Preserving Muscle When Trying to Lose Weight

Preserving Muscle When Trying to Lose Weight

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On a weight loss journey? Follow these tips to help maintain muscle while losing weight.

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MAY 10, 2024   

Key Takeaways

• Muscle matters. It helps support your daily activities, movement and energy metabolism.
• During weight loss, it’s common that muscle mass is lost, too.
• Getting plenty of protein can help preserve muscle when losing weight.

What do you think of when you think of muscle? Muscle may be more powerful than you realize. You probably know that muscle is essential for strength, mobility and posture, but did you know your muscles also play an important role in other functions?

  • Your muscles are a multitasking marvel. Your muscles aren't just there for flexing; they influence your metabolic, hormonal and cardiovascular health, contributing to your overall well-being.
  • Muscles support a healthy metabolism. Muscles are metabolically active tissues, meaning they require energy even at rest. By having more lean muscle mass, your body burns more calories throughout the day.
  • Muscles support immune health. You may not realize muscles play a part in immune health. Giving your muscles adequate rest can help your body recover.

So what happens to muscle when you are trying to lose weight?

Weight loss can be tough on muscle — research shows 25% of weight loss may actually come from muscle.1,2  It turns out that when you reduce calories to lose weight, your body turns in part to the protein and glycogen stored in your muscles for some of the energy that isn’t coming from food. The result is that you can experience a decrease in muscle mass.

How can you protect muscle while losing weight? Here's what you need to know. 

The Power of Protein

When it comes to preserving muscle while trying to lose weight, there’s another powerhouse that can help as you work toward your goals: protein. Getting adequate protein can help preserve muscle while losing weight and helps support maintenance of that weight loss. 

But how much protein do you need? The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram, which is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Your needs may differ based on your medical history, activity level or other factors.

When you’re trying to lose weight, every bite counts. Good nutrition, including protein, is critical to supporting muscle during weight loss. Working with a registered dietitian or your healthcare provider can ensure you know how much protein you need and get expert advice on how to get it."

Dominique Williams, MD, MPH, medical director and obesity specialist at Abbott.

Here are four tips to help you make smart protein choices while pursuing your weight loss goals.

1. Incorporate Protein at Each Meal

Proteins are made up of a variety of amino acids in the body. Of the 20 amino acids, nine are considered essential because the body can't make them, so they must come from food. Complete proteins have all the essential amino acids, while incomplete proteins lack one or more. Animal foods like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy are complete proteins, while most plant-based proteins, except for a few exceptions like soy, are incomplete and need to be combined with other protein sources throughout the day.

Aim to incorporate a source of protein at every meal or snack throughout the day. By spacing out your protein intake throughout the day, it can be easier to meet your overall daily goals.

You can get protein from both animal and plant-based sources, for example:

  • 1 cup of cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein.
  • 1 large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein.
  • 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast contains 25 grams of protein.
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein.
  • 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein.
  • 3 ounces of tofu contains 8 grams of protein.

In need of some inspiration? Check out this list of 8 Protein-Inspired Breakfast and Snack Ideas.

2. Plan for Convenience

Let’s face it, sometimes meeting your protein needs can feel like a challenge. If you’re on the go often, you don’t always have the time to prepare a meal that includes high-quality protein. That’s where convenience items like PROTALITY™ nutrition shakes come in handy.

PROTALITY nutrition shake provides nutritional support during weight loss with nutrients to support muscle health. PROTALITY provides 30 grams of high-quality protein, including nine essential amino acids to help preserve muscle mass. PROTALITY also provides 25 vitamins and minerals, including essential B vitamins to support protein and energy metabolism. 

3. Spread Out Your Protein Throughout the Day

Protein takes longer to digest than other nutrients, which is why it’s so filling. That can make it a challenge to try to fit in large amounts of protein at one sitting if you’re falling behind on your daily goal. Try spacing out your protein intake throughout the day by incorporating a good source of protein into each meal and snack. A general guideline is to aim for at least 20 to 25 grams of protein in each meal and/or snack.

4. Experiment With Different Recipes

It can be easy to fall into a routine and eat the same meal and snacks every day. However, to prevent boredom and ensure you are getting what your body needs, try experimenting with different recipes. Even small tweaks to traditional favorites can be an easy way to boost protein intake while adding flavor and variety. For instance, add a tablespoon of chia seeds to a smoothie or stir some unsweetened Greek yogurt into pancake batter for a protein-packed, fluffy breakfast meal. These small changes can make it easier to meet your daily protein goals.

Keep an Eye on Your Long-Term Goals

Even if your goal is to lose weight, continue taking steps that will help you not only reach that goal but make it sustainable, too. In addition to getting enough protein, other steps you take, like practicing some self-care, increasing daily movement or challenging yourself to try a new activity are an important part of your journey. By setting yourself up with a good foundation — including giving yourself quality nutrition that delivers adequate protein — you can reach your overall goals.

Work with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to understand what your body needs and create a plan that helps you meet your daily nutrition and protein needs and create healthy habits that will support long-term weight maintenance.

Healthy Foods to Eat Every Day: 365 Days of Nutrition

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Healthy Foods to Eat Every Day: 365 Days of Nutrition


Key Takeaways

• It's important to eat a well-rounded diet that consists of a variety of nutrient-dense foods.
• Small, incremental changes can make a big difference to your health over time.
• Turning your short-term goals into a long-term lifestyle takes time.

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What Are Protein-Rich Foods? 8 Protein-Inspired Meal and Snack Ideas

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A skillet with protein-rich eggs in tomato sauce.


Key Takeaways

• Protein helps maintain muscle and support weight loss maintenance.
• Aim for about 25-30 grams of protein per meal.
• Choose protein-rich foods for meals and snacks to help meet your daily protein needs.

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