5 bad fitness habits that are causing you to lose muscle mass

5 bad fitness habits that are causing you to lose muscle mass

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The foundation of any successful fitness regimen is built on healthy habits. Whether your goal is to run your first marathon, set a personal best in the deadlift, or commit to a daily walking routine, the key is to stick to regular habits that push you on the path to a fitter and healthier you. However, when it comes to achieving your health and fitness goals, knowing what not to do is often just as important as knowing the right things to do. Building and maintaining muscle mass is no exception to this universal rule. To help you develop and maintain lean muscle, we’re sharing five bad fitness habits that are causing you to lose muscle mass, so you can avoid them at all costs.

You can spend countless hours in the gym and train with a Tasmanian devil-like intensity, but if you have bad fitness habits, you are shooting yourself in the proverbial foot and are unlikely to achieve your fitness goals. Fortunately, by making minor adjustments to your diet, exercise routine, and daily behavior, you’ll avoid the pitfalls of bad habits and dramatically improve your ability to grow muscle. Certified Personal Trainer Kate Meyer, CPT on Gym Garage Reviews shares which bad fitness habits you should avoid like the plague. Read on to find out what they are, then check out The 5 best diet and exercise tips for muscle recovery.


A safe way to lose muscle mass not consuming enough energy (calories). Food is fuel for your muscles and not getting enough calories means your body will be running on an empty tank.

“A significant reduction in calories combined with intense cardio will result in muscle loss over time,” says Meyer. “Speak with a nutritionist or use an online calorie calculator to determine how many calories your body needs to support daily functions and your exercise regimen.”

man, tired, overtrained in the gym

“Constant training is a key aspect of building muscle, but overtraining can have the exact opposite effect,” warns Meyer. Unless you’re an endurance athlete who runs marathons or competes in triathlons, training too much can lead to overtraining syndrome (OTS), a condition that occurs when you don’t allow for proper recovery after consistent, vigorous workouts, according to Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). Furthermore, decreased muscle glycogen levels and muscle weakness are related to overtraining, research shows. Common symptoms of OTS include persistent fatigue, poor sleep quality, low energy, persistent muscle pain and mood swings, according to HSS.

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man yawning in bed tired

Sleep is probably the most powerful (yet most underrated) aspect of any health or fitness goal. Practicing good sleep hygiene and making high-quality, restorative sleep a top priority will help you maintain and build muscle. Research shows that lack of quality sleep or insufficient sleep can increase the risk of muscle loss.

“Your muscles repair and grow while you sleep, and sleep regulates almost all of your bodily functions,” says Meyer. “Aim to get eight solid hours of shut-eye every night. This will help prevent long-term fatigue and help muscle growth if you train consistently.”

a man holding a protein tray

Your body is made up of about 20% protein; it is found in all your cells. Therefore, getting enough protein is critical not only for good health, but also for building and maintaining muscle mass.

“Regardless of your nutritional strategy, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet,” says Meyer. “Muscles are fueled by protein, so proper recovery and muscle growth depend on it.”

While the international Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for the amount of protein you should consume is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weightyou will need to consume more if your goal is to optimize muscle growth and recover faster from workouts. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily for best results. Just make sure you strength train and get your protein from whole food sources and high quality protein powders.

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woman on a snowy winter run to lose weight on holidays

While regular cardio is fantastic for overall health, overdoing it can lead to muscle loss. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans we recommend that healthy adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. However, consistently going above and beyond that threshold—combined with insufficient caloric intake or strength training—is a bad habit for anyone looking to maintain or regain muscle mass.

“Making sure your body is properly fueled before cardio is critical because as much as it helps you burn more calories and fat, it will also burn muscle after other energy sources are depleted,” says Meyer. “The bottom line is that you need to find a good balance between cardio and strength training if your goal is muscle growth.”

Adam Meyer

Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam

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