Research Update -- Increased Protein Intake Preserves Muscle Mass and Enhances Diet Quality During Weight Loss

There are certain universal truths of nutrition and fitness that emerge as anecdotal evidence long before they are validated by clinical science. One of these truths is this: Increasing protein intake makes dieting easier, makes portion control easier, and just generally makes you feel stronger, better and more vital during times of caloric restriction.

Increased Protein Is Key to Healthy Weight LossNutrition experts have long known that simply cutting calories indiscriminately is not a pathway to successfully losing weight. It's hard to do first of all, and the results -- even if you attain them -- are virtually impossible to maintain over the long term. Eventually you're going to start consuming more calories again and the excess weight is going to return. Likewise, fad diets and gimmicky low- or no-calorie snacks are dead ends because they contain none of the nutrition your body needs to perform necessary tasks -- like burning fat and utilizing it for energy, for instance.

The bottom line is this: To lose excess weight, you can't just eat less. You have to eat better.

In recent years, a number of clinical studies have been undertaken to investigate the relationship between increased protein intake and improvements in overall body composition. Reliably, these studies have shown that ramping up your protein consumption is a winning strategy for losing weight slowly and steadily and keeping those pounds off. Protein can also help support the lean muscle mass that caloric deprivation tends to diminish over time. This second point is especially important because diminishments in lean muscle mass make your body a less efficient fat-burning machine.

Here at ProSource, your #1 resource for all things fitness-related, we try to keep you updated on these scientific developments. But there's a lot of studies out there. Fortunately, one recent analysis has pooled the data from multiple trials to make a pretty convincing case that protein is your dietary ally in the war against excess body fat.

The Correlation Between Increased Protein Intake, Better Quality Diet and Improved Body Composition

In the analysis, published in the July 2022 issue of the scientific journal Obesity, data was pooled from several studies conducted at the same laboratory at Rutgers University over a dozen years, in which subjects participated in a 6- to 12-month weight-loss intervention. Subjects in each of the studies were between 24 and 75 years of age, manifested BMI (body mass index) consistent with overweight or obesity and completed weekly counseling sessions with a registered nutritionist. All participants were advised to maintain their usual physical activity during the intervention.

Subjects were divided into two groups -- a High Protein Group (average of 79 grams/day) and a Low Protein Group (average of 58 grams/day. During the studies, subjects' diet quality was evaluated by way of food intake records submitted by the participants and assessed using the Health Eating Index standard. Body composition was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.

At the end of the studies, researchers found that Healthy Eating Index scores among the High Protein Group were consistently higher than those in the Low Protein Group, a finding the researchers attributed to participants in the HP Group self-selecting greater green vegetable intake and reduced refined grain and added-sugar intake, as well as the additional protein (as documented in food intake records). This preference for healthier eating and less junk-food snacking may correspond with overall greater feelings of satiety and/or general health and fitness consciousness.

At the same time, while both protein groups lost a similar amount of weight and fat mass during caloric restriction, there was a greater decrease in lean muscle mass in the Low Protein Group as compared with the High Protein Group, whether calculated as percentage or as kilogram loss. Greater retention of lean muscle mass correlates well with a dieter's capacity for sustaining weight loss over time while maintaining increased vitality.

Protein is the Perfect Weight-Loss Food

While none of the conclusions arrived at above should come as a surprise to fitness-conscious people who are careful about what they eat, it's always nice to see anecdotal evidence borne out in a clinical setting. Simply put, extra dietary protein has a lot to offer in terms of enhanced body composition. Protein is naturally thermogenic because it requires extra energy to digest. High protein intake has been shown to significantly boost metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn. It promotes a feeling of fullness, decreasing junk-food cravings. And it supports the muscle tissue you need to burn fat.

The protein intake for the High Protein Group in the above-cited meta-analysis is consistent with the daily RDA for protein intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass each day. However, many nutrition experts suggest that higher intakes of protein (as much as 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day) is indicated for highly active people seeking to limit the loss of muscle while restricting calories.

Whole food sources of protein (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc.) should form the foundation of your high-protein, muscle-sustaining diet during periods of caloric restriction. Supplementing with a high-quality protein formula once or twice during the day is also highly recommended for lean-muscle support and keeping fat utilization at optimum levels.

Super-Premium Whey Protein Blend for Muscle and Performance Support

As we always say, choosing the right protein for you is of utmost importance. ProSource's own NytroWhey Ultra Elite is famous for its unsurpassed matrix of protein technologies designed to exponentially increase protein synthesis, support recovery, and drive significant growth.

The ultra-premium-grade, cold-processed CFM whey protein isolate in NytroWhey Ultra Elite is loaded with critical growth catalysts primed for rapid-action muscle support. For even faster uptake, advanced whey protein hydrolysates yield extremely low-molecular-weight di- and tri-peptides for super-swift absorption into muscle tissue. And its state-of-the-art leucine peptide technology is designed to more efficiently transport leucine to muscle tissue, making it a muscle-building powerhouse of unprecedented power and productivity.

ProSource has also recently reformulated its NytroWhey Ultra Elite to make it even more ideal for fitness-conscious people intent on eating clean and eating well. Several adjustments to NytroWhey Ultra Elite's nutritional profile have made it simpler, more natural, more digestible and more bioavailable. The last traces of gluten and soy have been removed, fiber content has been reduced and healthy fats sourced from sunflower oil have been added.

Prioritize Protein in Your Weight Loss Plan

If simply decreasing caloric intake were the sole driver of excess weight loss, there would be a lot more diet successes than failures out there. Instead, the opposite is true. To improve your odds of success, you need to choose not just less food, but healthier food options. Protein, whether from whole food sources or from a superior-quality whey formula, is a big part of a higher-quality diet and more sustainable weight loss.

Scientific References

Anna R. Ogilvie, Yvette Schlussel, Deeptha Sukumar, Lingqiong Meng, Sue A. Shapses. Higher protein intake during caloric restriction improves diet quality and attenuates loss of lean body mass. Obesity, Volume 30, Issue 7, July 2022, Pages 1411-1419.

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