I used to review a lot of fat loss programs.
From the most underground e-books, to the latest best seller on Amazon, I’ve read through stacks of them.
These days I avoid reading that kinda stuff because most of the time I’m simply reading the same ideas written in different ways.
Sure, they’re some of the greatest examples of marketing this side of beer commercials, but the actual information in them is a combination of basic good nutritional practices (you should eat more fruits and vegetables) and hidden calorie restriction (never eat carbohydrates past 6 pm).
Most of the time the marketing story starts like this… “My special ‘melt the lard’ program guarantees you will lose fat fast without losing any muscle”.
The part I have a trouble with is the “without losing any muscle”.
It seems losing muscle is something everyone is deathly afraid of doing…
Here’s my issue with this:
Most of the bodybuilders, athletes and fitness models I’ve talked with are convinced that they lose massive amounts of muscle when they are dieting.
But they are exactly the people who probably shouldn’t worry.
Here’s the truth about losing muscle mass while dieting. I think it’s almost completely avoidable.
I have taken hundreds of body fat measurements on amateur body builders and fitness models.
None of them lost any more than 1 or 2 pounds of lean mass while dieting for a competition, yet they drop anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds of fat, but lose almost no muscle!
My measurements were taken with a BodPod, and validated with both skin fold calipers and limb circumference measurements, so I’m sure they were decently accurate.
And, these are the same findings that are being published in peer reviewed research papers (so it’s not just me).
All of these athletes were on different types of low calorie diets and loads of different supplements or no supplements at all; however, none of them were losing much in the way of actual muscle.
And there is one major reason for these findings:
People who are weight training preserve their muscle mass while dieting (within reason).
I believe this is for one main reason.
In MASSIVELY over-simplified terms: By lifting weights, you are telling your body you need that muscle.
Your body recognizes that need, and thinks:
“Whoa. Looks like I’m dieting again. I need to burn something for some extra energy but if I get rid of some of this muscle, it’ll make this whole lifting weights thing even harder. I better keep this muscle and burn something else, maybe this fat over here…”
So as long as your diet doesn’t consist of “eat nothing for 6 months straight” the number one way to ensure you don’t lose any muscle while you are dieting is by lifting weights.
Protein may play a role on in this (almost all of the people I was tracking were eating a high protein diet), and even I’m a fan of slightly higher than average protein intake (not daily, but as a running average) but other than that, no fancy diet program works better than weight training for preventing you from losing muscle while you are dieting.
Your risk of losing muscle while dieting can be greatly minimized by following a sound weight training program, keeping your protein intake slightly elevated and not going to any sort of extreme with your diet.
This really is the secret to losing fat without losing muscle.