Muscle Loss – How To Prevent Atrophy On A Diet

Muscle Loss – How To Prevent Atrophy On A Diet

Dieting is something nearly everyone will eventually go through. Can you prevent muscle atrophy whilst going through this phase in your training?

How can you make the most of it and spare the progress you’ve made in the gym in order to look your best. Can you really minimize loss of muscle, or is it inevitable?


Diet Slowly


When most people begin a diet it is fueled behind some type of event. An example of would be maintaining your body weight and suddenly deciding to go on a diet, thus changing your lifestyle overnight. Now the problem with this is that the body doesn’t respond well to drastic changes. The body responds alright, but not in the way we want it to. To prevent muscle atrophy to the greatest extent you must understand that when starting the diet you will have to change a number of calories you are taking in, slowly. You can do this by gradually decreasing your calories over a matter of a week or two. By doing this gradually your body has the opportunity to become accustomed to the change and thus properly maintain the muscle that you want to show off at the beach.

Rick James has written a great article on the importance of dieting slowly, check it out!


Focus on Strength For Muscle?



Some people have the idea in their heads that by performing higher reps you will burn more calories (which is true) and maintain more muscle (which arguably, is false). The best solution to this is to perform occasional cardio to burn said calories rather than performing higher reps.

While in the weight room you must remember to hit the weights heavy to maintain your strength. Strength is a great way of judging the level you’re at. Generally your strength on compound lifts such as the squat, and military press correlate to the muscle you have on your frame. By training hard with strength in mind and using lower rep ranges of 2-8 for at least 50% of your volume, your body will respond well.

You’re giving your body a reason to keep muscle.


Protein Intake


First of all, you must understand protein is not important as you might think. Ok, sure, it’s the building block of your muscle tissue and it’s responsible for the prevention of atrophy and the mechanism for hypertrophy (growth of size) but the amount that you actually need for all of this to work optimally is much less than you may have previously presumed. Many of the calories you fill with protein would be better spent on carbohydrate and fat intake for your energy levels and hormone regulation.

Protein is hyped up so much so that supplement companies can sell more. Yes, this sounds like some type of conspiracy theory, but think about it.

Below are the concluding remarks from Bayesianbodybuilding.

•   “There is normally no advantage to consuming more than 0.82g/lb (1.8g/kg) of protein per day to preserve or build muscle once you’re past the novice level as a natural trainee. This already includes a markup, since most research finds no more benefits after 0.64 g/lb.”
•    “Optimal protein intake decreases with training. Your body becomes more efficient at preventing protein breakdown resulting from training and less protein is needed for the increasingly smaller amount of muscle that is built after each training session.”

Optimum Nutrition is a really reliable brand sold on Amazon, here’s the link if you wish to buy it.


Intermittent Fasting



Intermittent fasting is also a great way to prevent muscle atrophy. Unlike the other three think of intermittent fasting as the icing on the cake rather than the base. You have business changing your meal timing if you’re protein intake isn’t sufficient or you’re dieting with no planned method.

Intermittent fasting is simply eating within a certain period of time. ‘LeanGains’ is what I recommend – 16 hours fasted and 8 is spent eating.

In 2009 a group of overweight men and women were studied, 32 in total. In the study, these people fasted one day and the next they ate two days worth of food. The result was that the group lost a lot of weight. Generally what one would expect to see is some muscle loss. Surprisingly all of the weight came from fat.

Keep in mind, this was recorded with no active effort to maintain muscle.

So why was it that those who fast intermittently seem to have some magical ability to preserve lean body mass?

With studies like these, there are limitations as the clients used were obese. However because they were putting no effort into training or specific macronutrient ratios, it really does back the argument that intermittent fasting has some role to play, albeit not a fundamental one.

The increase in growth hormone, testosterone and changes in insulin sensitivity effect how the body manipulates lean body mass whilst losing weight.

You can read more about how this works by following this link.

Realistically if you have been training consistently for over 1 year, it is rather difficult to maintain everything.

Take Home Message

Prioritise how fast you diet. Don’t rush, take your time. Random, sudden decreases in caloric intake will result in not so pleasant results.

In terms of training, place emphasis on strength during as this will maintain a baseline of mass on your frame.

Eat the protein your body requires (8- 1g per lbs of bodyweight).

If you have done everything above, intermittent fasting can be a great addition if it suits your lifestyle.






Good Luck,



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