How to lose weight without losing muscle mass

How to lose weight without losing muscle mass

A healthy and sustainable weight loss means losing weight without losing muscle mass. Preserving muscle mass while losing weight is important for two reasons:

  • Lean muscle mass contributes to optimal organ function,  skin integrity, immunity, and wound healing.

When talking about weight loss, what most people want is fat loss. If you go strictly down the calorie-restriction route without any exercise whatsoever, you will experience losing muscle mass. Please take a look at the table below from the US National Library of Medicine.

Source: Preserving healthy muscle during weight loss by PubMed Central.

Let’s deconstruct the table above.

If you simply go on a calorie-restriction diet plus high protein, your muscle mass will very likely decrease. We preserve a healthy muscle mass by incorporating regular personalised resistance training into our exercise routine. See what happens when only endurance exercise is applied; muscle mass decreases.

Two ways to preserve muscle mass while trying to lose weight

To preserve your muscle mass while trying to lose weight, you need to maintain the proper ratio of volume and load (resistance training) and keep your energy intake in balance. Let’s describe each way in detail.

Maintain the proper ratio of volume and load in your resistance training

We have already concluded that to lose weight and maintain muscle mass at the same time, you need to include regular resistance training in your life. Many people think that high repetitions with low load (lightweight) is the path to losing weight. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you want to preserve your muscle mass, you need to incorporate a systematic scientific approach. This means including the moderate-heavy intensity within your resistance training programme, especially during the calorie-restriction period. This system aims to expose the muscles to high level of mechanical tension to preserve muscle mass and strength.

For those who are not familiar with a resistance training, we wrote a blog post Guide to resistance training for weight/fat loss. It might be useful to read it.

If you are a beginner with the weight loss goal in mind, it’s prudent to start with a load of less than 65 % of 1RM. The reason for this is to grasp the knowledge and routine of a proper form. If you are more experienced, you can start immediately with a moderate load of 65-85 % of 1RM. The number of repetitions ideally needs to be between 8-12 when talking about the moderate load. This is just general guidance. Your trainer should be able to design a more personalised resistance training programme for you.

Keep your energy intake in balance

If you simply decrease your calorie intake without resistance training, you will experience adverse psychological effects such as reducing your REE or resting energy expenditure. Resting energy expenditure represents the number of calories required for a 24-hour period by the body during a non-active period.

According to Harvard Medical School,

Because resting energy expenditure accounts for 60% to 75% of the calories you burn each day, any increase in resting energy expenditure is extremely important to your weight-loss effort. 

So, by practicing personalised resistance training regularly, you will increase your REE which will boost your weight loss.

Please avoid a drastic cutting back on calories. This will only do you harm. It is true that if you want to lose weight you need to create a negative energy balance but make sure to do it with a regular resistance exercise and gradual calorie reduction personalised to your situation.


When thinking about losing weight, you need to think about a healthy weight loss. A healthy weight loss is a fat loss without losing muscle mass. There are people who are skinny and at your desired weight but not necessarily healthy. Just reducing your weight is not the goal. You want to preserve your muscle mass and live a sustainable healthy lifestyle.

To preserve your muscle mass, make sure to include regular personalised resistance training into your lifestyle coupled with a personalised nutritional programme.

Until Friday,

Damir Pervan, Founder and CEO of TrainChampion

Get EXERCISE AND NUTRITIONAL TIPS sent directly by our trainers and nutritionists every Friday for FREE to your inbox

Here is what you will learn:

  • How to structure your exercise programme.
  • How to approach your nutrition for the best weight loss results.
  • Real-world case studies and lessons learned.
  • What mistakes and habits to avoid when embarking on your weight loss journey.

Enter your email and you will get:

  • The weight loss manual e-book.
  • Weekly exercise and nutritional tips and strategies.

Join thousands of weekly readers. Get only the exclusive content in your inbox.

Thank you!
You're are successfully subscribed to our newsletter. No matter where you are on your fitness journey we will help you by sharing the most useful educational exercise and nutritional content. See you in your inbox.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *