Sustaining Strength: Gym Performance While Dieting Down | Blog
03Jan 2024
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Sustaining Strength: Gym Performance While Dieting Down

The new year is here, which means only one thing: Many people are dieting to lose fat and get beach-ready. The good news is, dieting helps us get lean and look better with each passing week. The bad news is, our gym performance tends to drop, which can be disheartening. To offset this, we have put together a list of four things you need to do as you diet to stay strong and athletic. Let's dive in.

1. Lose weight more slowly

How quickly you choose to lose weight will significantly impact your well-being, energy levels, performance, and ability to preserve muscle mass. The best way to maintain your gym performance is to lose weight more slowly. According to some research, a weekly weight loss rate of around 0.7 percent appears optimal. For example, if you initially weigh 180 pounds (81 kg), this would mean aiming for weight loss of just over a pound (450 g) per week.

2. Get plenty of protein

Protein is essential because it provides us with amino acids - the building blocks of life. When dieting, we are at a higher risk of losing muscle mass. However, by getting enough protein, we provide the body with the nutrients it needs to repair muscle after exercise, strengthen it, and, most importantly, keep it around.

Plus, protein is highly satiating and makes consuming fewer calories for fat loss easier. According to general guidelines, we should aim for an intake of around a gram per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 180 pounds, aim for up to 180 grams of protein daily. In addition, you might want to track some of your food to understand your daily intake better.

3. Trim the fluff from your training

While dieting, learning how to preserve your energy is crucial. Meaning, you need to take a look at your training and ask yourself, "Which parts of this training program are essential, and which ones could I live without for a while?"

Benjamin Schnabel is a Personal Trainer and the co-founder of the fitness app Alpha Progression. He recommends the Pareto rule (80-20), strategies that require only 20% of effort but give 80% of the potential possible results. Focus on the most important things, such as:

  1. Manage the time to train regularly;
  2. Start with a training plan that does not include too much exotic stuff;
  3. Do not bury the head in the sand when something does not work out.

Following this is much more time-saving and gives much better results. And by doing so, you can narrow your focus on select few activities you deem essential and cut back on everything else.

Another reason to trimm the full is that you will not maintain your performance across as many activities simply because you will not have as much energy available. So, you need to trim down and focus on retaining your strength by focusing on core lifts. For most people, this means reducing the amount of accessory and isolation exercises you do and instead focusing mainly on the core barbell lifts like deadlifts, squats, and bench press.

4. Be mindful of your carb intake

Carb timing makes no difference when eating more food and building muscle. But things change when you are getting leaner, and energy is cut short. Specifically, you should consume some carbs soon before your training sessions and right after finishing them. 

Having carbs before your workout will provide you with the energy you need to push through and perform well. In addition, the post-workout carbs will kickstart the recovery process by replenishing lost glycogen (the complex carb form we store in our muscles and liver). This, in turn, will allow for muscle protein synthesis to occur uninterrupted and let us recover as best as we can, given the circumstances.


There are different ways to achieve these goals - what works for you might not work for someone else (and vice-versa). Find the scenario which works for you; at your desired pace.

Another tip Benjamin shared with, be specific. It is better to set a goal of "losing 10 kg by May 1, 2024" than "I want to have lost weight by May 1, 2024". The latter is not binding. Even studies show that these vague goals tend to be achieved less.

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