Medically Reviewed by Dr. Ben Rawson, D.O.
If you’re new to fitness, you might be wondering how to lose weight without losing muscle. This is a common question for beginners, and it’s easy to understand why. Wouldn’t cutting calories also start to break down your muscle mass? The answer is no, not necessarily.
Weight loss and fat loss are two different things. The process of losing fat and not muscle is known as, “cutting.” Not only will cutting result in weight loss, but it will also make your muscles more defined and visible.
How do you accomplish cutting? You’ll need to pay close attention to both your diet and the way you exercise.
A Plan for Weight Loss and Muscle Maintenance
First, it’s important to understand that muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, if you want to maintain muscle, the way your body looks and feels will be more important metrics of success than the number on the scale.
Secondly, when formulating a plan for how to lose weight without losing muscle, be sure to set some goals. Are you looking to lose 10 pounds? Do you want to cut your body fat by a certain percentage? Are you hoping to slim down to fit into an old pair of jeans? Being aware of your goals will help you meet them.
How Should You Exercise?
You’ll need to continue exercising to maintain the muscle you already have. Studies have shown that resistance training can prevent muscle loss even while you’re in a state of caloric restriction.
Experts believe that total-body workouts are one of the best ways to maintain muscle while losing weight. This includes exercises like yoga planks, pushups, rows, and squats. All these exercises challenge large muscle groups while burning calories.
If you’re new to working out, start with a modest goal of two days of strength training each week. If you’re experienced in fitness, stay consistent with your schedule while focusing on making dietary changes.
You don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes each session. This will be enough time to gain the benefits of a solid workout without exhausting yourself.
You’ll want to avoid excessive cardio while cutting calories. It can decrease muscle. That said, don’t quit doing cardio completely. It’s important for health and well-being. Low-intensity cardio is an excellent option for the days you’re recovering from heavy strength training.
Muscles need rest to heal and develop after a hard workout. Research has shown that doing 30 minutes of gentle cardiovascular exercise on recovery days can promote muscle strength.
Cycling or swimming are both great options for low-intensity cardio. The key is to take it slow and not push yourself too hard. You want to get your heart pumping without getting out of breath.
How Should You Eat?
You don’t need to deprive yourself to lose body fat. Consider cutting back by about 500 calories a day. Avoid unhealthy foods and beverages, such as sugary treats or soda. Include two palm-size servings of protein with each meal. Healthy protein sources include chicken, fish, eggs, or legumes.