How to Cut Without Losing Muscle
If you’ve ever dieted consistently for an extended period of time you’ve most likely also experienced some muscle loss throughout that diet. Even though losing muscle is inevitable when cutting there are some steps you can take to prevent muscle loss and keep it to a minimum. The first major thing you can do to slow muscle loss gives your muscles a reason to stay. I know that might sound kind of silly, but what I mean is that you have to continue to lift heavy and challenge yourself with the weight load that you use. All too often people will feel tired and weak while cutting so they allow that to dictate the intensity of their workout. When dieting you will feel like you have less energy because you will most likely be taking in a limited amount of calories per day in order to burn body fat. Many people automatically will just give in to this lack of energy and start dropping the weights they are using every week. As you drop the weights your muscles will get weaker and weaker throughout the cut and you will have to drop the weight again and again and again. Many people also still believe in the widespread myth that when you’re trying to cut and get lean you should go for high reps with light weight. This is a very bad strategy if you want to maintain as much muscle as possible during a cut. If you are dieting for six weeks I very highly doubt that you will be able to lift the same amount of weight for the same reps at the end of your diet as you did in the beginning of your diet. However, this doesn’t mean that you should just drop the weight without fighting for every last pound. Try as hard as you can to not lower the intensity of your workouts when you are cutting. This means try to keep the weight as heavy as usual, perform as many sets and exercises as usual, and don’t do half-ass workouts. Give your body a reason to maintain that muscle and it will. When you absolutely have to drop the weight because your rep range went from 8 reps at the start of the diet to 3 or 4 reps 4 weeks into it, then do it, but don’t do it without a fight. And if you can somehow maintain the same weight load and intensity levels for your workouts for the entire cut then that would be ideal. Remember this…” the primary training stimulus required for maintaining muscle is maintaining your current levels of strength.” Something else that you may have to be aware of in regard to training on a diet is that not only will your energy levels suffer but your ability to recover will also suffer. So to solve this problem I recommend lowering your training frequency. This means that if you were working out 6 days a week before your diet, you may want to lower that to 3 or 4 times a week if you feel like you are not fully recovering between workouts. I am not a big fan of decreasing training volume (which would mean lower sets, reps, or the number of exercises), but I think it is wise to lower training frequency on a cut to allow your muscles to fully recover in order to maintain strength. Because remember maintaining strength during a cut equals maintaining muscle mass during a cut. To help your recovery you should also avoid excessive cardio. Many people do tons of cardio while dieting because they think it’ll help them burn more fat. While this may be true you will be hurting your recovery speed which will ultimately hurt your strength during your workouts, which I hope at this point is obvious to you that that’s bad news for your muscles.
Now, what about diet. Obviously, there are ways to structure your diet to prevent muscle loss. One major thing that’s very critical for maintaining muscle is to eat enough protein while cutting. High protein diets have proven to not only be effective for burning fat but also are very effective for maintaining muscle mass. Try to have at least 1 gram of protein for every pound you weigh. Also, do your best to have the majority of your carbs with a serving of protein both before and after your workout. This will help you maintain strength and in turn muscle mass throughout your cut. Another thing that you have to recognize is that cutting calories too much too fast is almost always going to result in more muscle being compromised.
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