Muscle preservation is a hot topic among the bodybuilding and weight loss communities. The prevention of muscle loss is particularly important when calories are being restricted. Under most dieting conditions, it’s normal to experience a degree of muscle loss, but nobody likes to see their muscles waste away while trying to cut body fat. Diet and training intensity play the biggest roles in the prevention of muscle loss, but there are also nutritional supplements available which may help stave off muscle catabolism.

Casein Protein

The simplest way to prevent muscle wasting is to provide your body with the protein building blocks it needs to build muscle — but you should know that not all protein supplements are created equal. Casein, an animal milk protein, is a slow-digesting supplement that’s superior to other protein supplements because of the extended rise in body plasma amino acids it creates. According to a study in the November 2006 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” this reduced digestion rate gives casein longer-lasting anti-catabolic effects than other protein supplements, such as whey. Try supplementing with a scoop after workouts or before bed, when your body will be going without protein for a prolonged period.

Conjugated Lineolic Acid

Conjugated lineolic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, found in dairy and animal proteins, can aid in muscle growth while preventing catabolism. According to exercise physiology and nutrition expert, Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., CLA helps spare muscle tissue by encouraging the body to use fat for fuel, instead of breaking down muscle mass. A study published in the June 2009 issue of “Biochemical & Biophysical Research Communities” indicated that CLA supplementation can also help stave off age-related muscle loss. Stoppani recommends supplementing with 2 grams of CLA, three times daily.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

Protein is composed of branched-chain amino acids, which make up about 35 percent of your skeletal muscle. Providing your body with BCAAs can help your body convert amino acids to energy and prevent muscle catabolism. An independent study published in the March 2012 issue of “American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism” looked at the effect of BCAAs on subjects who didn’t exercise regularly. Researchers found that supplementation with 85 milligrams of BCAAs per kilogram of body weight resulted in a substantial anabolic effect — not just preventing muscle breakdown, but actually helping muscles grow. According to researchers, the effect of BCAA supplementation on muscles was similar during both rest and exercise.

Precautions and Tips

Talk with your doctor before making changes to your diet or adding nutritional supplements. If you’re taking any prescription medications or other supplements, discuss these as well to make sure there are no contraindications. Remember that nutritional supplements can aid in muscle preservation, but you must feed your body properly to truly prevent muscle breakdown. If your aim is fat loss, avoid extreme calorie restriction or fad diets, which may bring your metabolism to a crawl and cause substantial muscle breakdown.

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