There are many theories about this concept in the fitness world. However, what people don’t know is that you are constantly losing and gaining muscle everyday. For instance, you actually lose muscle as you sleep through the night. The best way to ensure that you don’t lose muscle can be through proper nutrition, weight training and the correct amount of cardio. As a trainer, I tell my clients not to exceed 45 minutes if they are doing it on the same day as their weight training (60 minutes if not on a weight training day). Here are 4 reasons why you are not retaining your muscle mass!
1. You are not eating enough protein. Protein is the only nutrient that is actually used to build muscle. To stay anabolic you must eat five to six protein containing meals. Each meal should be spaced out approximately three hours apart. Research has proven that if you are physically active, you need a minimum of .8 grams to 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
2. Your carbohydrates are too low. Low carb diets are often used for fat loss, but it is a mistake to cut your carbs too drastically. Carbohydrates are protein-sparing, so even if you are eating large amounts of protein, you can still lose muscle if you your carbs are too low.
3. You are not eating enough calories to support muscle growth. This is the most common cause of muscle loss. When your calories are too low, your body goes into “starvation mode.” Your metabolism slows down and your body actually burns muscle tissue to conserve energy. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, requiring a great deal of caloric energy just to maintain it. That’s why your body will shed muscle if it thinks you are starving.
4. You are not training with weights. It is a common misconception that if you want to lose weight, you should start with cardio only and add the weights later – another big mistake! It is the weight training that keeps you from losing muscle while you are dieting.
You are much more likely to lose muscle from not eating enough than you are from doing too much cardio. All too often, people are afraid to eat a lot and do a lot of cardio at the same time. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Logically, it seems like the two would cancel each other out – but the opposite is true. Many people believe they must “starve” the fat by drastically lowering calories. Unfortunately, this approach can cause you to lose muscle along with the fat. The only way to maintain your lean mass while losing fat is to feed the muscles with plenty of nutritious calories and at the same time, burn the fat off with cardio.
Whether your goal is muscle development, fat loss or both, you should always include some form of cardiovascular activity as part of your training program. Unless you’re doing some kind of ultra-endurance regimen, AEROBICS DOES NOT CAUSE MUSCLE LOSS, in fact it supports the pathways that help you build it! (source)
There is a fine line between building muscle and losing it. If you want a lean sculpted look then you must intake enough calories to keep your muscle without starving them. Make sure that you are picking the right kinds of LEAN protein as well.