Learning how to lose muscle while dieting is probably easier than you think. No, really.
All you have to do is train too much and eat too little.
Read on to see exactly what I mean.
I remember the first time I dieted down… It was my freshman year in college, and there was a bet between me and 15 other guys to see who could get the leanest.
First, second, and third place winners would walk away with some cash. I was sold. Show me the money.
The Best Way To Lose Muscle
Most all of us were up for the challenge. We all began training 4-5 days per week with lots of cardio.
Now at the time, I was 19 and could withstand much more mental and physical stress because I was in college, had no job or obligations outside of my studies. Food was taken care of at the mess hall, and I only needed to worry about what I’d be doing on the weekends for fun.
I lost about 30 pounds during a 16 week period but along with a lot of fat, I also lost a good amount of muscle.
I know this for two reasons:
- I lost a good amount of strength on my major lifts (more than 10% reduction in total loads).
- I lost a good amount of size in my upper body and noticed it considerably in how my clothes fit.
My training was comprised of 4-5 days of weight training, and 6 days of cardio. Here’s a sample schedule:
Before Class: 45 minutes to an hour of fasted cardio on the treadmill/elliptical
Breakfast: Lots of egg whites (1-2 yolks) and oatmeal
More Cardio: Lots of walking between classes and the cafeteria (I was eating 5-6 times per day)
After Class: Hit the gym and do a high rep body part split (not optimal)
Dinner: no carbs after 7 pm, because I thought it’d make me fat
Bedtime: never at a decent hour (then wake up and do it all over again)
While my diet was probably high enough in protein to prevent major muscle loss, my deficit was pretty big due to the activity, and I didn’t rest as much as I could.
When this happens, stress hormones are HIGH. Things like cortisol and adrenaline will spike and the healthy hormones like thyroid (T3, T4) and testosterone will plummet.
I found myself irritable, tired, and frustrated a lot, but I had a goal.
I wanted to get lean for the first time in my life and win this contest.
First of all, I was doing way too much training volume for the amount of food I was eating.
My training sessions were longer than an hour each day, and exhaustion was high. I’d fall asleep in class often and sometimes miss due to just staying in my dorm.
My overall training loads was over 15 hours per week if you count the cardio and weight training sessions.
Learning How To Lose Muscle Netted Me 300 Bucks
In about 16 weeks, I lost 30 pounds (both fat and muscle), got 2nd place in the best body competition and was PUMPED about my results.
However, it wasn’t the best way to go about losing body fat at all. It cost me strength gains, muscle gains, and I built up a lot of neuroses about food and training.
It took me a good few years to snap out of all this behavior because I was afraid I’d lose my abs, and get fat again.
But I learned a lot in this process: mostly how not to go about losing fat, and I learned a lot about how to lose muscle on a diet.
I also learned how to run for long distances (many times over 5 miles a session). I actually hated running, but thought it was the only way to lose body fat.
About a year later, I eventually found a mentor who took over my training and diet-related activities and coached me to a bigger, thicker version of myself.
How To Lose Muscle Checklist:
- Drop your protein intake to third-world levels. Less than 30g per day should work wonders.
- Increase your cardio training output to running for long distances every day.
- Sleep less than 8 hours per night.
- Fast for long periods of time (alternate day fasts would work wonders here).
- Weight train with a TON of volume — much like what you’ll find in the bodybuilding magazines.
- Always push your training to failure, and exhaust your nervous system.
WARNING: You Don’t Really Want To Lose Muscle
- Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories at rest.
- Muscle tissue is protective of your joints, internal organs and other tissues.
- Muscle helps you maintain better posture.
- Muscle gives your body shape, and to many people, is more aesthetically appealing.
If you purposefully lose muscle through hard dieting and training, you can cause your body more stress than necessary, and even hurt your thyroid (master hormone that affects metabolism).
Instead of trying to purposefully lose muscle, it’s better to aim to lose body fat through proper diet and training methods.
- No starvation diets.
- No overly excessive training schedules that zap your energy.
- No unsafe supplements or fad diets that hurt your body.
Here’s what you could do instead.
Learn how to train properly for fat loss. You can check out which workout plan is right for you.
If you have questions about fat loss, we’ve answered a lot of those questions in this article: how to lose weight.
Remember to make sure you eat well to fuel your training. This pre-workout meal guide can help.
And lastly… learn the truth about the best exercise to lose weight.