The very word ‘Bodybuilding’ gives the impression of a non-stop, never ending creation of more muscle – and for some that is precisely what it is.
For others though, there may come a time when they wish to maintain muscle mass rather than add any more. Reasons may vary from wanting to stay in a particular weight class for a sport, or simply being satisfied with being the size they are and wishing to not get any bigger. Whatever.
What is important is the trainee knows and understands what they need to do to maintain muscle mass. I’ve chosen to split this article into two main scenarios because the approach will be slightly different for each, although both qualify as ‘maintaining muscle mass.’
General Muscle Maintenance:
You’ve gotten to a certain size, and all you want to do now is maintain the muscle you have. If you have been bulking up to this point that means you’ve been eating over your calorie maintenance level. Continuing to do so will mean you will continue to gain size. So, what you need to do is simply cut back on the calories.
How much do you need to cut back? Well, you aren’t going to hit a bulls eye with any number anyone gives you, so you need to just gradually lower the amount until you don’t gain anymore weight. Try going for a few hundred less, and see if weight gain stops, slows, or continues, and adjust accordingly.
It may take a few weeks or a month for you to nail it, but it’s as simple as that.
Maintaining Muscle Whilst Cutting:
If you are trying to cut fat whilst maintaining muscle mass, you need to up your protein intake. Increasing your protein intake will allow your body to consume protein from food to make up the calorie deficit rather than begin eating in to the muscles, as it has a tendency to do.
Of course, when cutting you will be eating consistently less calories than your body needs, so you will be losing fat. But also – it’s inevitable that some muscle mass will be lost, and the longer your cut, the more muscle lost. It’s simply you goal to minimize the loss.
Universal Muscle Maintenance Laws:
- Once the calorie maintenance level is found, you need to continue eating this level consistently. If you consistently go over, you’ll gain weight. If you consistently go under, you’ll lose weight.
- You need to continue lifting weights. By doing so, you continue to signal to the body that you need what is, in effect, an unnatural amount of muscle mass for completing tasks in your everyday life (lifting = survival). If you stop giving it 100% effort or stop training completely, you’ll begin to lose muscle mass.