In this post I’ll answer a question from a student about whether she can lose 20 pounds of fat while retaining muscle.
She writes …
“Hi David, I’ve lost 15 pounds under your guidance so far and I decided to take advantage of having a body fat evaluation at my fitness center. They said I’m 30% body fat with 116 pounds of lean body mass and 50 pounds of fat. I am thinking I would like to get to around 20% body fat. If I lose 20 lbs of pure fat and am at 145, that would put me around 20% body fat. So is it possible to lose 20 lbs of pure fat or will there be inevitable lean mass loss?”
My answer …
That makes sense and yes, you can lose 20 pounds of pure fat but here’s why.
You are not a top tier strength athlete. If you were? Then my answer would be different. The reason is if you were a top tier then you’d have a VERY hard time getting stronger and strength equals muscle. But since you’re not you CAN get stronger (add muscle) while losing fat and offset the normal muscle loss that occurs for those already at the top of their strength potential.
The second reason I believe you can at least keep the muscle you have while losing 20 pounds of pure fat is because you want to go from 30% body fat to a healthy body fat of 20%. A body fat of 32% for women and 25% for men or greater, respectively, is widely considered as obese. So since you are just inside the obese body fat range you will have an easier time losing fat and sparing muscle.
If you were already a really fit and healthy 20% body fat and wanted to further reduce your body fat down to a super lean 10%? Then I would not say you could lose 20 pounds of pure fat. Those who are already at a relatively lean body fat and want to reduce fat further are more likely to lose muscle as the tug of war between supporting vital bodily functions and skeletal muscle has greater impact on the loss of fat versus muscle. But because your body fat is still relatively high and you’re “only” going to a really healthy body fat you will keep muscle easier.
Of course everything I’ve said depends on you making sure your nutrition and strength-training regimens are dialed in as we teach here at Leanness Lifestyle University.