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What does the term “losing muscle” actually mean?

  /  Expert Advice   /  What does the term “losing muscle” actually mean?

What does the term “losing muscle” actually mean?

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But first things first.


When you go on a diet, the amount of glycogen, water and fat stored in your muscles is going to drop. In the first week or so of dieting, you’ll lose muscle glycogen and water a lot more quickly than you drop fat.

Given the fact that some of the material stored in your muscles has been lost, we could say that you’ve lost muscle, particularly as they take on a slightly “deflated” appearance.

Lisa Transformed her body intelligently over time without sacrificing too much muscle loss

All that’s happened is that your muscles have flattened out a bit because there’s not as much “stuff” in there as there was before.

When I talk about losing muscle, I’m referring to the ongoing loss of muscle protein over a period of weeks and months, rather than the initial loss of glycogen, water or intramuscular fat.


1. The first “rule” when it comes to losing fat without losing muscle is to make sure your calorie deficit is set at the right level.

So what exactly is a calorie deficit?

You’re said to be in a “calorie deficit” when there is less energy coming from the food you eat than your body needs to move, pump blood around your body and all the other stuff involved in keeping you alive.

What this means is that there’s a mismatch between the amount of fuel your body needs and the amount it gets from food. So it starts looking for an alternative.

In an ideal world, that alternative source of fuel would be the fat you have stored in your body. But your body will pull stored energy from any place it likes, including the muscle tissue that you’ve grown particularly fond of over the years.

If your deficit is too large, you can and will end up losing muscle as well as fat. Too small, and your rate of fat loss will be a lot slower than it otherwise would be.


When you lose muscle, you will end up losing weight more quickly.

That’s because one pound of muscle contains around 600 calories, compared to 3500 calories in one pound of fat.

For example, let’s say that you create a daily calorie deficit of 500 calories. In other words, every day you burn 500 calories more than you get from your diet. That comes to 3,500 calories per week (500 x 7 = 3,500).

If all of those calories came from fat, you’d lose just one pound in weight. But if all of those calories came from muscle (which is an unlikely scenario, but I’ll use it just to illustrate the point), you’d lose almost six pounds in weight.

To put it another way, 100% fat loss is the equivalent of one pound of weight lost, while 100% muscle loss is the equivalent of six pounds of weight lost.

The more fat you have to lose, the greater the calorie deficit you can sustain without worrying


2. The next step is to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet.

Why is protein so important? Firstly, protein does a better job at filling you up than carbohydrate or fat. Eat a protein-rich breakfast, for example, and chances are that you won’t eat as much food for lunch.

Dan is a good example of getting the right amount of protein in his food plan

The figure below is from a University of Washington study where dieters were told to eat roughly twice as much protein as normal [5]. The circles at the top represent daily calorie intake, while the diamonds at the bottom represent body weight.

As you can see, eating more protein led to a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake that lasted for the length of the study. In fact, calorie intake dropped by an average of 441 calories per day.

Protein also has a “muscle sparing” effect..

The type of training that helps maintain muscle mass will be much the same as the training you did to build that muscle in the first place.

You’ll still be doing the training I have been giving you exercises such as squats, deadlifts, rows, chin-ups if anything will be adding more reps and drop sets etc,.

The one thing that should stay the same is the training intensity. With me, And by intensity, I’m talking about the amount of weight that’s on the bar when you lift it.

That doesn’t mean you should stop trying to gain size and strength. But it’s not something you should necessarily expect, especially once you’ve moved past the beginner stages of training.

Eventually you’ll reach the point where the best you can hope for is just to maintain your strength. It’s not unusual for competitive bodybuilders to get significantly weaker in the weeks before a contest.

There is not a perfectly linear relationship between the size of your muscles and the amount of weight you can lift.

A 50% increase in strength, for example, won’t translate into a 50% increase in size. That’s because there are other factors (most notably your nervous system doing a better job of using the available fibers in a given muscle) that contribute to making you stronger.

But for our purposes, the link between strength and size is close enough. If you’re losing fat while maintaining (or even gaining) strength, you’re on the right path.

4. Use cardio, particularly very intense cardio, in moderation.

my personal favourite is 40-60 minutes of walking first thing in the morning. Not only does it burn extra calories, a brisk morning walk in the fresh air is a great way to clear your mind and set you up for the day which you are currently doing.

The benefit of low impact training  is that it burns additional calories while having only a minor impact on your muscle-building efforts in the gym.

You can’t train “all out” on a daily basis, mainly because your body will need time to recover. But low-intensity activity, such as walking or cycling, can be done every day. And because you can do it more frequently, this type of exercise can end up making a significant contribution to fat loss.

One last point:

If you have lost some muscle, don’t panic. You can get it back again quite easily. It’s not like it’s been lost forever.

In fact, re-building lost muscle usually happens a lot more quicker than gaining it in the first place.

That’s because the number of nuclei (which play a crucial role in building new muscle) in muscle cells increases when you lift weights, even before the muscle cell itself starts to grow.

But those nuclei aren’t lost when your muscles shrink. Instead, the extra nuclei remain in place, forming a type of “muscle memory” that allows lost muscle mass to grow back more quickly.