assume you can lose weight at the high end of this rate, close to 1%. If you weight 200lbs and want to lose 20lbs, then you will have to be dieting for 10 weeks or 2.5 months if you want to lose as little muscle as possible. If you start now, 2.5 months puts us into July - August, right when the sun starts coming out around here ;)

Let's look at this goal in chunks. One thing we have to point out is that weight loss is not a purely linear experience. Your weight is affected by water retention, salt, the density of the food you recently ate, how often you are using the bathroom, and more, so charting your weight loss will look more like a step ladder than a straight line. It’s important, however, not to become a slave to the scale. The scale is a metric to see if what you are doing is working and if you need to be more or less aggressive with your approach. The scale has nothing to do with your self-worth or anything like that.

Over the course of 2-4 weeks, you should see an average downward trend of about 1% of your total bodyweight lost per week. If you don’t see that it is not because you have gained muscle, it is because you are not being strict enough with your calorie counting or calorie control and you need to tighten things up. People don’t normally gain muscle fast enough to offset the body weight on the scale like that, you just need to try harder.  Muscle gain happens really slowly; fat loss or gain happens a lot faster. Besides, it's hard to gain muscle while eating fewer calories and that's what we have to do to lose that unwanted fat. You normally have to eat more calories over time to gain a significant amount of muscle.

 

So some helpful tips for losing fat:

  1. Track your calories: I will be saying this until I die... there is no better way to get a grip on what you are actually doing with your diet than this.

  2. Eat somewhere between 9 and 12 calories per pound of body weight depending on how active you are and how much body fat you have. More body fat, eat fewer calories; more active eat more calories.

  3. Eat more Protein: Protein should account for about 30% of your calories (maybe a little more). This will keep you fuller longer and help you to keep that muscle that you worked so hard for.

  4. Eat more fiber: Eat about 15g of fiber per 1000 calories, this will help you stay fuller and not to mention help your GI feel great!

  5. Sleep: Lack of sleep not only upregulates stress hormones (which make us hold on to body fat), it also makes it much harder for us to make good decisions especially when it comes to food.

  6. Track your weight and take progress pictures regularly: this really helps put things into perspective as to how far you’ve come over time and motivates you to stick to the plan.

 

If you want to keep that muscle when you are getting ready for summer, don’t eat like a bird, but also don’t eat like a pig, eat more like… an adult ;) . Use these tips to help you have success and let me know how it goes or if you need any more help.

For more help with your summer fat loss goals get started here.

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