High Protein Intake Helps Reduce Muscle Loss during Weight Loss Dieting

Muscle loss seems to be inevitable during weight loss.  When you reduce the amount of food consumed (aka energy deficit), the body compensates for this lack of energy. It does so by breaking down fat and muscle tissue and turning it into glucose, or sugar, which is the body’s main source of energy.

Findings from this study have indicated there is a way to avoid loss of muscle during weight loss dieting.  A randomized, controlled trial of 39 adults measured the effects of three different protein levels during 40% energy deficit—in other words, when participants consumed 40% less calories than what they needed to maintain weight.  For 31 days, participants consumed protein at either 0.8g/kg of weight which is the recommended daily allowance (RDA), twice the RDA or three times the RDA.

What did they determine?

Subjects consuming twice and three times the RDA lost more fat mass and less lean mass than those consuming protein at the RDA level.  Also, the anabolic response to a protein-rich meal was lower during energy deficit at the RDA, than when consuming twice or three times the RDA during energy deficit.  From this study, it appears that consuming dietary protein at levels exceeding the RDA may preserve lean body mass during weight loss.

Source: Pasiakos et al. Effect of high-protein diets on fat-free mass and muscle protein synthesis following weight loss: a randomized controlled trial. The FASEB Journal. 2013; 27(9): 3837-47.

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