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Prevent muscle loss while dieting

19th November 2014
protein diet


Dieting is often perceived as the fastest and most accessible solution not only for quick weight loss but also for long-term weight maintenance. While it’s true that watching the calorie intake and eating mostly healthy foods can help in preventing the accumulation of excess pounds, it’s also true that a normal body weight value doesn’t always guarantee the best health state.

Having strong bones and muscles is just as important as maintaining a normal body weight, and the bad news is that dieting can severely impact the musculoskeletal system, making one more prone to a series of health issues. The risk of muscle and bone loss or weakening is greater in people who don’t get sufficient amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals from food, so if you’re trying to lose some extra pounds, it’s crucial to keep these aspects in mind.

You can create a caloric deficit and lose weight in a healthy manner by exercising more or switching to more intense workouts, and by removing the unhealthy foods from your menu, as junk products, fast food, sweets and fried foods are the richest in calories and contribute to weight gain. A diet that’s too restrictive and eliminates too many foods or groups of food is very likely to contribute to the weakening of bones and to muscle loss.


The human organism burns glucose as main fuel, but when the reservoirs are depleted, it moves to burning fat and protein. This means that if you exercise constantly and follow a restrictive, low-calorie diet, you can actually encourage the muscle loss process instead of preventing it. There are several factors that can contribute to muscle loss, and some of them can’t be influenced – age for example, but some can be controlled (diet, sleep schedule).

To lose weight and keep your muscles healthy at the same time, you need to:
– create a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you eat
– eat enough protein for facilitating muscle recovery and growth
– make sure you satisfy your body’s daily needs of nutrients (protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals)

If your body needs 1,800 kcal per day to function properly (basal metabolism), you should eat that amount of food and burn some calories through exercise in order to lose weight, not reduce the intake to 1,300 kcal. And now let’s see which foods that are the most effective in preventing muscle loss.

Foods you should eat to prevent muscle loss


Foods rich in protein are your best allies for preventing the loss of muscle mass, and you should aim for 46 grams of protein per day if you’re a woman, or 56 grams of protein per day if you’re a man. However if you exercise regularly and do intense workouts, you can increase the protein intake to 35% of your daily calories, but it’s generally not recommended to exceed that amount.

Good sources of protein include meat like chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork, fish, seafood, low-fat dairy products such as cream cheese or cottage cheese, egg whites, yogurt. Lamb, lean ham, veal, liver, beans, lentils, soy, chickpeas, tofu, tempeh, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, peanut butter, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are all good sources of protein.

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