Keep Your Muscle While Losing Fat

When people start to exercise because they want lose weight, they generally have a goal of changing their body shape. That means that simply losing weight is less than important than losing body fat. So, working for physique change is less about what the scale reads than what the mirror shows.

Opinions differ on what constitutes an appealing physique, but a lean, somewhat muscular look is generally considered pleasing. Keeping muscle while reducing body fat is not only important to obtain this look, it supports progress by preserving metabolism.

Keep Your Muscle

Muscle contributes substantially to resting metabolic rate, or the energy used by the body while at rest. Shedding body fat requires reducing calorie intake, which by itself can slow resting metabolic rate and result in muscle loss. The body needs a reason to preserve muscle, or it will lose some along with body fat. This works against optimal physique change. So, working to keep muscle should be a high priority to keep the metabolic motor running.

Lift Weights

Because the body responds to demands placed on it, we can “trick” it into doing what we want. One stimulus that signals the body to keep its muscle is strength training. Challenging muscles to produce force prompts the body to hold onto them because there is a need. If we never challenge muscles, they tend to waste away. If you’ve ever had an injury that prevented you from moving an arm or leg for several weeks, you probably have seen the difference in the injured versus non-injured sides upon returning to using the limb.

A full body approach to strength training will fit the needs of most people. Choose exercises that work lots of muscle at the same time and challenge yourself with weight loads heavy enough so you can’t do more than 8-10 repetitions in good form. For example, a Kettlebell Stiff Legged Deadlift, which works the muscles of the back of the legs, hips, core, back and shoulders:

Or a Pushup, which works muscles in the chest, shoulders, arms and core:

Physique change takes persistent work and habits that may not be easy for some to master. Why make changes and do the work to potentially be unhappy with the result? Include 2-3 days of strength training in your weekly routine and keep your muscle!


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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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