Muscle Catabolism: What It Is, Why It Happens and How to Avoid It

Muscle Catabolism: What It Is, Why It Happens and How to Avoid It

Muscle catabolism is one of the most damaging issues for those who have trained with discipline and perseverance seeking to achieve the body shape they so desire. However, few people know very much about the topic.

In this article, we explain what catabolism is, how you can prevent it from happening, what factors you should consider to avoid losing muscle mass, and some other recommendations of interest.

What is muscle catabolism?

Catabolism is a process that generates a loss of muscle mass.

It happens when our body begins to nourish itself from its own muscle tissues, destroying its own fibre.

When training routines are too intense, excessive and/or without the necessary nutrients, your body will be forced to absorb them from its own tissues in order to continue functioning.

What is muscle catabolism?

The first thing to be consumed is the muscles, as they constitute an important energy reserve.

When training in desirable physical conditions the body builds muscle, but when falling into catabolism it responds inversely, losing the strength and size concentrated in the muscles, creating flaccidity and unhealthy body composition.

Why does it occur?

In the first place, we need to know the causes of it to eradicate them from our habits and follow some guidelines to avoid catabolism in our body.

Inadequate diet

This is among the main causes of catabolism.

As dedicated as we are in our exercise routine, if we don’t provide the necessary proteins, carbohydrates and fats, everything will be fruitless.

Consuming protein is decisive for nourishing the muscle and maintaining its energy.

In addition to providing the body with the caloric percentage according to physical activity. It doesn’t mean that by eating protein you’ll increase in volume, not necessarily, but that that protein is essential for the simple sustenance of muscle tone.

You can also include food supplements in your diet, such as vitamin D and omega 3, which are essential for developing muscle mass.

Poorly structured training program

We must take into account the density of the training, as otherwise we run the risk of being faced with an over-effort or a lack of work, which could lead to the loss of muscle mass.

Causes of Muscle Catabolism

Above all, we should avoid excessive aerobic exercise and have well-structured strength training.

When performing them, among many other aspects, a large number of the amino acids that form muscle proteins are used.

Lack of adequate hydration

This leads to a deficit in the percentage of water and mineral salts in muscle fibres.

You should hydrate before, during and after each workout.

Not enough rest

Rest periods are sometimes downplayed, but it’s important, because during rest your body creates muscle structures and replenishes nutrients. Correct rest is essential.

Did you know that insufficient sleep can slow down your progress in the gym? Click here to find out everything.

How to avoid catabolism

In reality, muscle catabolism is necessary for progress, given that, as is often said in the field of fitness:

To build you have to destroy.

Before a training session, if it has generated a sufficient stimulus, we’ll have destroyed muscle fibres; in response to this, the body will react by rebuilding and regenerating tissues, meaning its ready for a possible subsequent stress (training) and we’ll be able to “overcome it”.

How do you avoid catabolism?

There are no doubts about this, it is a necessary physiological process.

However, what we are discussing in the article is what we can do to ensure proper recovery and shorten the time it takes to get back to “full strength”.

What factors should be taken into account to avoid losing muscle mass?

Below we look into the things to consider if you’re wanting to achieve the results you’re looking for when training, without risk of losing muscle mass:


Any training routine should be combined with a balanced and healthy diet, according to the intensity of the activity and the consequent caloric expenditure.

If you don’t follow this pattern, the body would receive an insufficient amount of protein and other nutrients that would force the destruction of muscle.

It is of utmost importance to follow a diet that includes an adequate balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

If you’re wondering how to follow a Balanced Diet, this article can help.


Among the nutrients whose intake we need take care of to prevent the loss of muscle mass is protein.

Evolate 2.0

Proteins are chains of amino acids that make up the raw material for the body to generate new muscle tissue.

It is healthiest to consume clean proteins, free of saturated fats, such as oily fish, turkey, chicken, eggs or salmon, among other foods that help muscle regeneration.

Physical exercise

Physical exercise is a determinant for muscle development, as this process requires movement and elasticity.

An important factor to consider is the programming of workouts according to the level of progress achieved and not falling into overtraining, as too hard a routine can cause the loss of muscle mass.

On the other hand, when the intensity of a routine has been exceeded, the body stagnates in the development of muscle tissue and slowly also begins to lose muscle mass.

In this sense, it’s best to exercise consistently and to modify the routines, varying the muscle groups or increasing intensities.

This way, the body will be focused on gaining muscle.

Physical exercist

Physical exercise, yes, but sensibly.


When sleeping, our body also repairs and creates tissues. If the rest time is insufficient or we don’t sleep well, there won’t be optimal muscle regeneration processes.

It’s recommended you sleep between 6 and 8 hours a day.

During sleep hours, caloric expenditure is minimal, as energy is not obtained from muscle glycogen, but from the combustion of fatty acids that nourish the muscle fibres.

Melatonin is a supplement that can help you fall asleep earlier and improve sleep quality: More information to find out everything.


Here are some recommendations for preserving muscle mass, vitally important for the quality of your workouts and effectiveness in your daily activities:

  • Seek professional advice from both a trainer and a nutritionist.
  • Don’t overdo cardio training.
  • Maintain a high-protein diet.
  • Water is the best way to hydrate yourself.

Do you have any particular tricks or secrets? We look forward to reading about them.


  1. “Soporte nutricional especial” Mora 2002.
  2. “Entrenamiento personal, bases, fundamentos y aplicaciones” Alfonso Jiménez Gutiérrez. 2007.
  3. “Entrenamiento de la fuerza” National Strength & Conditioning Association 2007.
  4. Own sports and nutritional concepts derived from my training and work experience in this field.

Related Entries

  • What you need to know about overtraining: read now.
  • How much protein should consume take for strength and endurance training? Find out here.
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About María José García
María José García
María José has been linked to sport since she was a child when she entered and even competed in various sporting disciplines, such as skating, swimming and gymnastics.
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