How to Maintain Muscle While Dieting
I think most people realize that diet alone won’t create the best version of their physique.
Calorie deficits created by dieting, ALWAYS lead to weight loss.
If the weight loss is a combo of muscle and body fat?
The result is a mediocre transformation.
Calorie Deficit + Resistance Training = Magical Transformation
Resistance training sends a signal to the body.
This signal is an instruction for the body to keep muscle tissue.
Without this signal the body will draw from both muscle tissue and body fat when dieting creates a calorie deficit.
When you see Weight Watchers style transformations, it is mainly weight loss through diet alone.
I think Weight Watchers is awesome by the way.
It has helped countless people.
To reach exceptional levels of health and fitness you can’t leave out resistance training.
Any form of resistance can work.
I like commercial gym equipment, but there are a bunch of other options that can work as well.
How much resistance training do you need?
It doesn’t take much.
We will discuss that in a sec…
…but first a music video break.
The music theme for this post will be pop music cover tunes with a twist.
BBC Radio 1 in London has a feature they call “Live Lounge”.
Musicians come in and play their own hits, then perform 1-2 current popular songs by other artists.
It’s all recorded live…
…and they typically go all-out with these cover songs and play them as if they are their own hit song.
Kings of Leon performing a little Selena Gomez.
“Cause all of the downs and the uppers. Keep making love to each other. And I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying… but I… Can’t keep my hands to myself.” –
Selena Gomez Kings of Leon
When you are dieting you wind up taking in fewer calories.
Which means fewer nutrients for recovery.
Because of this, you need to reduce lifting volume.
How much can you cut back on volume?
“The 2/3 Rule”
The general idea?
You can maintain fitness by cutting out 2/3 of what it took to get there.
It would be less confusing to call this the 1/3 rule.
You can maintain with 1/3 of the actions it took to improve.
This rule applies to strength, muscle mass, and VO2 Max.
It takes a lot less effort to maintain than it does to improve.
Here’s the important part.
Volume can be cut by 2/3, but INTENSITY must be maintained.
No need to increase the intensity…
Just lift using the same weights it took to reach your current strength levels (increasing the intensity is just as bad as lowering it).
Note: I don’t think you can maintain muscle forever off of super low volume, I have seen it work well for 2-3 months. More long-term studies need to be conducted.
Craig David improving upon a Justin Bieber hit.
A little work goes a long way once it comes to muscle maintenance.
I still recommend getting in daily exercise (when possible).
Muscle size and strength is just one element of health.
Long-term health requires daily movement.
The majority of us simply don’t get enough exercise…
…and technology is making it worse.
This doesn’t have to be an official gym workout.
I like to hit the gym Mon-Fri.
…even when I’m in maintenance mode.
What does this look like?
Here’s a template that works well.
Sets and Reps: Only one exercise per muscle group using 4-5 sets per exercise. Use similar rep ranges and intensity levels it took leading up to maintenance.
No direct arm work? Biceps and triceps get worked hard enough working back, shoulders and chest. If you are paranoid of muscle loss throw in 2-3 sets for bi’s and tri’s.
Cardio every workout? The resistance training in this example is so brief that it is super easy to fit in 20-45 minutes of cardio. Intensity levels vary from walking to intense HIIT style intervals.
What type of diet setup helps maintain muscle?
I’ll cover that in a sec.
Right after Bastille covers a Miley Cyrus tune.
“Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere. Hands in the air like we don’t care. Cause we came to have so much fun now. Got somebody here… might get some now. ” –
Miley Cyrus Bastille
I like to keep diet as simple as possible.
- Keep calories low enough to get into a deficit.
- Try to get around 100 grams of protein per day.
- Eat mainly unprocessed foods.
Does 100 grams of protein per day sound WAY too low?
Studies have shown people GAINING muscle on less than .3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
(That is around 50-60 grams per day for a 180 pound man.)
Brad Pilon has a good article about this:
Obviously, an elite bodybuilder would need more than that.
…but my articles and courses aren’t aimed at bodybuilders.
My courses help people become slim with muscle definition.
How many calories per day should you aim for?
If fat loss is your goal…
A good starting point is to AVERAGE 12 calories per pound of bodyweight per day.
If you know that you are going to go above this on the weekends?
…simply eat less Mon-Fri.
This is just a starting point.
If you aren’t losing weight, reduce your calories a bit more.
Based on all of the studies I’ve read it seems that even a small dose of resistance training maintains muscle.
…even when calorie intake is low.
…even when protein is low.
Resistance training sends a powerful signal for the body to keep muscle it has.
As long as nutrition minimums are met…
Your body will hold onto muscle with a bit of resistance training.
So go lift something!
As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.
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