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For years, dieters have berated themselves for every bite of bread or pasta that has passed their lips.
Weight control is a significant issue for many people, including athletes, who may benefit from reduced fat mass to improve performance. For sedentary people, slow weight loss over a fairly protracted time period is likely to be the best strategy. Most dieters, particularly exercisers, are more concerned with loss of fat and would like to retain as much muscle as possible to maintain performance.
Recent evidence suggests that weight loss is influenced not only by the total energy consumption, but also by the macronutrient composition of the diet – ie carbohydrate, fat and protein contents.
In addition to simply increasing the amount of protein to enhance weight loss and maintain muscle mass, there is now evidence that specific proteins may be important influential for this effect. The effectiveness of dairy products is attributed to the calcium content and other bioactive ingredients, including a high level of whey proteins.
Whereas it seems clear that high-protein diets may be appropriate for overweight and obese populations(1,3), there is little information available on athletic populations. Athletes, on the other hand, are usually healthy (at least metabolically, even if not orthopaedically!) and this fact may impact the response to high-protein, low-calorie diets. The impact of increased protein intake during weight loss in athletes is not entirely clear.
A study from Virginia used the N balance technique in two groups of bodybuilders during weight loss(6). On the other hand, a more recent study found no effect of increased protein or branched chain amino acid (BCAA) intake on the amount of lean body mass lost during weight loss in athletes(7). We recently performed a carefully controlled study to further examine the impact of increased protein intake during low-calorie dieting in weight lifters. During the weight-loss regime, one group consumed a diet that resembled their normal dietary pattern.
Our results suggest that the goals of the athlete should be carefully considered when making a recommendation for diet during weight loss.
In general, creating a calorie deficit (either through dietary energy restriction or increased energy output) for a sufficient period of time will result in successful weight loss.
Athletes, on the other hand, may desire more rapid weight loss for competitive reasons and, since they are already training at a high level, may not be able to increase exercise or activity levels to any great degree. Unfortunately, hypocaloric dieting often results in loss of lean body mass (1), perhaps leading to compromised performance or increased injury risk (2).


Recently, protein has received a great deal of interest particularly with regard to the loss of muscle relative to fat.
In particular, dairy products have been touted as the key ingredients in a diet designed for optimal weight loss(4). Whey proteins have a high proportion of leucine, an amino acid associated with increased protein synthesis and fat oxidation (see below). One group consumed a higher proportion of protein than the other during one week of hypocaloric dieting. Researchers in France had four groups of wrestlers restrict their calorie intake for 19 days. Two groups of athletes who normally consumed about 3,000-3,500 calories per day, including about 1.6g of protein per kilo of body weight per day (about 15% of total calories) consumed 60% of their normal calorie intake for two weeks (ie reduced it by 40%).
In Table 1, the dietary composition of a weight maintenance and low energy diet for a typical 80kg athlete are presented. Clearly, a dietary strategy that minimises the loss of muscle while maximising fat loss would be desirable for most. Many recent studies have investigated the impact of manipulating protein intake during hypocaloric weight loss in overweight and obese individuals(1). It is important to note that not all studies demonstrate that increasing the dairy content of the diet results in superior loss of weight or improved body composition.
The bodybuilders with the higher protein intake were in positive N balance, whereas those consuming moderate protein were in negative N balance. One group served as a control and consumed a typical dietary composition, while the others consumed a high-protein, a high-BCAA or a low-protein diet. Both groups lost the same amount of fat, but the group consuming more protein lost little if any muscle while the other group lost an average of 1.5kg of muscle mass. The diets are portrayed in two fashions – regular (normal) dietary composition and high-protein. Increased protein ingestion during weight loss, particularly in combination with exercise training, improves weight loss and decreases the loss of lean body mass. Thus, it is fair to say that the jury is still out on the importance of dairy proteins for optimal weight loss(5). If the number is negative, then the individual is considered to be losing protein and if positive, gaining protein (see figure 1).
Extrapolated to muscle, the high-protein group gained around 700g of muscle for the week while the group consuming moderate protein lost around 600g of muscle.


All groups lost about 5% of lean body mass, but the high BCAA group lost significantly more fat than the other groups.
Note that as the energy intake drops, the fat intake must be dramatically reduced to accommodate the increased protein. Moreover, a higher protein intake when calorie intake returns to normal (ie matches calorie output) decreases the rate of weight regain(3).
However, no difference between the groups could be detected in the changes in fat or muscle measured by underwater weighing. Clearly, the difference in the loss of body mass was entirely attributable to a loss of lean body mass (see figure 2). Either way, for the vast majority of athletes, the carbohydrate level should not be compromised.
In practice, this issue may be problematic because very low-fat diets are often very unappetising. Thus, at least for obese or overweight individuals, a higher protein intake seems to be the best choice during weight loss with a hypocaloric diet.
Whereas this change in muscle mass seems quite large for a single week, the method used to detect these changes is not particularly sensitive, which explains why no statistically significant difference was found between groups. We hope to follow up these admittedly preliminary results with future studies designed to further investigate details of body composition changes in athletes during weight loss with high-protein intake.
Menu design must be considered carefully in order to provide the appropriate dietary composition. Furthermore, these results demonstrate a common issue with N balance – at high-protein intakes N balance is often quite large and may not reflect measured changes. Nevertheless, these results can be used to support the idea that increased protein intake preserves muscle during low-calorie dieting in body builders.
Clearly, much more research needs to be undertaken to determine the effectiveness of dietary composition for attainment of ideal body composition for athletes and others during weight loss. There s no definitive proof that high-protein diets cause the excess acid load that s High-Protein, Nutritionist-Approved Snacks To Keep You A high-protein diet is often recommended by bodybuilders and nutritionists to help efforts to build muscle and lose fat.



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Comments to “High protein diet for women's weight loss”

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  2. T_A_N_H_A:
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  4. ELIK_WEB:
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  5. 095:
    Flour can be used as a substitute copper, manganese, selenium.