You spend a lot of time focussing on bulking up and cutting fat, but how often do you think about muscle retention?
Retaining your muscle gains while shedding unwanted fat is the centerpiece of any long term workout plan, but is something this is often not given enough consideration as it deserves.
So what exactly is muscle retention?
It is simply about retaining your existing muscle so you can continue to go forwards with your gains, and it depends on a whole lot of factors including your workouts, your rest, your nutrition, and your supplement use.
Reducing body fat with the goal of revealing deeper cuts and a more ripped physique without losing your muscle gains involves not only incorporating fat burning exercises into your training, but continuing with strength training so that your anabolic hormones remain at an ideal level and thus, your muscle retention is maximized.
Why Muscle Retention?
When you’re cutting or burning fat, your goal is to drop fat (weight) from certain parts of your body. Doing this at the same time as trying to build and retain muscle is one of the biggest challenges we face; after all, to lose fat you need to burn more calorie than you take in, while to gain muscle you need to be consuming more calories!
Striking a balance between cutting fat without losing muscle is what muscle retention is all about. You want to get lean, but you don’t want to lose those hard earned lean muscle gains.
How do you retain muscle?
Take these strategies into consideration when planning your workouts, your nutrition and your recovery while you’re trying to lose fat and retain muscle mass.
1. Monitor Your Carbs Intake
This seems obvious, but when you’re cutting and/or just trying to retain muscle, carbs can make or break your results. It’s not just the what when it comes to carbohydrates either; the when is just as important. Eating carb rich foods when you don’t actually need them is going to result in stored fat and thus, poor muscle retention.
In short, only eat carbs when you know you’ll be using them for energy and burning them off. That generally means first thing in the morning, and before and following a workout.
This strategy helps you use carbs to get you going at the day’s beginning, then gives you fuel for your workout and your post-workout recovery – without risking them being stored as fat. Carbs high in fiber are the best choice here.
As you can see, your diet plays a huge role in muscle retention. So don’t make the mistake of neglecting that aspect while giving all your attention to your workouts, otherwise muscle retention will become a real struggle.
2. Keep Weight Training
Just because you might be trying to eliminate those unwanted fat stores, it doesn’t mean going crazy with cardio everyday. Keeping up resistance training is just as important because its your weight training that is going to continue the processes in the body that result in holding on to your lean muscle; if the body has no reason to retain muscle, it will be burnt up.
Continuing regular weights training (three times per week at least) also retains your bone strength, not to mention that building muscle always helps you to shed that fat faster.
Supplements for Muscle Retention
Stopping the catabolism of muscle tissue can be significantly helped by taking high quality, relevant supplements. Catabolism is simply the breaking down of muscles, and is the opposite of muscle retention.
So which supplements are going to be useful in promoting retention of muscle mass? Supplements that help to stimulate protein synthesis will want to be your main focus and these include amino acid based supplements.
This amino acid makes up well over half your skeletal muscle and it’s vital for the process of protein synthesis and the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH). Glutamine reduces after your workout so a quality glutamine supplement is near the top of the list for muscle retention.
By contributing both to fat burning and to increasing your muscle capacity during workouts, arginine can work in conjunction with glutamine to use the fat as fuel that glutamine helps prevent your body storing.
This helps prevent your muscle tissue being used as fuel; which is what you never want to happen when you’re trying to retain muscle. This is also a good reason why you’ll usually see glutamine and arginine together in the same supplement.
Editor’s Note: Our #1 rated supplement for lean muscle retention is Clenbutrol (full review here).
There are many other supplements available that help contribute to muscle retention, but as long as you have your workout, nutrition and recovery plans down, a quality supplement or two can build upon encouraging protein synthesis, enhancing recovery and ultimately: helping you retain your hard earned muscle.