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Study: Doubling Protein Intake Prevents Muscle Loss During Weight Loss Efforts

Elizabeth Renter
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December 19th, 2013
Updated 12/19/2013 at 2:03 am
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exercise protein 263x164 Study: Doubling Protein Intake Prevents Muscle Loss During Weight Loss EffortsIt’s a commonly-held belief that some muscle loss is inevitable when you are trying to lose weight. That although your goal may be to lose as much fat as possible, some muscle will go with it. However, a new study published in the September issue of The FASEB Journal indicates doubling your protein consumption could minimize muscle loss and help ensure fat is the only thing you’re losing.

The study came from researchers with the Military Nutrition Division of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. These researchers found dieters who maintain a weight loss program including diet and exercise can prevent muscle loss by increasing their protein consumption to twice the recommended daily allowance.

“It is our hope that the findings from this well-controlled study will be discussed and cited by the Institute of Medicine for the updated Dietary Reference Intakes on protein,” said lead researcher Stefan M. Pasiakos, PhD.

Read: 5 Foods for a High Protein Vegetarian Diet 

“We believe that the RDA for protein should be based on a level to optimize health, as well as prevent deficiencies, and our data demonstrate a potential inadequacy of the current RDA for sparing muscle mass during weight loss, which may affect a significant portion of the population.”

Study participants were put on a diet of reduced calories with one group receiving the RDA, one receiving twice the RDA, and a third receiving three times the RDA of protein. The group receiving twice the recommended daily allowance showed the best muscle retention. Further muscle retention was not demonstrated in the group who received three times the RDA.

There are several points worth mentioning in regards to this study. First, dieters who take on a weight loss regimen often focus their efforts on reducing fat rather than reducing sugars and processed carbohydrates. For them, carb intake goes up while trying to reduce calories. This creates a subsequent increase in blood sugar which can spell dieting failure. Also, when you opt for more grains rather than more produce, your protein consumption naturally goes down. As this study indicates, the average dieter whose protein consumption wanes will experience muscle loss in addition to fat loss, and by the very nature of their diet they will be less likely to achieve their goal weight.

Read: Does a High Protein Diet Help with Weight Loss?

Also, it’s important to note that animal products are not the only high quality source of protein. Many vegetables offer a great balance of amino acids and proteins that can help preserve muscle mass. Beans and quinoa are also good options for upping your protein intake for weight loss.

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  • RealityCheck

    The RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram.

    Not a gram or two per pound, as is commonly spread…

    Previous studies show up to 1.5g per kg can boost muscle retention in only the most elite athletes. This is not news by any stretch. 1.5 is… drumroll please… about 2 x 0.8. Pretty close.

    • RealityCheck

      Forgot to add, you contradicted yourself.

      “Minimize muscle loss… ensure fat is the only thing you’re losing” HUH?!

      There is no evidence whatsoever (certainly not in your source) that provides this information. You just winged it and made that up. That’s a big no-no.

  • Dan

    It would have been useful to mention what the RDA for protein is.