You are going out of the muscle building phase or “swelling phase,” as many may relate to it. You worked hard to put on a mass. You were focused and consistent in your workouts, and you became noticeably stronger and denser. It's time to unleash the muscles you created. You want to lose some fat, but you are not too upset that you are losing your hard-earned income. How do you maintain muscle and keep your performance as high as possible?
You must be in calorie deficit to lose fat. It is impossible to get around this. Here's what you need to do to lean out while maximizing muscle retention:
1. Start with the highest possible number of calories in your deficit
The easiest way to create a calorie deficit is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 10-13. Yes, this is a wide range, but this is only an approximate starting point – your calorie needs may be higher or lower depending on your age, gender, lifestyle and goals. I suggest you start with a higher level of spectrum to give yourself more calories to work from the start.
Say you weigh 150 pounds. Your magic number is 1,950: 150 x 13 = 1,950 calories. Thus, you need to consume 1,950 calories per day in order to lose body fat.
Since body weight is dynamic and fluctuates over the course of a week, do not cut calories dramatically if your weight remains unchanged for several days. For two weeks, monitor your weight daily to make objective decisions. If you lost weight, great! Do not change anything. If you stay the same, reduce your intake by 150 calories (which increases your body weight in pounds x 12).
For most people, it is advisable to lose 0.5-1 percent per week. At this pace, you will be more likely to maintain your performance in the gym and maintain more muscle.
2. Eat carbohydrates when you need them most
Nutrient time matters more when you are in a calorie deficit and trying to maintain lean muscle mass. You want to make sure that most of your carbohydrates (along with some protein) are in your food before and after workouts.
Some people like to get solid foods from complex carbohydrates and protein 1-2 hours before training, while others like to get simple carbohydrates and fast-digesting protein about 30 minutes before. Try both options and see what is best for you.
The recommended amount of carbohydrates before and after exercise depends on your total carbohydrate intake, tolerance and preferences. I found that eating before a workout containing at least 40-75 grams of carbohydrates helped me cope with fatigue and perform optimally in the gym.
3. Keep your protein intake high
Diets high in protein increase satiety, create a greater thermal effect, improve mood and cognitive functions, and also contribute to muscle building and recovery.[1-4] That’s all you want, especially when you are limiting calories.
My recommendation is to eat 0.8-1.2 g of protein per pound of body weight per day. So, for a person weighing 150 pounds, this means 150 grams of protein per day. The recommended amount of protein before and after training is about 0.18-0.23 grams per kilogram of body weight, so about 30 grams for each person weighing 150 pounds.
The easiest way to do this is to consume protein in every meal. Just divide your total protein intake by the number of meals you plan to eat per day. If you need to consume 150 grams of protein, and you eat four times a day, each meal should contain 37 grams of protein.
4. Use Refeeds only as needed
Refeeds are higher calorie days when you focus on getting excess carbohydrates to help you stay on your diet. It also helps with muscle retention. The structure of your recommendations will depend on where you are in your diet, on the level of your activity and your preferences, as well as other factors.
But first, let's talk about what reeds are not. They are not a buffet that you can eat, or a test of how much junk food you can eat in one day. Basically, feeding gives you the psychological benefit of a break in your diet, and eating more can lead to better performance in the gym.
My suggestion is to add reids to your diet under two conditions:
- You are constantly losing weight for at least four weeks.
- You feel tired and lethargic.
In this case, experiment with adding 1000-2000 calories on a specific day every week. If you ultimately need 2,000 calories, you can choose two days to add 1,000 calories instead.
Regarding the specifics of the recommended diet, some people like to get concentrated carbohydrates, while others get more benefit from adding a combination of fats and carbohydrates. In the end, it’s important that you take a break from your calorie deficit, structured your calories for 24-48 hours, and now you feel more energetic and ready to continue your weight loss efforts.
5. Do not give preference to cardio strength
Many people make the mistake of adding intense cardiovascular exercise to burn more calories. There is nothing wrong with this, as adding exercise to the cardiovascular system helps maintain open ways to burn fat and is a great way to spend extra calories. However, if cardio jeopardizes your strength training, I suggest you reconsider your strategy. Most of us already live and work under high load conditions, so it makes no sense to add an even greater load to your system, performing an intense cardio load, trying to maintain your benefits.
Instead, try increasing your daily NEAT or thermogenesis activity without exercise. I found that walking 8,000-10,000 steps per day, in fact, takes care of my extra calorie burning without compromising my results in the gym.
6. Priority of complex movements
There is absolutely no reason to exclude all complex movements from your program while you are in the phase of fat loss. Focusing only on the movements of isolation, high repetitions and the “burning sensation” does not lead to burning more fat in this particular area. What helped you gain muscle mass is what helps you maintain it. Keep doing squats, deadlifts, rows, chins and a bench press. Try to keep as much training volume as possible for as long as possible.
Your performance depends on your training age and your specific training program, but as a rule, you should be able to maintain most of your intensity in the gym (or even add to it) to a certain point in your diet, until the time to finish the diet and focus on building again. I found that more often than not, something that limits someone’s intensity in the gym is more connected with the psyche, rather than with the physiological state.
When you go to the gym, believe in your abilities and work hard. As I mentioned earlier, what helped you gain muscle mass is what helps you maintain it.
7. Take a creatine supplement.
Creatine is one of the best-studied and safest nutritional supplements. In short, creatine is a natural substance that is converted to creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps produce ATP, which is the energy muscle needs to contract.
In short, adding creatine helps increase muscle mass, strength, and strength — something you want to do when your body weight drops. You can take creatine with foods like meat, but you have to eat a significant amount to get the level of creatine your body needs to see the benefits. For most people, a daily intake of 3-5 g of creatine monohydrate is sufficient.
8. Priority sleep and stress management
Sleep and stress management are extremely important for your energy and quality of life, but they become more important when calories are limited. For millennia of human history, weight loss has been a threat to survival. The human body perceives calorie restriction as a threat to its survival, even if this is no longer the case. However, you must help create a safe environment in your body to allow fat loss.
In particular, lack of sleep can lead to changes in hormones that can increase hunger.[6-8] Similarly, a high level of secretion of cortisol and other stress hormones can mask weight loss by holding water in the body, and can lead to increased hunger.[9,10]
With this in mind, do not forget to take the time to relax, join the parasympathetic mode and do what you like to reduce stress and contribute to a sense of well-being and happiness – reading a book, chatting with a close friend, playing a video game, drawing, etc. etc. In addition, make it a habit to sleep and wake up every day at the same time, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep. Practicing these habits will not only alleviate fat loss, but also positively affect many other aspects of your life.
9. Evaluate your progress every two weeks.
One of the main tips for maintaining muscle is to focus on slow and consistent fat loss. The following assessment tools used together can provide the most accurate snapshot of your dietary progress:
- Body weight tracking daily
- Take measurements – in particular, waist and hips – every two weeks
- Take front, side and back shots every two weeks
Sometimes the scale does not budge, but the visual changes are obvious, so it’s important to have several assessment tools that measure your progress, rather than relying on just one. Measure your progress every two weeks and adjust your diet and / or action plan if necessary.
As a rule, let your diet take care of fat loss and your strength training program about muscle retention.
Need more nutrition advice? Go to the “Fundamentals of Fitness Nutrition” course and arm yourself with all the macros, weight gain or weight loss, and more, available only on Bodybuilding.com. Full access.
- Soenen S. & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2008). Protein and satiety: consequences for weight management. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 11(6), 747-751.
- Aragon A.A. and Schoenfeld B.J. (2013). Nutrient intake time has been revised: is there an anabolic window after exercise? Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition, 10(fifteen.
- Crovetti R., Porrini M., Santangelo A. & Testolin G. (1998). The effect of the thermal effects of food on satiety. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 52(7), 482-488.
- Helms, E.R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D.S., Naidoo, R. & Cronin, J. (2015). A short-term, high-protein, low-fat diet leads to less stress and fatigue than a moderate-protein and moderate-fat diet during weight loss in male weight lifters: a pilot study. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Metabolism Exercise, 25(2), 163-170.
- Buford, T.W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., … & Antonio, J. (2007). Stand position of the International Sports Nutrition Society: creatine supplements and exercises. Journal of the International Sports Nutrition Society, 4(sixteen.
- Greer, S.M., Goldstein, A.N. & Walker, M.P. (2013). The effect of sleep deprivation on the desire for food in the human brain. Natural Communications, 4(one).
- Spiegel K., Tasali E., Penev P. & Van Cauter E. (2004). Brief report: sleep reduction in healthy young men is associated with a decreased level of leptin, an increased level of ghrelin, and increased hunger and appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141(11), 846-850.
- Nedelcheva, A.V., Kilkus, J.M., Imperial, J., Scholler, D.A., & Penev, P.D. (2010). Inadequate sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce obesity. Annals of Internal Medicine, 153(7), 435-441.
- Dugue B., Leppänen E.A., Teppo F.A.M., Fyhrquist F. & Gräsbeck R. (1993). The effect of psychological stress on plasma of interleukins-1 beta and 6, C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor alpha, antidiuretic hormone and serum cortisol. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Research, 53(6), 555-561.
- Segar, V.E. and Moore, V.V. (1968). Regulation of the release of antidiuretic hormone in humans: I. Effect of changes in position and ambient temperature on the level of ADH in the blood. Clinical Research Journal 47(9), 2143-2151.