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How To Lose Fat and Preserve Muscle: Here's the Science

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Asian woman with brown hair wearing red leggings and a white tank top is performing a single-arm dumbbell row. She also has a tattoo on her shoulder.

Are you wondering how to lose fat and preserve muscle? Has your weight loss journey often ended up shedding both fat and muscle, leaving you feeling frustrated? You're not alone in this conundrum. The good news is, you can focus your efforts on losing fat while maintaining your hard-earned muscle mass, exactly what you need to sculpt that lean, toned body.

A meta-analysis conducted by Purdue University in 2010 brought to light a startling fact -

when individuals diet without incorporating exercise, nearly 24% of their weight loss is derived from muscle and other non-fat tissues.

To put this into perspective, a weight loss of 10 pounds might only be equivalent to a loss of 7.6 pounds of fat, the rest being muscle and other tissues. However, there's hope - introducing exercise into your diet plan reduces the percentage of weight loss from muscle to a mere 11%.

So, how to lose fat and preserve muscle? The answer is resistance training.

Out of 36 studies evaluated in the Purdue University meta-analysis, only seven incorporated resistance training. Interestingly, five of these seven revealed no decrease in muscle mass. This implies that integrating resistance training into your exercise routine can aid in losing fat and preserving muscle mass simultaneously.

But what if you're an experienced lifter seeking to shed body fat? A review in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that reducing both calories and training volume during a fat-loss phase can result in muscle loss.

The trick for seasoned lifters learning how to lose fat and preserve muscle lies in maintaining a high training volume, at least ten sets per muscle group weekly.

Furthermore, protein intake is a significant factor in muscle growth and maintenance. Ensuring an adequate protein supply, particularly when on a calorie-restricted diet, is essential. Health and fitness gurus recommend a daily protein consumption of 1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight for optimal health and performance. Most people find the sweet spot at 1.6 grams, but if you're chasing peak results, research suggests an intake of up to 2.2 grams per kilogram may be beneficial.

Lastly, don't underestimate the power of proper recovery. Sufficient rest and recovery are vital for muscle growth and repair, ensuring that your body can keep up with your fat loss and muscle preservation goals.

By adhering to these guidelines on how to lose fat and preserve muscle, you'll be on your way to a leaner, more sculpted physique in no time.




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