How Do Bodybuilders Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?

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How Do Bodybuilders Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?
How to Lose Weight While Maintaining Muscle

Cutting calories cautiously, using heavy weights, and eating adequate protein to assist muscle retention are all important ways to avoid muscle loss while dieting. I've covered themes like How Fast You Can Gain Muscle and How To Lose Fat Without Cardio in earlier blogs.

We haven't yet covered what scientific studies have proved to be the most efficient approach to shed fat without losing muscle. We'll go through the science behind fat loss, how to keep muscle while dieting, and what you should do to lose fat without losing muscle in this article:

What You Should Know About Weight Loss vs Fat Loss

These two phrases are frequently used interchangeably, although they have very different meanings that need to be defined.

The term "weight loss" refers to the amount of weight that has been lost on a scale.

For example, if you weighed 200 pounds today and weighed 190 pounds after 10 weeks, you would have dropped 10 pounds in total.

What about fat loss, though?

We don't receive a realistic picture of how much of our weight originates from muscle tissue, fat mass, bones, water, and connective tissues when we look at our body weight (number on the scale).

The amount of weight lost as a result of fat tissue loss is referred to as fat loss.

So, you may have lost 10 pounds in the case above, but we discovered that you lost five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle (50 percent rate of muscle loss). That doesn't seem very good, because regaining that muscle will take just as long as losing it.

When it comes to reducing fat without losing muscle, we must keep track of total weight reduction while also understanding that focusing just on the number on the scale may result in you losing just as much muscle as fat in the long run!

Let's delve a little more into this topic and provide some tips on how to shed fat without losing muscle.

Fat Loss Without Muscle Loss

Six studies are included below that can assist us in developing more specific instructions on how to lose fat without losing muscle. Study 1 — Being in a calorie deficit is 100 percent dependent on fat loss, and the method used for fat loss is 100 percent independent.

The fact that you are in a calorie deficit is the most important component in fat reduction. When calories are equalized, research has repeatedly demonstrated that any mix of macronutrients can be an efficient strategy to reduce fat.

This means that the most important aspect of your diet is to put you in a calorie deficit. We'll go over how much of a deficit is necessary for fat loss without losing muscle, as well as where those calorie reductions should come from in order to improve fat loss without losing muscle.

Excessive cardio can impede muscle retention and accelerate muscle loss while dieting, according to Study 2.

Despite common belief, cardio (whether in the form of high-intensity interval training, steady-state cardio, or any other form of cardio) has not been shown to be a more effective strategy to lose fat than lifting weights when total calories burned are included.

Excessive quantities or over-prioritization of cardio in an exercise program might interfere with the body's capacity to keep lean muscle mass and even accelerate muscle loss while in a fat-loss phase where muscle loss is a concern.

After a slight calorie deficit and lifting weights, cardio should be used as a third tool.

Cardio can be beneficial when it is easier to burn a few hundred calories more than it is to eat less, but it should never be used to replace or interfere with weight training. If cardio sessions interfere with or replace weight sessions, you're probably not losing fat since you're not in a caloric deficit.

Study 3 — Very Low Carb Diets Can Reduce Muscle Retention and Performance

It's critical to understand the role carbohydrates play in maximizing performance during weight training sessions, muscle retention, and recovery when trying to reduce calories to achieve a caloric deficit.

Lifters and athletes who want to lose fat without losing muscle may benefit from diets that are higher in carbs and lower in fat, according to research.

Because carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for high intensity training (lifting weights), and muscles store carbs as glycogen for energy, this is the case.

While you can lose fat on a low-carb or no-carb diet, your weight-training sessions may suffer, especially if your training volume is high (which it should be).

Lifting Weights Plays a Key Role in Muscle Retention During Low-Calorie Diets (Study 4)

Lifting weights is one of the most efficient strategies to maintain muscle mass during low-calorie diets, according to research.

Lifting weights and ensuring that the muscle tissues are exposed to heavier loads, lighter loads, and higher volumes of exercise might help the body lose muscle weight alongside fat weight when in a caloric deficit.

Study 5 — Training with Heavier Loads Aids Muscle Mass and Strength Retention

Lifters and athletes who want to keep as much lean muscle and strength as possible during a fat reduction phase should train with heavier weights (5-10 reps).

Performing various motions in that rep range (they determined 9-12 to be optimum) provided significant increases in muscle and strength retention throughout weight reduction phases, according to a meta-analysis of 17 peer-reviewed papers on the issue of weight training and weight loss.

In addition to heavy weights in the 5-10 rep range, research has demonstrated that higher rep training done to failure is an excellent stimulus for muscle growth.

This is a significant finding because it implies that you can shed fat while minimizing muscle loss by lifting both heavy and light weights to failure.

However, low weight training has not been demonstrated to have as much of an influence on strength retention, which is why a combination of heavy lifting and light lifting to failure is recommended for those lifters trying to reduce fat without losing muscle AND keep as much strength as possible.

How Do Bodybuilders Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?

How to Exercise to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

We'll go over how to improve your routines so you can reduce fat without losing muscle. We'll also go over some strategies for preventing strength loss while losing weight. While dieting, continue to lift heavy to maintain muscle and strength.

When attempting to reduce weight, you must remain in a calorie deficit for an extended length of time (6-12 weeks for most people). The longer you stay in a fat-loss phase, the more likely you are to lose muscle and strength, as well as have less energy to workout hard.

A fat loss phase should not last more than 16-20 weeks, or a total weight loss of 10% of beginning body weight.

To maintain as much muscle as possible during the fat loss period, lift weights, especially heavy loads (5-10 reps). This does not mean you should only lift large weights; rather, your training program should include both heavy and light weights (not only light).

Increase your training volume to keep your lean muscle mass. When You're Dieting

When combined with heavy weights, training with lighter weights (10-15 reps & 15-25 reps) can be a very effective approach to maintain muscle mass while dieting.

While lifting big weights has its advantages, it can also cause weariness, limiting one's capacity to workout frequently or complete as much total labor as possible.

Because total effort (training volume) is one of the most critical variables for muscle growth (and retention), lifting smaller weights can help you maintain high training volumes despite low energy levels caused by reduced caloric intake.

Train with both heavy and light weights for best results, and make sure to train to failure with the lighter weights. Because the loading is substantially larger than lighter weight sets, lifting to failure with heavy weights is not necessary to maintain muscle and strength.

Lifting weights, not cardio, should be your primary form of exercise.

When it comes to decreasing fat without losing muscle, make sure you prioritize weight training over cardio. Because you are in a calorie deficit, your body will lose weight; however, because of the recognized effects of weight training on muscle tissue, if you are in a calorie deficit and lift weights, you will lose more fat and less muscle.

You will lose weight if you are in a calorie deficit and predominantly perform cardio, but you will lose more muscle than you would if you lift weights.

Use cardio as needed, but the key to shedding fat without losing muscle is to eat less calories and lift weights as often as feasible.

How to Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

Weight loss occurs when you consume less calories than your body requires to sustain its usual activity. When your objective is to reduce fat without losing muscle, you should pay special attention to the number of calories you're consuming on a regular basis, as well as the specific meals you're avoiding.

We'll go over some of the most important elements in the section below to help you eat more effectively so you can reduce fat without losing muscle.

Small calorie deficits are the most effective way to lose fat without losing muscle.

Many people are tempted to dramatically reduce their calorie intake in order to accelerate their fat loss. While this is absolutely effective for weight loss and the largest drops on the scale, it is frequently related to the loss of greater proportions of muscle.

During a diet phase, it is advised that you lose 0.5 to 1.0 pound of total body weight every week, as any faster than that indicates muscle tissue loss. While it may be tempting to aim for a weekly weight loss of 1.5 pounds or more, doing so generally means losing muscle.

Start by reducing daily calories by 200-300 calories in the first week, and track overall weight loss.

If you're losing weight within an acceptable range, keep your calories the same and try again next week. If you're not losing weight or your progress has plateaued, cut another 200-300 calories and repeat this weekly check-in until you've met your objectives or your calories have dropped below 8-10 calories per pound per day.

If you're eating less than that, instead of starving yourself, focus on working out more, raising your activity levels, and increasing your metabolism through exercise.

Higher-protein diets may aid muscle preservation during weight loss. 

Protein-rich diets can help you maintain muscle mass and recover from high-volume exercise sessions.

Protein consumption during a fat loss phase is frequently higher than when you are not in a calorie deficit, and it is recommended to preserve muscle mass.

Most people should ingest at least 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, with slightly higher quantities (1.0-1.2 grams) ideal, especially for expert lifters or those who work out frequently.

Carbohydrate restriction may impair your ability to train hard.

Carbohydrates are essential for muscle development, performance, and rehabilitation. Low-carbohydrate diets, as well as those that restrict carbohydrate consumption entirely, have been demonstrated to be ineffective for enhancing muscle retention and performance during a fat-loss phase.

While eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can help you lose weight and even give you the energy to exercise, research has shown that it is not the best strategy to shed fat without losing muscle.

Glucose, which is most easily available through carbs in the food and muscle tissue, is the most optimal kind of energy for muscles, especially during weight training and severe workouts (stored as glycogen).

How Do Bodybuilders Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle?

What To Do If You're Losing Muscle

You'll probably "feel" like you're losing muscle during the fat reduction period. And, to be honest, you'll probably lose some muscular mass.

If you feel you're losing muscle, or want to know how to tell if you are and at what rate, start by addressing the variables listed below that are linked to muscle loss during a fat-loss phase.


We talked about the dangers of crash dieting and the weight loss rate you should aim for if you want to shed fat without losing muscle.

The most common cause of muscle loss during a diet is decreasing weight too quickly. The second explanation is that you are not lifting enough weights (see below).

Maintain a weekly weight loss of 0.5-1.0 pound. Stick to the lower end of the scale if you're thinner or more advanced and have less fat to lose, as more scale weight loss isn't always the ideal approach to lose fat and keep as much muscle as possible for more experienced people.

Weight Lifting Less Frequently

If you're worried about losing muscle, increase your training frequency. This will retain the muscle-building stimulation on the muscle regions that you care about while also increasing calorie expenditure.

If you are losing muscle during a diet phase and only train muscles once a week (3 days a week workout program), increase your workouts to 4-5 days a week.

It will take some effort to carve out more gym time, but it will be worthwhile in the end. To maximize muscle retention while on a fat-loss regimen, you should train most muscle groups 2-3 times per week.

Failure-Free Training

If you are training with smaller loads, it is critical that you train to failure and collect a large amount of volume and stimulus to the muscles. There's a strong probability you're delivering enough stimulation to signal muscle retention if you're training the muscle to near failure and experiencing a lot of muscular exhaustion and "burn."

Make sure you're not lifting too light, as a mix of heavy, moderate, and light weight training is probably the ideal. Training to tiredness is not necessary if you are training hard. This was explored in the preceding sections.

Not Keeping Track of Body Fat

This can be done with calipers or even body scans, and while it may not be the most exact method, you can at least use the same gadget throughout the fat reduction phase to create a consistent means to track your progress.

Calculating your fat free mass, fat mass, and percentage reduction based on your measurements can provide you with quantitative facts to work with and help you stay focused during your diet.

Last Word

It is possible to lose fat without losing muscle, and many beginners and high-level lifters and athletes have done it. The goal is to stick to a healthy diet that stresses moderate weight loss while simultaneously lifting weights on a regular basis. Keep track of your weight reduction rate and body fat percentage, and train hard for the greatest results!

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