How Can I Lose Muscle Mass on Purpose?

Posted January 22, 2009 in Your Questions 10 Comments »
Your Questions
Your Questions

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

From now on I want to take a more proactive approach to answering Your Health Questions by posting them separately in the blog. This way we can be sure that everyone benefits from the Q & A.

Chris wrote:

“I have what some might think a very unusual issue with my weight. I’m a 34 man , I’m 6’3, and I weigh almost 220 lbs. and I have always been very muscular. I have not lifted a weight in almost 13 years, and my body looks like I’m a football player. I’ve done some research on how to lose muscle, and what I’m finding is that I should cut down on protein and load up on carbohydrates. I’m either playing basketball or doing yoga almost 5-6 days a week, so I am very active. I’ve even toyed with the idea of becoming a vegetarian and cutting meat proteins completely out of my diet just to rid of some of the muscle I have. Is this problem common, and what should I do. I can’t imagine not eating a steak or chicken any longer, but if that’s what I have to do then so be it. What would you advise.”


At 6’3″ weighing 220 lbs does not sound overly muscular to me. I’m not quite sure why you would want to do this, but I’ll tell you what I think. Of course I don’t know what your bodyfat is, how much muscle mass you have, or how much you want to lose. I will assume you are about 12% bodyfat and you want to lose 10 lbs of muscle. This can probably be accomplished in 3 months.

Too Much Muscle
Too Much Muscle

As usual, your diet is responsible for 80% of the changes to your body composition. Cutting down on protein could be part of the answer, but “loading up on carbs” is definitely NOT. Please do not do this to yourself unless you plan to eat 90% of your carbs as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.

Chowing down on cereal, bread, and pasta will not be good for your body in the long run. I would much rather see you increase healthy fats, keep carbs normal, and decrease protein.

Cutting down on overall calories is definitely going to part of the focus of your new diet. At 220 lbs, your daily maintenance calorie intake is about 2860 calories a day. You should bring this down to about 2500 to start with.

Protein Intake

I estimate that your protien intake should not go above 125 g a day. That’s about 500 calories a day from protein, or 20% of your diet. These protein sources should come from lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans & rice, and whole grain products.

Carbohydrate Intake

I estimate that your carbohydrate intake can be average, probably about 250 g a day. That’s about 1000 calories a day from carbs, or about 40% of your diet. The important thing is to avoid sugars, and any other carbs that are not either whole grain, fruit, vegetable, or any other fiber. I just get concerned when you say “load up on the carbs”; I would want you to do it right.

Do not eat carbs before your workouts! We want to force your body to breakdown muscle tissue and protein for energy, which will happen after glucose (carbs) is depleted, but before fat. A great carb meal for breakfast is oatmeal with honey, a piece of fruit, and a glass of 1% milk, or maybe 2% for you.

Fat Intake

The rest of your diet should come from fats, but not just any fats: healthy fats. You will want to eat about 110 grams of fat each day, which is about 1000 calories, or 40% of your diet. I want you to use either a fish oil or flax oil supplement in order to boost your Omega-3s in order to keep your body healthy while you are in a hypocaloric state attempting to burn muscle mass for energy. You should be getting between 30-40 grams of fat a day just from the oil supplements.

Meat, as long as it is on the lean side, can include such foods as ground beef and pork, but I would prefer that most of your fats are not saturated or trans-fats. Instead you should stick with eggs, oils, and lean meats. I think you will find that a staple of your diet will be salad with an olive/flax oil and vinegar dressing. Or just use whatever low carb/low sugar dressing you want, but add 1-2 tbsp of flax to it.

For fish oil, I recommend a product that I am just about to try called recoup|90.

For flax oil, you can probably find a good product at your local grocery store, especially if they have an organic foods section.


Stick to your regimen of basketball and yoga. Any exercise you do should be highly cardiovascular. If you wanted to start weight lifting again you should stick to 50+ rep sets. Jump rope. Jog. Ride a bike. Just don’t do sprints as this will cause hypertrophy.


Important: one very important aspect you should keep in mind, is to decrease total calories if you are not losing the weight you want to lose. If you are not burning up muscle, decrease your calories by 100 for each week until the muscle starts melting off to the tune of 1-2 lbs per week.

Chances are by doing this you might end up getting really lean, but we are focusing on breaking down type 2 muscle tissue rather than preserving it. If you decide you are getting too lean, please try to decrease your protein intake by 5% along with the calories.

That’s about as detailed as I can get with you, short of working with you as a personal trainer and nutritionist.

As usual if you take my advice I am not responsible for anything that happens to you. I am not a physician, nor am I even a certified PT or nutritionist any longer. Do not use my advice in place of the advice of a medical professional, e.g. consult your doctor first.

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10 Responses to “How Can I Lose Muscle Mass on Purpose?”

  1. Hi guys, I was wondering if you could help me with a little problem. I’m 15, 5’10” and 139 pounds. When I started high school this year I was 128 lb, but started I to build muscle to look better. I’ve gained almost 12 of muscle but don’t look it. Most people say I look 115, But I hate getting on the scale and seeing those numbers, partially due to the fact that I weighed the same at my most overweight and worked hard to get down to 128. When I compare myself to kids 20 or 30 pounds heavier than me, my arms and thighs are the same size. Can anyone tell me how to loose all of the muscle weight?

    • I don’t understand the question. You weigh 139 and you want to “loose” (lose) muscle mass? I don’t get it, sorry.

  2. A man always find his 2middle” road and not over do it. too much muscule dosnt look nice, except maybe if you are geting ready for bodybuilding preformance. Just keep it right and yu wil be right.

  3. […] site I looked at, Project Swole, recommended a 20-40-60 intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats respectively.  20% of your diet […]

  4. Chris, I sympathize with your dilemma, because I share it. I am a 49-year man, height of 5’10” and weight of 210lbs. I do need to lose some body fat, but my main problem is being too muscular. Despite being average height, I wear XXL or XL shirts because my shoulders and back are simply too large for something smaller. If this sounds like a high-class problem to have, in some ways maybe it is, but I really want to drop 20-30 lbs. if possible. My mobility, flexibility and over-all-athleticism suffer at this weight and size, despite my being stronger in absolute terms than at a lower weight.

    My diet is probably the culprit but I have identified one other: hypertrophy due to 2-3 very high-intensity martial arts workouts/week. Nothing has ever made my muscles respond so dramatically. Sustained martial arts training engages fast-twitch muscle fibers big-time, and my reflexes are at or near the best they have ever been. As a younger man, I used to lift weights 3-4/week, but never experienced anything like this. I need to do only maintenance weight work now, 1-2x/week, tops.

    I have a couple of friends who are trying to gain weight like mad; I tell them eat a diet rich in protein and healthy fats, and do high-intensity martial arts and weights/p90X, and you’ll grow. Me, I just wish I could get smaller again. As a younger man, I couldn’t put on muscle mass to save my life; now I can’t stop doing it! What gives??

    Suggestions, anyone? I know I need to change my diet, and start pounding the cardio more, but not sure of the specifics.

    Please feel free to e-mail me, I’d be grateful for advice from others who have overcome this problem or dealt with it in some manner before.

  5. Just stay still for at least 5 hours non-stop every day. Do not perform any intensive physical activities. Do not walk too much. Eat light meals. After three days your heart will slow down and it wont be pumping enough blood into your muscle to keep its present mass. Muscle will start to shrink. Simple and very effective solution but it can be difficult to carry out. You need a lot of patience to stay still. Just watch movies or play with your laptop. It worked for me when I needed to lose muscle. I had too much and it was making me feel stiff. I felt like in suit of armor. Now my body is flexible again but it took many hours of laying down on my sofa.

  6. I guess I am in the same boat as the other who posted above. I’m 5’7 weigh 135 pounds and need to know how to lose muscle. I would go by your advice already implemented but our stats are different so I was wondering if you would be able to help. I built a lot of muscle but my deltoid muscles are being stubborn since they’re more “bulk” muscle. All of my other muscle has shrunk and I am stumped as to why my deltoids/ shoulder muscle won’t. Perhaps I built the wrong kind of muscle. Someone told me to starve so I’ve been doing that by only consuming 10 calories a day and taking 4 diet pills throughout the day. But this starving thing makes me feel horrible. Other people have told me that I need to get my BMI below the normal level for my age and height and then the muscle will start to go. I’m not sure how to tackle this issue without starving to melt off the muscle. So was wondering if you could give me information having given my weight and height. I would appreciate it very much. Thanks.

    • Do not go below your BMI!! This would work but its very harmful. Just stay still in bed for at least 5 hours non-stop every day. Go to bed early, get up late. Be physlically lazy. You will start loosing muscle after first 3 days. I did that. It worked.

  7. wow…this is actually really helpfull. i’m definitly coming back to this site to check out what else you guys have for tips and advice!

  8. my name is jerome hamilton i am 37yrs old and i have been trying 2 build muscle or gain some weight whatever you want 2 call but it haven’t been happening i think because i am a type one diabetic i have try everything from using the iron gym the perfect push up pros my own weight bench things haven’t been happening because of my diabetes can you give me some advice before i end i don’t eat red meat no pork

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