Building muscle isn’t easy- if it was, everybody would be super muscular.
Because muscle is so hard to get, none of us want to lose it- especially NOT fast.
Maybe you’ve been trying to cut back some fat for summer, or an upcoming competition- you may be wondering, why do I lose muscle so fast?
Well, losing muscle fast isn’t normal. You are losing muscle so fast because you aren’t eating enough protein, calories, or exercising the muscle enough- or a combination of all three.
Let’s cover this in-depth, and explain why each factor affects muscle loss.
- #1 – You Aren’t Eating Enough Protein (Most Likely Cause)
- #2 – You Aren’t Eating Enough Calories (One Of The Least Expected Reasons)
- #3 – You Aren’t Exercising Hard Enough (Least Likely Cause)
- #4 – Conclusion of Why Do I Lose Muscle So Fast?
#1 – You Aren’t Eating Enough Protein (Most Likely Cause)
This is the most common cause of ALL fast muscle loss- you aren’t eating enough protein.
As we all know, we need more protein to build muscle. But, it’s just as important for maintaining it. Here’s why:
There are many processes in your body that require protein (amino acids) for you to live. For some examples, your heart and brain require protein.
Now, if you aren’t eating enough protein, your body will break down your muscles to get that protein to your heart and brain as it is way more important.
(In case you weren’t aware, if your heart or brain breaks- you won’t be worrying about muscle too much. You’ll be dead.)
Furthermore, all that muscle you have has a certain upkeep of protein needed for general maintenance.
Whenever you move or use muscles, tiny microtears appear in your muscles and they need to be replaced with, protein.
Without protein, your body will break down muscles to fix it.
However, You Need To Eat Basically NO Protein For This To Happen
While this is the most common reason for muscle loss, I do want to make sure we aren’t targeting the wrong issue here (as we have many more reasons this could be happening).
For this to happen, you’d basically have to be eating no protein.
While that sounds like a joke, most Americans actually eat like less than 15 grams of protein a day. It’s unreal.
If you are eating LESS than 60 grams of protein a day and seeing fast muscle loss, this lack of protein is probably why.
But, for the most part, if you’re eating at LEAST 60 grams of protein a day, this likely isn’t the biggest reason you’re losing muscle. (Based off of current research from The University of California Los Angeles)
- Keep in mind: If you are a SUPER big bodybuilder or have tons of muscle, you will probably need way more than 60 grams of protein a day to maintain muscle mass!
While some people will fight back and forth saying that 60 grams of protein is NOT enough for muscle retention (and to be honest, it likely isn’t), typically speaking if you’re losing muscle rapidly and eating this much protein, we might want to look else where as the cause.
Although, it’s always a good idea to increase your protein and rule this cause out first.
The Simple Fix? Eat MORE Protein
There is, thankfully, a simple solution to this. Just eat more protein.
Typically speaking, the rule is to eat .7 grams of protein per 1 pound of body fat. So, if you weigh 100 pounds, you should be eating 70 grams of protein. 200 pounds? 140 grams of protein.
This seems like a lot, and it is. That’s the ‘goal’ we try to aim for, but it’s not always reachable.
Really, the point is to just have protein in your diet. As I mentioned earlier, most Americans are super deficient in protein.
When our body is determining when to break down muscle for protein, it scans the bloodstream and breaks down muscle when it sees very tiny amounts of amino acids in the blood stream. Even an average amount of protein intake is enough to prevent this muscle breakdown.
But, if you are eating enough protein and still losing muscle fast, it may be the next topic.
#2 – You Aren’t Eating Enough Calories (One Of The Least Expected Reasons)
How many of you start a cut- trying to lose fat and look shredded- and just minimize your calories right away?
I’m guilty, that’s for sure.
The problem is though, that cutting weight at very low calories is actually one of the fastest ways for you to LOSE MUSCLE, and NOT LOSE FAT.
See- when we are in severe weight loss like that- our body makes the call to break down muscle instead of fat.
Well, our body has evolved for millions of years to SURVIVE. And, when our body sees we are STARVING, it sees muscles as huge stores of calories and a huge waste of calories.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn every day- by a lot. If your body can break down muscle, which not only gives it a lot of energy when you are starving, it’s also reducing the total amount of calories/energy your body needs every day.
This seriously reduces the chance of you dying via starvation. This is how humans evolved smartly over millions of years.
Furthermore, this is why we don’t carry as much muscle as our ‘ancestors’ apes do. We were able to survive with much, much less food compared to apes because they need so much more calories to keep that muscle.
(Now, humans actually need more calories a day than apes because of our incredible brain power- but you can see where evolution happened. We gave up those muscles for a much smarter brain. And it worked.)
Low-Calorie Diets Often Cause The MOST Muscle Loss, Stick With More Calories To Burn Fat
While we all want to lose as much fat as possible, it’s remember to stick with higher calorie diets so our body doesn’t break down our muscles and sticks with burning fat.
Yes, it sounds counterproductive. If I aim to lose a little bit of weight a day instead of a lot of weight a day- I’ll somehow lose fat and keep muscle? And if I lose a lot of weight a day, it will only burn muscle NOT fat?
Yes, it sounds really weird. It was a difficult concept for me to grasp too.
But, remember our how bodies operate. Our bodies don’t see ‘bodybuilding’ or ‘fitness’. It sees survival.
Remember to try and stay at about 500-600 calories UNDER your daily calories burned to maximize fat loss and muscle retention.
Yes, on paper this weight loss is slower. But, in reality, it makes sure our body targets fat loss and doesn’t mess with our muscles. This is because our body doesn’t think we are starving and keeps the muscle as it doesn’t see it as a threat.
#3 – You Aren’t Exercising Hard Enough (Least Likely Cause)
If you’re still losing muscle fast and you have been meeting your protein and calorie goals, you probably aren’t exercising enough or hard enough.
This is the least likely cause. And I’d again encourage you to ensure your protein and calorie requirements are being met before going down this path.
However, sometimes when people go to lose weight, they lose a lot of energy in the gym and don’t work as hard.
Remember, when we are losing weight, we still need to be working hard in the gym to maintain that muscle mass.
Now, for the most part, again- just continuing your normal workout program should be fine.
But, if you’re someone who is doing a special ‘cut’ program that only has like 10% of what your normal workout routine has, there’s your problem.
You should still be spending about the same amount of time in the gym as you were on your bulk and working equally as hard.
If you notice that your ‘cut’ program is WAY easier than your normal workout routine, that’s your problem.
I’d recommend going back to your normal workout routine, trying that, and seeing how your muscle loss progresses.
Why Am I Losing Muscle Mass Instead of Fat?
You are probably losing muscle mass instead of fat because you aren’t eating enough protein, calories, or working out enough. Most likely speaking- it’s low calories or low protein.
Why Am I Losing Muscle Mass Even Though I Workout
You are likely losing muscle mass even though you workout because you aren’t eating enough protein or eating enough calories. Most likely it’s low calories, people often eat too little calories. When you eat too little calories, your body breaks down muscle mass as it believes you’re starving and reaches for the ’emergency’ stores.
Your muscle stores much more energy than your muscles, and your body doesn’t like to burn down fat.
#4 – Conclusion of Why Do I Lose Muscle So Fast?
To recap, the main reasons you would be losing muscle fast is:
- Not eating enough protein. (Most likely)
- Not eating enough calories. (Also super likely)
- Not working out hard enough in the gym. (Least likely!)
Remember, up that protein and calories and then test your results in a few days. If you’re still losing a lot of muscle, up the calories and protein even more. If you’re still losing muscle and gaining weight on the scale- then examine if you’re not exercising strong enough at the gym.
I hope this helps, if you have any questions please send them below!
Thanks for reading!