How to Maximize Muscle Retention While in a Calorie Deficit

Written by Tiffany Hsu, RD, MS

You may be putting in extra hours at the gym and watching your diet to look good for your next vacation or big event. However, you may be doing more harm than good. It’s no secret that the risk of losing lean mass increases while in a calorie deficit. Here are tips on how to maximize your fat loss while mitigating the loss of lean body mass.

Keep a mild calorie deficit.

When it comes to lean mass preservation, slow and steady wins the race. Keeping a mild deficit around 200-300 calories under from your maintenance for females and 300-500 calories for males is ideal. Also, aiming for an average weight loss of about 0.5-1% per week of your weight (for most that is about 0.5-1.5 lbs. per week) will help the body prioritize fat loss and spare muscle.

Lift heavy weights.

For muscle to grow, it needs proper stimulation. You can achieve this through strength training. When you lift weights, your muscles form micro tears which will prompt your body to deliver amino acids ingested to the damaged cells. Overtime, this will cause your muscles to grow stronger and bigger.

Eat enough quality protein.

In general, aiming to consume 1.5-2.2g/kg of your body weight in protein is an acceptable range. The more aggressive your weight loss plan, the higher protein you’ll need to mitigate the loss of lean body mass. To maximize the muscle building effect, aim for protein sources with high leucine content. These are usually animal protein sources such as whey, eggs, and meat. If you are a plant-based eater, you can get similar benefits from soy-based protein products or combining various sources of plant-based protein such as rice and beans to make a complete amino acid profile.

Focus on getting good sleep.

Quality, uninterrupted sleep for 7-9 hours per night is crucial to maximize lean mass retention. Your muscles repair during your sleep. Therefore, do not neglect your sleep hygiene practices and create an environment to support quality rest.

If you’d like more guidance on your fitness journey, please consult a Registered Dietitian to maximize your fat loss progress.  PRO Medical nutrition services are open to everyone. Contact us at (425) 861-6258 or visit PRO Medical nutrition services.

Tiffany Hsu, RD, MS: Tiffany is a registered dietitian who helps adult athletes and recreation exercisers maximize performance, optimize recovery, and achieve health goals through nutrition. Instead of prescribing a rigid meal plan, Tiffany enjoys educating clients to feel confident in making their own food choices for a sustainable and personalized fueling plan. Tiffany also provides nutrition counseling for the 20/20 Lifestyles program.

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