How to Maintain Muscle Mass When Dieting

Posted June 10, 2009 in Your Questions 4 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.

Atreyuh wrote:

“Hi Steve,

You have given others such wonderful advice and I was wondering if you could do the same for me.

I am a 5’9″ male weighing approximately 159 right now (use to weigh 168). At 168 I was very muscular but not very lean.

My goal has been to drop bodyfat and get ripped. I have been running alot lately but still lifting heavy. I have lost strength but have slimmed down alot as well.

I am currently consuming around 1500 calories a day, 100 grams carbs, 170 protein, and 50 fat.

My goal is to be shredded or at 7% bodyfat. Am I approaching this the right way? I know diet is 80% of the game.”


First of all, thanks for the kind words. I think it’s great that I can pass on something from my experience, to someone that needs a boost or a change in their training.

I’d say you were doing things right and wouldn’t tell you to change anything if your plan is working, but since you asked I will tell you how I would go about optimizing your current regimen.

To put it simply, you might be eating too few calories as well as wasting time with endurance cardio. Those are the best ways to lose muscle mass and strength.


At your height and weight I’d say you’d be closer to 1800-1900 calories a day rather than 1500. It looks like you could add about 40 grams of healthy fats to your diet to increase fat calories by about 360.

Consider supplementing with flax oil or fish oil to get a healthy amount of Omega-3s.

Keep that protein high and target your carbs around your workouts. Complex carbs before workouts, simple carbs immediately after workouts (within 20 mins), and moderate complex carbs again for the post-workout meal (an hour or two after).

I use Biotest’s Surge for my post-workout drink.

Weight loss might slow down, but that’s because we are focusing more specifically on fat loss and muscle retention.


Swap those ‘running’ sessions out for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) like sprints, heavy circuit training, boxing, kickboxing, martial arts, and odd object lifting. This way you can focus more on cardio that builds muscle instead of cardio that destroys muscle.

If you are lifting 3 times a week, you can probably add 2-3 HIIT sessions per week if you get rid of that endurance cardio.

Consider a 3×5 or 5×5 style full body lifting program that includes squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press. You said you’ve been lifting heavy so keep it up.

That’s all I have to say about that.

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4 Responses to “How to Maintain Muscle Mass When Dieting”

  1. Chandy: First of all, switch to 3 full-body training routines a week. No splits. Second, use HIIT cardio instead of aerobic/endurance cardio. Third, lift heavier weights. How many reps do you do for each exercise? If it’s more than 5 reps, stop. Start using 5 rep sets. If your chest is weak, work on your triceps harder. The fat will come off your chest and love handles if you lose over-all bodyfat, but you have to choose between building muscle/strength, or losing fat. It is hard to accomplish both goals at once.

  2. Hi steve
    man hats of to you you are doing tremendous work by helping people with your experience and invaluable knowledge.Steve i am from India my question is this(i will write the weight in kgs) I am 6ft 1 inch and weigh 83 kgs used to weigh a whopping 96 kgs i started my workout plan 4 months goes my workout plan i do weight training 3 days a week that is a split training routine in which i target 2 group of muscles a day and on the off day i do aerobic muscles have increased in size but not that much i am putting in some serious effort still they are not increasing that much steve i can lift more weight with some muscle group like the triceps but i really struggle with biceps and chest.what should i do i also have fat on my chest area which i hate and really want to get rid off and also the love handles.u know that i am from india so here the eating habits include shallow fried foods. I have totally quit sugar white rice and deep fried foods.steve here the instructor in the gym knows nothing no callipers nothing i eat 4 or 5 times a day i eat 10 boiled a day when i workout steve here is a misconception that whey protein causes kidney damage is it true? Steve as u might have judged by my long comment i seriously need help some one has challenged me to get in great shape till 31 st december plz help me i would be extremely thankful to you god bless.

  3. Awesome Steve! You are totally right! I’ve been doing crazy amounts of endurance cardio! Thanks for your help!

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