Maybe you’re not necessarily looking to build muscle while losing weight, but you also don’t want to lose the muscle that you currently have. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get rid of your fat while preserving your muscle mass.
Eat More Protein
One study of 39 adults found that eating a high-protein diet can help protect muscle when cutting calories in an attempt to lose weight. Although all participants lost weight by lowering their calorie intake, those who consumed more protein lost less of their lean muscle mass. A study of 20 obese patients found similar results.
Healthy protein sources include lean meats, seafood, eggs, and dairy. If you follow a plant-based diet, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds are all non-animal foods that are also high in protein.
If you have a medical condition, consult with your doctor before starting a high-protein diet. This eating strategy can potentially impact kidney function, making this a consideration if you have a kidney-related disease.
Get the Right Nutrients
Research suggests that consuming certain nutrients may help preserve muscle mass while losing weight. For example, a study of 80 obese older adults noted that taking a supplement containing leucine and vitamin D (along with whey protein) helped protect their muscles when on a low-calorie diet.
Again, it is important to talk with your doctor before beginning any supplemental regimen. They can also help you decide how much of each supplement to take given your health and medical conditions.
It’s fairly well-known that exercise helps you burn calories and build muscle. However, what is less discussed is that if you don’t make exercise a regular habit, you’re more likely to lose the muscle that you currently have.
How long do you have between exercise sessions before your muscle starts to decline? According to one study, even a five-day break is enough to start to see lean muscle mass reduce in size.
Do Cardio and Strength Train
The key is to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your exercise routine, whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced exerciser.
Cardio with no strength training can compromise your muscle mass (shrinking your muscles instead of building them). But strength training without cardio can compromise your fat loss. So do both.
Continue to strength train
Do strength training two to three times per week. This may be a combination of:
- bodyweight exercises
- resistance band exercises
Exercise classes, such as yoga, Pilates, or tai chi, are also options.
Always start with low weight loads and fewer repetitions. Gradually work your way up to heavier weights or more repetitions. This will help avoid injury.