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The Crucial Role of Muscle Maintenance During Fat Loss

Embarking on a fat loss journey often conjures images of grueling workouts and strict diets with the sole focus on shedding pounds. While weight loss is a common goal, it’s essential to recognize the significance of preserving muscle mass during this process. In this blog post, I’d like to delve into the reasons why maintaining muscle mass is crucial during fat loss and how it can positively impact your overall health and fitness.

Muscle mass isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it’s the key to a healthier, more energetic and functional life. Not only does muscle mass help us achieve a toned physique, but it also strongly contributes to our metabolism, blood sugar regulation, functional independence and injury prevention. When you lose weight, irrespective of the method (bariatric surgery, diet and exercise, GLP-1 agonists or other weight loss medications) there will be always be some loss of muscle mass.

Here is why it is important to minimize that loss:

#1 - Muscle Boosts Metabolism

Muscle is a strong determinant of resting metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR) will be. When you lose weight, your RMR can decrease because your body has less tissue to maintain. It declines further if you lose significant muscle mass during weight loss. By preserving muscle mass, you can mitigate the decline in metabolism and reduce the risk of weight regain.

#2 -Muscle Regulates Your Blood Sugar

When we eat, our bodies break down carbohydrates into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Muscle tissue acts like a sponge, soaking up this excess glucose and storing it as glycogen for later use. During physical activity or exercise, muscles contract and demand more energy. In response, they tap into their glycogen stores and glucose in the bloodstream, effectively lowering blood sugar levels. Maintaining healthy muscle mass and function improves insulin sensitivity, reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and promotes overall metabolic health.

"Losing excessive muscle mass during weight loss is preventable"

#3 - Muscle Helps Maintain Strength and Function

Maintaining muscle mass is essential for physical strength, balance, and overall functional capacity. Strong muscles provide stability to joints to help protect them from injury. Maintaining muscle mass as you age can help counteract the natural muscle loss associated with aging (sarcopenia). It can contribute to greater independence and a higher quality of life in later years.

How to Maintain Muscle Mass During Fat Loss

Now that you understand the importance of muscle maintenance during fat loss, here are some strategies to help you achieve this balance:

Tip #1 - Protein intake:

Ensure you consume an adequate amount of protein to support muscle repair and growth. There are many calculations for optimal protein intake, but I like to keep it simple by recommending you start by consuming ~ 30 grams of protein, spaced 3 times throughout the day.

Tip #2 - Strength training:

Incorporate strength training to support muscle repair and growth. If you’re completely new to strength training, it’s a good idea to begin with body weight exercises like squats, push-ups and sit-ups to help you build a foundation of strength. If that still seems daunting, yoga is a great way to enhance body awareness and proper body mechanics. (Visit our video page for free full-length workouts for all levels.)

Tip #3 - Calorie Deficit Moderation:

GLP-1 medications are incredibly effective because of their ability to suppress the appetite, but it’s important to create a moderate caloric deficit rather than an extreme one to prioritize fat loss over muscle loss.

Tip #4 - Monitor Your Progress:

Regularly track your body composition, strength levels and physical performance to adjust your approach as needed. Dexa scans are great, but a free alternative is digital anthropometry. Apps like MeThreeSixty allow for 3D body scanning from your smartphone to track your body composition during your weight loss journey.

Losing excessive muscle mass during weight loss is preventable. By incorporating strength training and nutritional strategies, you can optimize your results and experience the numerous benefits that come with preserving muscle tissue.



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