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Study Finds Optimal Amount of Protein for Weight Loss Without Muscle Loss

Many body builders have maintained that increasing protein helps maintain muscle during periods of weight loss. A recent study backs that up, suggesting that taking twice the recommended daily allowance of protein while losing weight may help maintain muscle and promote weight loss in people who are dieting and exercising.

Participants in the study included 39 men and women who participated in one of three control diets over the course of 31 days that included the following amount of protein:

1. the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA);

2. twice the U.S. RDA;

3. three times the U.S. RDA.

For the first ten days, the participants were given enough calories to maintain body weight to allow their metabolism to adjust to the new protein levels. For the next three weeks, the researchers restricted total daily calories and increased daily exercise in a plan designed to result in a weight loss of two pounds per week.

The research staff prepared and served all of the meals and oversaw all exercise. Body composition and measurements of muscle protein metabolism were measured at the end of the initial 10 day period and at the conclusion of the study.

The researchers found that taking twice the U.S. RDA of protein resulted in the prevention of loss of muscle mass while the participants were simultaneously losing weight. Tripling the protein intake, however, had no notable effect on either weight loss or muscle mass.

Researchers from the Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine conducted the study. It was published in the September 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Protein functions as a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. It is also a building block for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. To get the optimal benefit from protein, it’s important to choose the right type. Some good sources of protein are fish, poultry, beans, lean meat, nuts and whole grains.

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