Research: Five strategies to protect muscle mass while dieting.


Research proven methods to protect muscle mass during weight loss.

Lifting Weights

Lifting Weights

Obesity is having a significant impact on the world’s health and financial stability.  It is associated with increased risk for multiple cardiometabolic diseases to include diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease.  Weight loss or dieting is the cornerstone of therapy for people with obesity because it can resolve the metabolic risk factors for these illnesses.  One of the significant problems with dieting to lose weight is muscle loss.  If you could protect the muscle while still losing fat, the retained muscle mass would preserve your metabolism.  

In 2017, a review was released that looked at this very question[1].  The objective of the review was to provide an overview of what is known about weight-loss–induced muscle loss and its implications for overall physical function.  The researchers found that:

  1. Compared with persons with normal weight, those with obesity have more muscle mass but poor muscle quality 
  2. Diet-induced weight loss reduces muscle mass without adversely affecting muscle strength
  3. Weight loss improves global physical function, most likely because of reduced fat mass
  4. High protein intake helps preserve the lean body and muscle mass during weight loss but does not improve muscle strength and could have adverse effects on metabolic function
  5. Both endurance- and resistance-type exercise help preserve muscle mass during weight loss, and resistance-type exercise also improves muscle strength

The bottom line: Researchers found that weight-loss therapy, including a hypocaloric diet with adequate protein intake and increased physical activity, should be promoted to maintain muscle mass and improve muscle strength and physical function in persons with obesity.  The results are promising after The Biggest Loser studies showed that dieters develop a slower metabolism over time.  This result indicates potential solutions to the slow down by preserving muscle mass and metabolism.  


E. Cava, N. C. Yeat, and B. Mittendorfer, “Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss,” A, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 511–519, May 2017 [Online]. Available: 10.3945/an.116.014506″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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