It’s not surprising you’re losing muscle mass. You are simply not eating enough. A significant calorie deficit results in weight loss, yes, but if you skimp on protein, you lose muscle mass. If you skimp on good carbs, you can lose both body fat and muscle. What you lose depends on a few factors:
- how active you are (cardio burns muscle mass if overdone)
- how you space out your meals (going many hours without eating promotes muscle loss)
- how much you strength train (it’s key while losing weight to keep the muscle on your body and promote fat loss)
- your existing muscle mass and your metabolism (the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, the faster you lose fat
I see a few things you are doing right now that promote muscle loss:
* You need to eat more calories overall – from good carbs and protein. Let’s just take the first day you sent me. You are not eating any calories until 10am. At that point you have been awake for at least 3 hours. Your blood sugar is low when you wake up after a night of fasting and needs to be balanced. However, you wait until 10am to eat some protein and at that time your blood sugar is even lower than when you woke up. The little bit of sugar in your cranberry juice and coffee raise your blood sugar a little bit, but definitely not enough to get it balanced. Remember that sugar raises it quickly and then crashes again.
* Eat a balanced breakfast of protein and veggies – omelettes, fritattas, a cup of oatmeal with a protein shake, cottage cheese with berries…. Just a few ideas.
Your breakfast of two eggs with a little yogurt and spinach adds up to about 15g of protein and no more than 10g of carbs. By far not enough to balance your blood sugar because you need about 20g of protein (add another egg) and about 30g of carbs (load up on veggies). Keep in mind that you have gone without protein for about 14 hours at that point and your muscles will go into a catabolic state (breakdown) if you don’t feed them regularly. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism, and the flabbier you get.
Eating most of your calories in the first part of the day will fuel you, fill you up and ensures you don’t get ravenous in the second part of the day. You’re much better off eating an omelette with loads of veggies or a fritatta or oatmeal with a protein shake or Greek yogurt than having nothing for the first 3-4 hours per day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and sets the tone for the rest of the day. Not eating for hours after getting up will backfire later on.
* Eat more frequent meals
Don’t let so much time go by in the afternoon without eating. You have a snack at 2.30pm and then nothing until 8pm. That’s 5.5 hours without food. By the time you eat dinner, your blood sugar level is very low and it’s hard to recover it. Plus, you’re barely eating any carbs at dinner. One cup of broccoli for dinner is just 6 grams of carbs (4 grams if you deduct the fiber, which doesn’t impact your blood sugar). You need to have about 5 cups of broccoli to balance your blood sugar. Non-starchy veggies are a freebie. You can eat endless amounts without overdoing it. Fiber is key, as are the nutrients in these veggies, so load up!
* Balance your carbs
I’m estimating you’re eating no more than about 40 g of carbs right now, which is way too low for you. That’s almost an Atkins Diet approach where you stick to below 30grams in the first couple weeks. While this is effective in helping you lose fat short term, it’s absolutely no sane way of finding balance, Nor will it help you lose weight in the long run. Eventually you’ll cave into the next high carb food and binge because you’re so deprived. End result: you’re putting on weight faster than before. Plus, you don’t want to lose energy to do your workouts because they are necessary to increase your metabolism and to build muscle mass (and keep your sanity). Eat at least 100g of carbs per day or else you’ll risk losing muscle and your workout intensity will suffer. Aim to stay below 150g per day.
Your dinners are so small that your blood sugar will definitely drop during the night, which will make you wake up feeling sluggish and tired and leaves you with little energy to do your workout. Finding the right carbohydrate balance is one of the hardest things to accomplish but it can be done if you focus on eating as many veggies as you can.
Focusing on just these three steps will make a big difference in your body composition. You’re at 29.5% body fat right now and your goal is to get below 24%. You will be able to gain muscle with consistent balanced eating, while allowing your body to lose any excess body fat. So, more veggies, spread out your protein throughout the day, eat more frequently, snack in the afternoon and start your day with a great breakfast.