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Are You Losing Muscle While Dieting?

How do you recognize the signs of muscle loss?

Everyone knows that losing weight is hard. Changing the way you eat, introducing new workouts, timing your meals, and not skipping the gym – it’s a serious overhaul of your lifestyle. The average person wants to lose fat and gain (or at least maintain) muscle, but what happens is the opposite. People end up losing muscle instead of fat and they have no clue it’s happening. The numbers on the scale are going down, and it’s common to assume that only fat is coming off. Most people aren’t regularly having their bodyfat and lean mass measured during their weight loss efforts.

So, how do you know if you are losing fat or muscle? Without a professional bodyfat measurement, what are other signs of muscle loss?

You have a hard time getting through your workouts.

The first thing you notice is less strength at the gym. The weight you were able to lift before, suddenly becomes too hard. You might not be able to do as many reps as you once did, or you feel like skipping the gym altogether.

You feel tired during the day.

It’s not just the gym that becomes more difficult. Inadequate nutrition and the corresponding muscle loss impairs your energy level throughout the entire day. Recovery from your workouts is just not happening.

Your body fat is not budging.

If you’re losing weight but your body fat percentage looks like it is staying the same – it’s probably a sign you’re losing muscle. Your body is just not taking shape the way you want. You’ll notice shrinking circumferences, but the pinch-able fat is the same. In other words, you start sliding into being skinny fat.

You are losing too much weight.

That’s right, losing too much weight is not something you want. I know you might be pumped to see the numbers go down, but it’s probably not good news for your muscle mass. Plus, losing weight rapidly is usually not sustainable.

Be patient. Weight loss requires a long period of time. You want to aim for losing 1-2 lbs. per week.

Your workouts don’t progress.

It’s hard to push yourself when you are fatigued from inadequate nutrition. If you don’t progress when lifting weights, it could be another sign you are losing muscle. It could also mean you aren’t training heavy enough. Remember,heavy is relative. What is heavy and adequate for one person, might not be for another. People sometimes make the mistake of going way too light on their workouts while dieting. The old adage is true; if you don’t use it, you lose it. In my competitive years, I would usually get stronger when contest dieting. I continued to train heavy but added giant sets and drop sets. This added intensity helped to melt the fat away, while still allowing me to maintain and even gain muscle.

So, what do you do if you notice you are, in fact, losing muscle instead of fat. Reevaluate your diet, and make sure you are not taking it to extremes. Evaluate your workouts also. Keep your food nutrient rich, your workouts intense, and your cardio in balance. Train your body to go for the fat instead of muscle.

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