Controversial Advice From The Experts On How To Lose Muscle Mass On Purpose
It’s not everyday that you read an article on how to lose muscle on purpose. In fact, I’ve never even considered doing this. Maybe that’s because I have a naturally smaller frame.
Surprisingly (well, not anymore) I receive quite a few emails from both guys and girls who are signed up to the newsletter asking me how they can lose muscle mass.
After thinking about it more, it does make sense in certain cases. Maybe you’re a little more bulking in areas than you would like to be. Maybe you need to drop weight for a weigh-in.
Either way, I mostly get asked how to lose muscle from legs (thighs & calves), butt and arms.
Now, don’t read into this too much. Having a butt and having some meat on your thighs is a good thing! It’s just that some have more than they would like.
Being that I have never personally tried to lose muscle, I’m not going to be able to give you my personal experiences. What I can do is share the best advice that I found and offer my $0.02.
How to Lose Muscle
When you think of active and healthy individuals that obviously train and eat right, but do not have much muscle, who do you picture?
I picture Olympic runners. Long distance runners.
We all know what they do – run, run, run.
This got me thinking about other athletes who have similar body types but with more muscle.
Triathletes in particular.
Triathletes (in general) look a whole lot better than long distance runners. They don’t have a lot muscle but they do have more than long distance runners.
This led me to Ben Greenfield’s website. Ben is former bodybuilder turned triathlete and is largely known for his Tri-Ripped program. He is certainly an expert in the field and can even shed some light on losing muscle.
He went from a ripped 210 pound bodybuilder to a 175 pound triathlete … on purpose. Talking about his transformation from a 210 pound bodybuilder he says:
“… I am now at 175 pounds, and now that I’ve shed that extra muscle through a combination of the long, unfed cardio sessions and the shorter, morning fasted sessions. I can now get away with primarily doing short, explosive intervals, one fasted workout session per week, and cross-training.” – from Ben Greenfield Fitness
So how did Ben Greenfield lose 35 pounds of muscle?
#1 – Long bouts of cardio
I looked over Ben’s training routine and it looks, well … boring. But his focus was on losing muscle weight and his workout schedule was definitely setup to do just that.
Here’s a glimpse of his routine.
- Monday – 5K (equivalent to 1 hour of running/jogging)
- Tuesday – Swimming or biking
- Wednesday – 5K (equivalent to 1 hour of running/jogging)
- Thursday – Swimming or biking
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – 5K (equivalent to 1 hour of running/jogging)
- Sunday – Swimming or biking
He also did the CrossFit workout of the day prior to each cardio session.
#2 – Unfed & fasted cardio
I actually recommend unfed and fasted workouts but based on one condition … that you do strength training. As you can see from Ben’s routine he was not strength training.
As long as you are lifting heavy you won’t lose muscle.
So, if you want to lose muscle mass, here’s what you can do:
- Workout in a fasted state
- Don’t lift weights
- Do lots of long cardio
How to Lose Muscle in Legs
It didn’t take me long to uncover an article from one of my all time favorite fitness websites, Fitness Black Book. This is a true authority site on getting the lean and toned look, so it makes sense that I was able to find a solid article here.
Rusty Moore (known for his workouts for men and for women on how to get the lean and toned look) actually wanted to lose muscle as well. He ended up dropping 25+ pounds of muscle. Crazy … most guys would love to have this problem. He felt that after years of training and adding muscle he ended up too big and too bulky. Specifically, his legs were massive and he wanted a different look.
Here’s what he suggests as the number one thing to focus on in order to lose muscle in your legs.
“Avoid anything that creates a “pump” in the legs. Even things like riding an exercise bike will pump up your legs and cause them to stay the same size … The exercise bike can really create a large pump in the legs. Jogging on a treadmill is the best way to slim your legs down (lose muscle on your legs). Once your legs are a smaller size, feel free to give the exercise bike a shot again.” – from Fitness Black Book
#1 – Avoid the pump in your legs
How do you do this? It’s actually quite simple.
The pump (sometimes referred to as the burn) you get when you workout is caused from an increase in fluid to your muscle. Here is what you can do to increase the pump:
- Lift to failure
- Do more reps
- Lift weights faster
- Rest less between sets
Okay, so don’t do any of that. This is how you create the pump in your muscles … which is bad for losing muscle. Instead, lift like this:
- Stop 2-3 reps short of failure
- Only do 3-5 reps
- Don’t be afraid to lift a little heavy
- Rest 2-3 minutes between sets (you want to fully recover)
#2 – Stick to the treadmill
Ah, poor cardio, getting bashed again, right? Actually no.
Note that Moore suggested “jogging on a treadmill.” When done for great lengths of time (which is what he recommends in his article) this is known as marathon cardio. It is much different than doing HIIT or other types of strategic cardio.
To lose muscle (feels weird typing that) simply jog at a medium pace that you can maintain for 45-60 minutes straight … have “fun.” 🙁
How to Lose Muscle in Arms
Another expert in the field of nutrition and muscle gain … but more in line with what we’re looking at here – muscle loss – is Brad Pilon.
Pilon is most known for his industry altering (literally) diet book, Eat Stop Eat but he also knows a thing or two about gaining muscle and what it takes to fuel that gain.
Brad hasn’t lost muscle on purpose but he is bombarded with questions relating to muscle loss. People are unnecessarily paranoid about losing muscle if they don’t eat every 3 hours. Because of his intermittent fasting diet and the misconceptions about losing muscle, Pilon is now an expert on this as well.
His overall view towards muscle loss (which I think makes 100% sense) is more about whether or not you use your muscle.
“Ever break your arm and have to wear a cast, or know someone who did? Do you remember how skinny that arm was when the cast finally came off? Put a cast on your arm and your muscles shrink faster then an expensive new shirt in the dryer.” – from Eat Blog Eat
Note: Please do not go out and break your arm. Yes, you will lose a bit of arm muscle but that’s a little extreme. 😉
#1 – Don’t use your arms
This may sound repetitive but if you want to lose muscle in your arms simply quite using them. If you do work your arms make sure to skip any exercises that create the pump.
Diet to Lose Muscle
If you are not working out, low calorie diets can also cause muscle loss. In order to help any one of the above tactics work even better, consider going low calorie.
Also, what’s the number one thing you hear about in regards to diet and gaining muscle? Protein.
Everyone suggests that you eat enough protein to support muscle growth and retention. If you are not eating enough protein you can eventually experience muscle loss.
Another fitness author known for his latest workout LGN365, JC Deen, has experienced this first hand.
During his college years, Deen and his buddies had bet going as to who could develop the best body. Here’s what he said he did wrong (which resulted in muscle loss):
“I dieted for about 16 weeks and got the leanest I have ever been in my life. I made some major mistakes though. I did too much cardio, trained too frequently and with too much volume, didn’t eat enough protein. Did I mention I ran too much?” – from JCD Fitness
So by now we are seeing a constant similarity … too much marathon cardio can result in muscle loss.
But he also mentioned his diet.
Long bouts of cardio done in a calorie deficit and not getting enough protein will result in lost muscle.
If you want to diet to lose muscle all you have to do is not eat enough calories and not eat enough protein.
So here’s a recap on how to lose muscle on purpose.
- Do lots of marathon style cardio
- Avoid “pump” causing cardio machines
- Don’t eat before you workout
- Don’t use the muscle you want to lose
- Don’t eat enough calories
- Don’t eat enough protein