How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle Mass

By | September 17, 2013


How to lose fat without losing muscle: Get rid of the fat, get lean, and keep your muscles

If you want to get lean and sculpted, the best approach towards this goal is to burn the unwanted fat in your body while preserving your valuable muscle mass. Losing fat without losing muscle is the best way to lower your body fat percentage to get toned and ripped. And let’s not forget that muscle is also important for health, fitness and helping your body stay lean. But to succeed in burning fat without losing muscle, you must have the right work ethic and use an optimal diet and workout program that would give you the desired results.

Note: This article is focused on losing fat without losing muscle. It doesn’t go into the basics of fat loss. If you want to know the basics of losing fat, then read the article How To Lose Fat – The Basic Principles

Before I go into the things that you can do to lose fat without losing muscle, I want to point out a very important factor that affects which persons are more likely to lose muscle while in a caloric deficit, and the reason this happens. This factor is your starting body fat level.

The amount of fat that your body possesses when you are starting to lose fat will have an impact on muscle loss.

A person who has a great amount of fat (overweight or obese) tends to retain their muscle when losing fat, even when they are in a very aggressive calorie deficit. On the other hand, a person with less fat (lean level of body fat) tends to lose more muscle and retain body fat when in a calorie deficit.

The reason this happens is the body’s natural defense mechanism kicks in at a certain point when it believes that you are losing too much fat and will try to hold on to the fat and burn muscle. This will happen almost all of the time that calorie intake is significantly reduced for extended periods, and you are not extremely overweight or obese.

You see, naturally, the body likes to be at a set point of body fat (which may not always be your preference) and will try everything it can to maintain that level of fat whenever you reach that point.

If your body realizes that you are losing too much fat it will respond by slowing your metabolism down, burn muscle tissue for fuel and try to hold on to the fat. You may find this sucks, especially if you desperately want to get super-lean or ripped. But remember, the body does not care about what nice shape you want to get into. All it cares about is protecting you when it believes there is a reason to.

Thankfully, however, there are a few things that you can do in both your diet and workout that could help make your body burn fat off and leave your muscles in place, even when your body reaches the set level of fat where it would want to activate it’s protection responses.


   How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle

1. Use A Moderate Calorie Deficit Depending On Your Body Fat Level

As I mentioned above a person who has a large amount of body fat could start with a lower-than-average calorie intake to lose fat and they would not have to worry about losing muscle. However, the leaner that you are, the more likely it would be to lose muscle while in a very aggressive calorie deficit. Therefore, a person who is not very fat would face the risk of losing muscle if they cut too many calories from their diet and follow that eating plan long term.

lose fat moderate calorie deficit

A moderate calorie deficit would be about 20 % below your TDEE or calorie maintenance level. This is a safe level for an already lean person who just wants to get leaner. An overweight or obese person could cut a larger percentage of calories from their calorie maintenance level and not lose muscle.

The best way to find the ideal calorie deficit for you to lose fat without losing muscle is to start with a deficit that’s good enough to get significant fat loss, but keep tracking your body fat percentage and the way you look in the mirror to find out if you are losing fat or if muscle is going along with the fat. Depending on your results you may or may not need to adjust your calorie intake to make sure that your muscles are well preserved.

A small to moderate calorie deficit will cause fat loss to happen at a slow rate, but it is a good approach for avoiding muscle loss.

But what if your body fat level is already around moderate, and you want to stick to a large calorie deficit to lose fat fast? In such situation, the only way that you can create a large calorie deficit to achieve rapid fat loss without the negative consequences is to use a strategic program that is specially designed to allow persons to rapidly shed fat without having their body turn on them.

2. Consume Enough Protein

Increasing your protein intake is an important requirement for building muscle mass, but protein also is very important for losing fat and maintaining muscle. There are a lot of debate in the health and fitness community about many things relating to gaining muscle and losing fat, but I observed that pretty much everyone agree that a moderate to high intake of protein is necessary for both muscle building and fat loss.

3. Do Calorie Cycling/Shifting

Calorie cycling is a dieting method that involves alternating between higher and lower calorie intake on different days. Basically, with calorie cycling, you’ll be consuming more calories on certain days and fewer calories on other days. This technique can have a number of positive impact on fat loss. It helps with preventing plateaus, increasing fat loss and preserving lean muscle tissue.

4. Do Strength Training Properly

Doing proper resistance training while in a calorie deficit to lose fat is the most important component for getting lean and maintaining muscle. It’s a fundamental rule for resistance training to be applied for building muscle. If you are lifting weights to create stress on the body it will build or maintain muscle, because it will realize that you need the muscle.

lose fat without losing muscle training

This is the way the body works. It will build and maintain muscle as long as it is given the right reasons to believe that there is a need for that muscle. Some people make the mistake of doing “high reps for light weights” when fat loss is their primary goal. This mistake should be avoided. You need to be lifting heavy enough if you want your body to preserve your muscle, even if your primary goal is to reduce fat. And you may also gain some muscle if progressive overload happens during the training and the right conditions are present.

Strength training with free weights performing compound exercises is a great choice to burn fat and maintain muscle, but if you don’t have access to weight training equipment you can use bodyweight training. Programs like Bar Brothers System can help you burn fat and preserve muscle with exercises that only require the use of your own body.

5. Do High Intensity Interval Training For Your Cardio Workout

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best form of cardio to burn off body fat without losing muscle. It involves alternating between an exercise of high intensity and a low intensity exercise. A good example of a HIIT workout is to alternate sprinting type efforts for 30 seconds followed by 1 minute of a less intense effort like walking, and continue this pattern for 20 minutes. HIIT can be done with cardio machines, or without any machine.


Unless you are not able to perform intense cardio or don’t need to perform cardio, try to include HIIT as your main cardio method in your workout. This will help you lose fat without losing muscle and burn fat more efficiently.

That’s it right there, the different things that you can do in your diet and workout to help make sure that you maintain muscle while you lose fat.