Lose the fat, maintain the muscle: 4 ways to keep your strength while losing weight

If you’re overweight and working on shedding the pounds, that’s a good thing. Not so good, however, is the fact that if you’re not careful you can lose muscle along with the fat. Studies show as much as 25 percent of weight lost by dieters is from muscle. 

That’s a problem because muscle not only keeps you feeling strong and fit, it protects against disease, boosts mortality and can even help prevent rebound weight gain since losing muscle can slow your metabolism, which means you’ll burn fewer calories. 

Preserving muscle mass is essential during weight loss. 

So how do you optimize fat loss while maintaining muscle? Here are four tips to keep in mind:

Pump it up

Regular physical activity helps get rid of fat. If you lose weight through diet alone, you’re more likely to lose muscle. That’s why exercise is essential in your weight loss plan. While both aerobic activity and resistance exercise are necessary for good health, numerous studies show that resistance exercise (using weights, weight machines, resistance bands and your own body weight with exercises such as push ups and squats) is more effective than aerobic activity when it comes to increasing muscle strength and muscle endurance. 

Boost your protein

A high-protein diet increases metabolism, reduces hunger and helps you retain more lean muscle mass. That’s because protein supplies amino acids, the building blocks to creating muscle tissue. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for adults is about 50-60 grams per day (to figure out your RDA multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 or use this online calculator). Increasing this amount can help counteract muscle loss. Some easy ways to increase your protein intake include replacing your breakfast cereal with eggs (there are 6 grams of protein in a single egg), snacking on almonds (6 grams in a 1 ounce serving), opting for Greek yogurt instead of the regular variety (17-20 grams in an 8-ounce serving) and having canned fish for lunch (20–25 grams in a 3.5 ounce serving). 

Take it slow

A slow but steady approach to weight loss allows for a greater preservation of muscle mass. Reducing calorie intake by 500-1,000 calories a day will result in weight loss of a pound or two a week. Any further reduction in calories means you are likely to lose muscle as well.  

Vitamin D can help

It’s estimated that about 40% of adults are vitamin D deficient and people who are overweight or obese tend to have lower levels of this all-important vitamin. That’s cause for concern because not only does vitamin D keep bones healthy and protect against diseases such as diabetes, it also helps improve muscle strength. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with poor muscle health, especially in older adults. 

It’s totally possible to lose the pounds and keep the muscle if you have a targeted approach. The above nutrition and fitness strategies will help you achieve the best results.