When you want to lose weight, you really want to lose fat, right? You’re not trying to turn into a wimpy twig with no muscle mass, are you?
If so, it’s important to design your weight loss strategy in a way that protects your muscle mass. If you don’t, your weight loss could be as much as half lean mass, and that’s not what you want.
The two most important strategies are the right type of exercise program and consuming enough protein. Avoiding weight loss that’s too rapid is another strategy that can help. In this episode, I provide the details about how to implement these strategies in the right way.
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition, all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet
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Read the Transcript
This is how to protect your muscle mass when you’re losing weight.
Hi I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. This is Chris Masterjohn Lite where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
When you lose weight, you’re trying to lose fat, but many people when they lose weight often lose up to half of that weight as lean mass. To protect against that you want to be concerned with two primary things.
Number 1 is exercise. Number 2 is protein. Exercise provides your body with the signal that that muscle mass is important to sustain. Protein provides your body with the signal of your ability to sustain that muscle mass because protein is the raw material from which you build and sustain muscle mass.
When you’re thinking of exercise, compared to no exercise, any exercise will be helpful for retaining your muscle mass. But if you’re not completely sedentary, if you’re not the person who’s never stepped foot in a gym, it becomes more important to do the right type of exercise. And the type of exercise that is most protective of muscle mass in a caloric deficit is the same type of exercise that builds muscle in a caloric surplus. In other words, you want to use bodybuilding techniques.
The way this might look at the simplest level is to get into a gym three times a week for a weightlifting routine for about an hour each session. Never go twice in a row, so spread them out every other day. And when you’re in those sessions, try to hit each major muscle group of rep ranges from 5 to 10 to 15.
You could do high rep, medium rep, low rep days or within each session you could get in high rep, low rep, and medium rep sets. Once you achieve that—and of course you can do more. If you do four sessions a week, you could split it into upper body and lower body and alternate two of each.
If you go even more than that, you could split it up further, but once you have some type of bodybuilding routine following that general paradigm, the other major important thing is your protein intake. If you have a body composition-specific goal, you want to get about a gram of protein per pound of target bodyweight. So let’s say you’re 155 pounds, you’re trying to get down to 145, 145 grams of protein. If you measure your weight in kilograms, then you’re looking at 2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
I don’t think that everyone needs this. I think that many people who do not have body composition goals who are weight stable can get down to a half a gram of protein per pound of composition goals, if you’re in a caloric deficit or you’re trying to build muscle, a full gram per pound of target bodyweight is the ideal.
Now, there’s one more concern that can become relevant, and that is you don’t want to push yourself to lose too much weight too fast. For someone who’s in the overweight range who is not obese, if you just have a moderate amount of weight to lose, if you go to a BMI calculator and your BMI is between 25 and 30 for example, you probably want to stay away from anything over 2 pounds per week and greater, and you probably want to stick to something closer to a half a pound to a pound per week and stay within that range because losing the weight more slowly will put less pressure on your body to us up muscle mass.
Now, for someone who’s obese you may find that the weight comes off more rapidly and more easily. I think for someone who’s very obese, for more rapid rates of weight loss, that’s okay, but my suggestion would be don’t fight against your physiology to make it happen.
If 3 pounds a week is coming very easily to you without feeling like you’re fighting physiology, then fine, keep it. Follow the other recommendations for exercise and protein to protect the lean mass. But don’t ever push yourself because you think you should lose more weight because you’re over a certain BMI or over a certain body fat percentage. Don’t push yourself for weight loss over 2 pounds per week.
The audio of this episode was enhanced and post-processed by Bob Davodian of Taurean Mixing. You can find more of his work online at taureanonlinemixing.com.
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status:The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy atchrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet.
All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn.This has been Chris Masterjohn Lite.
And I will see you in the next episode.
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