If you want to lose fat and keep muscle mass, you are in the right place. Losing fat and gaining muscle mass is nearly impossible, but losing fat and maintaining muscle mass is honestly not as difficult as you might think.
In fact, taking the proper steps to preserve lean muscle mass while losing weight is the smartest approach for long term body composition optimization, and the best way to ensure future body composition goals.
If you decide to try to burn fat without maintaining as much muscle mass as possible, you will end up reducing your resting metabolic rate (RMR), and it will become difficult to maintain any fat loss program.
With that being said, here is my step-by-step guide that will help you lose fat and keep muscle so that you can get an aesthetic body!
How to Cut Fat and Keep Muscle – The 7 Step Guide
Following these steps is the best way to cut body fat and keep muscle mass, in my opinion:
Step 1: Determine Your Calorie Needs
Generally speaking, a slow rate of weight loss will help you maintain the most muscle mass. Research has indicated that losing about .7% of your body weight per week is the maximum you should aim for to maintain muscle mass as best as possible.
Depending on your current body weight, an ideal goal for most people is losing a bit more than one pound per week. For some people, losing 2 pounds per week is possible and healthy, but losing too much weight too quickly will result in increased lean muscle mass losses.
Determining your caloric needs is the process of calculating your resting metabolic rate, adding in your total calories burned through exercise, and then adding in an estimate of the calories you burn through nonexercise physical activity each day (daily life calorie expenditure).
After that, you will want to subtract 400-500 calories, and set this as your caloric goal. You can lose fat and maintain muscle mass without following a strict calorie counting diet, but it will probably help to do a few calculations towards the beginning of your journey to help yourself estimate how much food you should consume each day.
Step 2: Increase Your Protein Intake
If you want to keep as much muscle mass as possible while losing body fat, the first step you need to take is to increase your protein intake to a minimum of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight, but an ideal target is 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Reduced muscle protein synthesis, increased muscle protein breakdown, or both, is the primary reason for muscle mass loss during weight loss programs (Cava et al., 2017). Therefore, consuming at least 1.2 g/kg of protein per day is the primary step you need to take if you want to burn fat and keep muscle.
Step 3: Organize Your Carbohydrate Intake
Although consuming an increased amount of protein is the primary step you need to make to maintain muscle mass while burning fat, your carbohydrate consumption needs to be both adequate and well-timed for the best results.
Carbohydrate consumption is necessary to restore muscle glycogen stores after training, which is critical for maintaining strength while in a calorie deficit.
An adequate amount of carbohydrate consumption for people who are exercising and looking to maintain muscle mass while burning fat is 5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight per day.
Additionally, I suggest consuming a significant amount of your daily carbohydrates after your training session.
Furthermore, you want to consume carbohydrates that are high in vitamins and minerals. A few of the best carbohydrates you should consume are:
- Sweet Potatoes
If you eat the majority of your carbohydrates for your day as your post-workout meal, you can target your body’s insulin response to help maintain muscle while losing fat, and also promote strength increases.
Step 4: Consume Enough Dietary Fat
Although protein and carbohydrate consumption are more critical to maintaining muscle while burning fat, you need to consume enough dietary fat to maintain overall health and intake enough micronutrients per day.
Eating foods like peanuts, almonds, cashews, and fish, to name a few, is going to make certain that you get your required daily amount.
Personally, as an optimal solution for losing fat and keeping muscle, I suggest a macronutrient intake ratio of 50% protein, 30% carbohydrates, and 20% healthy dietary fats.
Step 5: Consider Intermittent Fasting
If you want to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, I also suggest you try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy that I use, and I suggest it to a lot of my friends and family as well.
Intermittent fasting has multiple forms, but the most commonly used form of intermittent fasting is an 8-hour per day feeding window, along with a 16-hour per day fasting window where you can only consume water or black coffee.
Research has indicated that an intermittent fasting program in which all calories are consumed in an 8-hour window each day, when accompanied by resistance training, can improve health-related biomarkers, decrease fat mass, and maintain muscle mass (Moro et al., 2016).
Intermittent fasting can be very effective, but you still need to stick with the previous three steps as well!
Step 6: Optimize Your Workout Strategy
As you can see, nutrition is key to losing weight and maintaining muscle. However, you are also going to need an appropriate exercise routine to make sure you are maintaining, or even building muscle mass while losing fat.
Weight training is the best form of exercise for people who are looking to lose fat and maintain muscle mass, and there are a variety of workout programs you can follow. If you are relatively new to weight training and don’t know where to start, BodyFit by Bodybuilding.com is a great resource with tons of online workout programs that you can choose from to follow.
If you are already experienced with weight training, BodyFit is still a great option, but a specific workout program I can suggest you to try is German Volume Training.
Regardless of whatever weight training program you choose, you should also include some cardiovascular exercise as well as cardiovascular exercise is necessary for increasing the number of calories you burn per day, improving your overall health, and helping to develop a well-rounded body.
There are many cardio workouts for weight loss that you can do, so you won’t get tired of doing the same workout over and over.
For a combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise, you can do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), such as CrossFit workouts, because HIIT workouts burn calories while also helping promote muscle hypertrophy as well.
For a personalized workout program that will help you maintain muscle and lose fat, please consider contacting me for online personal fitness coaching.
Step 7: Use These Dietary Supplements
Although it is not necessary to use supplements if your diet is well-designed, there are a few supplements that can be very beneficial for you if you are looking to maintain muscle while losing fat.
The main reason a protein powder supplement is beneficial is that it can be difficult to eat enough protein each day to fulfill your protein requirements. Also, a protein powder supplement is a convenient form of protein that you can take directly after working out, or that you can bring with you during your day for any time you need a quick snack.
Personally, I suggest you choose a vegan protein powder supplement. In my opinion, the best vegan protein powder supplement is Nuzest Clean Lean Protein:
- PREMIUM PLANT PROTEIN: Clean Lean Protein is not just any protein; it comes from the highest quality...
- SMOOTH & DELICIOUS: Not chalky, gritty, or pea-y. Our protein is smooth, mild, and delicious. Plus,...
- HIGH PROTEIN: With 18-20 grams of protein per 25-gram serving, less than 2 grams of carbs, and only...
- MADE FOR YOU: No matter if you are vegan, vegetarian, or follow a gluten-free, or ketogenic diet, or...
- IT'S CLEAN: Vegan and free of dairy, soy, gluten, GMOs, gums, lectins, fillers, artificial colors,...
Taking a multivitamin supplement is important for many people who are losing weight because when you are in a calorie deficit, it is possible you are not getting enough total nutrients per day. A well-planned diet based around whole, plant foods will ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals each day, but I do understand this is difficult.
If you believe that you are not obtaining enough nutrients from your diet, and you cannot find ways to include more whole, plant-foods, taking a multivitamin supplement can help you maintain your health while you are losing weight.
My favorite multivitamin is Rainbow Light:
- HIGH POTENCY MEN’S MULTIVITAMIN: Daily multivitamin for men supports immune, bone and brain health...
- SUPPORTS IMMUNE HEALTH: This men’s multivitamin supports immune health as a high-potency source of...
- CLINICALLY PROVEN ABSORPTION: Rainbow Light Men’s One Multivitamin provides clinically proven...
- ORGANIC RAINBOW SUPERFOODS BLEND WITH PROBIOTICS: This daily vitamin is formulated with blends...
- NON-GMO AND VEGETARIAN: This Non-GMO Project Verified, vegetarian men’s daily supplement is...
BCAAs are a controversial supplement in many aspects, but I think they are beneficial for people who are looking to lose fat but keep muscle. BCAAs can be particularly beneficial when taken during your workouts because they can increase muscle protein synthesis, reduce muscle protein degradation, and decrease exercise-induced muscle damage (Shimomura et al., 2004).
My favorite BCAA supplement is Scivation Xtend:
- XTEND BCAA POWDER FOR MEN & WOMEN - The World's Number 1 BCAA Brand has been perfecting recovery...
- SUGAR-FREE BRANCHED CHAIN AMINO ACIDS - Zero sugar, zero calories, and zero carbs in every delicious...
- IMPROVE RECOVERY & HYDRATION - Consume a minimum of 14 grams of BCAAs per day - before, during, and...
- TESTED & TRUSTED BY THIRD PARTIES - NSF Contents Tested & Certified and Informed-Choice Certified...
- DELICIOUS FLAVORS UNLIKE ANYTHING ON THE MARKET - Mango Madness, Rainbow Sherbet, Blue Raspberry...
As an additional option, RSP Nutrition AminoLean is a BCAA supplement that contains additional amino acids, caffeine, and a couple of fat-burning ingredients. Due to that, I believe RSP Nutrition AminoLean is a useful supplement for people looking to lose fat and maintain muscle.
- Pre Workout for Men and Women– 125mg of natural caffeine provides a clean, sustained boost of...
- Natural Amino Energy – Naturally sourced caffeine means AminoLean can be taken any time of day...
- BCAA & EAA Amino Acids – 5g of branched chain amino acids and essential amino acids improve...
- CLA, L-Carnitine, Green Tea – An optimal blend of these 3 key weight management ingredients...
- Keto Friendly, Zero Sugar, Zero Carbs – AminoLean contains zero sugar, carbs, or calories making...
An important supplement for maintaining muscle mass and losing fat CLA. CLA is a fatty acid found in dairy products and safflower oil amongst other places, and it has unique effects that make it very effective for people who are trying to burn fat and keep muscle.
CLA inhibits the production of lipoprotein lipase (LPL), an enzyme that promotes the body to maintain fat stores while in calorie restriction (Botelho et al., 2009). Taking CLA does not directly assist with fat loss, but it allows for fat loss to happen without your body inhibiting the process.
Horbaach CLA is a good option if you are interested in trying it:
- Each serving of our High Potency softgels contains 3000 mg of LeanLok Conjugated Linoleic Acid
- Safflower oil is a non-stimulant and natural source of CLA and rich in unsaturated fatty acids
- Touted for weight management, CLA may be used with your daily exercise and fitness routine*
- With an active lifestyle and healthy diet, CLA can help maintain your weight and provide energy*
- Horbaach's CLA dietary supplement may help support lean muscle enhancement*
If you want to lose fat and maintain muscle, creatine monohydrate can make a huge difference for you.
Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring substance that is found in many of the foods we eat, including red meat and seafood. When people supplement with creatine monohydrate, they are really just consuming larger amounts of something that is already naturally present in their bodies.
Creatine monohydrate works its magic by increasing the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in your body.
ATP is the energy that our muscles use to contract. During an intense workout, the body uses a great deal of ATP, turning it into a bi-product known as adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Creatine monohydrate causes the body to turn much of the ADP back into ATP, the fuel it needs to get through a grueling workout. Continued supplementation leads to increases in power, performance, and skeletal muscle tissue growth.
If you’d like to buy creatine monohydrate for help with losing fat and building muscle, I suggest you try RSP Nutrition creatine monohydrate (the product I use) because it is affordable and effective:
- PURE 100% MICRONIZED CREATINE - Every serving of RSP Nutrition Creatine powder contains 5g of 100%...
- STRENGTH, RECOVERY, & LEAN MUSCLE GAIN - Pure Creatine Monohydrate has been shown to increase...
- MICRONIZED CREATINE FOR ALL AGES - RSP Nutrition Creatine is pharmaceutical grade and optimized for...
- EASY TO MIX AND STACK - RSP Nutrition Creatine is unflavored and easy to mix with your favorite pre...
- SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN - RSP Creatine Monohydrate is one of the purest forms of Creatine you can buy....
There are other supplements that can help you as well, but these are a few of the most important supplements for losing fat and keeping muscle at the same time.
Related Reading: The Best Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
Concluding Thoughts – How to Keep Muscle and Lose Fat
As you can see, there are a few key steps you need to take with your diet to maintain muscle mass while losing fat, but it certainly is not an impossible project. By following the step-by-step guide presented above, I am confident you will get the body you want!
If you’re looking for more info – Skinny2Fit has a wide range of information on diets and nutrition.