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Protein Intake for Muscle Maintenance for Weight Loss

Posted on December 16th, 2009 by Matt Schoeneberger

“Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes”

This is a short-term study on the effects of increased protein intake when dieting on lean athletes. First, let me say that, as always, this is only one study. Recommendations and practice should be based off a body of evidence.

Here’s what you need to know:

Two groups dieted with calories at 60% of weight maintenance for two weeks. One group ate 35% (about 2.3 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight) of their calories from protein, while the other group at 15% (about 1 g of protein per kg of bodyweight) of their calories from protein. We’ll call them the PRO group and Control group, respectively. Here are the body mass stats (simplified):

PRO – Total Mass Lost – 1.5kg, Lean Mass Lost – .3kg, Fat Mass Lost – 1.2kg

Control – Total Mass Lost – 3kg, Lean Mass Lost – .1.6kg, Fat Mass Lost – 1.4kg

So, as you can see the PRO group lost roughly the same amount of fat mass but much less lean mass. That’s a good thing, especially in this population. Think about a wrestler who needs to make weight but obviously needs muscle to perform. This type of research has been performed in obese/overweight populations with similar results.

Notice that the PRO group’s intake is about 2.3 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. In S.P.E.E.D., we recommend 1.5 kg in S.P.E.E.D. and other researchers advise that up to 2.5g PRO/kg is acceptable without any risk. (Layman)


I could go deeper into this study, and I will if you all want me to. If so, leave a comment and I’ll post an update later. Remember, each study needs to be read with a large amount of skepticism and scrutiny. We’ve used over 250 references in S.P.E.E.D., many of them are studies like this one. Now think about all the studies we read that didn’t get used in the book. We’ve done our homework to make it easier on you. I would honestly like to charge hundreds of dollars for our book because I know that’s what it’s worth. But, the market says $19.95 so that’s what it’ll cost you.

Remember, let me know if you’d like more info about this study!

Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss during Weight Loss in Athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Post Acceptance, 13 November 2009.

Layman DK. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutr Met.2009;6:12.

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