When people lose weight, they usually lose muscle as well. Sometimes a lot of it. But this could be minimized or even prevented completely. Here is what we know about how to avoid losing muscle when dieting:
- Have a moderate caloric intake deficit. About 300 to 500 calories under maintenance usually prevents the muscle loss that’s associated with the more extreme deficits.
- Lift weights or do some kind of resistance training while you are dieting. This will make your body think, “Hey, I have to use those muscles. Better hang on to them.”
- Consume a lot of protein. Getting close to one gram per pound of body weight works best for most people needing to lose 10 or 20 pounds.
Now, a recent study has added another thing to the muscle-retention guide: get adequate amounts of sleep. Not getting enough sleep while you’re on a diet could cause a surprising amount of muscle loss. Here is why and what you can do about it.
Researchers took 10 people who were overweight and put all of them on the same reduced-calorie diet that lasted two weeks. They were divided up into two groups:
- Group 1 could sleep 8.5 hours each night.
- Group 2 could sleep only 5.5 hours each night.
- Group 1, who was able to get a good night’s sleep each night, lost around 3 pounds of fat and lost a little over 3 pounds of muscle. That wasn’t great, but it was much worse for group 2.
- Group 2, the sleep deprived group, lost only about 1 pound of fat and had lost over 5 pounds of muscle! That means that they lost 60% more muscle and 55% less fat than the first group that got sufficient sleep.
Why Did This Happen?
Well, first, they did not lift any weights or eat sufficient amounts of protein, but the researchers were also focused on other things.
Basically, those who were sleep deprived could not put their dietary carbs and fats to work, they experienced a higher neuroendocrine adaptation to calorie restriction, and that made them burn less fat and even more muscle.
What This Means to You
You probably eat enough protein and lift weights. But how is your sleep? Although you are somewhat protected from losing muscle, insufficient sleep might still make you lose a lot of muscle when you start trying to get ripped.
In this study, both of these groups received the same number of calories, yet the sleep deprived group had lost less fat and more muscle. We can only assume the same thing would occur with active, protein-eating people, just to a lesser extent.