Caloric restriction usually leads to loss of both fat and lean tissue. It is desirable to preserve as much muscle tissue as possible during weight loss to preserve strength and performance.
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Whey protein supplementation may be an effective intervention to preserve lean tissue during weight loss owing to its high content of leucine and anabolic effects on muscle protein synthesis. Researchers at the University of Illinois had overweight women participate in a 6 month weight loss intervention. They were prescribed diets consisting of 1400 kcal/day and protein at the recommended dietary allowance of 0.8 gram per kilogram body weight. In addition one group received 50 grams whey protein two times per day, and another group received an equal amount of carbohydrate supplement. After 6 months the whey protein group lost almost twice as much body weight (-8%) than the carbohydrate group (-4.1%). In order to examine changes in the composition of thigh in greater detail, magnetic resonance imaging was conducted. Results revealed greater loss of adipose tissue in the whey protein group. As a percentage of the total muscle volume, there was a greater amount of muscle tissue present in the whey group after loss. These results indicate that a higher protein intake by way of whey protein supplementation helps maintain muscle relative to changes in body weight and body fat during calorie reduced diets.
. Mojtahedi MC, Thorpe MP, Karampinos DC, Johnson CL, Layman DK, Georgiadis JG, Evans EM. The Effects of a higher protein intake during energy restriction on changes in body composition and physical function in older women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 Jul 27.