Preventing Muscle Loss To Burn Fat

It is thought by many that you can eat less and move more to get to that leaner physique.  Seems simple right?  Well sorta.  As we get beyond our late 20’s and into our 30’s, we begin to lose close to 5% muscle mass every 10 years. Muscular atrophy due to age, known as sarcopenia, is just one way we lose muscle. Since our muscle mass regulates our metabolism, it is vital to maintain and maybe build muscle if you want to drop that body fat for good.  Are you doing what it takes to maintain muscle and avoiding habits that can lead to atrophy?

Here are some tips to help you maximize your fitness regime:  

  1. Hours of cardio.  Getting a good sweat on is definitely part of a healthy lifestyle.  Unfortunately,  many people over do it on how much cardio they get in.  What many don’t know is that a very lengthy cardio session can deplete your glycogen reserves and start to tap into your muscle for energy. We want to keep our muscle, not lose it.  Cardio 3x per week for 30 to 45 minutes is sufficient enough to help aid in fat loss.  Turn up the intensity by integrating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your cardio routine.Fat Loss 
  2. Avoiding the weight room.  Please don’t try to convince yourself that using the 5 pound dumbells for arm curls is heavy unless you are a beginner.  I promise you that your purse or gym bag has you lifting more than that.  Once you can do 12 to 15 reps with good form, it is time to reach for something heavier.  If we can lose muscle as we age, then we need to maintain and build it with strength training. Building lean muscle burns fat.  Period. 
  3. Skipping meals and/or not eating enough.  As a trainer, I have come across those trying to lose weight by reducing their caloric intake to very low levels.  Men and women should consume no less than 1500kcal and 1200kcal respectively.  When your body is not fed enough energy, it starts to use muscle for energy (like in #1) and conserve fat.  This will lead to muscle and metabolic loss.  Increasing the nutrient density of what you eat can better serve your body to reach your goals and increase energy.  Focus on having half of your meals comprised of veggies, a quarter protein and the remaining split between healthy fats and carbs to increase nutrient density, energy and build muscle. 
  4. Night night.  Do you get the recommended amount of sleep?  With a demanding schedule it can be a challenge to get in the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.  The benefits of getting this good quality sleep is that the body releases human growth hormone (HGH) during the deep stages of your sleep cycle.  HGH is responsible for muscle repair and growth.  The less sleep you get, the less time your body has to reward you for your hard work in the gym.  Try to get a routine down so you hit the sack at a reasonable hour. 
  5.  Cheers.  A glass of red wine can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.  Just not right after getting in a good sweat.  That 30 minute window after a workout is when your muscles are most susceptible to protein absorption.  So sip on water during your workout and chug down that protein shake when you are finished before you hit the bottle.

Do you have any other tips you use with your clients? Share them in the comments!


Christine Oakes is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Health Coach, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist and 200RYT certified yoga instructor . She currently operates her own fitness company offering personal training, bootcamp and yoga classes in the Mountain View, CA area. Christine has had a love for being active since childhood and believes that true fitness comes from a balance of strength, nutrition, flexibility and a dose of fun. Learn more about Christine at