Is it possible to lose fat without losing muscle?
Yes, if you use the correct training and nutrition program.
Preserving Muscle During Fat Loss
A serious problem for athletes who need to lose body fat is that they lose a lot of muscle, which compromises athletic performance. It also lowers metabolic rate, setting them up for fat regain in the future. There are a few proven training and dietary methods that will allow you to avoid this.
Scientists have attempted to identify the ideal dose of energy restriction for fat loss so as not to compromise strength and power output in athletes.
One study had elite athletes reduce their energy intake by either 500 or 1,000 calories a day to lose 5 percent of their body weight.
Better Body Composition With A 500/Calorie Deficit
Results showed that it took athletes three weeks longer to lose the fat when they restricted energy by 500 calories/day than when they restricted it by 1,000 calories/day. However, the greater daily energy intake allowed them to gain 2.1 percent muscle mass at the same time. The group that restricted calories by 1,000/day lost 5 percent of body weight in 5 weeks. They also lost a small 0.2 kg of muscle.
Both groups did a heavy weight-training program in conjunction with regular sport training. The group that reduced calories by 500/day (the slow reduction group) had a much better body composition and performed better on strength and power tests than the “fast” reduction group.
The slow reduction group improved their countermovement jump performance by 7 percent, increased squat 1 RM by 12 percent, and lifted an average of 11.4 percent more on upper body strength and power tests than the fast reduction group.
The fast reduction group did not improve jump height. They increased squat 1RM by 8 percent and upper body performance by 5 percent.
Always include heavy strength training in your program when cutting calories in order to maintain lean muscle mass.
Aim for a body fat loss of about 0.7 percent per week. Greater energy reduction will lead to poorer performance and may cause muscle loss.
Avoid burning calories with endurance exercise because it will lead to significant muscle loss, especially if done in the absence of heavy strength training.
Eat a high-protein intake to preserve lean muscle mass when losing body fat. Researchers point to a “threshold” protein dose of at least 1.6 g/kg/bw to avoid muscle loss.