One of the most recurring questions: How to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle?
Anyone looking to improve their physique will surely have asked themselves the same question: How can I define correctly? In the phase of improving body composition, we can follow these assumptions to approach this objective.
Guidelines for Improving Body Composition
Losing Fat and Maintaining Muscle Mass
With the above title there should be no doubt
We are not going to gain muscle mass, but rather seek to reduce our body fat index, while trying to maintain as much muscle tissue as possible in the process. Achieving both simultaneously (losing fat and gaining muscle) attend to antagonistic processes: where one of the fundamental points governing the loss or gain is the caloric requirement.
Phrases like “…define and gain muscle at the same time…”, or “…I want to lose my stomach and gain my biceps…”, will be put aside.
To lose weight you need to reduce caloric intake.
We always have to keep in mind our objective: Losing fat. It’s different from the first mentioned, because in that case, the weight loss is attributed to fat, as well as to muscle…
If we want the body to pick up the signal to go to the fat stores, it is necessary to “adjust the calories” and establish the deficit.
It will depend in principle on our starting condition, i.e. both the athletic level and the fat percentage. There is a “rule”, so to speak, by which the body does not like extremes… A severe restriction is condemned to that once we return to the usual patterns, we regain much of the weight lost, and quickly… What is often called the rebound effect.
Avoiding a sudden drop
Even so, this would not be the greatest havoc, but continuing with a minority contribution of calories can cause some disorder in our organism, which then together with physical exercise (increase in the caloric deficit) lead to a serious metabolic impact.
Of course, this low calorie intake slows down the recovery process and, obviously, we find ourselves with less and less energy when it comes to our training.
How to establish the deficit?
In my opinion, it would always be a moderate deficit, not something very pronounced. A good starting point is to find our daily calorie requirements, to adjust a cut of about 20%.
Here is a table with the possible calorie deficit according to the maintenance calories, as well as the calories we lose in a week, and in a month:
|Maintenance calories||Deficit of daily calories||Deficit of weekly calories||Deficit of calories per month|
From the information it appears that someone who has a higher daily caloric need for maintenance will therefore have to cause a higher deficit (lose more fat). Then the following also usually occurs:
- People who have to lose a lot of weight do it faster than those who lose less
- People who are heavier lose less muscle mass while maintaining the calorie deficit than others who have to lose less weight.
- People who already have a low percentage of fat, and want to reduce it further, will find it much more difficult, as well as having a higher risk of losing muscle mass by cutting calories. Do you want to lose 10% body fat?
Remember that 1kg of fat is 9000kcal, so with an average loss of 1-2kg per month, in general and depending on the subject, it would be an ideal scenario to lower the fat percentage progressively…
This strategy would be considered in cases of low percentage of fat, and that you want to continue reducing, without involving the loss of muscle mass. It basically consists of taking in more calories on training days, and reducing them on rest days.
Protein is the macronutrient that remains fixed in both circumstances, with carbohydrates and fats being manipulated.
At the end of the week, we will eat the same calories (within a hypocaloric scenario), only distributed differently.
A Refeed is not a Cheat Meal.
And they tend to get confused. While the first concept addresses a strategic nutritional overcompensation, the second addresses a “treat” that many excuse themselves for arguing that they are seeking psychological release or something like that, when they themselves know that this is not the case.
Obviously, here the limit is set by the person, and according to their objectives, where if they are heading for the competition, they will maintain a thorough and strict planning.
Benefits of “Reloading”
The correct concept would be an overfeeding based on the same nutrients that we eat but in a pronounced way, except for the so-called “junk” foods…), for hormonal regulation: increase of leptin, the hormone in charge of being the regulator of “hunger”.
If we keep it low for a long time, it becomes more difficult to remove the fat, leading to a possible stagnation.
How to do a Refeed?
There are several protocols on how to perform a refeed, although in simplistic terms, it is recommended that depending on the condition of the subject, in relation to his % fat, it should be established often, or until a lower level is reached:
- Normally, if we enter <12-14%, “practicing” one refeed per week would be the most advisable. We can set, for example, Sunday as a day off, or in the best case, mid-afternoon-night, so that the need for sweets does not take hold of us and take advantage of the fact that we go to bed early.
- For people who handle values between these, and <20%, 1 time every 2 weeks would be feasible, leaving only one meal (dinner) in this case on Sunday, so as not to continue “attacking”.
- For other cases, I do not think this is the recommended option, and you will have to work hard to “earn your reward”.
Eating Enough Protein
When we have the objective of losing fat but maintaining muscle mass, the caloric deficit is necessary
But in turn, we need to mitigate the loss of lean tissue. Therefore, eating the adequate amount of protein per day will be one of the necessary conditions in definition periods. The protein has another set of benefits for losing fat: it provides amino acids, satiates us and decreases our appetite and even promotes the “burning” of calories (Thermogenic Effect of Eating or TEF)…
However, eating a high amount of protein should not always be optimal, as the other macronutrients are related, and all in a competitive context, as would be What a Performance Athlete Should Eat.
Mainly, I would choose:Creatine
On the other hand, for an aesthetic question, as our feeding pattern would be described as “low carb”, the use of creatine and its subsequent metabolisation, can produce us to adopt a “rocky” aspect thanks to the reduction of the “empty” aspect.
Creatine gives us an extra boost to maintain our strength and resilience.
Among these, are aids such as caffeine and green tea. Both are compatible, so they enhance their effects. The main intake would be before physical activity, so that the use of fatty acids is encouraged.
Parallel to the reduction in calories, we must continue to train with loads, as we have to give our body a “reason” to preserve muscle mass, i.e. to maintain the stimulus.
Training under calorie restriction
Training with little energy or “in reserve” can cost a lot
Performing routines of a large number of series and repetitions may not be the most convenient, not even by choice. On the other hand, if what we want is to maintain muscle mass (Remember: We are not looking to create muscle mass in this period), performing strength routine can achieve a fantastic result.
Incorporating some isolation exercise is totally feasible, but the thickness of the training would be based on the others. Basic and heavy training!
For defining: high repetitions with little weight?
The idea of low weight training with lots of repetitions was left far behind. Maybe we will consider a glycogen depletion session, using SuperSeries or similar techniques, for example, but it is not the most common during this phase.
Adjusting training sessions
This involves reducing the volume and frequency of training
This involves reducing the volume and frequency of training
Under caloric deficit, we are providing our body with less calories than we need for activities, that is, we will be “stressing” our organism. In my opinion, opting for a full body routine with a 3-day-a-week workout may be enough.
If the key factor for maintaining muscle mass under caloric restriction is to continue working the stimulus, strength training will be our ally.
Prioritise our recovery capacity
Which will be reduced by the calorie deficit. This is why we advocate fundamentally to produce a stimulus without increasing stress, which is already generated by the low-calorie diet.
If we severly limit food, in certain aspects, cardio may not even be necessary, especially if we reach a very high level of progress. With cardio we produce a greater energy deficit.
More caloric expenditure
Despite being an activity that encourages many improvements in our athletic capacity, what we aim to do is maintain muscle mass and reduce fat as much as possible (we prioritise aesthetics, not performance), and if load training is “necessary”, we consider cardio to be optional, as its greatest benefit will be to increase the calorie deficit.
If there was already talk of readjusting the training by volume and frequency, it would be the same for the cardio
My recommendation would be HIIT.
However, according to the person, it could hinder the necessary recovery from weight training, since it is the same fibres that we will use mostly. If the person tolerates the training, I would add 3 sessions per week.
Very low intensity cardio.
Therefore, it is totally feasible to maintain throughout the year. If you have to choose some type of cardio, you should fast (45-60 minutes), after taking some thermogenic or combination (caffeine + green tea). It is without doubt a great way to start the day.
This does not, of course, detract from being able to carry out this exercise in a different time zone....