Maintaining Muscle Mass During Periods of Significant Weight Loss

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Anyone who has tried to lose weight has enjoyed shedding those pounds. Dropping pounds quickly is even more thrilling. But there are several reasons why we preach moderation, even in weight loss. You’re most likely to experience these rapid drops after taking weight loss medications like Wegovy or Zepbound or having bariatric surgery, and one of the biggest concerns during this weight loss process is losing muscle mass.

Any time we lose a significant amount of weight, it’s probable that we are not getting enough nutrition to keep the muscles from breaking down and being consumed for energy. This typically occurs anytime you lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. But there are things you can do to prevent it. Below, we discuss some important habits to ensure that you don’t lose muscle and you come out healthier than ever.

Getting Your Protein

Yes, you must eat a balanced diet after bariatric surgery or when taking weight loss medication. However, we suggest you consume your protein first AFTER bariatric surgery. If you’re doing medical weight loss, we recommend that you eat your fruits and veggies first at mealtime. Ideally, you have good quality protein like lean meat, fish, seafood, or eggs at most meals. This helps ensure you have enough protein to keep your muscles strong even if your appetite and ability to consume food are lessened. We may also recommend that you drink protein shakes to supplement if you’re not getting enough protein from food alone. As you can imagine, getting protein from whole food sources is always best.

Don’t Forget Strength Training

When we diet, we lose weight and muscle mass. When we exercise, we often think of running or doing the elliptical. However, all bariatric patients, especially middle-aged female patients, must remember how necessary strength training is for overall health. You may have gone to the gym and seen people who almost exclusively work out on cardio machines. Often, they are skinny, but their bodies aren’t very shapely, and that’s because they simply aren’t building the muscle that creates shape.

Beyond the aesthetic reasons for strength training, weight lifting in the gym maintains and even builds your muscles during your diet. Resistance training (weight lifting) also helps keep your bones stronger to ward off osteoporosis, another potential issue if you aren’t maintaining enough muscle or if you aren’t consuming enough calories. Remember that weight lifting includes free weights, weight lifting machines, resistance bands, body weight exercises, and even pushing against an immovable object.

General Lifestyle Habits

Staying disciplined in your diet and working out at the gym requires focus and motivation, and many patients realize how their daily habits take them away from these beneficial activities.

If you have a great deal of stress, you must address it. Stress causes chemical imbalances in your body, slowing your weight loss and often distracting you from important self-care.

Similarly, not getting enough sleep is a big reason for stalled weight loss after surgery or medications. In both cases, these can be managed with mindfulness and focus to enhance your weight loss and life. We generally recommend using exercise as a way to manage your stress…whether it’s cardiovascular exercise or weightlifting.

Hydrate properly and take vitamins and minerals as outlined in your postoperative packet. Any hydration or vitamin deficiency can lead to physical and mental deficits that affect every part of your life.

The Bottom Line

Understand that it’s not just about weight loss. Your body is a fine-tuned machine that requires balance. If you do not put in the effort to build and maintain your muscle mass while losing weight, you will suffer for it afterward. Later, it will be harder to make that muscle simply because your body is weak. If you have any questions, we’re always here to answer them, and we look forward to seeing your fantastic weight loss.