Q: I play recreational sports and would like to lose 20 pounds, but I’m worried I’ll lose strength and muscle if I start a weight loss plan. Can I lose weight without sacrificing strength and muscle size?
A: Absolutely. The key is to work on a fat loss program that burns excess fat, but spares muscle. To do that, you’ll need to take a longer term approach, allowing 10-20 weeks to lose the 20 pounds (1-2 pounds per week).
The best plan we’ve seen involves two strength days where you are working on maintaining strength and muscle (actually, we’re trying to build strength and muscle but this can be hard when dieting), two metabolic days and two recovery days.
The metabolic days can consist of interval training, or metabolic circuits (using the TRX, kettlebells, and bodyweight) or a combination of both. Essentially it’s a fast-paced, cardiovascular-demanding session working the entire body with multiple exercises and angles.
Recovery days involve lower intensity aerobic work—just to burn some excess calories and get the blood flowing—followed by some simple stretching and foam rolling to recharge the body.
Of course all of this is for naught if you don’t have a solid nutrition plan in place. Basic rules include eating 5-6 meals a day (every 3 hours), with a lean protein and a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Keep the starches low (2-4 servings per day) ideally for breakfast and post-workout only. (Click here for 10 rules of healthy eating.)
Put it all together and look for slow results.
As we stated earlier, 1-2 pounds a week is all we’re looking for. Any more than that and you’ll risk losing your hard-earned muscle and feeling a little weaker and slower on the field or court.
Alwyn Cosgrove is renowned for his fat loss training programs and for being a dynamic and educational speaker. He’s the owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California and the author of The New Rules of Lifting. Learn more at AlwynCosgrove.com.