Whether you’re prepping for a bodybuilding show, competing in a weight-based sport, or you’re just trying to slim down for summer, sometimes dieting must happen. But when cutting calories and following a strict diet, the last thing any of us want is to lose our hard-earned muscle along with that extra layer of body fat.
If you’re currently following a diet and you want to maintain as much muscle as possible, try following the tips below.
1. Increase Protein Intake
As we all know, protein helps to build and repair lean muscle mass. When starting your diet, one of the first things to consider is your protein intake. Increasing your protein intake can help to spare muscle mass when your calories are restricted.
But be careful not to go overboard, as excess protein can be stored as fat. Everyone’s protein requirements are different and depend on your weight, height, and physical activity level. For athletes, 1.2 – 2.2 g/kg of bodyweight is recommended. This may need to be increased or decreased slightly depending on your specific needs.
2. Target Carbohydrates
One of the most common strategies for losing weight is to decrease your carbohydrate intake. This is an effective weight loss technique when used correctly. However, carbs are also important for maintaining muscle, so try to target your allotted carbs around your workouts, practices, or games to help you retain muscle and maintain energy levels.
3. Take it Slow
This may not be what you want to hear, but a slower, longer dieting process can help to reduce muscle loss. The more you increase your calorie deficit, the more weight you will lose, but along with that, you will also lose more muscle. Allow yourself plenty of time to slowly and gradually cut back calories and cut away the fat.
4. Build Muscle the Right Way
We are all guilty of overindulging in the off season and that’s fine; treating yourself is a part of life. But the best way to ensure that you don’t lose your hard-earned muscle when following a long or intense diet, is to be as effective as possible at gaining muscle without the added fat during your offseason (or bulk).
This means eating a well-balanced diet throughout the year, increasing your calories in order to increase muscle mass, but not increasing the amount of cheat meals you have or unhealthy options that you eat.
Give these tips a try during your next cut and watch the fat melt away to reveal the muscle that you’ve worked so hard to build.