OBJECTIVE: It is unclear whether there are race-specific differences in the maintenance of skeletal muscle during energy restriction. Changes in relative skeletal muscle index (RSMI; limb lean tissue divided by height squared) were compared following (1) diet alone, (2) diet + aerobic training, or (3) diet + resistance training. METHODS: Overweight, sedentary African American (AA; n = 72) and European American (EA; n = 68) women were provided an 800-kcal/d diet to reduce BMI < 25 kg/m2 . Regional fat-free mass was measured with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Steady-state VO2 and heart rate responses during walking were measured. RESULTS: AA women had greater RSMI and preserved RSMI during diet alone, while RSMI was significantly reduced among EA women (EA women -3.6% vs. AA women + 1.1%; P < 0.05). Diet + resistance training subjects retained RSMI (EA women + 0.2% vs. AA women + 1.4%; P = 50.05), whereas diet + aerobic training subjects decreased RSMI (EA women -1.4% vs. AA women -1.5%; P < 0.05). Maintenance of RSMI was related to delta walking ease and economy. CONCLUSIONS: Compared with AA women, EA women are less muscular and lose more muscle during weight loss without resistance training. During diet-induced weight loss, resistance training preserves skeletal muscle, especially among premenopausal EA women. Maintenance of muscle during weight loss associates with better ease and economy of walking.