Avatar universal

lose muscle

Hello and thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
Well, I am a very athletic female that eats less than 2000 calories a day (and vegetarian) and exercises about three hours each day. I'm concerned that I am getting too "buff" and would like to lose 5-8 pounds of muscle mass. any solutions?
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912879 tn?1247525759
To address your concern about gaining lots of weight in fat, I want to be very careful.  There is such thing as Anorexia Athletica, or Athletica Nervosa, which is a very real type of eating disorder which involves compulsive exercise.  This goes hand in hand with something called the Female Athlete Traid which includes 1. Disordered eating (this can include anorexia athletica)  2. Amenorrhea (mestruation stops or changes) 3. Osteoporosis.  Although I have had experiences with eating disorders, I am by no means an expert.  I would suggest finding an expert on the subject and talking to them.  You can google experts in your area or there are even online sites/hotlines dedicated to these issues that can be very helpful.

A bit more information you need to know is that there's no way you could gain a lot of fat if you were to decrease your training from 7 to 6 or 5 days/wk, it's just not physically possible unless you were eating something like 6,000 calories/day or some ridiculous amount like that.  Even if you took from 1 to 3 weeks off to rest, you may see some reduction in strength initially upon returning to sport, but you would not see a jump in body fat.  

You need to understand that the more muscle on your body, the more calories you are going to burn at rest as well as during activity.  One pound of muscle burns anywhere from 50-100 calories more per day than one pound of fat.  For example, say you eat a hamburger.  Your body inparticular is going to metabolize that hamburger much differently than the layperson's body that doesn't have much muscle mass.  The energy from your hamburger is going to be stored in your muscles/liver to be used as fuel.  Now, say someone lacking muscle mass eats the same hamburger.  Since they don't have much muscle in which to store energy, some of the excess energy will be stored in their liver, and the rest will be stored as fat as an energy reserve.  This is why olympic athletes can eat McDonalds all the time and not get fat.  Make sense?

And you are right, if you continue to exercise as much or more than you do, there is a chance that you could become more muscular.  There is an even greater chance, though, that your high training volume will cause injury (especially from overuse).  With this high training volume, you need to make sure you are not "overtraining", which is an actual condition, and I suspect you may already be overtraining.  One of the signs/symptoms of overtraining is decreased appetite, among many others.  Overtraining can affect your sleep patterns, mood, and physical state.  Be careful of this!  

I really cannot stress this enough: you need at least 1 rest day!  It is dangerous and ineffective to not have at least one day of rest.  If you are a serious athlete, you should know that gains in performance are not made during the actual training, they are made in the rest period following the training.  Overtraining is should be thought of as a continuum.  An athlete may be slightly overtrained and make progress, just not as much as if they were not overtrained.  And, if you are completely overtrained, your progress is going to be non-existent.  In fact not only will you fail to improve, you will actually regress.
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912879 tn?1247525759
Well we need to address a few things here.  First, we need to differentiate between weight loss from fat loss, and weight loss from muscle loss.  If it's fat loss that you're looking for, that is much different than muscle loss.  

Muscle loss is going to be easy.  According the the "Reversibility Principle of Training", when training ceases, the training effect (increased muscle mass) will also stop; in lamens terms, if you don't use it you lose it.  By taking a short break from (no more than 2 to 3 weeks), or reducing the amount of training you are doing (to maybe 5 days/wk rather than 7), you will gradually begin to loose some muscle (at approximately 1/3 of the rate of acquisition).  You will not loose ALL of your muscle, but you will get the small reduction you are looking for.  

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Avatar universal
well that's just my problem. how can someone who already excersizes and eats properly, lose weight? basically not playing tennis or not running would be like eating a hamburger for someone else haha! I've been doing this for so long, so that is why I dot eat very much for the amount of activity that I do. I just don't get hungry anymore. I feel that if I continue to exercise as much or more than I do, I will keep getting more muscular. I feel that if I stop, Ill gain lots of weight in fat.  
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912879 tn?1247525759
Ok great, that information helps a lot :) So if understand correctly, you play tennis for 2.5 hours per day, 7 days/wk.  5 of 7 days you run for about 30 minutes, sometimes use the elliptical instead for 45-60 mins.  

Now I can begin to make some suggestions...I was wondering, is there any reason in particular why you play tennis every day (are you an athlete/tennis pro/instructor)?  I am confident that the powerful/explosive movements required while playing tennis are responsible for the "buffness" or the increase in muscle mass, especially since you aren't doing any other type of resistance/strength training.  Would it be possible for you to take a day or two off from tennis (so that you would be playing only 5 to 6 times per week)?  

It is actually unhealthy for a person to exercise every day of the week, you run the risk of "overtraining", which is an actual physiological condition.  The body needs at least 1 day/wk of recovery so that tissues can regenerate.  This can be an active recovery day, though, so you could do some cardio if you wanted to (preferably a non-weight bearing activity like a bike in order to give your joints some recovery time), but it would have to be at a very low intensity for no more than 30 minutes including probably a 3-5 minute warm-up and a 5-10 minute cool down.  Having more of a recovery day could very likely improve your performance during the rest of the week.

Also, in addition to tennis, you are doing a lot of cardio.  American College of Sports Medicine's guidelines for cardio are 3-5 days/wk for 30 to 60 minutes (which doesn't have to be continuous).  I would reccomend maybe taking the treadmill/elliptical down to 3 days/wk for 30 minutes, since you are already getting a good deal of cardio by playing tennis.  The cardio that you are doing isn't responsible for any of the increased muscle mass, but it does burn subcutaneous fat, which makes you appear more muscular.

Lastly, it sounds like you are very active and may actually require more than 2,000 cal/day (I would be willing to bet money that you require more than 2000 cal/day, but best make sure).  When was the last time you estimated your daily caloric energy requirement?  The best site I've found to estimate this is mypyramid.gov.  On the page there is a blue vertical bar on the left hand side.  Click on "mypyramid plan" and then you can enter your age, weight, height and activity level and it will come up with a fairly accurate caloric requirement for you.

Anyway, I hope these suggestions help.  Please let me know if you are unable to modify your routine or if you have any questions!
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Avatar universal
Hi and thank you for your response!

1. I play tennis two and a half hours every day (singles), and I also run on the treadmill for 30 minutes in addition to tennis about 5 times a week. When running on the treadmill, I run four minutes at 5.5 mph and one minute at 7.0 mph. I repeat this cycle four times and include a warm up and cool down. There is no incline when I use the treadmill. Occasionally, if my knees are feeling sore, I do 45-60 minutes of elliptical instead of the treadmill.

2. Every day

3. Each day is around three hours, with the exception of sunday. On sundays I normally run on the treadmill and the elliptical. This routine is usually an hour and a half.
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912879 tn?1247525759
Hi there :)

I am a certified personal trainer at a very well known gym.  I have a B.S. in Wellness, Health Promotion, and Injury Prevention with a minor in Exercise Science.  Your situation has a relatively easy solution, and I can definitely help you lose muscle mass, I just need to know a few things first:

1. What do your workouts consist of (what exercises, how many sets, how many reps per set, any cardio)?
2. Are you working out everyday?  Or how many days per week?  
3. Does each workout last for 3 hours, or do they vary in time?



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