07: 5 Tips to Maintaining ALL your muscle when you Shred-up
There is no point adding extra muscle and shape to your body in the “Off season”, only to lose half of it when you go through the Cutting or Shredding phase. For those who want to compete, then muscle mass is essential to create the look you are wanting to present. For the majority of people who have no interest in competing and just want to be healthy and strong then muscle is the key to keeping your metabolism chugging along nicely while maintaining a functional/strong body.
No matter who you are, you need to at least maintain your muscle mass for general health reasons. The entire premise of this approach is to take fat of the body without your body noticing! On one hand fat is stored there to be used when needed. On the other hand your body starts to panic when fat is coming off quite rapidly. Most people would already know this through experience when they started a fat loss plan, achieved great results for the first few weeks then plateau.
However, if we are sneaky and gradually drop fat by continually applying these basic rules then we can drop fat while maintaining muscle, energy and our sanity. In no particular order, 5 rules to maintain muscle mass while trimming down
- Give yourself a sensible amount of time. Remember we are trying to stop the body from thinking there is a famine going on. Depending on your overall size, you can drop between 500g to 1kg of fat each week without setting off any metabolic alarm bells. At this rate, if your diet is nutritious and your exercise plan is on point you will most likely lose zero muscle mass. If you want to drop 10kg, give yourself between 10-20 weeks to do it.
- Don’t cut calories too Quickly. From personal experience and dieting 1000+ clients, I would say on average a 10% calorie deficit will allow you to lose fat without too much disruption to your life or your metabolism. Genetically gifted people may bump this percentage up to a 20% deficit (drop in calorie intake plus extra calories burned from added exercise).
- Testosterone needs to out-weigh Cortisol: Generally speaking Testosterone holds muscle mass while excessive cortisol tends to burn muscle for energy (leaving fat to stay put). If cortisol gets too high from excessive exercise, caffeine or stress then it will over power the muscle retaining qualities of your natural Testosterone production (ladies too) and muscle will be sacrificed for energy needs. Losing muscle while staying fat is a motivation sapping experience.
- Don’t burn yourself out with TOO much cardio. This is especially true if you don’t enjoy cardio. Excessive cardio will bump your Cortisol levels up too high. If however cardio makes your heart sing and you feel invigorated and alive after every cardio session then you are probably dumping some pretty positive hormones, endorphins and neurotransmitters into your system. Bottom line is too much is never and good thing and find exercise you really enjoy doing.
- Don’t cut Protein. This is simple maths. If your body needs 200 grams (some people more, some less) a day to maintain your muscle mass with your current lifestyle, if you start dropping calories and some of it is protein then you are going to lose muscle. The actual process is more complex but you get the idea. If you are going to drop calories by 10% then look to fats and carbohydrates as the source.
There are obviously other mistakes people make while attempting to trim up, however these have been in my experience the main factors that determine whether you end up looking and feeling great OR you are an exhausted mess that has lost more muscle than fat. Consistency is the number 1 factor in determining success, one foot in front of the other every day and you will take your body to better health, functionality and the look you desire.