It’s every man’s dream to be able to burn fat without losing muscle.
Usually guys do “The never-ending cycle”:
Gain muscle, lose fat. Gain muscle, lose fat.
If you are looking to create a dramatic body transformation, this is usually the protocol you follow.
You’ll do a bulking phase followed by a cutting phase.
Here’s the deal:
Sadly, too many guys lose much of their hard-earned muscle during their cutting phase, essentially returning them back to square one.
If you’ve gone around in circles enough to make your head spin, it’s time for a change.
It’s time that you learned how to burn the fat without losing the muscle.
In this guide you will learn exactly how burn fat without losing muscle.
At times, it might feel like you really only have two options:
- Get big and stay big – accepting that you’ll need to carry a bit more fat on your frame to do so.
- Get lean and accept that huge amounts of muscle are never going to be in your future.
Basically, you can attain the wiry Brad Pitt look from Fight Club or the robust look of Kevin James from Hitch.
Is there no middle ground?
Good news, there is!
In this article, you are going to learn:
- How to be both muscular and lean (it is possible!)
- How to burn fat without losing muscle
- The diet plan tricks you need to use to ensure your body does not eat away at your lean muscle tissue
- The best way to build muscle without gaining fat so you don’t have to go through a lengthy cutting period
- To do the right cardio without losing muscle
If you are tired of the bulk up, burn fat cycle and want to simply attain a body that’s strong, muscular and lean, read on as your solution awaits.
Burn Fat Without Losing Muscle – What You Need To Do:
1. Bulk Up Wisely
First and foremost, be smart when you build muscle.
Remember, the less fat you gain while packing on the lean muscle mass, the shorter the dieting period will have to be after, thus the lower risk of lean muscle mass.
Some guys eat anything and everything while building muscle and while this may be enjoyable and help you maximize your gains, it’s also helping you maximize your waistline.
Trade rapid progress for slower progress that keeps you leaner to begin with.
At the end of the race, you’ll actually come out ahead.
2. Ramp Up Your Protein Intake
Lean protein is the one nutrient that can help preserve your lean muscle mass while dieting.
Sadly, some guys think that when dieting, since their entire calorie intake is coming down, their protein intake needs to come down as well.
Not so. In fact, the greater your calorie deficit is, the higher your protein intake should go.
When you’re consuming fewer calories total (and therefore fewer grams of carbs and fats), this means there is less energy available to the body for fuel.
This then means that your body will resort to using a combination of protein coming in as well as stored body fat for energy.
In a perfect world you would use just stored body fat for energy, but things are rarely ever perfect.
Now if your body starts using the protein you’re eating for energy, this means less protein is left over to help maintain lean muscle mass.
This then results in the loss of that tissue.
What’s the bottom line?
Remember that when not dieting, you’ll want to aim for around a gram per pound of lean muscle mass each day to sustain yourself.
When dieting, you need even more. The more aggressive your calorie deficit is, the higher your protein needs to go.
Aim for 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean mass accordingly.
3. Be Smart With Your Cardio Training
Cardio is another place where too many guys go wrong.
While you get some guys who just avoid cardio entirely (‘woman’s play!’…they think), you get others who do perform cardio thinking it’s the fastest route to getting lean.
They’re on the cardio machines every morning for an hour and often hop back on them after their weight workout in the evening.
Definitely. Cardio should not be the tool you are using to lose weight.
Your diet should be your primary tool – cardio is just a bonus.
Do too much cardio training, especially endurance focused cardio training (read: mind-numbing steady state sessions) and you can kiss your lean muscle mass goodbye.
Case in point: marathon runners.
Need I say more?
And most of these marathon runners are eating food and lots of it.
You in a calorie deficit will see muscle mass loss even faster.
This isn’t to say you should avoid cardio entirely – it can be a very powerful tool in the fat loss equation.
But it should be used in moderation.
You can choose between either doing one or two HIIT sessions per week lasting 15-20 minutes if you have great recovery or two or three 30 minute steady state sessions per week if you don’t.
Also take note that if you go the HIIT route, you must consume carbohydrates and protein before doing these.
This will allow you to actually be able to burn fat without losing muscle.
Here’s the deal:
Your body needs these fuel substrates present to prevent eating away at lean muscle mass stores.
Since you can’t use fat as a fuel source during very intense exercise, if not carbs are present, lean protein is the only other option.
If doing steady state cardio, then you do have the choice to do it fasted if you prefer.
Ideally though if you really want to prevent the loss of muscle mass, you’d at least take in some BCAA’s before that session.
Do keep in mind though that research1 does suggest that HIIT may be superior for fat loss purposes compared to steady state endurance training but only when used correctly.
4. Wise Up With Your Weight Lifting Routine
Now we come to your lifting routine.
Are you like many guys out there who consider ‘metabolic training’ the only thing you need to do when focusing on fat loss?
If so, rethink this notion.
While there’s no question that higher rep, shorter rest periods utilized in a circuit style fashion can help you crank up your metabolic rate, remember that this is doing nothing to signal to your body that it needs to sustain your lean muscle mass tissue.
If you want to keep your lean muscle mass, you must keep lifting the same heavy weights you did back when you were building.
Here’s the kicker:
Don’t ever let your body think that it doesn’t need that strength any more.
If it believes this, your muscle will be the first to go.
Ideally your weight lifting routine should be composed of a mix of these two types of philosophies.
Have 1-2 days of full body metabolic training where you are doing higher rep, lighter weight exercises but then another couple of days where you hit your key compound lifts – squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, and shoulder presses with intensity.
Keep the weight on the bar.
Sure, you may do fewer sets overall than you did back when you were on your bulking diet, but do at least one set at your normal heavy weight.
This will prevent your body from getting weaker and thus, losing muscle.
5. Ditch The Ultra Low Carb Approach
When it comes your diet plan, in addition to getting your protein intake up, you’ll want to avoid going ultra-low carb for extended periods of time.
Here’s the deal
Carbohydrates are what fuel your muscles for intense activity.
The minute you begin dropping your carbs exceptionally low is the minute your workout performance drops .
As we just noted, keeping your workout intensity up there is key to maintaining lean muscle mass.
Furthermore, the carbs in your diet are what have the greatest influence over a particular hormone called leptin, as shown in research published in the Diabetologia2 journal, which is what regulates your metabolic rate.
When leptin is higher, your metabolism is faster and you’ll torch fat at a better pace.
When it’s lower, you’ll have to take your total calorie intake down further to see ongoing fat loss, which only puts you at a higher risk for lean muscle mass loss.
The lower your calorie intake is, the greater that risk will be, so keeping calories as high as possible at all times is a must.
Leptin can help out with that, but only if it’s maximized.
Carbohydrates provide the means to do so.
Obviously your carbs do have to come down when on a fat loss diet, but you should always keep them as high as you possibly can for as long as you possibly can.
Don’t cut them down to 80 grams per day while your fat intake sits at 100 grams.
You’re better off with a slightly lower fat intake in order to keep carbs at a higher level.
6. Sleep Like You Mean It
One lifestyle factor that can dictate whether or not you lose lean muscle mass is your sleep habits.
If you are not sleeping enough at night, your recovery won’t be where it should be and in addition to that, you’ll find you aren’t as strong as normal in the gym.
The worst part is:
It impacts your ability to lift heavy and therefore retain the lean muscle mass you’re going for.
Furthermore, research published in the Jama3 journal suggests that just one week of sleep deprivation can decrease a man’s testosterone levels by as much as 10-15%, which sets you up for even greater loss in lean muscle tissue.
When your testosterone levels are low, muscle mass loss can occur without even dieting, so you can imagine what the combination of low testosterone and a hypocalorie diet can do.
Start taking your bed-time seriously. It will make all the difference in the results you see.
Another great way to keep your testosterone levels high at all times is to supplement with a testosterone booster. – See the best 3 testosterone boosters here.
7. Supplement With BCAA’s
Finally, one last supplement to add into the picture is BCAA’s.
BCAA’S is a great supplement for cutting.
These, taken before and during your workout can help keep you in a more anabolic state, preventing lean muscle mass breakdown, as was shown in a study published by the Journal of Nutrition4.
The less of a recovery ‘hole’ you dig yourself into, so to speak, the faster you’ll bounce back after each workout and the lower your risk of muscle loss will be.
So there you have some quick and simple yet highly effective tips to know and remember to keep that hard earned muscle in place next time you diet.
Don’t let yourself get on that vicious cycle again.
A great way to keep the metabolism high and lose fat faster is to also use cutting supplements like fat burners. – See the best 3 fat burners here.
How To Cut Without Losing Muscle (Short Version)
To burn fat without losing muscle you have to make sure you are consuming enough protein and don’t get too fat in the bulking phase. It’s important to do HIIT cardio rather than long distance running. As for training do both heavy compound movements with a few repetitions as well as higher rep lighter exercises. You should avoid low carb diets and consume BCAA’S to prevent muscle breakdown.
Here we answer questions you might have about how you can burn fat without muscle mass:
Do I need a specific diet plan to lose weight without muscle?
It’s always good to have some kind of a diet plan to follow when cutting fat.
If you already have a good diet you should be fine just by following the tips above.
If you have no clue how to diet I would suggest that you go with the carb cycling diet which is great for fat loss.
Can I lose muscle instead of fat, are there any losing muscle mass symptoms?
If you did something wrong and you think you are losing muscle and not fat there are a few ways you can identify losing muscle mass symptoms.
If you are consistently hungry, tired and getting weaker you might be losing muscle mass instead of fat.
This is usually due to the fact that people don’t eat enough food when on a diet.
You don’t have to starve yourself just to drop a few pounds of fat.
If this ever happens to you make sure you eat more food and especially protein rich foods.
I play sports/work a physically demanding job and do a lot of cardio, will I lose muscles?
If you are working a demanding job or playing sports that require a lot of cardio and physical performance you are at more risk losing muscle.
Here’s the deal:
The way to counter this is to eat well before you do sports/cardio , take BCAA’S while you are at it and eat well after your cardio.
This will help you to cut fat NOT muscle.
- Trapp, E. G., et al. “The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women.” International journal of obesity 32.4 (2008): 684-691.
- Jenkins, A. B., et al. “Carbohydrate intake and short-term regulation of leptin in humans.” Diabetologia 40.3 (1997): 348-351.
- Leproult, Rachel, and Eve Van Cauter. “Effect of 1 week of sleep restriction on testosterone levels in young healthy men.” Jama 305.21 (2011): 2173-2174.
- Shimomura, Yoshiharu, et al. “Exercise promotes BCAA catabolism: effects of BCAA supplementation on skeletal muscle during exercise.” The Journal of nutrition 134.6 (2004): 1583S-1587S.