Building muscle takes years of dedication, commitment, knowledge and persistence. When you commit yourself to a cutting diet where the ultimate goal is to get your body fat levels very low, you can sacrifice some of your hard earned muscle. Speaking from experience, I am huge believer that dieting the ‘right’ way can help you sustain muscle, and there are certain steps you can take to help prevent catabolism. Below are 3 of my top tips to hold on to your muscle mass whilst dieting.
Are you a low carber?
There is nothing wrong with restricting carbohydrate intake, or more specifically complex carbohydrates to help accelerate your rate of fat loss. In fact, for many it can be the best way to get ripped. However, I am a huge believer in making sure your post-workout shake and meal contains carbohydrates. If you are going to cut carbs from your diet, make sure you still have them post-training, I cannot emphasise the importance of this! It will help shuttle the proteins full of muscle building amino acids into the muscle cell and it will also help spike your insulin levels which is in fact a very anabolic hormone. At this point of the day the body is in a catabolic stage and is inclined to start breaking muscle tissue down. Taking in carbohydrates at this point along with your protein source will really help counteract this process.
As a rule of thumb, keep your post-workout carbohydrate intake to around 10% of your overall calorie intake, based on the fact that you are eating around 10 calories per pound of body weight for fat loss. For example, a 200lb athlete would want 50g of carbohydrates post-workout, 25g via a shake and 25g via a solid meal.
Protein is king
In this world of heavily packed muscle we live in, it is widely regarded that we need about 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight to effectively repair and build our muscle. However, many people will stick at around 1g of protein or even less, which can be detrimental to your muscle size when you are in a calorie deficit. It is essential when you’re on a calorie restricted diet that you feed your muscles will plenty of muscle friendly amino acids. This means eating at least 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight, with a meal being consumed every 2-3 hours.
Night time snack
It probably isn’t a completely new concept to you, but how many times have you made the effort to feed your muscles through the night? Honestly? Before any of you say interrupting your sleep is not conducive towards your rate of recovery, remember this. If you are drinking at least 1 litre of water for every 50lbs of body weight, and you are sleeping for at least 8 hours each night then you will at some point need to relieve yourself! When you wake up at 3am and make your way to the bath room, it would take very little effort to drink a pre-prepared protein shake and maybe a handful of nuts or even a couple of slices of wholemeal toast for you guys more partial to some carbs.
This means that in all likelihood you are stopping the 8 hour fast your body normally goes through, and as a result your amino acid retention within the muscle is much improved. This really helps promote anabolism, and more importantly prevent the onset of catabolism.
There are 3 very easy steps you can take when you are dieting to help maintain your muscle mass! To prove I walk the walk, in my transformation last year my arms measured exactly the same at the end as they did at the beginning.