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Whey Protein May Reduce Muscle Loss During Weight Loss

People who are trying to lose weight often also lose muscle mass as a side effect. A recent study suggests that including whey protein in short-term weight loss plans may help prevent muscle loss.

Participants in the study included 40 obese and overweight men and women. All of the participants followed hypoenergetic (low calorie) diets. One third of the group took approximately 27 grams of whey protein, one third took approximately 27 grams of soy protein, and the final third took 25 grams of maltodextrin carbohydrate as a placebo.

At the conclusion of the two-week intervention period, myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS) was reduced by 9% in the whey group, compared with 28% in the soy group and 31% in the carb group. MPS is the synthesis of protein that results in stronger muscles and increased strength. A smaller reduction in MPS, therefore, means that more muscle is being synthesized.

The researchers theorized that the difference in MPS levels between the three types of protein could be due to the higher leucine content in whey. Leucine has been found in previous studies to be a protein that is beneficial to muscle synthesis.

Researchers from McMaster University in Canada conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on December 17, 2014, in The Journal of Nutrition.

Whey protein is one of the two proteins found in milk, but is only approximately 1% of the composition of milk. It is obtained as a byproduct of cheese making and can be purchased in powder form from health food stores. Additionally, it can be found in yogurt and in ricotta cheese, which is one of the only cheeses that do not have the whey removed.

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