How to keep your lean mass when dieting? | Simon Howard Transformations

Ever seen someone ‘off season’ and then the same person after a diet and think, ‘they look so different!?’

Many times when people diet for a photo shoot, holiday, wedding, comp etc they end result is that they lose body fat but also lose a load of muscle mass in the process.

When I last dieted down for my 8 week transformation, not only did I lose almost 10kgs of body fat but I actually gained muscle mass! So, the question is,

‘Why do people get it so wrong?’

If we look at the basic maths behind a regular fat loss plan you will see that the general rule of thumb is to eat less and exercise more. Using a calorie deficit will indeed get your body to burn its own tissue for fuel, after all, it will need to get the energy form somewhere.

By eating less you are, in theory, encouraging your body to ‘tap into its fat stores for energy’. The reality, however, is actually very different but before we address that, there is more to be said of the, ‘eat less, exercise more’ protocol.

So we’ve addressed the eat less (calorie deficit) now what about the ‘exercise more’ part of the equation? Well, its pretty simple, to help create that need for extra calories to be burnt on a daily basis, an increase in demand for calories can be helped along by doing more exercise. The more exercise you do the more calories you burn. (Told you it was simple)

Ok, to recap; create a calorie deficit so that your body does not have enough energy from the food you eat so it has to ‘tap into your fat stores’ to make up the shortfall and increase the calorie requirements even further by doing more exercise thereby demanding more calories than you eat and hey presto, burn body fat.

What is the reality?


The reason people often lose more than just body fat using the whole, ‘eat less, exercise more’ principle is often overlooked. Here is the reality:

When you put a burden on your metabolism by reducing calories and increasing workload you body will, indeed, use some stored body fat to fuel the short fall, but only for a short period of time. After about two weeks your body will realise that this is not sustainable for a long term and start to protect itself by adapting to the lower calorie input by slowing down its metabolism. If the body feels it is starving then it will do all it can to protect itself.

To do this it will look at any tissue that is using calories that it does not see as essential and it will start to break it down and use it for fuel. By doing this, the body can effectively kill two birds with one stone; it can reduce an energy drain it see’s as non essential, thereby saving energy and it can help make up for the energy deficit it is experiencing.

Here is the downside to this self preservation strategy, the tissue the body choses to breakdown and use for fuel is MUSCLE!
Now, here is the other side to this equation – while looking at metabolically expensive tissue to get rid of and thus lower the basic demand on the body for energy, the body also looks at what long term, stored energy reserves it has so that it can preserve them for as long as possible, these, my friend, are FAT stores!

We now have a metabolism that is burning muscle and storing fat so that it can survive this self induced ‘famine’. In addition, as the body slows down the metabolism and yet another way of coping with the reduced calorie intake, the drop in weight on the scales comes to a halt. The usual reaction to the slowing down of weight loss is to increase exercise even more and reduce calories again! As you can see, the problem here is more muscle loss, more fat storage and slower metabolism.

The solution.


A basic re-thinking of your approach is all it takes to avoid losing muscle mass and boost fat burning and it is centred around the same two elements, food and training.

The difference is that this time you use a training system that actually increases muscle mass by systematically using very heavy, low rep resistance training and a nutritional plan that allows you to fuel the muscle growth.

If you are carrying more metabolically active muscle then you will naturally create a bigger need for calories. By creating the need for calories because your body demands it instead of being starved, you will actually burn more fat and increase your metabolism.

The key then, is the right training and nutritional approach to ensure you keep your hard earned muscle mass and lose the fat at the same time, a tough trick to pull off but now you know the principles behind it you will stand a much better chance of realising your goals!

If you feel that a more detailed explanation is needed and want to find out how to train and eat with the goal of more muscle, less fat then check out my book where you can find out the exact way to build muscle and lose fat fast!

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