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Getting shredded doesn’t have to mean losing the muscle you worked years to build. Here are 9 strategies to help you keep the bulk.

When you work incredibly hard to achieve a goal, it means a lot to you. Think about all those years you spent toiling in the gym in the name of adding muscle. Over time, that adds up to a tremendous amount of work—and bulk. There’s no way you’d consider giving those gains in muscle back!

But that may inadvertently be what you’re doing when you chisel your body fat in pursuit of a rock-hard physique. When you’re following a calorie-restricted diet to get super-lean, it takes an incredible balancing act to maximize fat loss while simultaneously minimizing muscle loss.

We can tip the scales in your favor to allow you to hold on to your muscle mass by following a few important training and nutrition tips during a shredding phase.

1. Closely Monitor Your Daily Caloric Deficit

Nothing seemingly says success faster than seeing a big drop in pounds on the bathroom scale. Yet that’s likely a warning sign you’re losing substantial muscle and body fat.

“To minimize loss of lean tissue when following a calorie-restricted diet, you can safely aim to lose 0.5-1.0 percent of your body weight per week,” says Bodybuilding.com nutrition editor Paul Salter, MS, RD. “This equates to 1-2 pounds per week for a 200-pound person. Steeper drops in weight are most likely costing you muscle tissue.”