lose weight without losing muscle

The Best Way to Lose Weight without Losing Muscle

Lose weight without losing muscle can get very challenging. Paying attention to different aspects of nutrition, sleep and training, you'll be able to do lose weight without losing muscle.

In this post we'll go through the main considerations to lose weight while keeping your muscle mass!

Do you wanna keep reading? Scroll down and enjoy the content!


  1. Lose the max. amount of fat mass to lower the %body fat and all health consequences associated.
  2. Lose the min. amount of muscle and fat free mass to mantain training performance and improve body composition

The Calorie Balance

The calorie balance is the most basic principle to lose weight.

Calories balance = Calories in - Calories out

With these two terms, you can lose, maintain, or gain weight overtime (study).

If you want to lose weight, you need to intake less calories than those being spent during the day (calories in < calories out).

Calories In

Calories in refers to your dietary intake (a.k.a diet).

Different foods provide more or less calories (study).

  • Fats: 9kcal/g
  • Protein: 4kcal/g
  • Carbohydrates: 4kcal/g
  • Soluble fibre: 3kcal/g
  • Alcohol: 7kcal/g

Tracking the foods you eat, you can get an approximation of your "calories in".


Calories out

Yur organism is a dynamic body, and the caloric expenditure varies widely depending on physical activity, metabolic activity, stress levels, and many other factors...

But we have simplified it to give and easier assesment of our "calories out" (study)

Formula for "calories out"


TDEE = Total Daily Energy Expenditure

BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate

TEF = Thermic Effect of Food

EAT = Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (programmed activity)

NEAT = Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (non-programmed activity)

The BMR is the energy needed to survive. It can be calculated from different formulas (calculator).

The TEF is the energy needed to absorb and digest food. It only provides 10% of the total TDEE (study).

EAT is the programmed activity (e.x: training session), and NEAT refers to any unconscious activity (e.x: fidgeting).

BMR is what contributes the most to our TDEE.

TDEE formula

Calorie Deficit

Based on the calorie balance:

  • Calories in < Calories out = weight loss
  • Calories in = Calories out = weight manteinace
  • Calories in > Calories out = weight gain

To lose weight, you need to be in a CALORIE DEFICIT.

Thi is the most important requirement if you want to lose weight.

Without calorie deficit, you won't lose fat nor weight, as there will be enough energy coming from the diet (study).

How to Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle

To lose weight without losing muscle, you can play two different decks: nutrition and training. 

Only paying attention to nutrition and dieting will give you results, but it's the combination of both what leads to losing weight without losing muscle.


Do Resistance Training 2-6x week

Resistance Training improves muscle mass and strength (study). Not only that, but it also helps preserving muscle (study) and increases your EAT

In this study,  the group that followed a high-intensity physical activity and hypocaloric diet showed the higher fat loss and maintainance of muscle (study).

Physical activtity and body composition

The Intensive group (INT) lost more fat and gained more msuscle than moderate (MOD) and sedentary (SED).

Resistance training helps you lose weight without losing muscle.


Don’t Go Crazy with Training Volumes

A calorie deficit provides less energy than what you need. This will make you more susceptible to excess muscle damage and potential injuries.

Volume load is directly related to increases of muscle mass (study), but so does muscle damage (study).

Excess muscle damage can have consequence on your performance and further adaptations (study).

Decrease the volume load. Prevent and moderate the volume given to eccentric exercise (e.g: romanian deadlift), as it creates large amounts of muscle damage (study)


Program Periodical Deloads

Periodized resistance training has better results than non-periodized programs (study).

These workout plans consider the supercompensation theory and manage the recovery-fatigue ratio to a higher extent (study)

In your program, plan for deload weeks to avoid build up of residual fatigue overtime.

On a calorie deficit, deloads and management of fatigue is much more important (study).

You can benefit from a deload week to 1) enhance muscle recovery and 2) avoid excess catabolism which could lead to muscle loss.

Keep track of your recovery and your performance. Do a deload when reaching a plateau on performance and your recovery is poor.


Moderate Calorie Deficit

More is not always better. Higher calorie deficit leads to higher muscle loss (study).

You may also lose more fat mass, but the ratio of fat/muscle lost is worse than on a moderate calorie deficit.

A moderate calorie deficit increases fat lossreduction of %fat and RMR, and ratio of muscle/fat lost more favourable for body composition

Diet to lose weight without losing muscle

Higher calorie deficit  can also lead to a dysregulated hormonal profile and disturbed metabolic adaptations (study)

Follow a moderate calorie deficit of 300-500kcal/day to safely lose weight without losing muscle(study). This will lead to a weight loss rate of around 1lb/week.

whey protein meme

High Protein Intake

Protein plays an important role in your nutrition. It's the most abundant macronutrient on our organism, being present in a huge list of different function.

Protein is directly related with muscle mass (study), providing sufficient amino acids to synthesize new proteins.

On a calorie deficit, there's a higher protein catabolism. This will put your muscle in risk (study).

To avoid amino acid turnover, increase your protein intake.

If general recommendations for active people indicates 2-3g/kg as optimum daily protein intake(study), aim for 2.5-3g/kg.


Don’t Totally Remove Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main energy supply for your metabolism.

Removing them totally from your diet can compromise your energy levels and performance.

Adapting to a "keto" state takes time(study). Totally removing carbohydrates for a few weeks doesn't make sense at all.

From carbohydrates, you can produce energy or store it in the form of glycogen for further energy production. Carbohydrate intake increases your training performance (study)(study).

Carbohydrates and athletic performance

To be safe and mantain training performance and energy status, don't go lower than 1g/kg or 0,5 g/kg for male and females, respectively.

How to Lose Weight without Losing Muscle

Aptitudes to Lose Weight Without Losing Muscle


Be Patient

If you want to lose weight without losing muscle, you should be patient.

The weight loss will be slower, but that will allow you to mantain more muscle mass, keep training hard, and get better results in terms of body composition.

Give you at least 3-4 months to get where you are.

Knowing that the best weight loss rate is 0.5-1% weight per week, you can calculate how long it would take you:

Initial conditions:

  • Weight: 80kg
  • %fat: 15%

Desired conditions

  • Weight: 70kg
  • %fat: 8%


0.005 x 80 = 0.4kg weekly weight loss

80 - 70 = 10kg overall weight loss

10 / 0.4 = 25 weeks

Don’t Miss Out with Sleep

Sleep plays an important role in body composition. Sleep deprivation is associated with a long list of health consequences.

Lower quality and less hours of sleep lead to worse food choices, higher calorie intake and macronutrients imbalance (study).

On a calorie deficit, your sleep may be worse (study).

If this is the case, you should prioritize even more sleep. Prioritize 7-9h daily sleep.

This prevents all consequences caused by sleep deprivation (study), improve training performance (study), and lower the risk of 'cheating' on your diet (study).


Listen to Your Body

Your metabolism is wise. It responds rapidly to external changes in the environment to survive and optimize metabolic work.

Calorie deficit is considered a 'metabolic stressor', and your body responds decreasing metabolic rate and more food desire and appetite (study).

Low calorie intakes can get serious prolonged for too long, involving infertility, dehydration, energy insufficiency, inmune system,...


Listen to your body. It's okay to stop before if your body tells you to stop. These are the main symptoms of this stage to evaluate yourself (study)

Do a reverse diet and keep increasing calories progressively to undo all metabolic disturbances and prevent weight regain (study).


Losing weight without losing muscle can be hard for some people, but it's easier than it seems.

With nutrition and training, you can easily manage those two to lose weight while mantaining muscle mass to a high extent.

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