Lose fat without losing muscle by doing heavy strength training and getting the right dose of protein. A serious problem for athletes who need to lose body fat is a simultaneous loss of muscle, which can lead to impaired performance. There are a few proven training and dietary methods that will allow you to avoid this.
A study presented at the 8th International Conference on Strength Training in Norway attempted to identify the ideal dose of energy restriction so as not to compromise strength and power output in athletes. The study had elite athletes reduce their energy intake by either 500 or 1,000 calories a day in order to lose 5 percent of their body weight.
Results showed that it took athletes three weeks longer to lose the fat when they restricted energy by 500 calories/day than when they restricted it by 1,000 calories/day, but the greater daily energy intake allowed them to gain 2.1 percent muscle mass at the same time. The group that restricted calories by 1,000/day lost 5 percent of body weight in 5 weeks and lost a small 0.2 kg of muscle.
Both groups did a heavy weight-training program in conjunction with regular sport training. The group that reduced calories by 500/day (the slow reduction group) had a much better body composition and performed better on strength and power tests than the “fast” reduction group.
The slow reduction group improved their countermovement jump performance by 7 percent, increased squat 1 RM by 12 percent, and lifted an average of 11.4 percent more on upper body strength and power tests than the fast reduction group.
The fast reduction group did not improve jump height and only increased squat 1RM by 8 percent and upper body performance by 5 percent.
Here are key take aways for optimizing body composition and performance:
Always include heavy strength training in your program when cutting calories in order to maintain lean muscle mass.
Aim for a body fat loss of about 0.7 percent per week. Greater energy reduction will lead to poorer performance and may cause muscle loss.
Avoid burning calories with endurance exercise because it will lead to significant muscle loss, especially if done in the absence of heavy strength training.