I got a tone of messages from the local gym member that I’m on a weight loss diet plan but I’m losing muscle not fat, what to do?
There could be many reasons why this happens to anyone but the one and most important reason is you’re not eating enough protein as per your exercise stress. Another reason could be you’re performing too much exercise that your body utilizes your muscle mass in order to have energy.
Losing muscle is really a nightmare when you’re trying to lose weight and I must say it needs to be stopped.
As you read further, I will also show you what to do in order to prevent muscle mass while you’re trying to lose weight or any other fitness goal along with, of course, the causes of muscle loss and fat gain.
Signs of Losing Muscle Mass
Before knowing why you’re losing muscles instead of fat, it is very important that you know the effect that will show in your body if you’re losing muscle mass.
- You feel lethargic all day
The very first thing that you will notice is you have very less energy during the day even though you’re eating enough.
Your strength will also be reduced as you don’t have much energy, compared to other days, to perform exercise OR sometimes you also feel like you don’t want to do exercise at all.
The reason behind feeling like this is when you’re losing muscles you’re losing the protein from your body and that’s what gives you more energy to workout than other macronutrients.
If your pre or post workout nutrition is not upto the mark, you will have less protein in your body and that will be hard for your body to give you enough energy during workout.
Another reason could be you don’t consume enough protein in your pre workout.
There is a reason why people consume pre workout meals, if you don’t eat, then you don’t have enough protein in your body during workout and protein is the building blocks of muscles.
If you don’t have that, there are more chances of you losing muscle mass.
When you lose muscles, you will feel less energy in your body than on other days.
- Your muscle size reduced
This one is really hard to notice but when you’re doing things consistently that cause you muscle loss, you will notice that your arm’s size is reduced .
You will not notice other body part’s size reduction but you will soon notice that even though you’re doing workout your arm’s size is reduced.
Make sure you’re measuring your body-part’s size every two weeks so you can know whether you’re losing muscles or gaining muscles.
It is not that much important but if you feel like you’re losing muscles, you can identify that by measuring your muscle size every two weeks and see whether your muscle size is reduced or not?
4 Reason Why you’re losing Muscles
- Not Eating Enough Protein
Like I said earlier, protein is the building blocks of muscles and if you’re not eating enough protein as per your goal, you will lose muscle mass.
Now, how much protein do you really need and I think many of you know this but you can read this in-depth guide on this topic to understand more.
The article’s general recommendation for protein intake is around 1.2 g/kg if you’re sedentary all the way up to 3.3 g/kg if you’re trying to minimize fat gain while bulking.
It’s up to you how much protein do you need based on your gender, weight, goal and level of activity.
One thing I really want to mention here is you don’t need to focus on individual protein intake per meal, just focus on daily protein intake.
If your daily protein intake is around 165gm and you’re eating less than 130gms, then you should start eating more protein as your body needs it in order to build muscle.
Otherwise the body will use protein from the muscles and you will end up with muscle loss.
A study performed by University of Birmingham shows that olderly people need more protein than the younger people in order to prevent age-related muscle loss.
So, study shows “age related muscle loss” but the main reason of the study is that if you consume less protein as you get older or increase your exercise activity you need more daily protein intake.
- Doing very little or too much exercise
I want to confess one thing here, I always love to try new things in fitness ranging from crossfit to powerlifting.
I tried all kinds of things in fitness to learn about them and I also learned some awesome things like when you do more exercises than you need, you will lose muscles.
So I used to do bodybuilding workout but then I started crossfit workout and pyramid training.
Now, in the crossfit workout I mostly do power and strength crossfit exercise which needs more protein in order to sustain muscle than the bodybuilding style routine.
I also did the pyramind training and in that I didn’t do it for one exercise only I do FULL BODY pyramid training and trust me it takes a lot more effort than you think compared to conventional pyramid training.
So I realised that if your goal is to build muscle mass and you do exercises for building power and strength then it will also need more protein as you change exercises.
If you’re not supplying enough protein to your body, your body will use muscle in order to give you energy during your workouts.
- Not Enough Recovery
People really underestimate the recovery and rest for muscle building and weight loss.
If you’re not having enough sleep, recovery, or rest then you definitely will have muscle loss.
A study performed in 2011 to find how inadequate sleep can affect muscle gains and recovery shows that if you’re sleeping less than what the national sleep foundation recommends, you will lose muscle mass.
So in a study the researchers divided participants into two groups, one group can sleep for 5.5 hours and the other group was allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours per day.
All groups follow a calorie-regulated diet plan.
And the researcher found that the group who slept only 5.5 hours has 60% less muscle mass at the end of the study compared to the 40% increment in muscle mass of a group who slept for 8.5 hours.
As you can see how sleep or recovery has a powerful effect on muscle growth and to prevent muscle loss.
Having less sleep in a day can also reduce your testosterone level as per this study.
If your T-level is reduced, before the start of exercise you really need to improve your sleep and try to do more to increase it as it can also reduce your muscle mass.
Apart from the muscle loss, check out this cool article, where the author shows you what happens in your body when you don’t sleep for enough hours.
- Doing too much High Intensity Cardio
You may have heard this before “Do cardio if you want to lose weight or belly fat” right?
Now when a beginner hears this they set a wrong mindset and just focus on doing more cardio as someone so called experienced person from the gym said that do cardio if you want to burn more fat.
When you do more cardio, you will burn more calories but that doesn’t mean you burn all the calories from the fat.
Nobody knows where the energy comes from? From muscles, from fat storage right?
But cardio is not the best way to lose fat.
I’m telling you because I know you’re the type of person who is trying to lose fat and doing cardio but instead of happening that you’re losing muscles right?
So, stop doing excessive cardio and start focusing on doing strength training 3x a week along with proper calorie and protein intake.
For more reference, read this awesome article on Does cardio burn muscles?
What to Do if You’re Losing Muscle Mass
Now you know that you’re losing muscles not the fat then what should you do to prevent it right. That’s the very important thing!
So, in order to prevent that from happening try doing a couple of things from the list below.
- First thing first, check your last week’s daily protein intake. Are you consuming enough ACCORDINGLY to your goal? If not, increase it and eat as per your goal.
- Are you doing too much cardio? If yes, then stop doing it too many times just once a week and focus on doing more strength training.
- Check the quality of your sleep. Are you getting enough sleep daily? If no, try to sleep early at night and get at least 8 hours of sleep.
There is nothing more to change, just focus on those things while you’re following a weight loss diet plan and you’re good to go!
Now you know why you’re losing muscles instead of fat, so check any of the mistakes are you making? If yes then see the solution to it and apply it in your routine.
If you think you are not making any mistakes that I mentioned above, contact your doctor.
Doubts? Thoughts? Comments? Drop them Below!